Today, I have a review of Gigi Pandian’s Quicksand, plus an exclusive, entertaining interview with Pandian and a link to a tour wide giveaway option below. Enjoy your weekend!
I was entranced by the covers in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series, as soon as I first heard about Quicksand and realized it was the third book in the series. So that said, I haven’t read the first book, Artifact, or the second book, Pirate Vishnu yet, though their covers and blurbs entice me! I did read Quicksand for review, though, so let’s start there by saying that I didn’t feel too lost in reading only it, though as in any series with the same lead protagonist, I’m sure it’s always better to read them all for extra connectivity to character(s). Yet, the mysteries themselves in each book are standalone.
Jaya, the main female lead and historian, receives a letter from Lane, an old love interest she met previously and fell for hard, with a plane ticket to France enclosed and a request for her to meet him there. She goes against her better judgement and is talked into helping him steal something from the Louvre. There is a double mystery, one solved early on, in which Jaya put together clues to figure out the stolen item, and one later, in which witty, determined, and intelligent Jaya helps to stop one enormous archaeological theft. Of course, she’s helped by sidekick Lane and an old magician, Sébastien. Much of this story takes place on the island of Mont Saint Michel, which is an interesting fortress located off the coast of Normandy, France. I thought the setting was fun and ingenious.
Pandian writes well-researched historical mysteries that intertwine many cool places into a suspense mystery and an action-filled adventure. I have heard her described as being similar to Elizabeth Peters, one of my favorite authors, and yet, I feel that Pandian writes with even more flow, flair, magic, suspense, and the ability to hold a higher level of interest for modern readers of all ages. This book would appeal to teenage readers as well as adults for its clean romance and zippy action. It’s like Tomb Raider meets The Librarians or a female version of the Young Indiana Jones. Her magical elements make her story even more unique and on top of all that she plots in twists and turns to keep us on our toes.
Jaya and Lane are well-developed characters. Jaya is a very courageous lead and I could fully engage with her. However, I also enjoyed her characterization of the French magician in this story! He added an extra element to the story. As well, the villain in this story, North, was entertaining and balanced out the cast.
Overall, I can fondly say that Pandian’s Quicksand had some of all the major elements of a book to love. I can’t wait to go back and read the others, plus anything else that she writes in the future. This book was a captivating, energized ride to historical and cultural places ripe with mystery and suspense. Pandian’s characters seem like old friends more than just mere characters on a page.
Hi Gigi, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s a pleasure to have you here, in conjunction with the release of Quicksand, your third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series. I see you’ve been busy promoting, attending conferences, and accepting awards. Congratulations on your success!
Gigi: Thank you! I was so surprised to be awarded the Rose Award at Left Coast Crime last month for Pirate Vishnu, the book in the series that comes before Quicksand. This coming week I’m headed to Malice Domestic, the big convention for traditional mysteries.
Erin: You’re a woman to be admired. I want to learn more about your commitment to writing and your books. You seem like someone who would love to get lost in travel and a good adventure, like me!
Let’s sit for a moment and relax in my cozy library. You can take your seat and I’ll put on some tea? What kind of tea is your favorite? Sugar and cream?
I’ll also bring out some sweets. Can’t talk books without sweets!
Gigi: Unsweetened mint green tea is my favorite. It goes wonderfully with any type of chocolate!
Erin: Tea is poured and sweets are for the taking, don’t be shy. Let’s get started with some questions. You first started out pursuing a life in academics, but then realized you’d rather write. How and why so? What helped you come to that decision? Did growing up with cultural anthropologists as parents help mold your desire to write adventure/mystery stories?
Gigi: You guessed correctly. Traveling with my parents as a kid, I made up grand adventures while they conducted research. Those travels and their influence helped me a storyteller from a young age.
As an adult, academia wasn’t as satisfying as I imagined it would be. I should have realized it sooner, because all of my college electives were creative pursuits (writing, art, photography), but I never imagined I could have a creative career. I left a PhD program and began writing a novel while attending art school. I’m so glad I followed my heart, because now I make a living being creative.
Erin: Did you have the idea for the Jaya Jones series immediately and what was the inspiration you used when you began writing the first book, Artifact. How did you take off at the gate with construction of the plot? Did you have in mind a series from the start?
Gigi: I knew it would be a series, and that the books would be puzzle plot mysteries set all around the world with plenty of adventure a romance – the type of book I love to read. Beyond that, it took many years to figure out exactly what my own unique voice was.
Erin: You must have had some success with self-publishing Artifact, and I did see it was Suspense Magazine’s “Best of 2012,” because you then obtained a publishing deal for it, and the rest of your series, with Henery Press. How did that all come together? What kind of success does an author need to show on their own for a publisher to pick up on the book?
Gigi: Every writer’s journey is different, but if you follow your heart and don’t rush the process, I believe you’ll find the right bath for you. I was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant (a grant for unpublished mystery writers) for Artifact back when it was a work in progress. That’s what made me take my writing seriously – and then I had to learn how to write a good book! Two years later, I thought the book was in good shape, and I found an agent quickly. However, she had trouble selling the book; it doesn’t fit neatly into one sub-genre, so big presses were wary.
When my agent was getting ready to pitch the book to smaller presses, which are often more open to taking books that don’t fit genre lines, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was only 36, and I didn’t know what would happen, and I needed to be in control of something in my life. I decided to work with an editor (every writer needs one, and if you’re with a publisher, the publisher supplies an editor) and self-publish the book. I put a lot of work into it to do it professionally, including making Advance Reader Copies so I could get trade reviews, and it was worth it. As you mentioned, Artifact was well-received, leading Henery Press to become interested in the series.
I was getting ready to self-publish Pirate Vishnu, and Henery Press requested a copy of the new book. They said it was even better than Artifact, and that’s when they offered me a 3-book deal for the series. So the most important factor was still the quality of the book, but getting great reviews and putting myself out there professionally is what put me on Henery’s radar.
Erin: They must have been correct about your book series, because the next book after Artifact, which was Pirate Vishnu, won an award (Left Coast Crime Rose Award). What do professionals have to say about your series? What makes it similar but different from other books on the market? Who is your target audience?
Gigi: I’ve been thrilled to receive some wonderful reviews, including many that compare my stories to my favorite author, Elizabeth Peters (such a thrill!). Most professional reviewers call the book as a cozy mystery, but readers who aren’t in the industry characterize my books in many ways. The series is definitely cozy reader friendly (no violence or sex or bad language on the page, and no dark endings) but it’s also genre-bending. It’s a romantic multicultural adventure puzzle plot mystery.
Erin: I’ve just been able to read Quicksand, and am itching to go back and read the first two, but I’d like you to tell my readers, what makes it a treasure hunt and what makes it a mystery? Is it a true who-dun-it or more of a mission-based mystery?
Gigi: The combination of a quest and a whodunit is what creates my style of books. I’d say the series is an equal mix of adventure and mystery. They’re all treasure hunts that concern present-day crimes linked to historical treasures relating to India’s colonial history.
Erin: In all honestly, should you read the books in order from the start, or are they stand-alone? What might a reader miss if he/she doesn’t read the first book, Artifact?
Gigi: The plots stand alone completely, but the character relationships progress. So if a reader is drawn to a particular adventure, then it works just fine to read an individual book. But if you want to follow the love triangle, in particular, it’s best to read the series in order.
Erin: How did you construct your lead character? Did you outline her or did she have a voice of her own? What traits did you give her and why?
Gigi: In some ways Jaya Jones is based on my own life. I have one Indian parent and one American parent. It’s easiest to start writing when you writer what you know, but I also wanted to make sure Jaya didn’t become me. I’m tall (6 feet tall in heels), so as a jumping-off point to make sure I never wrote too much of myself into her, I made Jaya only 5 feet tall.
Erin: Besides your historian Jaya Jones, what other characters have been your favorites to write into your book? Why?
Gigi: In Quicksand, 90-year-old retired stage magician Sébastien was a blast to write! I love characters who surprise me.
Erin: Is this third book, Quicksand, the end of this series? Why or why not?
Gigi: The series is continuing! I’ve got so many adventures in mind for Jaya and friends. So far her adventures have taken her from San Francisco to Scotland, India, and France. I’m toying with an idea for Italy next…
Erin: You just published a new book, The Accidental Alchemist, in January 2015, with Midnight Ink. It sounds very inviting! Is this adult, YA, or both? What’s the book about? Will it be a series, too?
Gigi: The Accidental Alchemist is a paranormal cozy series, but I’m hearing from lots of booksellers that it’s YA-friendly (so is the Jaya Jones treasure hunt series). The series is about a centuries-old female alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician. It takes place in Portland, Oregon, and the gargoyle is a food-snob chef. Yup, it’s a humorous, lighthearted series.
Erin: Who does your amazing cover art and fun extras, like the cards and games? I love it all! And they are great attractions for the book. Even if they aren’t YA, you sure did grab my daughter’s attention too.
Gigi: Lovely! I went to art school, so I have a lot of fun designing my promotional materials. (Readers can win recipe postcards – my book covers on one side with recipes from each of the countries where the books take place on the other – as part of the grand prize of this blog tour.)
Erin: I understand that you also like to read and write “locked room mysteries.” Can you tell us what exactly ARE locked room mysteries, why you like them, and some of your favorites? Also, share with us any you’ve written that you think readers would be interested in. I’m curious!
Gigi: Locked-room mysteries are impossible crimes. The classic example is a dead man found in a room locked from the inside, but he’s alone and there’s no gun.
John Dickson Carr was the master of the genre. I was honored to have my locked-room story The Hindi Houdini nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards.
Erin: What has been your favorite place to travel and why? Where do you want to go that you haven’t yet?
Gigi: Scotland and India. My first trip abroad was a summer in Scotland with my mom when I was 10 years old, and it captured my imagination and will always hold a special place in my heart.
My dad is from India but has lived in the United States for most of his adult life, so it’s always special to travel to India with him.
I’d like to spend more time in Southeast Asia. I backpacked through Europe after college, but in Asia I’ve only traveled throughout India.
Erin: Oh, Gigi, you’re adorable! And by Loch Ness! One of the top places on my bucket list! Do you work in any of your own travels into your books? If so, where? If not (or in addition), how do you choose your locations?
Gigi: All my books are set in places I’ve been. Sometimes I’ve visited a place already when I have the idea for a book, and sometimes it’s a great excuse to take a trip. For Quicksand, I’d been to France before, but I hadn’t been to all of the locations where I wanted to set the book. It was a perfect excuse to take a research trip.
Erin: I’m a foodie, so I always ask, what have you eaten somewhere that you dream of eating again?
Gigi: There are so many restaurants in Paris I’d love to visit again, both for the food and the atmosphere.
Erin: I know you value life in a way that “each day counts.” How has this led you to write faster and publish more often? How does this help you in the creation of your goals?
Gigi: Most definitely! After surviving breast cancer, I’ve held onto the feeling of wanting to live life to the fullest. I love storytelling, so by doing it mainly for myself, rather than worrying about what other people think, I’ve been able to write more quickly because I don’t second-guess my gut instincts.
Erin: What advice do you have for other writers when it comes to make writing a priority? What tips did you use starting out that helped you create such success with your books?
Gigi: Set goals and stick to them. But I know that’s easier said than done. That’s why I recommend trying NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), challenging yourself to write a 50,000-word draft of a novel in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is what helped me finish a first draft of my first novel, because it allowed me to let go of thinking my writing had to be good. But nobody’s writing is good at first. The point is to get your ideas down on paper. You can edit the words later, but finishing a project is the first serious step in becoming a writer.
My other trick is to set a writing time and stick to it. I write three mornings a week, because that’s what fits into my schedule, and I make sure those chunks of time are sacred. Even if there’s no food in the house, or a big pile of laundry, writing comes first during those dedicated writing times.
Erin: Who were your favorite authors or favorite books growing up? Which ones inspired your writing? What types of mysteries do you read now for pleasure?
Gigi: Elizabeth Peters and Aaron Elkins were the mystery writers I read as a teenager that made me want to become a writer. Their books are full of mystery, history, and adventure in settings across the globe. I read mostly within the mystery genre, but all types of mysteries from cozies to thrillers. (You can see what I’m reading on Goodreads.)
Erin: I’ve gathered that you have an obsession for gargoyles? How did this start? What’s a favorite that you’ve spotted? What is one you hope to see but haven’t yet?
Gigi: I’ve been photographing gargoyles since I was a kid. (Seriously, I have some awful photos I took on a 110mm film camera from that first trip to Scotland when I was 10!) I love mysteries, as you may have gathered, and gargoyles are so mysterious. That’s why my new series features a stone gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life. It’s been a lot of fun to hear from readers who love the gargoyle, Dorian.
Here are a couple of my favorite gargoyle photos, and there are many more on my Gargoyle Girl blog.
Erin: It has been so much fun chatting with you, Gigi! I look forward to reading many more of your books and following your writing! As a writer myself, you are very inspiring. Feel free to stop back anytime! I’ll make more tea, or maybe a smoothie next time!
Gigi: Thanks for inviting me to stop by! Your questions were a lot of fun.
Release date: March 10, 2015
at Henery Press
A thousand-year-old secret room. A sultan’s stolen treasure. A missing French priest. And an invitation to Paris to rekindle an old flame…
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.
USA Today bestselling author 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 for art school. But adventurous academics wouldn’t stay out of her head. Thus was born the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand).
Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” Debut Novel by Suspense Magazine. Her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards, and she also writes the new Accidental Alchemist mystery series.
She takes photos of gargoyles wherever she goes, and posts them on her Gargoyle Girl blog.
Subscribe to her newsletter
Visit her Gargoyle photography blog: http://www.gargoylegirl.com
You can enter the global giveaway here at the link below or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below too.
Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you five (5) extra entries each time [just follow the directions on the entry-form]!
Global giveaway open internationally:
1 winner will receive a print copy of the 3 books in the
Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries Series
plus a beautiful set of recipe cards matching the 3 books!
Yes, you got that right: 1 winner will win the 3 books + recipe cards!