JENNIFER CHOW – Author of Sassy Cat Mysteries and the L.A. Night Market Mysteries

Jennifer J. Chow is the Lefty Award-nominated author of the Sassy Cat Mysteries and the L.A. Night Market Mysteries. The first in the Sassy Cat series, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, was selected as an OverDrive Recommended Read, a PopSugar Best Summer Beach Read, and one of BuzzFeed’s Top 5 Books by AAPI authors.

 

JENNIFER currently serves as Vice President on the national board of Sisters in Crime. She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America. Connect with her online at www.jenniferjchow.com

Death by Bubble Tea Two cousins who start a food stall at their local night market get a serving of murder in this first novel of a delicious new cozy mystery series.

This is the first in a new series! I’m excited about the L.A. Night Market Mysteries because it combines my own personal history of working at a family restaurant with my love for food. Also, I get to add recipes at the back of the book!

(My other recent cozy series is the Lefty Award-nominated Sassy Cat Mysteries, which feature Los Angeles pet groomer Mimi Lee and her sassy telepathic cat, Marshmallow.)

How do you come up with character names? In general, I get inspiration from baby name books, online name generators, and the Social Security archives. For Death by Bubble Tea, Yale popped into my head because I know a few folks who are named after universities (yes, I do know a Harvard!). Celine’s name cropped up because I wanted to pay homage to celebrity-inspired names (along with popular artists and songs that my family enjoys karaokeing to).

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run the show? My characters usually run the show. I’d love for them to rein themselves in, but a few like to hog the limelight. On the other hand, it puts them in interesting and precarious sleuthing situations. My comedic characters often add a huge dose of sparkling wit and humor.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I usually do have a subplot. A lot of these are character-driven. In my last Sassy Cat Mystery, Mimi Lee Cracks the Code, Mimi Lee and her boyfriend Josh go on a romantic getaway that soon turns sour. She’s got crimes to solve—and a relationship to mend!

With Death by Bubble Tea, there’s an ongoing conflict with recently arrived Celine. Yale has to deal with her opposite personality cousin along with running a new food stall.

The subplots come organically, as I think they do in real life. People are dealing with multiple things on an everyday basis, and that’s reflected in my stories.

What kind of research do you do? I try to research in all sorts of ways. The Sassy Cat series had me visiting pet salons, going down the rabbit hole of YouTube pet grooming videos, and having vivid encounters with animals at dog readings, cat cafes, and more.

With the L.A. Night Market series, I suppose I unknowingly did pre-research. I’ve gone to multiple night markets (think lively festivals set in the evenings) in Asia and in the States. My family has roots in Southern China and Hong Kong, so I didn’t have to research those cultural aspects as much. However, I did keep a dim sum cookbook around while writing and had a Chinese dictionary handy. Since Book 1 is called Death by Bubble Tea, I also did obligatory boba tastings (yum!). For the recipes in the back of the book, I made several attempts and passed those culinary efforts on to my family to eat and drink.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I have a mix of real and fictional in my settings. Usually, it’s a made-up community in an actual geographic region. For example, the L.A. Night Market series has a small fictional planned community called Eastwood Village, but it’s positioned in the greater West L.A. area. I also had fun inserting real sites into this new series, particularly with the more unique locations that Yale and Celine visit as Yale takes her cousin around and introduces her to Los Angeles.

Links

10 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    What a fun interview! I enjoyed all your answers and even learned a thing or two.
    I wish you great success!

    Reply
  2. Carl Vonderau

    I love the research you do. It sounds like a lot of fun. I also use naming books and Google searches to help name my characters.

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Thanks, Carl! Coming up with names and not replicating them can be tough work.

      Reply
  3. Debra Bokur

    I loved reading about your books, Jennifer, and can’t wait to explore them. Sassy cats! Love the whole concept.

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Great reading about you, Jennifer. You certainly have a unique method for choosing names of your characters. And I love the idea of a telepathic feline. Sometimes I think my cats are telepathic. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Thanks for the well wishes and for reading the post, Michael!

      Reply
  5. Jennifer J. Chow

    Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, George!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      It’s a pleasure to have you and your new series here for a visit.

      Reply

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ALBERT VANDE STEEG – Discusses the Lives of Cops AND Life Under Nazi Occupation

Good morning. I am Albert vande Steeg, an immigrant from the Netherlands. My careers include ranch hand, police officer (detective) contractor, and a builder of missionary buildings in fourteen foreign nations; Europe, Africa, South America, and the South Pacific.

Cops have many stories that relate humor, intrigue, serious crime, and danger. Most of these stories are told when cops get together and they “one-up” each other. Others are told at family gatherings. When the stories are good and told well, someone will say, “you should write a book.” That is what my former partner said, and six months later, The Black Band had its first draft.

Yes, it was a struggle to get published. Having no experience and no writers club or conferences to guide, I found the Writer’s Market with all the publishers and agents listed. Reading this taught me how to persevere. Six months later, the contract was offered, and nine months later, The Black Band was published by Oak Tree Press.

The Black Band has been rewritten and titled “The Canopy.” Many of the stories found in the book originated at the cop bar, The Canopy. That is where stories were told and retold over mugs of beer and giant “Texas” cheeseburgers.

 

Writing about places is easier if one is familiar with the setting, so the descriptions are natural and real. Maps are used to correct street names and create a community the reader will identify as genuine.

Finding names for characters posed a real difficulty. Remembering created names of people not known brought a memory fog to writing. The solution was to name all the good and liked characters the first name of a friend or person that is admired and the last name of another such person. The bad guys then became people who are not liked or admired, again mixing first and last names. That is easy to do when doing police work.

For instance, there was a particular thief who stole calves from farmers. Knowing that many farmwives use the cash they receive from selling calves for their grocery fund, I was offended because my early years were spent in hunger during WWII. His name and that of a Sergeant who stole a pistol from the evidence locker became the name of the calf thief.

Speaking of hunger reminds me of that time enduring the pangs of hunger and the fear of living under the Nazi occupation, a story told each year to the fifth graders at our local elementary school.  Having heard the war and immigration story, these students and their teachers suggested that it would be a good read if written.

That was the birth moment for writing The Dutch Winter. I knew how it started and how it would end; the plot and stories would flow as writing began for a historical novel. It had to be a novel in order to include the many stories told by parents, uncles, and aunts and historical accuracy for locations and events.  The research was done by touring the sites in Holland and subscribing to a group that publishes Dutch war events, and I interviewed people who lived during that time.

Since there is a retirement home with many Dutch residents nearby, it is easy to find people in their nineties who would tell their stories over a nice lunch at their favorite restaurant.  There I found a spry ninety-three-year-old lady who carried messages for the underground resistance as a girl of sixteen. She was a lovely lady with great humor who cried when telling of the horrors she experienced.

The Dutch Winter is not limited to one hero or heroine. The Dutch were patriotic and brave in their zeal to resist Germany and protected the lives of the underground fighters and Jews from capture and extermination in concentration camps.

Another main character is a Dutch patriot that returned to Holland from Minnesota to fight the Nazis. He is paired with the girl who delivered messages, and they fight side by side, and, as every story needs some romance, they marry.

That required that I know where he came from and be familiar with his hometown. I chose a small country town where a friend was born and raised. Along with a map and internet search of the town, Pease, Minnesota became real.

To ensure that the cities, streets, and places in Holland were spelled correctly and placed geographically, I secured maps of these places to verify accuracy.

All my writings bring the characters to life with their beliefs and practices. During WWII, it took faith in God and strength of character to survive hunger and fear. Thirty thousand Dutch died of starvation during the winter of 1944-45. The majority were grandfathers who gave what little they had to their children and grandchildren and then searched for food and died on the streets, too weak to continue.

That patriotism and spiritual strength is evident in The Dutch Winter.

The Dutch Winter and The Canopy are available to order at any bookstore or Amazon.

My website is Albertvandesteeg.com  and my email is albertvandesteeg@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    Thanks for this informative post, Al and George. I’m definatley interested in the Dutch WWII novel. I’ll see you at the conference.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It’s great to hear from you again, Al, and I’m looking forward to checking out your books at the upcoming PSWA conference. Having met you before, i can say are a true gentleman in every sense of the word. I’m glad you’re telling these stories of suffering and sacrifice. As you said, they need to be heard. Good luck to you.

    Reply

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