Backwards Research – Guest Jennifer Chow

Liz here, happy to welcome Jennifer Chow to the blog today talking about a vacation that inspired her latest book! Take it away, Jennifer!

Usually when I write a book, I think about the theme and then go out and research it. For Mimi Lee Cracks the Code, the third book in the Sassy Cat Mysteries, I did it all backwards.

We took a family vacation in the fall of 2019 to Catalina Island. After a rocky boat ride and constant rain, it seemed like a positive sign when the sun shone and a rainbow arced across the sky. 

How could I not be subconsciously inspired by the place? There, of course, was the gorgeous horseshoe-shaped bay. We rented a lovely old home there (with lots of quirks!), which inspired the vacation rental home theme running throughout Mimi Lee Cracks the Code. Look at this amazing view from the living room:

When we visited the island’s museum, I learned a lot about the history of Catalina, including celebrity sightings, famous filming locations, and the practice grounds of the Chicago Cubs. Some facts even got incorporated into my storyline.

We also roamed the pathways around the cute Avalon area and ate at local eateries. I added some of the quaint atmosphere to my book. 

Back then, I didn’t realize this fantastic trip would turn into research, but I’m glad it did!

Readers, what inspiring trip have you been on? 

34 Thoughts

  1. How fun, Jennifer! I went to Catalina only once, when our girl scout troop sailed there. I think we camped for a night or two but it was a long, long time ago.

    I’ve certainly used past experiences in my books and stories. Best of luck with your new one!

  2. My first trip to Thailand was amazing. I’ve always wanted to go there ever since my 6th grade teacher moved there when her Army husband was transferred there during the Vietnam War and she went too. She used to send us little gifts and taped telling us about her travels. I want to go back again before I get too much older. It’s such a long trip.

    1. I want to go to Thailand sometime! My brother has gone a few times and loved it there. Once, he brought back cute little stuffed elephants as presents for my kids.

  3. Been on many inspiring trips. The first one was probably when we stopped at the Grand Canyon on the way back from AZ. Walking out the back door of the lodge and WHAM there it was was so awe inspiring. Maybe more so for me because as a child we had travelled by the Grand Canyon nine times going each way and never stopped to see it. Hubby knew if he drove by this time there just might be a funeral. 🙂

    The last one was probably our trip that took us through The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands. Each place was special and breathtaking in its own way. The most inspiring trips all have one things in common – seeing the beautiful wonders of this great nation of ours.

    We were to have went to the five national parks in Utah when Covid hit making all our of plans to be cancelled. Hope some day to be able to get back on track to seeing great wonders and being awe struck again.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. The Grand Canyon is amazing! The last time I went, we stayed overnight and got to see a spectacular sunrise. I love going to national parks–we’ve been to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons but not the rest from your last itinerary. (We even have one of those national parks passport books that we can stamp whenever we visit.)

      I hope you get to see those five national parks and resume your traveling soon!

  4. We have taken some inspiring trips but two stand out. In 1988, we were living on Guam and wanted to take the kids to Hong Kong, where we had been earlier. We found a trip that included Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok, all fascinating places. The kids loved it, as we did, and they still talk about it now. The second one was most meaningful to us, as my husband was career Army. We rented an apartment in Normandy near Bayeux and visited all the D-Day beaches and sites that he was interested in and that I found fascinating, and also saw a lot of historical sites that I had wanted to see, including Mont.St. Michel and Chartres cathedral and Monet’s garden. Best two weeks of vacation ever!

    1. Kitty, those both sound like amazing trips! (I’ve been to Hong Kong & Singapore, and they’re exciting places to visit.)

      What an amazing and significant trip you got to take in Normandy.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  5. That looks like an awesome trip, Jennifer. I have been to the Greater LA area several times but have never made the trip to Catalina.

    I have been on several awe-inspiring trips in recent years. I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time after attending Left Coast Crime in Phoenix (bucket list item checked off). My two winter trips to Iceland in 2015 and 2017 were wonderful. The stunning natural scenery and winter darkness brought all the Icelandic mysteries I read to vivid life. I also checked off several bucket list items, including seeing the Northern Lights and swimming in the outdoor Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.

    1. Thanks, Grace!

      Yay for checking items off your bucket list! Your trips to Iceland some amazing. I’ve heard so many wonderful things from people who’ve traveled there.

      1. Yes, Iceland is definitely making an effort to welcome tourists there. And with the pandemic, they are open to visitors but not as many people are going there yet. There is also a mystery conference, Iceland Noir, that is taking place next week. I would love to go back to Iceland for that, and to see the country in the summer, too. It’s a shorter plane trip to Reykjavik that to LA or SoCal from Toronto.

  6. Love the photos! When we lived in San Pedro we could see Catalina Island on clear days. It’s the closest I ever got and always regretted not going.

    1. You can still visit, Sherry! (I also love spotting Catalina from the shore and admiring from a distance.)

      I used to live in New York, and I regret never going to Niagara Falls!

  7. What wonderful photos! Having been to Catalina and been lucky enough to read Jen’s book early on, I can say she really captured the island and readers are in for a wonderful treat.

  8. Once went to London to research one thing and found my passion project by accident. Best of luck with the book, Jen, cannot wait to see Catalina come alive there!

  9. Best of luck with the book, Jennifer. Catalina is the stuff of dreams to this east-coaster. Looking forward to visiting with Mimi.

    My inspiration trips? The Caribbean. I haven’t been in a number of years and it’s time to go back to Sint Maarten.

  10. It’s been years since I’ve been out to Catalina. I really should go again since it’s relatively close by.

  11. Loved seeing the photos that inspired you, Jennifer! Congratulations on your upcoming release, and thanks for reminding us that the best inspiration often likes to sneak up on us when we’re not looking.

  12. Welcome to the Wickeds. I went to Catalina years and years ago, and can see how it would inspire. I’ve been on a few trips that have fueled my imagination, mostly for the things you mentioned–food, sites, etc. Congratulations on the new book!

  13. In 1987, I fulfilled a life-long dream of going to Peru and seeing Machu Picchu. I so fell in love with the country and how the whole experience really changed my life, that I continued going back every year for over 25 years. It inspired me to get a new perspective on life and I’ve been a much more contented and tolerant person ever since.

  14. Beautiful photos, Jen! My late father-in-law lived in the Bay Area and hubs and I made day trips to San Francisco several times. The first time going over the bridge, seeing the famed Victorian ladies, and riding a cable car were magical. Although, I should have listened more to what people say about the weather in SF. I nearly froze — in July!
    Can’t wait to spend time with Mimi and Marshmallow in Catalina!

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