Monday, September 28, 2015

An Interview with Gigi Pandian

By Pamela James

MM2: Gigi, give us some backstory on why and how you became an author?
Gigi: Like most mystery writers, I’ve loved reading mysteries since I was a kid. I’ve also written them since I was a kid, beginning with writing my own Scooby Doo stories. I didn’t become serious about my writing until I discovered National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The challenge to write a draft of a 50,000-word novel in 30 days was the push I needed to finish a full draft. Before that, I always thought it would be fun to write a full-length novel like those of my favorite mystery novelist, Elizabeth Peters, but I never reached “the end.”

MM2: How many books have you written?
Gigi: Seven novels. Four are published and out in the world (three books in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series and one in my new Accidental Alchemist Mystery Series), two more are coming out next year, and one deserves to stay in my drawer!

MM2: Take us thru your typical writing day?
Gigi: I tried to be a full-time author for three months, after I signed two three-book deals within a few months, but I failed miserably. With all the time in the world, I’m not very disciplined! I wasn’t any more productive than I had been with a full-time job.
I like my schedule much better now. I’ve got a day job that I love, and it gives me three mornings a week to write. On those three mornings, I’m up at 6am and have sacred writing time until noon. I get a lot done during that time.
I can’t write at home. Too many distractions! Instead, I meet up with other writers at cafes, and over many cups of coffee we keep each other inspired to keep going. We’ll chat for 15 minutes at the beginning and end of each writing session, but otherwise we’re writing. And the internet is OFF.

MM2: What life lesson has writing taught you?
Gigi: I’m going to flip this question and answer a writing lesson that life taught me. Four years ago, right after my 36th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s an experience that clarifies the important things in life. That’s when I took charge of my writing.
It’s also an experience that has made me not care about reviews. Book reviews are for readers, not for authors, so I don’t worry that my books aren’t for everyone. I’m having a blast writing and connecting with readers who enjoy my work, and that’s what matters.

MM2: Why do love living where you live? Give us the guided tour?
Gigi: I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m not from here, but I fell in love with it the first time I lived here one summer during college, and everything fell into place in my life when I moved back here in my mid-20s. The foggy weather is perfect for me, it’s easy to be whoever you want to be here, and the food is superb. I cook most of my food from scratch ever since my cancer diagnosis, but it’s easy to walk down to the farmers market and get anything I need. 

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?
Gigi: I write best when I get out of the house and write at a café. I’ve got a few magical cafés with the perfect atmosphere where I love to write.

MM2: What is the best writing advice you can share with us?
Gigi: Don’t worry about writing something good when you’re starting to write. Just get a draft finished. The rest will follow.

MM2: What is your favorite movie, song, place to vacation, meal and dessert?
Gigi: American Dreamer, a 1980s film that’s a romantic comedy adventure mystery.
Song depends on my mood. Today I’ll say “Seasons of Love” from RENT.
Vacation destination also depends on mood. I like to alternate my vacations between comforting locations that are always fun (e.g. Edinburgh, Scotland, a place I’ve been visiting since I was 10), and exciting new destinations.
My favorite meal and dessert are the same thing: chocolate oatmeal. (So good. You should try it: )

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?
Gigi: With all the entertainment options available in the world today, thank you for taking a chance on a new author! I’m having a lot of fun with these books, so I hope readers have even half as much fun reading them.

MM2: For you what comes first, character, setting or plot?
Gigi: I can’t separate them. Without a particular character, a plot won’t make sense. Without a complex plot, a character can’t develop. And without a setting, the story isn’t genuine.
For example, history professor Jaya Jones is the central character in my treasure hunt mystery series. Her expertise, family history, and personality drive the treasure hunts she goes on, which take her from San Francisco to destinations across the world. I’ve traveled to the places where I set the books – so far San Francisco, England, Scotland, France, and India – because it makes the stories come more alive for me.

MM2: do you belong to a writing group?
Gigi: I’ve got several groups that I consider my writing group. My local writers group is a group of eight women writing in different genres, and we trade work with individual members sometimes, but mostly we get together to write and be a support group for each other. I’ve got virtual friends who are some of my best critique readers, and I’m a member of the online Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
MM2: Lastly, what was the best author day of your life?
Gigi: There are several, so I’ll pick one to share here. Aaron Elkins is one of my all-time favorite authors. He blurbed my first novel, which made me feel like I’d made it as a writer before my first book came out.  We’d never met, but he knew I was a huge fan of his, so when he needed someone to fill in at the last minute to conduct his Lifetime Achievement Award interview at Malice Domestic in 2013, he asked me.

MM2: Tell us about your latest book and what you are currently writing?
Gigi: My latest novel is the third Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery, QUICKSAND. The books are all present-day mysteries involving historical treasures related to India’s colonial history. In QUICKSAND:
Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
The next book I’ve got coming out (in January 2016) is THE MASQUERADING MAGICIAN, the second book in my new Accidental Alchemist series. It’s a paranormal mystery series about a centuries-old female alchemist and a gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician.
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Thanks so much for having me today!
USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern Tip of India. After spending her childhood being dragged around the world, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series and the Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi’s debut novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut by Suspense Magazine. The second book in the series, Pirate Vishnu, was recently awarded the Left Coast Crime Rose Award, and her locked-room mystery short stories have been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. 

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nice interview with a great author. (I had an unfortunate typo in my prior comment. Sigh.)

    1. Thanks for saying hi, Barb. This was a fun interview :)

  3. Good MONDAY morning Barb! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. What a fun interview. I can't wait to dip into the Jaya Jones series, I've started with Accidental Alchemist.

    1. Thanks so much -- I hope you enjoy Jaya's treasure hunts!

  5. Gigi,
    Thank you for the interview. Time for me to read more books. I love your covers. They fit right in with our magic and mayhem themes.

    1. Thanks so much for having me! Hope you enjoy the books :). Yup, I really lucked out with having my publishers create such amazing covers -- I love them all.

  6. I can't wait for Bouchercon to be over so I can finish Quicksand! Thanks for sharing your stories with us, Gigi!


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