Author Jyoti Arora’s second novel LEMON GIRL is out now. In a conversation with Anirban, the author speaks about her motivations as a author and how her second novel emerges from things happening around her.
Q. Your personal journey to be an author has been an arduous and inspiring one, let’s start with that.
I am a patient of Thalassemia Major and complications arising from this disorder made me miss many classes when I was in seventh grade. Situation became even worse when I was in eight and I could not attend school at all. So I had to quit school. After a gap of two years, I was able to resume my studies. I couldn’t go to regular college either so I pursued B.A. English Hons. from Delhi University and then M.A. English Literature and M.A. Applied Psychology from Annamalai University, all through correspondence courses.
These days, I work online for an IT recruitment firm based in US. I also have a technology blog called Techn0Treats which has won me many prizes through national level blogging competitions. And I’m busy pursuing my dream of becoming a novelist who readers love to read.
Q. When and why did you begin writing?
I have always loved books, but when I quit school my friend circle dwindled away and books did really become my best friends. When I studied literature for my graduation and post graduation courses, this love for books turned into respect and awe. I was amazed to think how we were reading, studying and admiring the books written hundreds of years ago. I started feeling the desire to create something like that
My first article was published in Women’s Era in, I think, 2001 or 2002. After that, several of my articles appeared in Women’s Era, Alive, Hindustan Times etc.
Since 2012, I have been working with Software Specialists, a US based staffing firm.
All through these years, I kept on working hard at my dream of becoming a novelist. My first novel ‘Dream’s Sake’ was published by V&S Publishers in 2011. My second novel ‘Lemon Girl’ released in November, 2014. Lemon Girl is self published.
Q. Lemon Girl is about surviving rape. It’s a pertinent topic considering the pathetic state of women’s safety in India. Did that prompt you to pick up this topic?
I had once read the personal account of a rape victim on some internet forum, it touched me deeply. I might have used that idea to develop a love story of a lighter and less morbid shade had it not been for the way rape seems to have become almost a fashion in India now. The ‘Nirbhaya’ case was shocking. But after that, barely a day passes when we don’t hear of a rape on the news. It’s outrageous.
Even more infuriating is the way somebody or the other always seeks to excuse the criminal and accuse the victim. We are being told that the increasing crimes against women are the result of the way girls and women are now behaving or dressing. I am protesting against this mentality through my writing. And that’s what led to Lemon Girl.
Q. Lemon Girl is not just the story of a rape victim, it’s also a mirror to the hypocrisy and denial that pervades India. What bothers you most about this attitude?
Yes, Lemon Girl tries to show how society and even family members follow different measurements of ‘good behaviour’ for girls and boys. If a couple is in a live-in relationship, the girl will be spurned by society.
There are many parents who try to favour their sons in disputes and problems despite knowing that they are at fault. These double standards can also be seen in the way rape victims are treated. Nobody cares if men have since long given up dhoti-kurtas in favour of jeans and trousers. But the wearing of jeans and skirts by girls is considered responsible for the fall in our culture.
Our so called leaders don’t hesitate in pronouncing that rapes are increasing because girls are putting themselves in dangerous situations by wearing tempting clothes, being in bad places or being out alone. Boys must not be treated too severely because they are boys and boys make mistakes. This sort of victim-blaming mentality hurts the victims more and also encourages the criminal.
Q. Apart from the alarming frequency of sexual crimes another cause of concern is the Indian home with its biases and prejudices. You have touched upon the sensitive topic of incest and the scarier fact that girls aren’t safe even at home. Can change really happen in such a bleak scenario?
I could gather the courage of writing about a girl getting raped inside her own home because such incidents have become common and are being reported with increasing frequency, to the point where it isn’t even shocking anymore.
If there’s any possibility of things changing for the better, then it must begin in our own homes. If we teach our kids better and surround them with positive influencers they may learn to respect others better. The trouble is that parents concentrate too much on pushing their kids towards success and too little towards becoming a better human being. That, I think, is causing the decline in our culture. But maybe with care and better upbringing of our future generation, we can reverse this decline.
Q. In stories of rape survivors, the male protagonist is either a knight in shining armour or completely inconsequential, how is your male lead different?
Lemon Girl has a first person narrative alternating between the heroine Nirvi and the hero Arsh. This makes the character of the hero as important as the heroine. I chose to use the technique of this alternative first person narration to keep the book balanced between poignancy and entertainment.
Lemon Girl is based on the very serious themes of rape and victim-blaming, but I did not want the book to be overly serious and gloomy. At the same time, I did not want these serious issues to be treated in a frivolous way. So I told my story through two different narrators. This gives Arsh just as much importance in the story as is given to Nirvi.
Q. How was your publishing journey?
My first novel was traditionally published by V&S Publishers in 2011. It received much appreciation from readers and critics.
My second novel Lemon Girl has been self published. But it is receiving even more love and appreciation from readers. I chose to self publish it because its theme was very current and gave me an urgency to see it out as soon as possible. I knew that self publishing was risky and the chances of success for an indie book were much less than a traditionally published book. But timing is important too. I knew my book was good and I didn’t want to see it going waste waiting for an affirmative nod from a publisher.
The way Lemon Girl is being appreciated it gives me hope that it will manage to find readers.
Q. Now that your book is out there, how does it feel?
Right now, it’s feeling great. I’m hearing appreciative words about Lemon Girl almost daily. The best thing is that I can feel readers’ excitement about the book in the reviews they send. That makes me feel excited too. Just yesterday, someone informed me that Lemon Girl is cutting down on his Twitter time. Some liked the spiritual angle of the book. Some enjoyed the book’s wit and humour. I was proud of my book even before, but now the readers are helping me discover it all over again!
Q. Any advice for aspiring authors?
I feel that to be a good writer, one must first be a good reader. One must read good books and try and see what makes them work. Secondly, if you dream of being a famous author, first be prepared of facing many disappointments and frustrations.
Yes, there are writers who struck gold in their first attempt. But they are either blessed with exceptional genius or exceptional luck. The rest just have to slog their way to success.
Don’t give up. Write on and try and get better and better at it.
The author (Jyoti Arora) can be reached at
The interviewer Anirban S Bose is the Acquisitions Editor for Cresco Books and co-founder of The Published Author