Wednesday, April 1, 2020

An Interview with Jennifer J. Chow by E. B. Davis

Did I really want to be the one to destroy her naïve dream?
And who knew—maybe her ploy could work.
After all, I’d gotten a big break after I’d rescued Gelato.
This was Hollywood, where happy endings were crafted.
Jennifer J. Chow, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, Kindle Loc. 3196

Mimi Lee is in over her head. There's her new Los Angeles pet grooming shop to run, her matchmaking mother to thwart, her talking cat Marshmallow to tend to—oh, and the murder of a local breeder to if only Mimi hadn't landed herself on top of the suspect list. 

Mimi Lee hoped to give Los Angeles animal lovers something to talk about with her pet grooming shop, Hollywoof. She never imagined that the first cat she said hello to would talk back or be quite so, well, catty—especially about those disastrous dates Mimi's mother keeps setting up.

When Marshmallow exposes local breeder Russ Nolan for mistreating Chihuahuas, Mimi steals some of her cat's attitude to tell Russ off. The next day the police show up at Hollywoof. Russ has been found dead, and Mimi's shouting match with him has secured her top billing as the main suspect.

Hoping to clear her name and save the pups Russ left behind, Mimi enlists help from her dreamy lawyer neighbor Josh. But even with Josh on board, it'll take Mimi and Marshmallow a lot of sleuthing and more than a little sass to get back to the pet-grooming life—and off the murder scene.

Jennifer J. Chow is a fresh voice on the mystery scene. As an Asian American, her culture seeps through in language, family relationships, and cooking styles. Having lived in Hawaii for a few months, the Asian influence wasn’t new to me, but the main character’s talking cat was a surprise. Marshmallow, the cat, isn’t just some pretty, fluffy face. Owner, Mimi Lee, and Marshmallow investigate murder. Mimi talks to the suspects while Marshmallow talks with the suspects’ pets.

Mimi Lee Gets A Clue is a fun read. It was released by Berkley Prime Crime on March 10th and is the first of the Sassy Cat mystery series. But this isn’t Jennifer’s first series. She writes the Winston Wong cozy mystery series under the name J.J. Chow, and also writes Young Adult fantasy.

Please welcome Jennifer J. Chow to WWK.                   E. B. Davis

In what area of L.A. is Hollywoof located?
It’s an unnamed beach area, but the nearby pier and palm tree-lined plaza outside the shop are definitely inspired by Hermosa Beach.

Mimi grew up in Lawndale. Where in L.A. is that?
Lawndale is a city in L.A. County. It’s located in the South Bay area of the larger Los Angeles region, east of Manhattan Beach.

How did twenty-something Mimi get the capital to open Hollywoof?
Through sheer good fortune. As an animal lover, Mimi couldn’t help but rescue a floundering shih tzu from the choppy waters off Catalina Island. In return, the grateful (and wealthy) dog owner, Pixie St. James, provided the capital to fulfill Mimi’s dream of owning a pet grooming salon. 

Mimi’s parents are retired. Did they have their children, both in their twenties, later in life?
Yes, Mimi’s parents met later in life, so now they’re living a happy empty-nester life.

What do Mimi’s parents do now that they are retired?
Mimi’s dad, Greg, spends his time on the golf course while Mimi’s mom, Winnie, hatches match-making plans for her two single daughters.  

What native language did Mimi’s Malaysian-born mother speak?
Mimi’s mom likes to speak Manglish, a mixture of linguistic influences found in her country, including Hakka, English, Malay, Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Tamil. Of course, she has her own spin on it now, given her decades of living in America.

Alice, Mimi’s younger Kindergarten-teaching sister, gives her a cat from a shelter. Mimi names the cat Marshmallow. Does the name suit the cat?
Haha! Mimi thinks so because he’s a white Persian cat and very, um, puffy. Marshmallow, of course, hates the name.

Mimi, a graduate and psychology major of UCLA, thinks she’s having a psychotic experience or hallucinations when Marshmallow talks to her. Mimi’s mother isn’t the only one who has trouble with acronyms. What does DSM mean?
DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It’s a handbook that describes different mental illnesses, and professionals use it to diagnose clients.

What is a moto jacket?
A motorcycle jacket, often leather, worn by bikers.

Does L.A. still have a lot of air pollution?
Yes, but I feel like it’s gotten better over the years. And the smog results in gorgeous sunsets. 

Pixie, Mimi’s benefactor, sends her friends to Hollywoof to help launch the business. Are the women competitive or are they all infatuated with teacup Chihuahuas?
The women mostly just love their Chis—all for different reasons. However, they are prone to puppy envy, like when one of the women styles her pooch in a glitzy rhinestone collar and sweet pink headband.

Their dad calls Mimi and Alice, Princess One and Two. But they don’t seem spoiled, especially considering some of the gross dog grooming tasks Mimi must perform. Why is Mimi required to solve Alice’s job problem?
The “princess” moniker is a term of endearment from their dad, who’s all about hugs and encouragements. Mimi’s not required to help Alice with her job situation, but as the big sister, it’s assumed that she’ll take on the problem-solver role. Her mom definitely expects a strong drive and “can do” attitude from Mimi to help out her sister just by being part of the Lee family. 

Are exotic pets regulated by state?
Yes. For example, ferrets are legal in most other states but not in California (unless you obtain a special permit). The state department of Fish and Wildlife has information on the reasons for restricting certain species for public health and safety.

When Mimi meets young lawyer Josh in the apartment complex’s laundry room, she gets a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease. What is the big competition between USC and UCLA?
The USC-UCLA rivalry comes from the competition between their sports teams, particularly in football. There’s also a bit of ribbing because USC is a private institution while UCLA is a public university. 

Does Josh like fortune cookies because of the taste or the fortune?
Josh likes fortune cookies because the sayings cheer him up and help him during stressful times. The yummy vanilla flavor doesn’t hurt, though.

What is a jade burial shroud?
A jade burial shroud is a basically a suit made of jade. The precious stone was commonly cut into rectangular shapes and pieced together to provide a valuable covering for ancient Chinese royalty.

Does doggie SUPPing, yoga, acupuncture, and pool parties really exist? Do the dogs wear diapers in the pools?
These are all real things! Owners do go stand up paddle boarding with their pets and participate in yoga with their dogs. There also are pet acupuncturists. And doggie pool parties (sans diapers) exist—Los Angeles County even opens up some of their pools to canines at the end of the summer for their annual Pooches in the Pool event. 

What is poke and spam musubi, and is it really popular in Hawaii?
Poke is a dish made from diced raw fish and garnished with savory toppings. Spam musubi is a type of sushi made with seaweed, rice, and cooked spam. I know these dishes are offered in Hawaii, but I’m not sure how popular they are there. There are definitely quite a few places serving poke bowls and musubi around Los Angeles. 

Mimi’s family’s snacks for game night are unusual to most of us. What are durian candies and furikake snack mix? What else do they snack on?
Durian candies are made from a tropical fruit found in Southeast Asia. Unlike fresh durian, they usually don’t have a strong odor, but they do retain the distinctive musky taste (sorry, I don’t have an exact flavor I can compare it to!) Furikake snack mix is an enhanced version of Chex mix, but with added butter, sugar, and furikake (a rice seasoning, often seaweed-based).  

Can someone else access your electrical panel via their phone? Don’t they need a code?
Ah, there’s a part of the story where an electrician gives instructions over the phone to one of the characters. That person is then able to access the electrical panel based on those tips. 

What’s next for Mimi and Marshmallow?
Mimi and Marshmallow will be embarking on their next adventure…which involves getting Mimi’s sister, Alice, off of the suspect list. Like sister, like sister, I suppose.


Annette said...

Welcome, Jennifer, and congrats on the new series! It sounds like so much fun!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Congratulations on your new series! Pets and LA is an unbeatable combination.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Jennifer, Congratulations on your new series! Sounds like fun - I love a good meddling mom in a story.

KM Rockwood said...

I read Super Sleuth, and it was not only a good mystery, it was a fascinating insight into the Chinese influence of the main character. I'm looking forward to this one, too.

KM Rockwood said...

Sorry, that was Seniors Sleuth, no Super Sleuth. I was concentrating so much on getting the e 7 the u in sleuth in the right order that I totally missed my error with the first part of the title.

Jennifer J. Chow said...

Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone! Pets, L.A., and a matchmaking mom--what more could you want?
(@KM, so glad you enjoyed SENIORS SLEUTH!)

carla said...

This sounds like a fun new series!

Warren Bull said...

Sound like fun!

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for the interview, Jennifer. I enjoyed your book and look forward to the next edition!

Jennifer J. Chow said...

Thank you for reading, everyone! Special thanks to E.B. for the interview!