Guest Chick: Gigi Pandian

Ellen here, and I’m so thrilled to welcome Gigi Pandian. Gigi was one of my first mystery pals and we’ve shared some adventures together. Today she shares about the silver lining of a terrifying health ordeal.

June 2021 is a strange anniversary for me. Ten years ago this month, my life turned upside down when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had just turned 36, and I learned I’d have a year of aggressive cancer treatments ahead of me.

For all the wretchedness I endured that year, there were more silver linings than I could have imagined. There’s nothing like a scary health diagnosis to knock things into perspective. I was living on auto-pilot. I was spending time with my friends and family, but not appreciating them. I was traveling but grumbling about delayed flights instead of savoring walks through Old Town Edinburgh. I was writing, but not fully committing.

Shortly after my diagnosis, my writers group took me wig shopping and bought me an amazing, red-streaked wig that became my favorite cancer hair. I promised myself that I was going to finish writing the books I wanted to write, and that I’d treat my writers group to a writing retreat in Edinburgh, Scotland once I beat cancer.

For my 40th birthday, I made that trip happen.

It was that post-cancer celebratory writing retreat six years ago when I began working on the novel that would become UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY. I knew I wanted to tell Tempest Raj’s story, but I didn’t yet know how to do it. It’s taken me several years, off and on in between other books, to figure out how to write this novel. It took this year of COVID quarantine, when my book research trips were canceled, for me to sit down in isolation in my writing nook at home and write the book.

My original title was THE VANISHING ACT OF TEMPEST RAJ, but it didn’t fit what the book had become, so Ellen Byron suggested the perfect title! (Thank you, Ellen!) UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY will be coming out from St. Martin’s Minotaur in March 2022 and is available for pre-order now.

Readers, Have you experienced a challenge that you turned into something better than you ever imagined?

An impossible crime. A family legacy. The intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases.

After a disastrous accident derails Tempest Raj’s career, and life, she heads back to her childhood home in California to comfort herself with her grandfather’s Indian home-cooked meals. Though she resists, every day brings her closer to the inevitable: working for her father’s company. Secret Staircase Construction specializes in bringing the magic of childhood to all by transforming clients’ homes with sliding bookcases, intricate locks, backyard treehouses, and hidden reading nooks.

When Tempest visits her dad’s latest renovation project, her former stage double is discovered dead inside a wall that’s supposedly been sealed for more than a century. Fearing she was the intended victim, it’s up to Tempest to solve this seemingly impossible crime. But as she delves further into the mystery, Tempest can’t help but wonder if the Raj family curse that’s plagued her family for generations—something she used to swear didn’t exist—has finally come for her.

More about the book:

Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling and multiple award-winning author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Her works have won Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards, and her debut novel was awarded the Malice Domestic Grant. She’s the child of professors from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, and spent her childhood traveling around the world on their research trips. She now lives in Northern California. UNDER LOCK & SKELETON KEY is the first in a new series.

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32 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Gigi Pandian

    1. Congratulations on your 10 year cancer-versary, Gigi! My wife celebrated her 10 year mark of being cancer free in 2019. A huge reason to celebrate. Cheers!

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Congratulations on the ten-year anniversary, Gigi! (This year also marks my wife’s 10-year cancer -free anniversary.) I so remember and love that red-streaked wig!

    And your new book looks fabulous–love the cover and the title! (And love that our very own Chick Ellen came up with the name.) Thanks so much for visiting us today, and yay for the new series!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Leslie — and congrats to your wife as well!

      On my end since I had a whole year of treatments — ugh — this is my 10 year diagnosis anniversary, so one more year to go and then I get to have fun celebrating 10 years cancer free!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Gigi, thank you so much for doing this. I so relate because when I was 25, docs discovered I had a tumor. They thought they’d have to do a hysterectomy but luckily didn’t. Still, it took a year to get a benign diagnosis. The experience was a wake up call. I realized I was living on autopilot. I began writing after that – and never stopped!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ellen, it’s such a shame that it takes diagnoses like ours to be the kick we need to figure out what we really want to do with our lives!

      Thanks for having me on the blog today — and for being the one to title the first Secret Staircase Mystery!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I know I’m behind on your books (but I want to catch up, really!), but this book is definitely on my radar for next spring. I am going to stay up to date on at least one of your series.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Gigi, I love your books and your personal story. I absolutely agree with Dru that stuff like this makes you stronger. When I had the tumor (benign, luckily) inside my spinal column it was the jab I needed too … “you’ve got things to do, get a move on, girl!”

    I need to study your locked room mysteries because, like a dummy, I agreed to write one even though I have no experience with writing one!

    Congrats on all your success!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Becky!

      Oh, exciting you’ll be writing a locked room mystery! I’m curious about the context, because some people refer to “closed circle” mysteries (e.g. an isolated house where you know someone inside the house is a killer) as locked room mysteries (a crime that appears to be impossible), so you might have been asked to do one of those ;). I look forward to reading your story when it’s out!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Gigi, I’m always in awe of you and inspired by your writing journey. Congrats on the 10 years and being a fighter!

    (On a side note, I remember reading Nordie’s At Noon, and being compelled to take my writing more seriously because life often throws us curveballs.)

    I’m really getting into reading locked room or impossible crime mysteries. I might try writing a short story in that style one day!

    Congrats on all your well-deserved success! Looking forward to your new book!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Congratulations on your milestones and successes, Gigi!

    The picture with all of you in Scotland, wow…it’s one of those picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words moments.

    Love your writing and am looking forward to your new book. The cover and description are so intriguing! Hoping to see you at a conference soon. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gigi, I can’t wait to read your new series! I’ve always wanted to live in a house with a hidden room or secret passage! Thanks for visiting the Chicks today! (BTW, I love the Accidental Alchemist!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gigi, so sorry I’m late to the party here. Loved this post, and especially the photos. What a wonderful adventure, to take your writer’s group to Scotland for creative inspiration–and also to celebrate your successful personal journey. Can’t wait until Under Lock and Skeleton Key is officially out in the world– every time I look at that gorgeous cover, I swear I notice another cool detail. Congratulations on Tempest’s new series–and also for kicking the C-word’s butt!

      Liked by 1 person

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