Interview: Gigi Pandian

Please welcome Gigi Pandian, author of Artifact: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery. 

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I love to travel, so a perfect day while traveling would be waking up to coffee and oatmeal in a tiny hotel room in a foreign country, then heading out for the day with the following items in tow: the husband, hiking shoes, my camera, train tickets for the train journey we’ll begin the next day, a rain slicker (since I love to travel off-season), and a notebook to jot down notes for a new mystery novel.

In day-to-day real life, a perfect day begins by meeting up with a writer friend for coffee and good company at a local café, where we can chat for a little while and then get down to work on our writing. After getting a couple hours of writing done, I head to my day job, which I’m fortunate to love.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My gargoyle ring. I never wanted a diamond, so instead I got two intertwined gargoyles, which suits me perfectly.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
My three favorite mystery novelists: Elizabeth Peters, Aaron Elkins, and John Dickson Carr.

Do you listen to music when you write? 
It depends on my mood. Interestingly, Brian Eno albums are great to listen to while writing and also while on airplanes.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate with chili peppers – a cozy treat with an adventurous kick.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I love the romance of history. My parents are both academics, and my dad is from India. I grew up traveling to places like Scotland and India, and thinking being an academic would be an awesome job. When I grew up, I realized I wasn’t cut out for it. I’m more of a creative personality than someone who wants to conduct my own rigorous academic research. I left a PhD program, went to art school instead, and began writing mysteries.

What themes do you regularly visit in your writing?
I find myself writing about characters who are a bridge between two different cultures. The premise of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series is that in each book, Indian-American historian Jaya Jones solves a present-day crime linked to a historical treasure rooted in a different culture. Each book goes from San Francisco to a foreign destination.

In Artifact, the first book in the series that came out August 28th, Jaya travels from San Francisco to London to the Highlands of Scotland, piecing together the secrets of a lost Indian treasure that are hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj. In the second book in the series, Jaya and friends will journey to the south of India to discover the truth about one of Jaya’s adventurous ancestors.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality.  What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today? 
Jaya’s personality was shaped by being raised in Berkeley by her hippie American father after her Indian mother died when Jaya was a child in Goa, India. Jaya has rebelled against Berkeley’s tie-dyed hippie culture, and is a very thinking, rational person as opposed to being a touchy-feely person. Playing her tabla drums is her escape, but she doesn’t think of herself as someone who can lose herself in the music.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Vicky Bliss (the character by Elizabeth Peters), Indiana Jones, and Nancy Drew (Jaya even has a roadster!).

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’d love to talk with my favorite writers from the Golden Age of detective fiction–authors who crafted ingenious locked-room puzzles: John Dickson Carr and Clayton Rawson.

Further back in history, Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe, both of whom seem like fascinating personalities in addition to being great storytellers.

And to make sure the party is a good time for everyone, to round things out I’ll go with two mystery novelists who are also good friends: Sophie Littlefield and Juliet Blackwell, who are always entertaining in real life and on the page.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on the next book in the series, and in the meantime a prequel to Artifact will be coming out in December. Fool’s Gold is a novella being published by Henery Press in the Other People’s Baggage collection. In Fool’s Gold, all Jaya wants is a relaxing vacation in Scotland before starting her first year teaching college. But when a world-famous chess set is stolen from a locked room during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Jaya and her magician best friend, The Hindi Houdini, must outwit actresses and alchemists to solve the baffling crime.


Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. After being dragged around the world during her childhood, she tried to escape her fate when she left a PhD program in favor of art school. But adventurous academic characters wouldn’t stay out of her head. Thus was born the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series. Gigi was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant for her debut mystery novel, Artifact, which was released August 28, 2012. To sign up for Gigi’s newsletter or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter, visit


12 thoughts on “Interview: Gigi Pandian”

  1. Hi Gigi,
    I’m so excited for you and Jaya Jones! Some of my favorite characters are Vicky Bliss, Indiana Jones, and Nancy Drew. (Indiana’s life size image adorned my dorm room wall– sigh). What an awesome character you have created. Sounds like we have the same idea of a perfect day, too. Great interview! And I’d like to try that chocolate…


  2. Gigi,

    Welcome to Mysteristas! I love to travel off-season, too, though you’re right, it requires a more creative approach to the wardrobe-packing. I don’t know how anybody could turn down a Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery after hearing your character mash-up!


  3. Hi Gigi! I can’t wait to read Artifact. I’m also very excited about your novella project with Henery Press. It’s interesting how many of us were influenced by Nancy Drew. 🙂

    I’d like a sample of that chocolate, too. 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing you at Bouchercon!


  4. Larissa, I hope one of our future foreign travel research trips overlaps, because I bet we’d have a lot of fun 🙂

    Thanks for the warm welcome, Diane 🙂

    Susan, I’m excited about the novella project, too! Time is going by so quickly right now, that I feel like it’ll be out in no time.


  5. Hey, Gigi–Thanks for posting such a fun interview. Your new book sounds fascinating. Congratulations!! I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m an armchair traveler myself and following Jaya’s adventures sounds just like my cuppa tea!
    Peace, love, and happy writing! ❤


  6. Thanks again for inviting me, Cynthia! This interview was a lot of fun.

    Thanks, Lisa! I’m with you that when I can’t be traveling myself, I love to pick up a book that takes me on fun travels.

    Awe, very sweet of you, Kristi 🙂


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