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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JENNIFER J. CHOW -Lefty Award Nominated Author

Jennifer J. Chow is the Lefty Award-nominated author of the Sassy Cat Mysteries and the forthcoming 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. She 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.

One of BookRiot’s Best Upcoming Cozy Mysteries for the Second Half of 2021!

When murder follows Mimi Lee to her romantic island getaway, she puts on her best sleuthing hat with her sassy cat in tow in this adventurous cozy mystery by Jennifer J. Chow.

“Chow offers original characters, clever banter, and a laid-back California vibe. This is perfect for lovers of crime-solving animal cozies.”—Publishers Weekly

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code is the third book in the Sassy Cat Mystery series and just got nominated for a 2022 Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery!

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve most recently written cozy mysteries but have also dabbled in multicultural women’s fiction and young adult. You can find out more about all my books on my author website listed below.

What brought you to writing? The love of the written word. I got transported by stories at an early age and always enjoyed living in my own imaginary world. It was beautiful when I realized that you could write for a living and share that joy and wonder with others.

 What are you currently working on? I’m working on a new cozy mystery series, the L.A. Night Market Mysteries, which feature opposite-personality cousins who run a food stall. When one of their customers dies at a local night market, they get served a side of murder and start investigating. The first in the series is called Death by Bubble Tea and is available for pre-order!

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Yes, definitely! I’m biased because I now serve as Vice President on the national board of Sisters in Crime, but I really appreciate the camaraderie and community there. Writing is a solitary profession, and it’s so important to get support from those who understand what it’s like. The encouragement and cheering from other writers also helps you keep persevering when you go through rejections and low points in your writing journey.

How long to get it published? My first novel took me about five years to get published, if you include missteps and shelved manuscripts. Mimi Lee Cracks the Code was part of a three-book deal I got with Berkley/Penguin Random House. The first book in the series, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, happened to be a quick acquisition because the imprint was already looking for a pet-themed cozy series with an Asian American female lead. It took only several months from providing them with sample chapters to getting the official contract!

How can our readers buy your book and contact you?

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code buy link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/605898/mimi-lee-cracks-the-code-by-jennifer-j-chow/9781984805034/

Author website: www.jenniferjchow.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenJChow

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenjchow/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenJChow

 

10 Comments

  1. DONNARAE MENARD

    Sounding good Jennifer. And having 17 cats in my last book, I can’t wait for yours!

    Reply
  2. Mary Hirsig Hagen

    Thanks for the interesting blog I love stories with animals and will check out your book.

    Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Very interesting! Your books sound so fun. Will check them out. Thanks George for cheering on your fellow writers!

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Thanks for stopping by, Donnell! Agree that George is so supportive!

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    A cozy mystery and a cat–Sounds like a great combination. My own cat mystery story, “Six Toed Ollie,” is set to be republished in an upcoming anthology. I’ll have to check your books out. Best of luck to you, Ms. Chow.

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Thanks, Michael! Congrats on your story getting republished in a new anthology!

      Reply

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VERA CHAN – Reporter – Editor – Author

Vera Chan, Murderers’ Feast in Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction by 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver

Vera Chan has likely published a million words — most of them true. The former reporter and editor marks her fiction debut with Murderers’ Feast in the Midnight Hour anthology edited by Abby Vandiver. A UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alum, she has worked at daily newspapers and the world’s biggest online destinations covering everything from lifestyle and entertainment to news features and search trends. Her mystery-in-progress Following won her the Sisters in Crime’s Eleanor Taylor Bland award. Her unpublished humor novel The Mounted Position garnered second place for fiction at the inaugural Effie Lee Morris Women’s National Book Association Literary Awards, San Francisco Chapter. Both manuscripts are out on submission through the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Her day job is as senior manager, worldwide journalism relations at Microsoft.

“Men had been murdered for less. And yet John Manley still lived. Five days, surrounded by false friends and his truest enemies. Every last one of them, cowards.

My short story Murderers’ Feast is what I call corporate noir. It’s dark yet tongue-in-cheek, about an insufferable gazillionaire throwing a five-day retreat with people he has screwed over. The story even includes kombucha (which runs freely in some corporate cafeterias) as a deadly weapon.

Like many journalists, I’ve always wanted to write fiction. As a kid, I devoured books, gravitating to British classics like Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca. Mystery has always been a favorite genre, and there too, British authors dominated childhood favorites (e.g., Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). That said, nothing tops Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin canon. I’ve even sought out radio plays and various screen interpretations. Sadly, nothing has captured the series’ trenchant charm (imagine a young Robert Downey Jr. as Goodwin). I’ll refrain from ranting about how Hollywood grievously lags behind the Brits in honoring its mystery classics with a cinematic treatment and charismatic casting.

Having my fiction debut alongside the works by established authors is miraculous. I joined Crime Writers of Color (CWOC), an association founded by award-winning authors Kellye Garrett, Gigi Pandian, and the legendary Walter Mosley. What’s brilliant is how the group embraces not just published authors but also emerging writers, which makes a huge difference in trying to navigate an already challenging field. Abby Vandiver proposed an anthology in a Groups.IO thread, and Midnight Hour came together in stunning speed — during a pandemic. The miracle is how nobody questioned having a newbie in the mix: I keep waiting for someone to say, “How the hell did this one sneak in?” So far, I haven’t been found out.

I must confess, while I’m giddy about being part of a groundbreaking anthology, the kicker for me is that Midnight Hour will be at Target! I shop locally when I can and boycott chains that don’t compensate employees fairly. I’ve revered Target for many reasons, among them as a place that made high design accessible to plebes, even with something as prosaic as a broom.

Getting into publishing hasn’t been easy: I often joke, grimly, that I’m trying to break into an industry even more challenging than journalism. (I use a more colorful term than “challenging.”) Finding my spectacular agent took years; now, she suffers on my behalf in the excruciating pace of submissions, made worse by the pandemic. My decision to go “traditional” rather than self-publish lies partly in my “traditional” journalism route and because of my parents. My father was trained as a chemist and my mother an English teacher: When they escaped the Cultural Revolution to the United States, they ran their own mercantile and restaurant businesses. Witnessing their sacrifices made me leery to pursue an entrepreneurial route. Plus, reasonable or not, I feel writing is a wonderful indulgence and a privilege that I can justify by making it part of a larger business.

As for those stories on submission: The Mounted Position is about shy hapless tech writer Abba Welles-Lee who, despite being practiced in the arts of evading intimacy, finds herself dragooned into the bruising yet comical world of martial arts. (The title refers to a mat wrestling maneuver.) Finding an agent took so long, I wrote Following, which centers around amateur private eye Brenna Hom, tasked with spying on the wayward children of moneyed Asian parents during the most accelerated pace of digital communication innovation in the history of the world.

 I’ve been so restless about those books making the rounds that I’m writing a third — a mystery satire about a series of deaths accompanied by messages written in excruciating business jargon.

As you might guess, work is the pattern, which may explain why I also like police procedurals. Indeed, this draft could be pitched as Janet Evanovich meets Ed McBain.

The other commonality is martial arts: Watching (too) many kung fu movies with stellar fighting women has made me impatient with stories featuring insipid females. And yes, those Hong Kong action films inspired me to take martial arts, where I met my husband. I’m not great, but I’m still at it after 35 years and volunteer-teach at Cal.

Because whether it’s work, play, or getting published, it’s about putting up the good fight. Thanks, George, for letting me get a couple of rounds in your marvelous blog.

This link will take you to my website: http://verahcchan.com/

This link will take you to all the outlets where you will find Midnight Hour: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/673674/midnight-hour-by-abby-l-vandiver/

7 Comments

  1. John G. Bluck

    I believe you’ve taken the right path to be traditionally published, though it is difficult to do it. There are so many new books each year, and there are so few large publishing companies. Those firms dominate much of the book market.
    Having worked in journalism, I agree it’s much harder to break into book publishing (fiction especially) than it is to be a successful journalist. To be a good reporter, you need to dig out the facts and report them accurately, often avoiding adjectives. To write fiction, you must invent or adapt facts. You need to fashion believable, flawed characters.
    I look forward to “Murderers’ Feast” in the “Midnight Hour” anthology. Frankly, I sometimes wonder why there seems to be less interest in short story volumes in the publishing industry than in novels. I would think readers would enjoy reading shorter pieces in this fast-paced world, which speeds up more and more as time goes on.

    Reply
  2. Deven Greene

    Murderer’s Feast sounds like a great read. Love the idea of corporate noir – w tongue-in- cheek to boot!

    Reply
  3. Heidi Noroozy

    Thanks for sharing your writing journey, Vera. I’ll look forward to reading your story in the anthology.

    Reply
  4. Susan Alice Bickford

    Really fun reading this. I’ll be looking for the anthology.

    Reply
  5. Stella Oni

    I love this candid piece on your writing journey. So happy to be part of Midnight Hour too.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your story being in the anthology. That’s always a great feeling, especially if it’s your first one. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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