Jennifer J. Chow writes the #OwnVoices Sassy Cat mystery series (Berkley/Penguin Random House). She also published the Winston Wong Cozy Mysteries under J.J. Chow. Her short fiction has been featured in Over My Dead Body! Along with Mystery Writers of America, she's active in Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers of Color.
In this post, Chow shares how writing cozy mysteries helps spark optimism and hope, what was different about writing the second novel in her Sassy Cat mystery series, and much more!
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Name: Jennifer J. Chow
Literary agent: Jessica Faust of BookEnds
Book title: Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Random House
Expected release date: November 10, 2020
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Last release: Mimi Lee Gets a Clue
Elevator pitch for the book: When a local teacher is found dead, LA's newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a pawful predicament—with her younger sister's livelihood on the line.
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What prompted you to write this book?
Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines features an Asian American female lead, and I'm glad for the chance to create a diverse character. Along with her sassy talking cat, Mimi investigates a murder that takes place at a local school. I enjoyed writing this unique detecting duo. The setting was inspired by the fact that I live in Los Angeles and am surrounded by teacher friends.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
It took me a little under two years to travel the publication route. The basic premise of the book, with Mimi's sister getting implicated in a murder at her school, stayed the same. I did, however, change a pivotal scene to make the story flow better and to tie up some loose ends. Plus, the cats in the book asserted their independence and took on fiercer roles in the story!
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
There was a really quick turnaround with this second book in the Sassy Cat Mysteries. I guess series followers don't want to wait too long before the next release. Mimi Lee Gets A Clue had just been published when I received the artwork from the publisher for this second book. The pre-order link went live soon after that.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I'm a bit of a pantser when I write, so sometimes I'm surprised by how things turn out. With Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines, though, I had to turn in an early detailed synopsis, complete with the ending. I needed to flesh out plot points and choose the killer way in advance.
Despite the pre-plotting, I was happy to feel the creative juices flowing, and my characters still managed to shape pivotal scenes.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I want my readers to experience hope. While real life is messy, cozy mysteries provide tidy endings wrapped in ribbons and bows. This sense of order and rightness offers optimism. Within their reading journey, though, I do hope readers also pause to delight in the sparks of humor.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Dive into community. I'm so grateful for the other writers around me. In the query trenches, they buoyed me up with their support. While drafting, they pushed me to work hard by doing writing sprints together or offering critiques. A community also means a valuable group who will offer writing tips, share with candor, and celebrate with fervor.