The Library's Biblio Lotus, opens a new window team is delighted to continue their interview series, which aims to elevate AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) communities' voices and celebrate their culture. The interviewees are in different fields and from various backgrounds, but their dedication to AAPI histories and cultures helps form our diverse and dynamic community.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Karen S. Chow, and I'm the author of Miracle, a middle-grade contemporary novel set for release in Fall 2022. I work a day job in engineering, and I write at night. The engineering part is fun because I'm allowed to fly in a plane or helicopter, and the writing part is fun because I get to create new worlds and characters. It's really an awesome life! When I'm not doing those jobs, I spend time with my three kids, hike all over Arizona, and try new bubble tea places (because I'm a bubble tea addict).
Tell us about your journey as a writer.
Oh, this will be a bit long!
As a kid, I always liked writing poems and short pieces, but I wasn't naturally good at English and I didn't excel in English classes. Sometimes I think I held myself back because English is technically my second language (my parents are Taiwanese). I didn't write a novel until college, while I was studying Electrical Engineering at ASU. One of my good friends wanted to write a novel and asked me if I wanted to do that with her, and I said yes! I really loved it, and I kept writing for years after graduating. I wrote all kinds of books: romance, YA, chick-lit, Christian fiction, sci-fi. I had moments of wanting to be published, and I would query agents, but I would give up quickly. I eventually self-published a YA fantasy, but I pulled it from publication after realizing I hadn't worked through the steps that make a novel good. After that, I really focused on writing something great, hooking an agent, and getting published. I joined a new critique group, the Charglings, where one of the members had an agent and a book deal. I wrote Miracle, my first attempt at middle grade, during National Novel Writing Month 2016 (NaNoWriMo, opens a new window), and I edited it with my group. Then, I got really lucky and was selected as a mentee in Pitch Wars (2017), a mentorship program for aspiring authors, and edited Miracle with two wonderful mentors, Amanda Rawson Hill and Cindy Baldwin. They helped me find #DVPit, opens a new window, which is a Twitter pitch contest for diverse writers, and through that I found my agent, Andrea Cascardi. After that, more edits and submission and a revise and resubmit with editor Christy Ottaviano. And now it's being published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Little, Brown BYR in Fall 2022.
Tell us about your book Miracle. What was your inspiration?
Miracle is about 11 year old Amie Cheung, who struggles to find herself through friendship and music in the wake of her father's death. It's inspired by my own dad, who had pancreatic cancer and passed away in 2003. So Amie's dad is very similar to mine. I also was able to put in a bunch of fun things I love, like Harry Potter and learning music.
How did you handle writing about a heavy topic like grief for a middle grade audience?
To me, the most important part of writing about grief was staying realistic, but also hopeful. I had some personal experience to reference, and I wanted readers to see that there are dark sides to grief. But there is a way forward. It may not be pretty, but hope is always there. Keep hoping!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are so many to love! I will be a forever fan of my Pitch Wars co-mentee Remy Lai, opens a new window and her books Pie in the Sky, Fly on the Wall, Pawcasso. I love my mentors, Amanda Rawson Hill and Cindy Baldwin. And because I read and love their work every two weeks, I adore the Charglings' Mary E. Lambert, opens a new window and G.F. Miller, opens a new window.
What are you currently reading?
I've been reading a lot of rom-com lately. I loved Dial A for Aunties. And for middle-grade, I just picked up The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kassner, opens a new window.
Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed! If you have more questions or want to see what's happening with Miracle, I can be found online, opens a new window or on Twitter and IG @kchowrites.