Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Multiple Thanksgivings and Holiday Do-Overs by Gigi Pandian

JENN McKINLAY: One of my very favorite people to see at Left Coast Crime or Bouchercon or Malice is the fabulous Gigi Pandian. When we first met, we were both hammering out books around working actual jobs that we love. We commiserated about the push and pull of being writers and employed and have remained bonded by the emotional angst ever since. Plus, I'm a huge fan! Welcome, Gigi!

GIGI PANDIAN: I didn’t intend for it to happen. Really I didn’t. But this Thanksgiving week is turning out to mirror that of Jaya Jones, the heroine of my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries. OK, aside from the fact that I didn’t catch a bad guy or find a long-lost treasure. Where we overlap is that I ended up on more last-minute flights than I intended, and I get to have two Thanksgivings.

I love holidays. They’re a wonderful excuse to slow down and celebrate with friends and family I admittedly don’t make enough time for on other days of the year. But the actual date of a holiday has never held a particular significance for me.


 My chose-your-own-holiday-date idea began decades ago, when I was in college, for two reasons. First, it turned out my birthday fell during finals week. Every. Single. Year. Not so fun. So I pushed celebrations back a week so I could properly celebrate. Second, as a starving student who’d grown up with a love of travel instilled in me, I used holiday breaks to satisfy my wanderlust. That meant I didn’t always make it home for the holidays. But I wanted to have the best of both worlds, so if my cheap flights had me traveling on an inconvenient day, I’d make it up to friends and family by throwing another party once I was home. Or inviting people to join me in my travels.


This tradition continued as I grew older. My husband and I love traveling abroad over holidays like Halloween and Christmas, because it’s fun to experience how other countries celebrate holidays. Edinburgh’s Christmas Market feels like stepping directly into the spirit of the season. Halloween in Tokyo is like waking up in a fantasy world; the holiday is primarily celebrated by adults, and they go all-out with their costumes, including some super-creepy contact lenses.

In my new novel, THE NINJA’S ILLUSION, history professor Jaya Jones has a weeklong break from classes for Thanksgiving. She uses the time off to join her best friend Sanjay in Kyoto for his Japanese magic show debut in which he’ll be performing the fabled Indian Rope Trick. She sacrifices a traditional Thanksgiving for the opportunity to support her friend and to look into her own research on a mysterious trading ship that disappeared from historical records centuries ago, but in the end Jaya’s brother plans a second Thanksgiving in San Francisco so Jaya can be there.

I’ve got a book deadline coming up, so I thought I might have to skip Thanksgiving all together. But nearly too late, I realized I wasn’t properly prioritizing my life. So I’ll be joining dear friends for a traditional Thanksgiving on the official day, then flying the next morning to a writing retreat where we’ll take a break for a second Thanksgiving. Two Thanksgivings, plus giving this new book the time it needs. Yup, I’d say I’ve got the best of both worlds.

What about you? Does the date of a holiday hold special significance for you, or can you celebrate any time?


A bit about THE NINJA’S ILLUSION, the 5th book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series published this fall (and currently long-listed for the American Library Association’s 2018 ALA Reading List!):

When Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to Japan with her stage magician best friend Sanjay—a.k.a. The Hindi Houdini—for his Japanese debut, she jumps at the chance to pursue her own research that could solve a tantalizing centuries-old mystery.

With the colorful autumn leaves of historic Kyoto falling around her, Jaya soon loses sight of what’s real and what’s a deception. A mysterious ninja attempts sabotage on Sanjay’s trick, along with Japan’s most controversial magician, Akira. Ancient folklore blurs the lines between illusion and reality when a magician’s assistant appears to be a kitsune, a mythical fox spirit. As tricks escalate to murder, Jaya and her friends must unravel secrets hidden in the ancient capital of Japan, before one of their own becomes the next victim.

And a teaser for “The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn,” a brand new Thanksgiving-themed short story published last week that takes place right after THE NINJA’S ILLUSION ends, as Jaya and Tamarind are trying to get home for a belated Thanksgiving.

An unsolved murder from the 1930s. A ghost story to explain the impossible crime. 
A dead man in the haunted library. And no way for the authorities to reach the survivors until the snowstorm clears… 



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 short stories. Gigi's fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and shortlisted for Agatha and Macavity awards. Learn more about Gigi at http://gigipandian.com/ and sign up for her newsletter at http://gigipandian.com/newsletter/

43 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Gigi; I really enjoy the Jaya Jones stories and “The Ninja’s Illusion” sounds quite fascinating.

    I love your idea of celebrating, but not necessarily on the calendar day of the holiday.
    When the children were very young, we celebrated half-birthdays, partly because we were excited to do something special with them and partly because we wanted them to have something special, something that was just for them. And we haven’t met too many other people who celebrate half-birthdays . . . .

    Since there were no vacations scheduled in the police department during the Christmas holidays, we always celebrated our family Christmas when John could schedule a vacation.
    We’d fly into Philadelphia and drive the rest of the way. My sister would still have all the Christmas decorations up [including the tree]; we had stockings, packages, Christmas dinner . . . the whole works and we had the wonderful opportunity to share all of it with our family . . . even if it was Easter time when we were opening those Christmas gifts . . . .

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    1. Oh yes, half-birthdays! That's lovely. And for kids with birthdays around Christmas, getting a half-birthday can be especially fun.

      The medical profession is similar to police in not getting all the holidays off, and I'm so grateful there are people who do those jobs! For my good friends in the medical field, we've done the same thing to schedule when we can :)

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    2. Half birthdays! My daughter's half birthday is Christmas day, and we always celebrated that when she was growing up!

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  2. I do tend to focus more on celebrating on the actual day. However, if circumstances meant we had to celebrate on a different day, I'd definitely do that as well. Or instead.

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    1. I admit I feel lucky that I'm doing two Thanksgivings this year, one on the official day :)

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  3. Gigi, I agree with you that it is so cool to travel and to see how people in other countries celebrate holidays.

    I am glad you are going to enjoy Thanksgiving with your friends and at the writers retreat.

    BTW, I really enjoyed reading THE NINJA'S ILLUSION. My dad's side of the family is from Kyoto, Japan. And thanks for letting us know about the follow-up short story. I will look for THE LIBRARY GHOST OF TANGLEWOOD INN.

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    1. So glad you enjoyed the new book! I tried hard to get Kyoto right. Have you spent time there? I adored visiting.

      p.s. I announced the short story in my email newsletter too, and I *think* you're signed up, so check your junk mail filter in case my newsletters are stuck there!

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    2. Yes, Gigi, I have been to Kyoto twice. I think you captured very well the setting and how a foreigner experiences and navigates Japan. But I had never been to the place in the photo above with the statues. And good tip for me to check my spam folder for your newsletter.

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    3. The temple is Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, on the outskirts of Kyoto but worth the hike to get there.

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  4. Spectacular as always! Happy double Thanksgiving to you, Gigi. I'm looking forward to catching up with Jaya and Sanjay and seeing Kyoto through their eyes!

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  5. Mystery, travel, history and treasure? Your books sound delicious, Gigi, and I don't know how I've missed them! Something I'll have to remedy, although I have to say, I feel a little jolt of dislocation when I see your name in print. There are so few of us, I get used to being the only one.

    As for holidays, I'm fine with celebrating whenever. When I was in college, "Christmas" tended to be a twelve-day rolling feast, starting with the winter solstice and my sister's birthday, and passing through present-openings at both grandmothers' houses, plus trips to visit the boyfriend, and some kind of New Year's celebration. More recently, I have a friend who has declared the entire month of May his birthday, and celebrates whenever anyone wants to take him out to lunch. I prefer to mark my birthday on the day, but I'll be happy to accept wine, cake, and tribute gifts at any time. Holidays are when you make them.

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    1. Hello, another Gigi! Yes, I agree it's fun and funny to see "Gigi" when it's not me. Gigi Vernon is another mystery writer I see at mystery conventions, and we always call each other "the other Gigi" :)

      A whole month of birthdays for your friend -- ha! I don't know if I could pull that off ;)

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    2. So that would make me "the other other Gigi"? Or maybe "yet another Gigi"? This could be fun.

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    3. Tee hee -- lovely to make your acquaintance Other Other Gigi! ;)

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  6. I lived in Japan for two years, Gig, so I'm definitely reading this one! Holiday dates are kind of important to me. We have celebrated Thanksgiving on Fridays a couple of times, because my sons were with their father on the Thursday date. But it makes me feel left out to know everyone else is feasting with family and friends. I'm glad you're making this year work for you.

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    1. I remember that you lived in Japan, Edith! I hope you'll feel I did it justice :)

      Happy Thanksgiving!

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    2. Sorry for the typo in your name!

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    3. My best pals do call me Gig (Geeg), so your keyboard was speaking for you!

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  7. I'm flexible about the day of the feast and menu. One year we had grilled steaks and my kids said it was the best Thanksgiving dinner ever. Sigh. Enjoy your travels! We were in Rome for Halloween this year and other than a few costumes and carved pumpkins, it was just another day.

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    1. I love to do a combination of traditional and non-traditional holiday foods too :)

      I had no idea Halloween would be *such* a big deal in Japan. I heard it's pretty new that they're making it a big thing.

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  8. WELCOME Gigi--you've organized a perfect weekend! We shared the kids with another household, so got used to flexible holidays. Same with birthdays these days...we celebrate whenever we can get together!

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    1. Yes, whenever we can get together with family and friends that's the key!

      And yes, I'm looking forward to the combo long weekend :)

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  9. Congrats on the new book, Gigi! Holidays are very rooted in the day and place with my family, although we have celebrated Christmas in warmer climates a couple of times, and I thought it was wonderful. One of my friends celebrates "Fakesgiving" on Friday instead of Thursday because of scheduling issues, and they prefer it; traveling on Thanksgiving is a breeze compared to the day before! Enjoy tomorrow!

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    1. Thanks, Ingrid! Yup, because of my shifted dates it was easy to get a flight, so that was another plus! I grew up in California, so most of my Christmases lacked snow, so it's always fun when I get to be in a cold climate for Christmas :)

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  10. Congratulations , Gigi! And I think you’re prioritizing is very wise. It’s a juggle, but you have managed to figure it out. I am a big proponent, —after having been a reporter for so many years and in that profession, of course, holidays don’t count—of having the holiday be any day we say it is. I have celebrated many of Thanksgiving on Saturday, with much delight.
    My Mom and stepfather were married on Thanksgiving, so the real day is also the time I always think of them— we used to celebrate their anniversary along with Thanksgiving, and gave thanks for their happy marriage as well.
    And now I am off to set the table, since Thanksgiving this year is tomorrow! And the gang is all about to arrive ...
    Love to you all!

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    1. Oh I bet you've had to cover stories on so many holidays! But I hope you got to cover heartwarming holiday stories too :). A Thanksgiving anniversary, how lovely! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  11. Happy to see another Jaya adventure out in the wild, Gigi, My husband's birthday is this week also, so we've always juggled that and Thanksgiving and work schedules. Somehow we always end up with a turkey on Turkey Day.

    Prioritizing your life...a good way to live. You're a good example of living life the right way.

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    1. I do struggle with balance, but for the most part I think I'm getting it right. At least I'm having fun.

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  12. For years, my husband was in the Army and his annual training dates always fell right across our anniversary. Since we couldn't reschedule the Army, we took to celebrating our anniversary on another date. But since we often used that as an excuse to see a show or concert we wouldn't have normally seen, it was okay. We celebrated our 20th in New Orleans at Bouchercon (our actual anniversary is in August).

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Oh yes, I can imagine training dates not being optional or flexible. And what a wonderful anniversary celebration in New Orleans!

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  13. My family has celebrated Thanksgiving on the Saturday following the traditional day for the last 30-some years. My mother first moved the event to accommodate work schedules and it stuck. Everyone can celebrate with in-laws, etc. on Thursday and then we all gather on Saturday, for years at my mother's home and now at mine. It's usually our largest gathering of the year and my favorite day.

    Gigi, I'm not familiar with your books but I can see that I need to add them to my ever-growing to-be-read mountain.

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    1. Your own family tradition, I love that!

      I hope you have fun with the books if they make it to the top of your mountain of books. I wish I could freeze time so I could get through my huge TBR stack.

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  14. Congrats on the new book and how nice to meet another Gigi!

    Thanksgiving Dinner is my favorite meal to cook, but this year we are going to our neighbor's home. I'm bringing the pumpkin pie. However, I have a turkey in the fridge, ready to go into the oven on Friday, because I HAVE to cook one. Otherwise where would the leftovers come from?

    I've never traveled out of the country on a major holiday, although we were in England on Guy Fawkes one year, rained, no bonfires. And for Remembrance Day, such a huge occasion and so moving. I'd like to go to Germany for Christmas sometime, if only to hear Stille Nacht sung properly!

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    1. Ha! So you get two Thanksgivings as well with that second turkey!

      Too bad about the rain on Guy Fawkes night. I hope you make it to Germany for Christmas sometime!

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  15. Having grown up in UK Thanksgiving wasn't a big deal for us when we first moved here but we produced 4 American children who have turned out to be very traditional and want a big family celebration--together whenever possible. Last year was a big anniversary for us so we took the whole family for a week in Cabo San Lucas and celebrated Thanksgiving there. Luckily the resort did the whole turkey dinner

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    1. Cabo San Lucas... Your family knows how to celebrate, Rhys :)

      When I was living in the UK we Americans held a Thanksgiving dinner and invited everyone, so it ended up turning into an early Christmas party.

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  16. Gigi - I have now added Halloween in Japan to my bucket list so thanks for that! I have a friend with four grown kids with families of their own so they started doing "faux Christmas" a few years ago. They celebrate exactly like Christmas but do it a week early. She says she now loves the actual Christmas so much more because she and her husband can travel or spend the day in pajamas - no pressure!

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    1. It was so much fun, and seriously a bit freaky with the contact lenses that I'd previously only seen so realistic in movies!

      No pressure holidays -- that's how they should be!

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  17. Hi, Gigi! The new book sounds fascinating. I've never been to Japan, but my parents made a trip there, and I've always been interested in Japanese history and culture, even did a Jan term project on Japan in college. I LOVED Laurie King's Dreaming Spies, the Mary Russell book set in Japan. So looking forward to yours!

    We've been pretty lucky about being able to celebrate holidays on the day, and all our family is here so we've never had to travel. I did make a rule a few years ago that we would stay home on Christmas Day. We go to a big party at my in-laws on Christmas Eve and then we would go to my relatives on Christmas Day, and it was just too much. So now we go to my family on Thanksgiving and stay home on Christmas--although what started as Christmas Day in pajamas has turned into dinner for ten, so maybe I got myself in big trouble...

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    1. Thanks, Deb! I went down a rabbit hole of research for this book. It was so much fun, that even though I didn't have to do most of the research, I couldn't stop myself.

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    2. I wouldn't know anything about research rabbit holes, lol....

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