Leading American novelist of British origin Zoe Heller has a fondness for gray characters that fall short of being heroic because of their unsympathetic nature.
Such a character carries her literary milestone, "Notes on a Scandal", a novel on the relationship between a high school
teacher and a younger, art teacher in an affair with a 15-year-old student. The book was nominated for the Booker Prize and later adapted into an eponymous movie starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench that got four Oscar nominations.
"I am not quite keen on writing characters that one necessarily has to adore. But I don't think that my characters are hateful people. They just have the standard discomforts like dysfunctional families," Heller said at the Jaipur Literature Festival here Thursday.
She often struggles to connect to the readers because of the feedback from readers who say they did not want characters they couldn't root for.
A features journalist turned novelist, Heller, 47, is on the top of the list of novella writers in US, a country she has chosen as her homeland several years ago after she left London.
But she has grown used to the US. The mother of two girls, Heller is the author of books like "The Believers", "Notes on a Scandal" and "Everything You Know".
Heller has a list of her favourite sinister characters in literature like Largo, Becky Sharp, Peter Pan, Humpty Dumpty, Alice in Wonderland and Elizabeth Bennett.
"The characters have gray areas - they could either become ciphers or at worst prigs They are interesting characters in life," Heller said.
The writer says she finds two interesting ideas to explore in her writing - one to know something interesting about the lumieres what others don't know and the revelation of an adultery that feels like part of discovering a vast continent.
"Notes on a Scandal" might have been prompted by one of those childhood reasons, Heller said. "I found it interesting because there was a big scandal about a woman having an affair with a 15-year old, a pupil of hers. There were dinner party debates about the affair," Heller told IANS.
"I discovered that I wanted to write the book about the affair from the point of view of the third party."
It cascaded into the memorable 15-year-old Steven Connolly, his pottery teacher Sheba Hart, lonely puritan Barbara Covett and director Richard Eyre.
Heller is writing a new novel about adultery set in an island, almost similar to an island where she stayed briefly with her children in isolation.