By George Ebey
Author Gigi Pandian’s latest book, QUICKSAND, gives us the third entry in her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series.
This time around, 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 some interesting characters, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Gigi to learn more about her and QUICKSAND.
Can you tell us a little about QUICKSAND and the series it’s set in?
QUICKSAND is the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series, but it stands alone, too. In each book in the series, history professor Jaya Jones solves a present-day crime linked to a historic treasure that has to do with India’s colonial history.
In QUICKSAND, Jaya has the best intentions but finds herself part of an art heist at the Louvre. She discovers that the theft is part of a much bigger treasure hunt that has led to murder, and to set things right she enlists the help of an ex-thief and a ninety-year-old French stage magician. The hunt takes them from Paris to Les Machines de l’île in Nantes to the ancient fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, where Jaya discovers hidden secrets of France’s colonial past. But a dangerous thief will do anything to silence Jaya before she can reveal what she knows.
The previous two books—Artifact and Pirate Vishnu—have been treasure hunts that led from San Francisco to the Highlands of Scotland and the southern tip of India, respectively.
What first inspired you to write tales involving history and treasure hunting?
My parents were cultural anthropology professors, and I started traveling abroad with them when I was ten years old. On that first trip abroad, I visited Scotland with my mom, who was doing research in the Scottish Highlands.
I’m an only child, so I didn’t have any siblings to play with on those trips, so I made up my own adventures. Scotland was such an exciting, mysterious place, full of ancient castle ruins and sweeping landscapes that were nothing like my life outside Los Angeles. Traveling to far-off lands with long histories quickly captured my imagination.
How do you go about researching and choosing the right treasure or artifact to write about?
I use that saying “write what you know.” My dad is from India so I’ve heard his stories plus visited several times, so that’s where the colonial India angle came from. And it was a family legend that inspired Pirate Vishnu.
As for the story and treasure in QUICKSAND, I was once trapped in the Louvre during a real life art heist. Truly! I was backpacking through Europe after graduating from college when thieves stole a Corot painting at the Louvre during broad daylight. It was the one day of the month that the Louvre had free admission, so the museum was packed. I learned that day that you can’t trust what the media reports. I didn’t yet know I’d become a mystery novelist, but once I did, I knew I’d write about that experience.
Even if I count witnessing an art heist, real life isn’t as exciting as the adventures I send my characters on. (I want thrilling adventures from the fiction I read and write, which is why I’m an ITW member.) Once I have the seed of an idea and have done to research to create an accurate historical backdrop, I write fiction from there.
Are there any specific historical periods that you’d like to write about but haven’t had a chance to yet?
I’m just getting started in my writing career, so I hope I get the chance to cover a lot of different historical time periods. Lately I’ve gotten interested in Rudolf II’s Court in Prague (1583–1612), which was full of Europe’s most sought-after alchemists.
I haven’t yet written a novel set entirely in the past—so far I write present-day stories that are impacted by historical events. But in the last two novels I’ve written, I’ve interspersed parallel stories from the past. Those historical chapters were such fun to write that I might write a full-length historical mystery.
What’s next for you?
I write two series these days. I’m working on the fourth Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, which is set in Italy. I also write the new Accidental Alchemist paranormal mystery series, about a centuries-old female alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick who was accidentally brought to life by a stage magician. Both series involve lots of history and adventure.
My 2015 releases are The Accidental Alchemist (January 2015 Midnight Ink) and QUICKSAND (March 2015 Henery Press), with the next books in each series coming out in 2016. I love writing locked-room “impossible crime” short fiction, too, and I’ve got a couple of short stories coming out later this year.
Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand) and the new Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, and her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. Gigi spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
To learn more about Gigi, please visit her website.