Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
Jyoti has authored five bestselling, non-fiction books for children.In 2002, she was selected by the Highlights Foundation to represent India at the Highlights Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, New York. She also won the National Prize from the Zambian Environment Education Programme in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund for her children’s book on the environment. She has recently won a two-book deal with Harlequin India, of which the first book, Temptation in Paradise, was released in March 2014.
Jyoti’s interest in art blossomed during her time in Africa in the early nineties. On her return to India, she stepped into the professional art arena with her first exhibition at the Y B Chavan Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 1996. Jyoti has held five solo exhibitions and participated in several group shows in Mumbai and Hong Kong. Over 100 of her paintings are owned by individuals and corporate patrons all around the world. Her signature illustrations have graced the pages of Femina, India’s foremost women’s magazine, for over five years. She is currently working on a series of abstracts on canvas, which she will exhibit in the coming year.
1.What does it mean to be a writer?
JS: Being true to myself… This is how I view and define myself, my work and purpose in life.
2.Who are your book mentors?
JS: Many…I have a problem with this question. To define mentors is to limit your horizons and pigeon-hole your reading habits while exposing yourself to judgement by a more discerning reader. I have eclectic tastes. I read extensively across non-fiction and fiction, genres and age groups. In broader terms, every book you read is either an inspiration or a warning…there’s a lesson in craft in each book beyond the content and story. And by the same logic, every author teaches you the art of storytelling…well or badly, as the case may be. That is why you cannot be a writer, if you are not a reader.
3.What do you do when you are looking for inspiration, or facing writer’s block?
JS: Writer’s block is a luxury, especially when writing earns you a living. I have two secrets to breaking through the inertia – one, to shift from one type of writing to another and the second, to write in my journal every day. These are both based on the belief that if one keeps the practice going, the block becomes merely a bump on the path to your writing goal. That being said, for me it is not so much the block that is a problem but getting started…what my husband liked to call ‘ignition problems.’ Inspiration, on the other hand, is everywhere. You just have to be receptive and as I have learnt the hard way, take notes. Flashes of brilliance and insight have the unfortunate habit of disappearing when you face the blank page. It helps to have a prompt. My advice: never rely on memory alone. Keep an ideas book or journal…you will never be short of inspiration or feel blocked.
4.Your regular working/writing day?
JS: I am not a disciplined writer but I make sure I write every day in some way or the other. To be honest, it really depends on the project and deadlines. Left to my own devices, I tend to get lazy and procrastinate but a deadline and delivery schedule makes me push myself to complete the task at hand.
5.What book do you wish you could have written?
JS: Has not been written yet…guess that’s what this lifetime is for.
6.A quote you swear by?
JS: I have two…bear with me.
“You cannot say, I won’t write today because the excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer.”
Dorothy C Fontana
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
From a ‘Return to Love’ by Marianne Williamson
7.How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
JS: Names are important. For me, they embody the personality of the character. I personally prefer short memorable names, so that the reader does not constantly trip over them and lose track of the story while reading. About resources, I really can’t say…I use an organic process to identify names that feel right to me and for the story.
8.Name one celebrity you want as your book fan!
JS: Oprah…I believe an endorsement by her can change your fortunes, in more ways than one!
9.What is the worst criticism you were given? And the best compliment?
Worst criticism – Silence
The best compliment (from an editor at Penguin) – Your writing is deep, reflective, soft and full of an underlying current of pain, but there is something that makes you want to read more…
JS: I am always juggling several writing projects at any given point in time. I was once given this advice from a well-known children’s book writer and I paraphrase – Always have three types of writing going – one for publication, the second for personal fulfilment and the third, for payment. So, I am currently working on two projects for UNICEF, posting once a month on my blog The Rest is Silence and starting to write my second Mills and Boon. I am also looking to get back to writing for newspapers and magazines…it is something that gave me much satisfaction in the past and has somehow fallen by the wayside. I am grateful to the muse…ideas are always buzzing in my head. The challenge is to translate them into something concrete. There is this one idea, just a whisper right now that I hope to convert into a book or graphic novel. It feels ambitious given my current level of competence but as Goethe said, ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?”