Monday, May 12, 2014

Jaya Kamlani, Scent of Yesterday

AUTHOR:  Jaya Kamlani

Please tell us about yourself.

I am a former Silicon Valley technology consultant and author of “To India, with Tough Love” and my memoir “Scent of Yesterday.”  I grew up in India, graduated from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and have been a resident of the United States for over four decades.  For the last decade, Atlanta, Georgia has been my home.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

As a full time writer, I spread my time between reading, researching, writing and editing.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing in the year 2000 when I retired from my twenty-year career in information technology.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Upon retirement, I started writing my memoir, “Scent of Yesterday.”  I wanted to tell my children about their roots, about the time when I arrived in America and their childhood years.  However, the story developed into something bigger and it took a few years to write.  Upon completion, I traveled through India to gather material for my next book “To India, with Tough Love.”  I published my book on India first, followed by my memoir.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

I promote my books via Facebook and to colleagues and friends via email.  My books are selling well through these channels.  I am also a member of the Atlanta Writers Club.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

Like all authors, I experience writer’s block from time to time.  I use that time to research, edit, communicate on Facebook, or check on my email.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

Writing my memoir was a cathartic experience.  I realized how far I had come from my convent schoolgirl days.  I had never imagined I would come to America until the opportunity sprung up on me after my college years.  It is a journey that opened up a whole new world for me and made me realize that women could go far in America.  As I reflected on my life in America, I realized that I did not feel sorry for myself for the hardships I had experienced.  Instead, I looked at life positively and remembered my father’s words: “This too shall pass.”

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?

My publisher is CreateSpace, a publishing arm of Amazon.  I saw their ad on Facebook and connected with them via their website.

What do you plan for the future?

Write a poetry book.  I have a small collection of poems I have written over the years.  Need to write many more for a book.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
You can find me on:
- Facebook: under Jaya Kamlani
- Linkedin: under Jaya Kamlani
- My website:
- Amazon author’s page:

Any other news you’d like to share?

My daughter, Minal Kamlani and I collaborated on both my books: "To India, with Tough Love" and my memoir "Scent of Yesterday".  I wrote the books while she edited them and designed the book covers.  We collaborated on the title, subtitle, and chapter titles for the two books.  She helped me eliminate anecdotes that did not lend much to my life story.  We worked well as a mother-daughter team.  Where we disagreed, we came up with a compromise.

“To India, with Tough Love” was written with the intent to bring change to India.  It is now in the hands of every Supreme Court judge of India (28 of them) and at the libraries of twenty leading colleges of Mumbai.  Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Eve Ensler – founder of One Billion Rising, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of “Half the Sky” also have copies of the book.

Tell me a little about your book.

BOOK TITLE:  Scent of Yesterday
GENRE:  Non-Fiction, Memoir
PUBLISHER:  CreateSpace

“Scent of Yesterday” Book Description:
Born by candlelight in August 1947, Jaya Kamlani (née Mirchandani) and her family are among millions displaced by the Partition of India. In Scent of Yesterday, she transports readers to post-British Raj Bombay with sweet and spiced vignettes of her youth –– from riveting family tales and convent school capers to forbidden love.

In 1969, Jaya gets an opportunity to study in America. With newfound freedom, she weds against her family’s wishes and launches a career in the New York advertising industry. She later takes a leap into technology and fights the Silicon Valley glass ceiling, while enjoying simple pleasures with her family. After retirement, she reflects upon her role in the world and writes about it.  Scent of Yesterday is a prequel to Jaya’s first book,
To India, with Tough Love.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?

I wanted to tell my immigrant story, as I was among the first wave of immigrants from India in the late 1960s.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope they come to the conclusion that Jaya’s spirited candor and ceaseless determination inspires others to overcome their inhibitions and embrace the unknown.  No matter what the odds are, if we have faith in ourselves we can overcome almost any hurdle in life.  This helps build our confidence.  Readers will also cherish music, dance, and local culture of yesteryears of India and America.

What types of writing do you prefer, and why?

I prefer non-fiction writing as there are plenty of live stories to tell.  I don’t have to concoct story ideas.  The creativity comes in the writing style and piecing together the material in a meaningful way for presentation.  On the other hand, my imagination takes over the landscape of my poetry.

What is the toughest part about being a non-fiction writer, and how do you get past it?

Story accuracy, research, and timeline of events are important elements required for writing non-fiction works.  They are time-consuming.  In the case of my memoir, I had to reflect on my life and determine the anecdotes that shaped my life and made me who I am today.  Many stories were written and tossed out if they were not inspirational, or did not show lessons learned, or obstacles I overcame.

What draws you to non-fiction writing?

I believe real life stories draw more compassion and inspire readers.  They tell stories of people who overcame adversities.  They also shed light on real life complexities and lessons learned.

What kind of research did you do for this type of book?

My memoir “Scent of Yesterday” required minimal research, but it required much reflection on my life.  On the other hand, “To India, with Tough Love” required extensive research, travel through India, and interviews and email exchanges with many people to gather information.

What about your book makes it special?

“Scent of Yesterday” is a story of a young girl named Jaya, who grew up in a Hindu family and attended a Catholic convent school in India in the 1950s and 60s.  It is a story of a country where arranged marriages were the norm, and dating or marrying outside the caste was considered a taboo.  It is an immigrant’s story at a time when not many Indians lived in America.  It is a working mother’s story when not many middle-class mothers worked in America.  It is a story about a woman in technology when few women worked in the computer field.  In many ways, Jaya broke through cultural barriers and was ahead of her time.

Where can people learn more about this topic if they want to pursue it further?

To learn more about me, my books, and my current project, readers can go to my website link: or to my author’s page on Amazon site: .

What are your views on self-publishing versus traditional publishing?

If I had to go the traditional route, both my books would not have been published today.  According to a July 2013 New York Times article titled “Consolidation among publishers carries costs you won't find on a price sticker” by Boris Kachka, the publishing industry has been going through a significant transformation.  Major publishers are consolidating and not taking on new clients, while many smaller publishing houses are expected to fold due to stiff competition from Amazon.

Do you have an agent and do you feel an agent is necessary for non-fiction?

Publishers expect authors to first submit a book proposal when writing non-fiction books.  Since my book is self-published I did not need an agent, nor did I have to write a proposal.

Any tips for new writers hoping to write non-fiction?

I suggest non-fiction writers do a lot of research, take photos of places they visit and of people they meet to help refresh their memories when they write the story.  Also, draw a timeline of events.  Non-fiction does not have to be dry.  Although the narrative form is generally used for non-fiction works, writers can make the story come alive with colorful scenes, a touch of emotion, a spritz of humor, and a sprinkle of dialogue.  The characters in my memoir are three-dimensional, with flaws and all.  No one likes to read stories of perfect people.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Cheryl. I am so glad you love the cover. My daughter's concept.
      -- Jaya

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Joneve. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
      -- Jaya