Edith here, hosting a bunch of relatives for my honey’s 70th birthday! Today I’m delighted to welcome Gigi Pandian back to the blog. Her tenth mystery is out – which I’m excited about, because I love this series – and she’s talking about how she writes through good times and bad. Check the end for a special giveaway.
Writing Through Good Times and Bad
Last week was a big milestone for me – my tenth book was published!
This is an especially meaningful milestone because The Alchemist’s Illusion is a novel in my Accidental Alchemist mystery series, which is not-so-subtly my “cancer survival” series. I began writing the first Accidental Alchemist novel while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer shortly after my 36th birthday, exploring ideas around the Elixir of Life through a centuries-old female alchemist.
My cancer treatments left my body feeling exhausted and crummy, I was stuck at home with no immune system to speak of, and my agent hadn’t been able to sell my first novel. It wasn’t a great time in my life.
However, several unexpected things happened.
First, facing my own mortality much earlier than I’d expected, I was more clearly able to see the important things in life, without the noise that usually gets in the way. My family mattered. As did my beloved friends. And also, even though I wasn’t yet a published author, I realized how much my writing meant to me. But do you know what used to matter and no longer did? The stresses of modern life.
My writers group took me wig shopping and picked out a mystery-writerly wig for me. I never would have picked it out for myself, but it was perfect! It made me feel powerful and in control at a time when outside forces told me I wasn’t.
I was in that state of mind when I saw I’d be going through chemotherapy during National Novel Writing Month. I’d been writing for years, but never fully committing to it. But now, who knew how much longer I’d have to write? When I wrote during chemo, the words rushed out of me, and what came out was a story of transformation, the central theme of the whole series. (You know the key transformations of alchemy: transforming lead into gold and finding the Elixir of Life that grants immortality. So I had a lot of material to play with!)
But… because I write on the lighter side of the mystery genre, my way of exploring mortality wasn’t dark. It turned out to be a humorous not-quite-cozy romp with alchemist Zoe Faust, her impish gargoyle sidekick Dorian Robert-Houdin, and their lovable misfit friends.
I’d been writing in my stable life for several years before cancer, thoroughly enjoying the world of words and the company of other writers I was meeting. But until I realized how easily it could all be taken away, I didn’t fully commit to seizing the day.
I was writing the story for myself, but unexpectedly my agent sold The Accidental Alchemist quickly. The fourth book in the series is out this month, and the series is now in the early stage of development for television. If I hadn’t let my imagination run wild based on that dark time, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to write the story.
I’m now more than seven years cancer free, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Have you had any experiences that shaped you in unexpected ways? I’ll send a set of Alchemist recipe cards to one commenter!
THE ALCHEMIST’S ILLUSION, the fourth in the Lefty Award-winning Accidental Alchemist series, came out last week. A perilous painting leads Zoe Faust and Dorian Robert-Houdin on an audacious alchemical adventure in Portland, Oregon, in search of Zoe’s old mentor Nicolas Flamel. Like the earlier books in the series, this one includes delicious vegan recipes.
Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha and Lefty Award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and accidental almost-vegan. The child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, she spent her childhood traveling around the world on their research trips, and now lives outside San Francisco with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over the garden. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories.