Thursday, September 13, 2012

Off the Beaten Track: Treasure Hunting in Scotland



Our guest guest this week is Gigi Pandian, 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. Gigi was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant for her debut mystery novel, Artifact, which was released August 28, 2012. Connect with Gigi online at http://gigipandian.com/.


One of my favorite things about traveling is learning the history of a place. There are some settings that are so evocative of their pasts that it’s impossible to visit them without feeling that pull to the past.

Dunnottar Castle in Scotland is one such place. The first time I visited the ruins, I knew the cliffs where they stood would be a fantastic place to set a mystery—especially a mystery involving history.

Those cliffs along the eastern coast of the Scottish Highlands inspired more than dramatic fiction. They were the perfect place to build the strategic fortress of Dunnottar. Not only is it a remote location at the edge of the sea, but the land mass is actually removed from the mainland. You have to climb down steep cliffs and climb back up again to reach the castle.

In the seventeenth century, the treasure of the Scottish Crown Jewels was hidden at Dunnottar Castle. Going back even further in history, fortifications have existed on the site since Pictish times. The name “Dun” is Pictish for fort.

I first visited Dunnottar castle as a teenager, traveling with my mom on one of her research trips to Scotland. The sweeping landscape made an immediate impression on me, and I knew I’d be back for another adventure. Being there felt like traveling to another century, so it didn’t take much to imagine national treasures being smuggled into the castle as it once existed.

I love archaeological mysteries, so when I began writing a mystery novel, I started with the idea of a Pictish archaeological dig on the cliffs near the castle ruins. As I wrote more, the idea behind the mystery became more complex. I found myself weaving in history that I’d learned from my father, who’s from India, about Scotland’s historical connection to India via the British Empire’s occupation of India.

In Artifact, historian Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to the British Library in London and on to a Pictish archaeological dig in the Highlands of Scotland, piecing together the secrets of a lost Indian treasure hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj.

The next book in the mystery series will take Jaya and friends on a journey from San Francisco to south India on another treasure hunt. The most fun part of writing this series is that it gives me yet another excuse to travel!

16 comments:

  1. Gigi, it's on my TBR list. I love Scotland and it castles and I have a yoga friend who loves India, so I want to learn more about it. Great combination.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gigi, I get excited when I read the word "Pictish". I am loving Artifact. I wish you had written this when I was in high school, but that would probably make you a prodigy. As a lover of archaeology & history, I am really enjoying your lacing of history with mystery. I told my husband Jaya is a female Dirk Pitt. That may get him to read it, too;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for adding it to your TBR pile, Judy!

    Larissa, I feel like guys get to have more fun with the treasure hunt genre, and I wanted to have some of that fun, too ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great photos, Gigi. They make me want to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just bought Artifact. And can't wait to read it. Your blog today also made me want to go to Scotland! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I replied yesterday remotely, I wasn't able to reply directly to this comment, so I wanted to make sure you got my reply:

      Thanks for checking out the book! I hope the book will transport you to Scotland even more :)

      Delete
  6. Gigi, can't wait to read this. It's an intriguing premise, and I always enjoy reading how another writer develops and idea.

    And I love the cover. Did you have a hand in the design? I can't help but notice the grace notes added to the A in Artifact and the G in Gigi are repeated in the P in Pandian on your website.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have been waiting for the release of this book! Bought my copy yesterday. Can't wait to dig in! (that's an archaeological pun, right?)

    ReplyDelete
  8. And I agree, these photos are amazing, as are the setting.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Glad you enjoyed the photos, Yves :)

    Thanks for checking out the book, Alaska Author and Supriya!

    Patricia, I'm a graphic designer, so yes, I had a lot of fun designing the cover myself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I know your a graphic designer! You did the fabulous bookmarks and postcards for Fish Tales.

      Delete
    2. When I imagined having a mystery novel published, one of the things I wanted was to have a book cover as cool as my favorite mysteries on my shelf, so I was really happy that it ended up being me designing the cover as I envisioned it :)

      Delete
  10. I loved the book, Gigi, and you really made Scotland come to life! Can't wait for the next Jaya adventure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Edith! I love that I now have yet another excuse to travel -- "research" to make the books come to life ;)

      Delete
  11. Hi, I found this on the Forbes list and wanted to get in touch. Nicely laid out blog. I have been living in Italy for 4 years as a single woman and if you are interested, I could write something for you about life in Italy....good bad and ugly. (I have lived in Palermo Sicily, Rome, Florence, Italian Riviera) I have also written the first novel in a series (I was so inspired by my life in Florence) historical fiction set in Renaissance Florence (crime) When Angels Fall. Perhaps I can be a contributor in exchange for a link to my blog? Also, if you are interested in reviewing the book, be happy to send along a freebie.

    ReplyDelete
  12. P.S. I would love to connect with Patricia Winton

    Grazie, Hillary

    ReplyDelete