Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and locked-room mystery enthusiast. 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 northern California. She’s been awarded Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards and has been a finalist for the Edgar. She writes the Secret Staircase mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries.
The Raven Thief: A locked-room mystery Publishers Weekly called a “brilliant homage to classic golden age authors” in a starred review.
One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime. Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest Raj officially a part of the team―a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. Their client is now ready to celebrate her new life without her cheating ex-husband, famous mystery author Corbin Colt. First up, a party, and Tempest and Grandpa Ash are invited to the exclusive mock séance to remove any trace of Corbin from the property―for good. It’s all lighthearted fun until Corbin’s dead body crashes the party. The only possible suspects are the eight people around the séance table―a circle of clasped hands that wasn’t broken. Suspicion quickly falls on Grandpa Ash, the only one with actual blood on him. To prove her beloved grandfather’s innocence, Tempest must figure out what really happened―and how―or Ash will be cooking his delectable Indian and Scottish creations nevermore.
Do you write in more than one genre? Everything I write is a lighthearted mystery (nothing dark or gritty), but I write in overlapping mystery subgenres. My Jaya Jones novels are adventure cozies, my Accidental Alchemist Mysteries are paranormal, and my new Secret Staircase Mysteries are locked-room mysteries.
Where do you write? I used to be a café writer, but during the pandemic, I carved out a beautiful, yet tiny, space in my house, with bay windows next to my desk.
What, if any, distractions do you allow? I listen to rain sounds while writing, which is a wonderful vibe for ambient noise. My husband and I both work from home, so we set up our home offices at the far ends of the house so we wouldn’t distract each other! If our doors are closed, we send a text message to each other to see if we’re interruptible (my “door” is a curtain). If the door is open, we’re not doing deep work and can talk to each other.
What are you currently working on? I’m alternating between revisions for the third Secret Staircase Mystery and writing the next Accidental Alchemist Mystery.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I started writing as a hobby in 2001. It was only when I discovered National Novel Month five years later that I finally finished writing a whole draft. I was so excited that I sent it to the Malice Domestic grants competition for unpublished traditional mystery writers, and I was so surprised to win that year’s grant! That’s what got me to take my writing seriously. I joined Sisters in Crime, found a local writing community, and took workshops to learn how to make the book good. That took another two years.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? An outline is my security blanket! But as soon as I begin writing, my characters take over, and my outline goes out the window.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations?
I always start with real places and real history, then branch off into fiction. My Secret Staircase Mysteries are set in the fictional small town of Hidden Creek, California, which is quite similar to my town on a hillside in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with lots more freedom to create whatever I need for the story to work.
What kind of research do you do? As much as the Internet can be helpful, the most inspiring bits of information usually comes from tangible experiences, such as visiting a location or finding an old book in the library. I have dozens of paper notebooks filled with notes.
What is your favorite novel? My favorite book is Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters, a perfect mix of mystery, romance, humor, and adventure. I discovered it at the perfect time, as a teenager, and it’s the book that made me want to be a writer.
Favorite movie? Romancing the Stone.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have so many books and stories I want to write! The challenge is carving out time to write them.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.
How do our readers contact you?
My website, where you can send me a note or sign up for my email newsletter, which comes with my free Edgar-nominated short story “The Locked Room Library” — www.gigipandian.com
My books — www.gigipandian.com/books
Amazon — amazon.com/author/gigipandian
The story your writing is inspirational. You sound like you’re on the way to becoming a new Agatha Christie. Congratulations on your success and best of luck to you.
Thank you so much, Michael. I couldn’t dream of becoming Christie, but I’m having a lot of fun continuing to read books from the Golden Age of detective fiction and writing my own spin on the genre.
I’m listening to Under Lock and Skeleton Key (thanks to Chirp) at the moment. I’ve listened to 52% of the book and haven’t figured out who the murderer is. In fact, I don’t have a suspect yet, lol. Looking forward to the second book in this series.
Oooh, I’m glad my misdirection is working. Glad you’re enjoying the audiobook!
Congratulations on your success, Gigi! So glad you carved out a space of your own to write in. It’s important! Looking forward to reading The Raven Thief!
Thank you, Margaret! My office is a MESS right now as I’m surrounded by research notes, so I’ll have to clean it as soon as I hand this off to my editor.
Gigi is a long-time favorite. She’s a lovely person and a wonderful writer. I love the Accidental Alchemist series.
Thank you, Heather! Dorian refuses to stick to my outline for the next Accidental Alchemist novel, so he’s derailing my revisions–but I’m still having fun 🙂
I’m a big fan of Gigi’s work and can’t wait to read The Raven Thief. Loved the first locked-room mystery novel so much. All of Gigi’s series are full of great plots, locations and characters. Can’t go wrong. Glad to hear there is another Tempest Raj book in the works.
Thank you so much, Malena! Now that Book 3 was accepted by my editor, I’m working on Book 4 🙂
This is an old-fashioned success story — Gigi has talent but also works super-hard on her stories and puts all the necessary blood, sweat, and tears into her writing and rewriting. She’s earned her success. She takes the time to make her writing as good as it can be. And the results speak for themselves.
Thank you so much, Arthur. I’m lucky that my family is very understanding when I disappear behind my office curtain to write 🙂
Thanks George and Gigi, for this deeper look. I’m reading and loving the Raven Thief right now. I must say, Gigi, I’d need to ‘close my door’ sometimes too if I were writing two series (or is it three?) at the same time. How do you keep it all straight?
So happy to hear you’re enjoying the book, Pamela. I only work on one book at a time! Once I hand over a draft to my critique partners or editor, THEN I can switch.
George, thank you again so much for hosting me! And thanks to everyone who stopped by!
Gigi, such a delight to read about your process. Thanks, George for hosting her!
I’ve seen Gigi’s name as an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area writers’ community. This is the first time I’ve taken to read an interview. Thank you, George, for introducing us all to this remarkable author. I will be buying and reading books by Gigi Pandian!