Laura Joh Rowland was born in Michigan, the third generation of Chinese and Korean immigrants. Initially, she followed her family’s tradition of studying for a career in education or the sciences, earning a bachelor’s in microbiology and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan and working almost twenty years in her field. When she and her husband, Marty Rowland, an environmental scientist and political activist, moved to New Orleans in 1981, she began yearning for a creative outlet while working for the city’s public health office and later for Lockheed Martin at a National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility as a quality engineer. Her fondness for her father’s classic English and American mysteries propelled her to start writing. To make her mark in the mystery market and to realize her Asian heritage, Rowland decided to set her crime fiction in seventeenth century Japan. The period appealed for its combination of social tension and individual aspirations, its distance from modern scientific crime solving (which would favor a classical detective approach), and its thoroughly Asian setting.
After abandoning two projects, Rowland got a break when an editor at Random House showed interest in her novel Shinj (1994). The manuscript and its sequel were auctioned off for a hundred thousand dollars, going to Random House. Both Shinj and its sequel, Bundori (1996), captured American...
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