Jyoti Arora is the author of two novels. ‘Dreams Sake’, her first novel was published in 2011 by V&S publishers. She self published her second, ‘Lemon Girl’. She is a post graduate in English Literature and Applied Psychology and has a rich work experience of over five years which includes freelance writing, and abridging 24 famous English novels like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Jane Eyre to name two. Despite being a patient of Thalassemia Major Jyoti has never let the illness come in the way of her dreams. We are extremely happy to have her with us on the eFiction India platform.
Ananya Dhawan: Have you always dreamt of being a writer?
Jyoti Arora: No. I dreamt of becoming a lot many things when I was a child- scientist, doctor, teacher, painter, and even a soldier and an astronaut. And yes, I confess, I have even dreamed of becoming a Bollywood heroine. But that was at a time when I was just a little kid and named all heroines as Hema Malini and believed them all to possess a Sadhana cut hairstyle.
However, books fascinated me even when I did not know how to read. And since I learnt reading, my love for the written word has only increased. This love turned into respect and admiration when I studied literature for my graduation and post graduation courses. I pursued B.A. English Hons. and M.A. English Literature. Studying literature showed me how much of hard work, skill and art went into the books that I enjoyed so casually. I was awed by the magic of the books that were written hundreds of years ago and were still read and loved by readers. And that is what put the seed of literary aspirations in my heart. I wanted people to read and love what I had written, just as I read and loved the works of others.
AD: What/who abetted your interest to pursue psychology?
JA: By the time I finished my post graduation course in English Literature, I had decided that I wanted to be a novelist. Somehow, I got it into my head that if I study Psychology, it will help me understand life better and I will be able to create better and more realistic characters. So I enrolled in M.A. Applied Psychology. Not to become a Psychologist, but only to become a better writer.
After Psychology, I also pursued a diploma course in creative writing to train myself as a writer.
AD: At the risk of sounding too personal, in what intense ways has Thalassemia affected your life?
JA: I grew up under the shadow of Thalassemia. And a plant that stays forever in a shade can’t expect to prosper healthy and strong. I was three months old when I had my first blood transfusion. Since then, the monthly transfusions and rushing in and out of hospitals is the only life I have known. Complications arising from Thalassemia forced me out of school after class seventh. I was in Delhi Public School at that time and was among the best students of my school. My teachers loved me and all my classmates were fond of me. But all that was left behind when I left school. And since then, I have lived a very house-bound life. All my studies after that were done only through correspondence courses. I could never benefit from the guidance of a teacher after class seventh and had to study on my own.
These days, there are better treatments and medical facilities available for Thalassemics and many Thalassemics live a near normal life. But I could not benefit from these medical advancements during my growing up years. And that has left severe effects on my health and put many restrictions on my mobility. Because of this, I cannot benefit from many opportunities that come my way. For example, I can’t take up jobs that involve much commuting and so had to let go of some great offers.
As a writer, I would love to go to various lit fests and meet readers. But it’s hard for me to do so. I also feel that living such a house-bound life has limited my experience and this makes it harder for me to imagine situations. And I can’t go out to research for my books and have to rely on information I find on the internet or through my family and friends. But then, I have become adept by now in doing the best I can from what I have. Life with Thalassemia has trained me in that.
AD: How supportive have your friends and family been?
JA: My family has always been very supportive and encouraging of all my dreams and aspirations. And the few friends that I have, including some very fabulous people I met online, also keep on encouraging me with their help, appreciation and their steadfast faith in my abilities.
AD: What kind of obstacles did you face in getting your books published? What do think of the present scenario of the Indian publishing industry?
JA: For my first novel, Dream’s Sake, the biggest hurdle I faced was that the book was too long. Most publishers these days prefer shorter and lighter books, especially from new writers. So Dream’s Sake faced several rejections before it was selected by V&S Publishers.
And now about what I think of the present scenario of Indian publishing Industry. I think that Indian publishing industry can very easily be divided into two eras – pre CB and post CB. That is, pre Chetan Bhagat and post Chetan Bhagat.
My second novel Lemon Girl is shorter. But it too does not follow the current popular trend of collage romances. Still, I do believe, it would have been selected by some publisher had I the patience to wait for months or years for that affirmative nod. But I felt that the theme of my Lemon Girl was very current. So I wanted Lemon Girl released as soon as possible. I could not go back to V&S Publishers as they no longer publish fiction. Then, a very positive critical review of Lemon Girl gave me confidence and I decided to self publish it. Fortunately, self published books are no longer looked down upon now as being inferior.
And now about what I think of the present scenario of Indian publishing Industry. I think that Indian publishing industry can very easily be divided into two eras – pre CB and post CB. That is, pre Chetan Bhagat and post Chetan Bhagat. Chetan Bhagat’s books didn’t just give rise to a whole new breed of readers. They have also given rise to an all new literary trend. Instead of literary merit, authors are now encouraged to pursue simplicity instead. Not just that, I feel that the books of Chetan Bhagat and other popular writers like him have also given a boost to the literary ambitions of many others. It almost seems to have become a trend for IITians and IIMians to turn their collage romances into novels. Young readers are able to relate more easily with the books that tell stories of people like themselves. So these books strike a chord with young readers and gain quick popularity. All this is well and good. But this rise in competition is also making it harder for serious fiction to get published, especially from new writers.
One Hollywood star you would like to dine with.
Johnny Depp, please!
Your most powerful intangible weapon.
Determination to never give up
Mountains or beaches?
Ebook or paperback?
AD: What highs and lows did you encounter during the process of writing ‘Lemon Girl’?
JA: Before I started writing Lemon Girl, I felt puffed high thinking I had a superb idea in my mind and it will lead to a best-selling book. But from the moment I started writing, I started doubting my abilities of doing justice to the theme. The theme of Lemon Girl is very serious. But I did not want to make the novel overly serious and gloomy. At the same time, I did not want the issue of rape and victim-blaming treated in a trivial and frivolous way. It was a hard battle to keep the novel balanced between seriousness and entertainment. But finally it was done. And my feelings of pride just rose higher and higher with every revision of the book. And now, when I have started getting reviews of the novel and they have all been very appreciative so far, I feel all that struggle and hard work has been worth it. So right now, I’m feeling quite elated and high with happiness and pride.
AD: How much of ‘Lemon Girl’ is based on real life events?
JA: Lemon Girl is a fictional account of grim realities of the present society. Since ages, women are getting abused for one reason or the other. As I wrote in the dedication of Lemon Girl, in earlier times the women were abused in the name of culture, now they are being abused in the name of loss of culture. And the way rape seems to be becoming almost a fashion is very troubling. Even more troubling is how somebody or the other always seeks to excuse the culprit and blame the victim for every such incident. Whatever the situation, the fact remains that rape is a crime. And nobody has any right to find excuses for a crime. And nobody has any right to make a victim feel like a culprit just because she’s a woman. But this is what’s happening. And that’s exactly what Lemon Girl is based upon.
AD: Any projects you are currently working on?
JA: I have some ideas floating about in my mind. But I haven’t started work on any new book yet.
I also have a technology blog called Techn0Treats. I’m running it so far only as a hobby. But the way it’s growing is making me want to take it more seriously and spend more time on it. But certainly not at the cost of my literary dreams.
AD: Any advice for blossoming writers?
JA: Firstly, read well. Yes, read good books. Try and understand what makes them work. And also read your own work. Read and revise, read and revise.
And secondly, be prepared to face frustrations and disappointments. Being a writer means chasing a big dream. And when you chase a big dream, you have to battle with nightmares every day. So be prepared for that battle.