Jasmine Juneja started her career as an HR consultant with one of the leading outsourcing companies. Thereafter, she went on to conceptualize a recruitment firm in the heart of Delhi, providing an assortment of services to fortune 1000 companies for over 5 years. After which she took a sabbatical to pursue her hobbies and other interests. Dabbling in the beauty industry and winning accolades along with a wide pool of client base, her urge to focus on intellectual development remained unfulfilled; since her heart lay in reading and writing all along. During this time, she felt her path strayed from her true course. In order to stay connected with the world of words and to pursue an unrelenting dream, she completed her Masters in English Literature while working with an overseas education firm.
About The Book
From the by-lanes of posh South Delhi, a girl goes missing. The question haunts the family as much as the cops who have no clue as to where she could be. Almost a year has passed without a lead in the case. Did she run away? Or something happened to her? …Is she alive?… Or Dead? The disappearance of a smart, intelligent girl while raising numerous questions points to the apathy of the cops and their helplessness at locating her; also points to sinister agendas and facades people keep. Having no leads for months on end, the case has gotten cold. Until another girl goes missing.
This time however they receive a video; it’s brutal. The cops must race against time to rescue her, but before that, they must revisit the cold case if they were to have any chance at rescuing the latest victim. Deeper they get, the deeper they unravel the mystery surrounding the former. But the important question remains: Will the girls be rescued? Or, lost forever?
An Interview with Author Jasmine Juneja
The Rise Insight: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing?
Jasmine Juneja: Well, writing was something I’d been wanting to do right from the time I began reading books. Though at the time, it was considered a hobby of the rich and the elite, who didn’t have to worry about where their bread and butter was coming from, that’s why I never pursued it in the early stages of my life. In fact, I never even vocalized my internal desire to anyone beside a friend or two. Nonetheless, you end up doing what your heart really wants sooner or later. So, here I am.
The Rise Insight: Your book, “Mystery Behind The Disappeared,” deals with a dark and complex subject matter. What drew you to write about missing girls and the complexities surrounding the investigations?
Jasmine Juneja: It’s a realistic subject. A subject of social cause, something we cannot turn a blind eye to. I’d always wanted to write a story that intrigued me, and at the same time, was educative and informative. I’m glad while entertaining, this book has been able to achieve that, with a right doze of problems encountered at various levels. After all, life is not all rosy and dreamy as it’s made out to be in movies; but we must drive towards that objective by pushing forward even when the going gets tough, and pave the way for generations to follow.
The Rise Insight: How did you approach researching for the book? Was there anything you discovered that surprised you?
Jasmine Juneja: In fact, I was really taken aback by the practice, social stigmas, and pressures of the current times that, when I researched and read articles about it, many glaring facts were brought to my knowledge, which moved me. More than being surprised, I was saddened by the state-of-affairs despite living in times when we have expert police personnel. But tragically, the number of police force and cases to be handled are so highly unproportionate that even pre-emptive measures may seem inconsequential.
The Rise Insight: The book explores the perspectives of both the victims, family and the police officers handling the case. What challenges did you face in creating realistic and sympathetic portrayals of both groups?
Jasmine Juneja: For a subject to reach audience and touch them, it is essential to create characters as realistic as the problem. Only when you do that can you identify and understand the perspective of each character. We must also understand that each individual, working or not, is struggling and trying to do the best in their given circumstances. I don’t want to sound preachy but through this mindset, I wish to convey to have empathy for others, and if once can extend help, one should.
The Rise Insight: The book deals with themes of power, corruption, and the lengths people will go to maintain their reputations. How did you approach weaving these themes into the narrative, and what did you want to convey to readers through them?
Jasmine Juneja: Isn’t it the truth of life as we speak. Power, corruption, and keeping appearances is the reality of our society today. You may find these abundantly in some places. I have not created anything devious on my own, but shown a mirror of problems faced by many on a daily basis. Apathy, betrayal, manipulation, greed, lust are the undercurrents themes of the book; traits that have piqued over the last two decades especially.
The Rise Insight: One of the key strengths of the book is its pacing and the way you balance suspense and intrigue with the need to reveal enough information to keep readers engaged. How did you approach this balance, and what advice do you have for writers looking to develop similar skills?
Jasmine Juneja: I myself like to read pacy thrillers, so just kept true to my nature. To keep the readers hooked and increase their appetite to know what happens next is essential for any mystery/thriller. If you are able to achieve that, you have won half the battle. My only suggestion is to go back to the text over and over and see if a character or situation is doing that to you as a reader of your own craft. If not, scrap it. But do that once you have prepared a first draft.
The Rise Insight: The book has received positive reviews for its multi-dimensional characters and the way it explores complex social issues. Can you tell us about your approach to character development and how you worked to create realistic and authentic portrayals of the characters in the book?
Jasmine Juneja: Years and years of observation, of human behaviour, psyche, ideologies and, of course, the prevalence of the infamous class structure. The people I’ve used are the ones we interact with daily—some simple, some smart, but some outright manipulative and devious. Though, we’ve made progress with the problems of class structure, since everyone at their individual level is working hard to uplift themselves, nonetheless, the changes are so miniscule that unless the subject was addressed properly, the change shall remain insignificant. Therefore, it was intrinsic for the story to have realistic characters, with real life problems and challenges.
The Rise Insight: What message do you hope readers take away from “Mystery Behind The Disappeared”; and what impact do you hope the book has on readers?
Jasmine Juneja: Through this book, I’ve been able to highlight and address a small part of the problem. I’m sure a single book can neither encompass all ideas nor solutions but it provides the platform to get the debate started. And when that begins to happen, transformation through stricter laws and enforcement agencies is channelised. I want the readers to keep their eyes and ears open and, more importantly, trust their instincts. Having said that, I also want to propound on the power of human ability to right the wrong. It’s the biggest take away they must gain from this book.
The Rise Insight: Your previous experience as an HR consultant and working in the education industry is quite different from writing fiction. How has this previous experience influenced your writing and approach to storytelling?
Jasmine Juneja: I believe all experiences in life teach you something, and so working in human resources gave me insights on human behaviour, expectations and how people respond to certain situations, which is essential for a writer. Working in the education industry, further refined my people skills, as I came very close to understanding children’s aspirations, desires, fears and their expectations from life. This was also the place where I got plenty of time to read and hone my writing skills.
The Rise Insight: Can you share any insights into your writing process? How do you approach starting a new project, and what is your routine like when working on a book
Jasmine Juneja: Starting a project requires drive. If you believe in a story, you’ll have the drive needed. Trust me, you will become unstoppable if you think that story that must be told. So, identify the story that resonates with your heart. Then comes the discipline of writing every day and meeting the set word limit. There were times when I wrote irrelevant things, because the idea was to let my fingers jot down every single thought, relevant or irrelevant. Once the first draft was ready, I went back to it and started cutting out characters and parts that were unessential.
The Rise Insight: What advice do you have for aspiring writers looking to improve their craft and get published?
Jasmine Juneja: One must polish and clean continuously to produce a presentable piece. I followed the process diligently. However, first, create a skeleton of the story you wish to write on. Then, fleshed out characters that take the story forward. Then comes refining the language, sentence structure, grammar, pace, etc.; and it might take multiple revisions before you submit your final draft. Show your draft to somebody who will give you a genuine opinion and help you refine the not so appealing areas. I did that and it worked for me.
The Rise Insight: Lastly, can you give us a hint about any future writing projects you have in the works? What can readers expect from you in the future?
Jasmine Juneja: Well, I have three books in mind and all of them are either borderline mystery or deal with a social cause. I also have a plot for the sequel to this book in my head, but it’s entirely on the readers to decide whether they want the sequel or not. And through their love and support, I shall be able to decipher and move forward accordingly.