Interview with Jennifer J. Chow

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Vanessa Westermann

· 3 min read

Jennifer J. Chow writes cozies filled with hope and heritage. She is an Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty Award-nominated author. Her newest series is the Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries; the first book is Ill-Fated Fortune. Jennifer’s previous series is the L.A. Night Market Mysteries. Death by Bubble Tea was reviewed by the New York Times, featured in Woman’s World, and hit the SoCal Indie Bestseller List. Jennifer currently serves as Immediate Past President on the board of Sisters in Crime and blogs at She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America. Connect with her online and sign up for her newsletter at

Could you tell us briefly what Ill-Fated Fortune is about?

Jennifer J. Chow: Felicity Jin discovers her magical fortune cookies can predict the future—including the demise of a customer. When his body turns up at the back of the family bakery, her suspiciously specific fortune has the police focusing on her as the main culprit. Now Felicity must find a way to turn her luck around.

If you could have lunch with one of your characters, which one would it be and why? And where would you choose to meet for lunch?

JJC: Alma Paz. She’s the godmother of Felicity and the owner of Paz Illuminations, a candle shop. She shares tidbits of ageless wisdom, all while keeping up with the latest tech trends. She’s such an enigmatic character that even I don’t know what she’s truly thinking. I’d love to sit down and enjoy lunch with her at Pixie’s Old Time Diner and just soak in her personality.

While writing your book, what was the most surprising thing you discovered or learned?

JJC: I really enjoyed the creative aspect of crafting the magical elements. They often came to me unbidden, whether it was the village backstory of the Jin ancestors or the supernatural talent of Whiskers, the magical bunny (with a nod to Chinese mythology) in the Jin family.

How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

JJC: For Pixie, I knew which shops would inhabit the cozy cul-de-sac in that small town. I also had the major players in the story ready: Felicity, her mother Angela, her godmother Alma, and best friend/love interest Kelvin. I fleshed out the character profiles for others in the story and had the basic structure for the fortune cookie magic, but I also let things come naturally for the characters and their magical abilities.

When it comes to plotting your novels, do you have the whole book outlined before you write? Do you use any specific strategies or techniques?

JJC: I use a general outline when writing, but it’s flexible. Scene by scene, I’ll let the characters speak to me and have their actions evolve. I love to glean tips about book structure and have most recently relied on James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel from the Middle, Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and Alexandra Sokoloff’s Stealing Hollywood.

What objects in your writing space help to spark your creativity and why?

JJC: I have a boba candle that Ellery Adams gifted me in celebration of Death by Bubble Tea, the first in my L.A. Night Market Mysteries. When I light it, the fragrance gives me foodie inspiration and reminds me that other people, including fellow authors, are cheering me on. Behind my desk, I also hang up artwork painted by one of my kids. The painting helps me admire other creative efforts, and I get to remember my family’s love. Finally, I have a plant that I perch on my bookshelf. I don’t have a green thumb, but I appreciate having that breath of fresh air and splash of vivid color to keep me positive.

Jennifer J Chow's boba candle, beside a paperback of Death By Bubble Tea.

What was the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

JJC: Compare yourself with yourself. Joanna Penn talks about taking measurements of your unique writing journey every time the Olympics rolls around. Reflecting every four years reminds me to think of writing as a continuous journey, and it also gives me enough time to understand the bigger picture and celebrate the forward progress I’ve made.

Visit Jennifer J. Chow on social media!

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About Vanessa Westermann

Vanessa is a Canadian crime writer. She is the author of Cover Art and other books. At the heart of all of her stories are strong female protagonists.

Read More About Vanessa Westermann