Alka Joshi

Alka Joshi of Pacific Grove with her debut novel. 

Pacific Grove-based writer Alka Joshi released her debut novel, The Henna Artist, in the beginning of 2020, just at the outset of Covid-19. She admits that last year, locked at home, she felt more hopeful and connected than ever because she had a chance to talk to over 6,000 people on Zoom. She was a guest at 541 virtual book clubs, sometimes two to three each day, more than she could have attended in person. She also replied to thousands and thousands of messages on social media. And her book became a bestseller. 

While the first novel took Joshi 10 years, the second came quite quickly, only a year-and-a-half after the first.

“I knew I had more material,” she says. “When I was done with the first book, I had 150 pages of extra material.”

While she didn’t plan to write a trilogy, she says she had to—that was the space the characters demanded, she says, talking about them as if they are real people who deserve fair treatment.

Joshi, a writer who never planned to be a writer, realized her book would be a big deal when her publisher flew her to New York and Toronto before the novel was even released. “I told them that they are very nice to their clients,” she says. “They told me they don’t do it for every writer. They said they knew my book is perfect for book clubs.”

And it was. And it still is, now along with the second volume, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. “People are bringing both books to book signings,” Joshi says. “And I love meetings in person, too. I love people telling me their personal stories, asking them about something they are wearing, or talking about a particular experience.”

Her current local book tour will be followed by book signings in Sonoma, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Fe and Atlanta. There is even an invitation from the Dubai Literary Festival.

Now, after discovering her literary powers, Joshi intends to keep writing stories for the rest of her life. “It’s the best profession in the world,” she says. “You get to hang out with people you imagine.”

Joshi did book signings on July 2 in Pacific Grove and on July 31 in Carmel. There is one more local event coming at noon on Saturday, Aug. 14 at Pacific Grove Art Center, 568 Lighthouse Ave. For more, visit

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