Interviewed by Cynthia Harmony
Meet Karen S. Chow
– author of Middle-Grade Novel MIRACLE coming Fall 2022.
Karen S. Chow started writing novels when she was a college sophomore, while earning a degree in Electrical Engineering at Arizona State University. Now, she is an engineer by day and middle-grade novelist by night. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her three kids, hiking all over Arizona, and satisfying her bubble tea cravings. She lives in Gilbert, AZ.
Hi Karen, it’s so nice to connect with you. Thank you for being our very first SCBWI-AZ Equity and Inclusion Member Spotlight!
Can you tell us how long have you been a member of SCBWI-AZ and what’s your favorite part about your membership?
Thank you for the spotlight! I’ve been a member for a little over one year, and slowly trying to be more active. I love SCBWI’s mission to help and promote authors and illustrators. Mostly, I love being able to meet other authors and illustrators who are as passionate about writing as I am. Everyone is so welcoming, and it’s nice to feel like part of the community.
Can you share the story behind your upcoming book?
My book, MIRACLE, is inspired by my father. He passed away from pancreatic cancer when I was in college. I’ve always wanted to write about his beautiful personality and life, but it never seemed like the right time, until NaNoWriMo 2016. It was a magical month, and the words flowed onto the page. My main character is Amie Cheung, who deeply loves her father. When he dies from cancer, she has to figure out how to grieve and heal and get along with her mom, whom she doesn’t connect with as much as her dad. I also infused my love of Harry Potter and my background in music (I was a band geek) into the book. Some of the conversations/memories/scenes between Amie and her dad are taken from real life.
Once MIRACLE was written, I revised with my critique group (the Charglings: G.F. Miller, Mary E. Lambert, Lara Herrington, Keith Pond, and Traci Avalos). Afterward, it was selected for Pitch Wars 2017. I revised with mentors Cindy Baldwin and Amanda Rawson Hill for two intense months. I received helpful feedback during the agent round/querying and revised again before it hooked my agent, Andrea Cascardi, during #DVPit. And then, I rewrote the entire book for an R&R (revise and resubmit) with my editor, Christy Ottaviano, before she offered.
What excites you more about your upcoming release?
Right now, the release is a mix of emotions, which I’m sure won’t go away for a long time. I’m mostly excited to share Amie’s courageous journey with everyone. (Sorry to use the word “journey”, I watch too much Bachelor/Bachelorette!) But I’m also happy to give tribute to my dad, who was an amazing person.
What is the message you want to share with this particular project?
Many times I hear friends mourning the deaths of close family and friends, especially during the pandemic, and I want them to know it’s okay to mourn and grieve. I want them to read my book and cry with Amie as she finds her way, and hopefully, it’ll help them find their way, too.
I write middle-grade contemporary because I know how turbulent life can be, and I want to provide hope that things will be okay in the end. With MIRACLE, I wanted to share my experience with the death of a beloved parent and how life can still be beautiful (although different than imagined) without them.
It sounds like an amazing, personal and authentic story. Are there any other specific aspects of your culture/heritage included in the characters or setting that are relevant to your story?
It mostly reflects the Asian-American experience I had as a kid. Like, Amie’s parents speak Mandarin, but she doesn’t speak it back (in fact, she doesn’t understand much, which is different from me). Her family wears slippers in the house and celebrates Asian holidays, like the Lunar New Year. At Thanksgiving, they have the traditional American dishes, but also yummy Chinese dishes, too. She struggles with being between cultures, not completely Asian, but not completely American either, which I do as well…although hopefully more gracefully now.
Are you working on something new that you can share with us?
I’m working on another middle-grade contemporary that could become my next published book. It’s about a sensitive 11yo half-Asian girl, enlisting help from her tech mom, artistic dad, and genius sister on an art-themed science fair project to remind her divorcing parents they love each other before their family is split apart forever. The best part about this book is that the main character sees emotions as colors, and that was fun to write with an emotionally-driven plot.
What advice can you give to other marginalized writers/illustrators?
Write! The world needs your voice and your unique experiences.
You can connect with Karen through her:
Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your path to publication. Congratulations on your debut, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for it!
MIRACLE will be available Fall 2022 published by Christy Ottaviano/Little, Brown.
For additional Equity & Inclusion resources and to access future author/illustrator spotlights, visit https://arizona.scbwi.org/equity-inclusion-team/