Joining us today is Gigi Pandian, author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries and the fabulous newest addition to the Hen House family. Stay tuned as she talks self-publishing, travelling, working with Henery, and everything in between.
Henery: After your agent pitched your manuscript tirelessly to publishing houses, you finally decided to publish ARTIFACT yourself. Now that you’ve re-released ARTIFACT with Henery, what are the benefits of publishing with a publishing company vs self-publishing?
Gigi: Self-publishing is so much work if you want to do it right. I could probably write a book on the subject at this point, but I’ll be brief here. (I’ve taught some workshops on the subject plus written blog posts and articles about it, so if you’re interested in reading more, you can start here: http://gigipandian.blogspot.com/2012/07/5-things-you-really-need-to-know-before.html.)
With self-publishing, the author has all the control. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. You can publish your writing exactly as you envision it and on your own schedule, but you’re also responsible for everything that goes on behind the scenes with publishing a book. It was a lot more work than I thought it would be, but also a wonderful learning experience about the publishing industry. It’s still an uphill battle to get noticed in a crowded marketplace, but because I had a good book and put in the work, I was able to find success.
However, it was difficult for me to spend so much of my mental energy on the technical aspects of publishing. I got into writing because I wanted to be a writer, not a publisher. I’m lucky that my agent was supportive of my decision to self-publish after we’d come so close to book deals; she believed in Artifact and wanted to see it out in the world. And now I’m happy I’m in such good hands at Henery Press. They take care of all of the back-end publishing details I didn’t like dealing with, plus a lot more that I was never able to do myself. The best part? Now I have time to focus on writing!
Henery: You seem to draw several aspects of ARTIFACT from your own life, such as your anthropologist parents, your advanced studies, and your time in England, Scotland, and India. How much of the story would you say actually comes from your own life experiences and how closely do you relate to Jaya?
Gigi: When I was a kid traveling with my mom on her research trips to Europe, I would make up adventure stories based on the cool locations we’d visit, like Loch Ness in Scotland. Those travels made an impression on me and made me want to write adventurous mysteries set in foreign countries — though unlike Jaya’s adventure in Artifact, I’ve never found any jewel-encrusted treasures in real life.
I’m not Jaya, but we do share some things in common. We both come from two worlds, with one American parent and one parent from India. But Jaya was born in India, has more of a tragic past, and is more pragmatic and scholarly than I am — which leads to your next question.
Henery: Like Jaya, you were working toward your PhD, but you decided to leave education and write mysteries instead. It must take a lot of courage and bravery to make such an adjustment. What made you come to that decision?
Gigi: When I left my PhD program, I didn’t actually have a plan! I only knew that I wasn’t enjoying academic research, so I knew I didn’t want to spend my life doing it. Without a job or a plan of any kind, I packed my belongings into my car (everything fit except for my books, which I had to ship) and moved to a town I’d fallen in love with one summer during college. I got a part-time job at a non-profit organization I loved, began taking art school courses, and started tinkering with writing a novel.
Henery: You’ve accomplished so much since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. You’re now a published mystery author and spend your time working for a non-profit organization. Were you able to continue writing during treatments or did you have to put writing on hold during that time?
Gigi: It was the month following my 36th birthday when I received my diagnosis. Not something I expected! But I’m not good at feeling sorry for myself or being bored, so when my immune system was shot during chemotherapy treatments I worked from home. I also needed something to do in my free time while I was tired and trapped at home. During my year of treatments, I gave myself the project of self-publishing Artifact so I’d have something positive to focus on. I also wrote a draft of a novel during National Novel Writing Month that year. I got the words down on paper, but my style wasn’t quite the same as usual, so that book needs a lot of rewriting. (And no, I’m not super-human. I just have the world’s greatest husband, parents, and friends, all of whom who helped out a lot!)
Henery: Since your recovery, you’ve blogged about living your life fully and adventurously. What are some of your favorite places you’ve been or things you’ve done? Or what do you hope other people reading your blog will take away from it?
Gigi: Life is uncertain for all of us, so I hope by sharing my journey that I can inspire people to follow their dreams. If you ever wanted to write a novel or go on your dream vacation “someday,” do it today.
I used to travel a lot when I was younger — the youth hostel/backpacking type of thing. But after getting caught up in a career, I didn’t travel as much. Cancer made me reevaluate my priorities. In the past year I’ve traveled to London, Lisbon, Paris, and Prague. Great writing material for future adventures for Jaya…
It’s gratifying to be contacted by other women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, who’ve thanked me for sharing my experiences — the good and the bad. One experience that sums up the good and the bad wrapped up in one is when my amazing writers group threw a party to take me wig shopping. They picked out fun wigs for me, making the experience of losing my hair less scary and rather fun.
Henery: So you’ve told us your fav book is Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters. What draws you to this particular book?
Gigi: There are so many mystery novelists who credit Elizabeth Peters with inspiring them to write mysteries. I’m one of them. She writes clever puzzle plots in a humorous voice, featuring brilliant female heroines who go on exciting adventures with a touch of romance. It’s been one of the biggest thrills of my publishing journey that so many reviewers are comparing Artifact to an Elizabeth Peters novel. It was another thrill to meet Elizabeth Peters (real name Barbara Mertz) in person at the Malice Domestic mystery convention last year.
Borrower of the Night is the first book in Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss mystery series. It’s an adventure that takes Midwestern history professor Vicky Bliss to a German castle on a quest for a lost historical item. If you enjoy reading Artifact, you’ll love Borrower of the Night and the rest of the Vicky Bliss series.
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