Interview with author Christine DeSmet, The Fudge Shop Mystery Series
1. Do you write a single genre or do your fingers flow over the keys creating tales in many forms? Does your reading choices reflect your writing choices? Are there genres you wouldn’t attempt?
I create stories in many forms or fields, often see-sawing among three or four projects. While my Fudge Shop Mystery series is my latest big project, I’m also working on a TV series proposal, short scripts, another mystery book series, and I’m marketing a true-story screenplay that won an award several years ago.
The stories themselves gallop across genres, including romance, mystery, historical action, and contemporary women’s fiction.
My reading choices vary. I try to read many genres so I’m aware of the broad marketplace. I just finished a delightful middle-grade novel with a Hispanic boy protagonist by Bibi Belford called Crushed and Canned, and Michael Perry’s first adult novel, The Jesus Cow. I’m currently reading Lucy Sanna’s new historical women’s fiction novel set in Door County, The Cherry Harvest, as well as the new suspense novel, Weepers, by one of my past adult students, Nicholas Chiarkas.
2. Heroes, Heroines, Villains. Which are your favorite to write? Does one of these come easy and why?
I love my heroines because they seem to present complications to me all the time. Ava Oosterling in the Fudge Shop series is a woman who’s made big mistakes in her past and she’s still making mistakes, often with plenty of humor involved. She came easily for me at the start because I like writing humor. She also loves her family, especially Grandpa Gil. Her love of her Grandpa makes her a joy to write.
Next favorite are the villains and murder suspects. I like figuring out what tips a person over into “evil” status. Evil is somehow comforting to a villain. I find that fascinating.
3. Heroes. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or plain imagination create the man you want every reader to love? Do they come before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?
The heroes in my stories walk up to me in my imagination. I’ve never cut pictures from magazines or used photos of models or movie stars.
The heroes usually come after the plot and story idea, but it always feels like they’re lurking in the background just waiting for me to hurry up and get them on stage in the story. Dillon Rivers was so eager to get into the Fudge Shop series that I actually had to hold him back.
4. Heroines. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or imagination create the woman you want the reader to root for? Do they appear before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?
My heroines come from my imagination. I don’t use pictures or photos to conjure them. I woke up at 5 a.m. one day three years ago, for example, and “just knew” who Ava Oosterling was. I heard her voice and the cadence in it. I saw her movements in the fudge shop. She moves very differently from me—a lot more agile, for sure. This creative conjuring is what gives me joy about writing.
5. Villains or villainesses or an antagonist, since they don’t always have to be the bad guy or girl. They can be a person opposed to the hero’s or heroine’s obtaining their goal. How do you choose one? How do you make them human?
In cozy mysteries, the antagonist can sometimes be the love interest and also a foil who is causing the protagonist/heroine lots of trouble. Because I set up Ava Oosterling as a woman who makes mistakes and needs to learn why she makes them, I needed to find somebody to bug her about that and force her to change. Thus Mercy Fogg entered my story.
Mercy Fogg is a no-nonsense school bus driver and the driver of the county snowplow and road grader. She’s literally “down to earth.” Ava needs that type of foil to keep her from being too silly. Mercy Fogg’s pestering of Ava makes Ava work harder to be successful.
As for the villain or murderer, sometimes I wait for several good candidates to show up in my manuscript. In my latest novel, Five-Alarm Fudge, I didn’t know who did it until almost halfway into the book. My characters were arguing with me as to which one got the role of murderer. On the other hand, I knew before writing First-Degree Fudge who did the deed.
6. What is your latest release? Who is the hero, heroine and or the villain?
My latest is the April 2015 release, Five-Alarm Fudge, part of the Fudge Shop Mystery series from Penguin Random House.
When a visiting European prince asks Ava Oosterling to unearth a priceless, 1800s divinity fudge recipe, the request fans the flames of foul play, with murder marring her Cinderella dreams.
Ava is the heroine. With her Grandpa Gil, they run Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer on the harbor in a fictional village set in the real Door County, Wisconsin, which is known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest.
Dillon Rivers is back as her love interest and this time he’s changing in big ways. Dillon is refurbishing the Blue Heron Inn and trying to change his bad-boy ways.
I can’t reveal the villain, but there are plenty of foils for Ava. Those include Mercy Fogg—the former village president now driving buses and road graders for a living, and the collection of church ladies who insist on helping Ava run her fudge shop, to Ava’s despair at times.
A true hero in Five-Alarm Fudge is Grandpa Gil. He steps forward to save Grandma Sophie from some nasty rumors and a family secret which threatens to cause much grief and embarrassment. The love Grandpa has for his family is of true heroic proportions.
7. What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new cozy mystery series set in Wisconsin, and a TV series proposal about a true-story female missionary in California in the early 1900s.
I also teach fiction for University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies, including online and in person at our events including the annual June “Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Retreat,” the UW fall weekend for novelists, and the spring Writers’ Institute conference. I stay very busy helping other writers get their start and find success in publishing.
8. How can people find you?
Website: www.christinedesmet.com and also at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies, http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/writing
I’m also on Facebook.