Author Interview: Alka Joshi

In New York Times bestselling author Alka Joshi’s intriguing new novel, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, henna artist Lakshmi arranges for her protégé, Malik, to intern at the Jaipur Palace in this tale rich in character, atmosphere, and lavish storytelling. We spoke with author Alka Joshi about the inspiration for The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, juicy performaces by the audiobook’s narrators, and more!

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

By Alka Joshi • Narrated by Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam & Deepa Samuel

“At the grand opening of the Royal Jewel Cinema there are secrets left untold. Secrets about adoptions that happened, and those that didn’t. Secrets about marriages arranged to build dynasties and those to save face. And a man who was a nobody as a boy is going by a different name, and some recognize him and others either don’t or choose not to…”

Lisa, Bookmarks

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

Set in 1969, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur continues Lakshmi’s and Malik’s journey 12 years after the end of The Henna Artist. Like me, many readers fell in love with little Malik, Lakshmi’s helper. He loomed so large in my imagination that he persuaded me to tell his story! In this sequel, Lakshmi has arranged an apprenticeship for Malik, now a smartly turned out 20-year-old, at the Jaipur Palace, where he again encounters the Singhs, the Maharanis, and a few new characters as he sets about unravelling the mystery of a building collapse that should never have happened but that threatens the futures of those he loves. The story just poured out of me, as if I were just the vessel that contained it! It also allowed me to explore India’s obsession with gold and its importance in dowries.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

While The Henna Artist audiobook was narrated by the incredible Sneha Mathan as Lakshmi (and made the NYT bestseller list), The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is narrated by three different voices: Lakshmi, Malik and Malik’s beloved, Nimmi. I think the fact that Malik has a love interest will come as a pleasant surprise to readers as will his choice of the formidable Nimmi, a woman to rival Lakshmi’s iron will. And, of course, listeners will delight in the return of the talking parakeet, Madho Singh, as he comments on everyone’s doings from his perch.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? What struck you about the narration?

I’m so pleased with how well the three voices lend unique perspectives to the story! The actors (Sneha MathanAriyan Kassam, and Deepa Samuel) have brought forth such juicy performances, bringing the characters to life in a way I couldn’t have imagined 🙂

Are you an audiobook listener? What are some of your favorite audiobooks?

Since the world went virtual and I’m participating in bookclub discussions daily, I have so little time for books other than the ones required for my research on Book #3 in the trilogy. I can tell you that I love, love, love the audiobook version of The Henna Artist!!

The Henna Artist

By Alka Joshi • Narrated by Sneha Mathan

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

Those who work with books all day amaze me with their fervent passion for the written and spoken word. They inspire me to write better stories, to push myself to create characters that resonate with their readers, and to keep those readers coming back for more.

Anything else to share with us?

The act of writing and creating characters is a joyous one. Before I realize what’s happening, they are doing and saying things of their own accord. I am merely recording their actions, their thoughts and their dialogue. Hearing them brought to life by actors in an audiobook is like getting to know them all over again. What a treat that is!

Header photo by Garry Bailey

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