Saturday, September 14, 2013

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yay, Gigi! We have all loved Gigi Pandian (and her intrepid Jaya Jones) from  from moment one.   But today at Jungle Red we are popping the champagne corks for her new book deal with Midnight Ink!  (THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST is the first book in a new series about a centuries-old alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician.

(It  sounds like a fabulous idea.  I NEVER could have thought of it! And I'm constantly astonished by how our brains work.)

Anyway--Gigi's brain started working early on, and she has the wonderful (and adorable) photos to prove it. Do our books begin in out childhooD? Well, Gigi says yes. 

And--a prize at the end for a lucky commenter!

Turning Childhood Summer Adventures Into Mysteries
                                 Gigi Pandian

The first time I visited Scotland, I was ten years old.

My mom, a cultural anthropology professor, needed to spend the summer doing research in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. She also wanted to visit old friends she'd known since her days as a graduate student, so she took me along.

I'm an only child, so at ten years old I was already good at entertaining myself. And BOY was there a lot to do in Scotland! I'd already traveled across the United States several times, as my parents held appointments at different universities, but Scotland was the first foreign country I visited.

For a kid growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles, Scotland was a magical place. Bagpipers were more exciting than my mom and her acoustic guitar; castle ruins were much more fun to climb on than the playground jungle gym; and when I heard the legend of the Loch Ness Monster? It was like an episode of Scooby Doo had come true.

The trip gave me the desire to travel – and to write – early in life. Because how could such adventures not make their way into stories? Back home, I created a comic strip about the adventures of Minnesota Smith, a female Indiana Jones. (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had recently come out.)

My next childhood trip abroad was to India, to visit family on my father’s side. It was WAY too hot to think about outdoor adventures, but the country of vibrant colors, spicy food, and friendly people left a lasting impression, and I’ve returned multiple times.

A few years after my first trip abroad, I got to spend another summer in Europe with my mom. This time, I was inspired to write a script based on my favorite movie, The Goonies, which I called The Goonies Go To Europe. While in England, Scotland, and France that summer, I filmed my story on a hand-held home movie camera. (And no, you are never going to see that video I edited on my VCR – my attempt at a mystery plot didn’t hold together at all!)

At the heart of all of those early stories I wrote were two things: adventure and mystery.

But it took decades before my stories were any good. Two decades after my first trip inspired me, I wrote a draft of ARTIFACT, the first in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, out this month from Henery Press (

In ARTIFACT, Indian-American historian Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to the British Library in London to an archaeological dig in the Highlands of Scotland, as she pieces together the secrets of a lost Indian treasure hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj.

I bet you can guess where I came up with the idea J

Do you have any chidhood adventures that turned into fiction?

HANK: And a copy of ARTIFACT to a lucky commenter!

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. Find Gigi online at

Sign up for Gigi’s email newsletter to receive a free, exclusive short story in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series this fall:



  1. Wow . . . talk about exciting! [My summer vacations, I fear, pale in comparison.]
    I’m definitely adding your books to my to-be-read mountain . . . .

  2. Such great news, Gigi! I loved Artifact, and think you should bring Minnesota Smith back to life. ;^)

    My childhood vacations were idyllic but not exotic: camping in Sequoia National Park every summer. I have used some of my adult adventures in my fiction: my two years teaching English in Japan has showed up in a story and a book. Haven't really drawn on my time in Brazil or West Africa so far - but I have a few (dozen) more books in me yet!

  3. While I love Jaya Jones and look forward to The Accidental Alchemist, I concur with Edith: the adventures of Minnesota Smith should someday be in print, too!

    Best of luck with the new book series, Gigi. You do indeed have the best imagination.

  4. Gigi, what a fun story--I love those pictures! You had a wild imagination--with four kids in my family, we didn't have a lot of time along LOL.

    Huge congrats on ARTIFACT and the new series!

  5. We dragged our kids hither and yon
    Hoping they do as much with their adventures as you did with yours! The book sounds like a hoot (we once spent hours foraging at a construction site in ny where they'd torn down a gothic style church hoping to score a gargoyle)

  6. The series sounds like lots of fun, Gigi. I'm a sucker for lost treasure. Good luck!

  7. Now I want to read your books, Gigi, on the strength of this statement alone:

    "when I heard the legend of the Loch Ness Monster? It was like an episode of Scooby Doo had come true."

  8. Hi Gigi,
    So good to see you here! A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed your visit to another blog. I want to "meet" Jaya Jones. Your new series sounds delightful, too.

    My parents could not afford to take us on vacation. Most of the time my dad didn't take a vacation; his employer paid him a bonus for that, and our family needed the money. My mom often drove us across town to visit our grandparents once or twice a week during the summer. It was a visit to Paradise for us kids. They had all sorts of craft materials, drawing paper,crayons and colored pencils,clay, building blocks, other toys that encouraged creative activity, the magazines Highlights for Children and Jack and Jill, books for kids. We had free reign over their food pantry and could take out ALL the food items and play "store" with them as long as we put everything away when we were done. That was indoors. Outside they had swings, a wading pool, a picnic table where we ate lunch, we were encouraged to climb trees, to pick and eat the various berries they grew.

    On my dad's day off he drove us out to "the country", and sometimes we stopped for hotdogs and root beer. I loved these rides. We lived in lower Fairfield County in CT, and Dad took us to nearby NY state and headed north into rolling hills and farmland.Such a different landscape from the housing project where we lived. My brother got into the habit of exclaiming "I smell hot dogs",with one sister piping in "I smell root beer" when we were in areas where the only smell was cow manure! (But we knew that sooner or later we'd find a hot dog stand somewhere!)

    On one of our more memorable rides north we went to Birch Hill Game Farm,which I think was sort of like a zoo with farm animals running about out loose. Visitors could buy food to feed to the animals. For some reason, a goat chased one of my sisters! I think she ran out of food, and the goat was not happy! On the way home we stopped at a diner instead of a hot dog stand. Dad ended up with a particularly violent form of food poisoning. (He had a chicken sandwich. He should have ordered a hot dog!)

    I just returned from a vacation and made the happy discovery that I had enough money left over for some book purchases. (I usually buy books when I'm on vacation but this year I brought enough reading material along with me.) I plan to look for yours,Gigi!

  9. Thanks for inviting me today!

    Joan -- My uber-tall to-be-read mountain threatens to take over my study...

    Edith -- The funny thing is that I'm incredibly UN-traveled in U.S. national parks! I'd like to remedy that someday.

    Ramona -- Thanks! I don't seem to have a problem with my imagination furnishing me with ideas, but I'm fully aware I need a great editor ;)

  10. Roberta -- Thank you! I'm so glad my mom saved those pictures.

    Hallie -- Did you ever visit the Brooklyn museum's sculpture garden in its old incarnation? They had salvaged and saved gargoyles from demolished buildings. The new garden is pretty, but no longer has the full set of fallen gargoyles in sprawling ivy.

    Jack -- Thank you! I always love a good treasure hunt, which is why I wanted to write one.

  11. Karen -- I'm convinced Scooby Doo is one of the big reasons I'm a mystery writer ;)

    Deb -- Those sound like wonderful adventures. Even though I had the opportunity to travel to far-off lands as a kid, we were always staying with friends or in hostels. Though I can now afford fancy hotels, they'll never hold the same place in my heart as the scrappy cottage of my mom's friends in the Highlands with vast land to explore.

  12. Gigi!

    I'm thrilled to hear about your Midnight Ink deal! I can't believe I missed this. Yay! Looking forward to seeing you soon and getting every ounce of scoop!

    I didn't have any childhood adventures that led to fiction...unless you count wandering around in the foggy hills and imagining bogeyman around every tree trunk. :-) I had a thing for Scooby Doo too ... Never thought about that before but maybe that show was the real starting point, the one that led to reading Nancy Drew mysteries. :-)

    I'm so happy for you!

  13. I did not get to go abroad for family vacations, darn it! But I'm still trying to make up for it. Just got back from 2 weeks in Scotland, my first time there. Loved it. Didn't see Nessie or Scooby Doo, but not for lack of trying. Most frightening thing? A college student dressed in a tam, kilt, shirt,etc such as might have been worn a couple of hundred years ago, with flip flops on his feet. Owwww, my eyes.

  14. Hey Gigi! I just want to know WHERE you got the idea for your new! The thought process!

    And summer vacation..sidenote..didn't they seem LONGER back then?

  15. Hi Gigi--I just bought Artifact--it sounded irresistible!!!

    I didn't get to go to England, Scotland and Europe until I was in my twenties, and have never been to India, so I envy you your childhood adventures.

    We did have a lot of fun vacations--my dad traveled for business so in summer my parents would turn business trips into vacation opportunities--but so far none of them have made it into my books!

  16. Hi Gigi,
    I'm already in love with your books just from reading this. Henery Press is awesome! I can't wait to read these adventures.

    I spent the summer before college on a student cultural tour of Europe and then home via transAtlantic cruise. My first college class was English Comp 101 and the professor asked us to (honestly) write about "How I spent my summer vacation." I could have gone on for pages and pages. I'd love to make that same 9 week trip now that I'm older and would appreciate it much more. And especially if my parents were paying.

    I've never been to Scotland but visiting there and reading your books are definitely on my to-do list.

    Thanks for visiting!

  17. I know--how did "How I spent my summer vacation" become such a school necessity?

  18. Lisa -- I definitely credit Scooby Doo before Nancy Drew :)

    Pat -- That's hilarious about the kilt with flip flops!

    Deb -- I know I'm so lucky that my professor parents had business trips that were trips abroad.

    Marianne -- What a fantastic trip you got to take before college. I'm kicking myself that when backpacking through Europe for months after college that I didn't also do Asia. As an adult it's difficult to fit in the time and also I doubt I'd have as much fun in grungy little hostels ;)

  19. Hank -- You asked about where I came up with the idea for my new series. I've always been fascinated by gargoyles, because they're so mysterious. I even have pictures I took of them on that first trip to Europe. As a kid, I thought it would be fun to have a pet gargoyle, and I even have two stuffed animal gargoyles.

    There's actually a gargoyle in each of my books! Not a living gargoyle like in my new paranormal mystery series, but if you read carefully you'll find a gargoyle lurking somewhere...

  20. Oh, I must read this! it sounds marvelous. And I love your hear!

  21. Gigi, I love gargoyles, too. Will have to send you a pic of the one in my garden, although he (?) is certainly not up to the standards of the real ones.

    Have you seen the ones on Wells Cathedral? Fabulous!

  22. Here's a link to the gargoyle in my garden (scroll down a little)! We call him the Garden Guardgoyle...

  23. Deb and Edith -- So nice to find kindred spirits who love gargoyles! I have a gargoyle photography blog, Gargoyle Girl, that I started several years ago to post my photos of gargoyles and other mysterious subjects.

    Here's a link to a Gargoyle Girl post with photos of the gargoyles I've got at home:

  24. Okay, I can see we'll need to have Gargoyle day! Gigi, will you come back and host when the new book comes out?

  25. Gargoyle Day! I love it :)

    Hank, thank you so much for inviting me, and to all the Jungle Red Writers for hosting me. I'd love to stop by again, and in the meantime I'll see you in the comments discussions.

    p.s. I'll pop back to these comments on Monday, since I know a lot of people are weekday blog readers.