USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over the backyard vegetable garden. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery stories.
What project are you currently working on?
I’m having fun finishing a draft of the fourth Accidental Alchemist mystery about a centuries-old female alchemist and a gargoyle who was once stone but was accidentally brought to life through alchemy.
Once I hand over a rough draft to my critique partners later this month, I’ll be returning to the stand-alone novel I was working on at a Free Expressions workshop earlier this year, an atmospheric mystery set in Edinburgh.
I also love short stories, especially locked-room “impossible crime” mysteries (a genre of mystery popular during the Golden Age of detective fiction), so in between book projects I’ll be writing a new locked-room mystery short story that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while.
Yes, it’s true I like coffee more than sleep.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your most recent book or working on your most recent writing project?
I write puzzle plot mysteries that require careful plotting, so I always write a detailed outline before I begin writing. Therefore, I’ve always thought of myself as a “plotter” as opposed to a “panster” (someone who writes by the seat of their pants).
However, I recently realized that I have never been right about the culprit in any of my mysteries. Never! I’ve come to realize that my outline is my security blanket and I need it to get started, but that I’m a much more organic writer than I admitted to myself.
“There’s so much in this business that’s beyond our control, so I have fun with the parts I can control and don’t dwell on the things I can’t.”
THE NINJA'S ILLUSION is your eighth book. How does it feel to send it out into the world? Have your feelings changed since ARTIFACT was released?
It’s funny, in so many ways I still feel like I’m new at this, because I continue to learn so much about both the craft of writing and the publishing industry.
Having my first novel released was an exciting milestone, but I continue to be both thrilled and nervous about each new book. I’m more mellow now, not because the excitement has diminished, but because I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. There’s so much in this business that’s beyond our control, so I have fun with the parts I can control and don’t dwell on the things I can’t. I don’t read my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads; reviews are for readers, not the author.
What were the highlights of your editorial work with Free Expressions or attendance at a workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?
I’ve attended multiple Free Expressions workshops, because I always get so much out of them. Donald Maass’s teaching style and insights push me to be a better writer. And I never would have had the courage to finish the stand-alone novel I’m working on if not for the critiques from the team at a Free Expressions workshop.
“And I never would have had the courage to finish the stand-alone novel I’m working on if not for the critiques from the team at a Free Expressions workshop.”
What does your dream writing retreat look like?
Two years ago I created my dream writing retreat for my 40th birthday: going to Edinburgh with my writers group for a week at a cozy flat with a view of Edinburgh Castle.
The retreat came about because shortly after my 36th birthday I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. While undergoing a year of cancer treatments, I made myself a promise that I’d live my life to the fullest once I was well – which included taking my writers group to Edinburgh, Scotland for a writing retreat. I rented the flat, and my writers group and I spent our mornings writing and our afternoons and evenings exploring one of my favorite cities.
What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?
I love to travel the world. The trip that inspired my first novel, ARTIFACT, took place when I was ten years old. My anthropologist mom had to spend the summer doing research in the Highlands of Scotland, and she brought me with her. While she was doing research I climbed ruined castles, made friends with the locals, and began writing travel adventure stories. I was hooked on both world travel and writing.
Whenever I travel, even if I’m not working on a project I take a notebook with me and fill it with ideas. Writing on paper allows me to be most creative.
What are you currently reading?
THE ART OF FORGERY: THE MINDS, MOTIVES AND METHODS OF THE MASTER FORGERS by Noah Charney. Book research!
If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
Any of the Vicky Bliss mysteries by Elizabeth Peters.
Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
Either. But when it’s music, a different style for each book.
Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing?
Coffee. And more coffee.
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