Please welcome Christine DeSmet, author of the Fudge Shop Mystery Series and other works.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Delving into a good book because I have so little reading time.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Fudge has to be a signature food because of my mystery series. I’m famous now for bringing Cinderella Pink Fairy Tale Fudge to events. And I’m known for a mean homemade lasagna which combines three cheeses. My signature color is blue with all of its variations including teal and turquoise.
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
When I was a kid, Little Women and the Bobbsey Twins books made a huge impression on me. I loved their adventures and even the sadness in Little Women. I was impressed that mere words could make me cry and worry when I didn’t even know these people. As a grownup, I’ve been influenced by so many, but I love settings that become a character and have a plot unto themselves. I’ve been inspired by James Lee Burke for all of his books, Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove (1986 Pulitzer winner), and Anthony Doerr for All the Light We Cannot See (2015 Pulitzer Winner).
Do you listen to music when you write?
No. I’m so deeply into my story and characters that I’m in a different world, so if music were on I wouldn’t hear it. I like silence so I can hear my characters talking or even listen to the breeze in the harbor snapping the flags in fictional Fishers’ Harbor.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
A rich dark Belgian chocolate because the latest book delves into rich history and takes us into some deep, dark woods and basements filled with luscious mysteries.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’ve traveled to Door County, Wisconsin, many times over the years, but for some reason had never come upon the story of Sister Adele Brise. She was part of a miracle that happened during the Great Fire that struck that region and Chicago on the same day in the late 1800s. The flames took the lives of about 2,000 people, but Sister Adele in her little church in the woods and in the middle of the fire was spared. That was so compelling that I had to incorporate some of the historical facts and details into my mystery, Five-Alarm Fudge. I created a divinity fudge recipe and connected it back to Sister Adele and a local church still standing today, and from that situation I found a murder and the motive.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Community is very important in my books, and the love between grandparents and their grandchildren definitely comes out in the Fudge Shop Mystery Series. Ava and Grandpa Gil have a special bond.
Tell us about your main character.
Ava Oosterling, 32, has just returned from a lackluster Hollywood job to Door County, Wisconsin, a true location known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. She’s returned to her small fictional harbor town on Lake Michigan’s bay to help her grandparents when Grandma was laid up after an accident. Grandpa decided to make sure Ava stayed, so he moved his minnow tank over in his bait shop to give her room to start a fudge business. Ava’s family is very proud of their Belgian heritage, which includes prowess at making giant pies and chocolate everything, as well as booyah at harvest time with all the neighbors. Booyah is a tomato-based vegetable stew the Belgians in Wisconsin cook over an outdoor fire in a giant kettle. Chicken and beef are often added to the stew. I’ve included recipes in my books. Ava’s parents run an organic dairy and cheese-making operation near Brussels (real town), Wisconsin, and they provide the rich cream for making the Fairy Tale fudge.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
She’s got Scarlett O’Hara’s mischievous bent and loyalty to family and land, and Cinderella’s wish for a happily ever after, and the practical cooking skills and easy smile you find with TV’s Rachael Ray.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
James Lee Burke, Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Maddy Hunter, Elmore Leonard, Hank Phillippi Ryan.
What’s next for you?
I’m outlining new books in the Fudge Shop Mystery Series as well as working on a new series set in southern Wisconsin that I can’t yet reveal. The manuscript of Book 1 of the new series is written. I’m also working on a historical “based on true life” TV limited series starring a woman in something of a sleuth role; the series is being shopped around with producers and networks. And I’m teaching a novel writing Master Class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the annual June retreat.
Christine DeSmet writes the national, bestselling Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House), including First-Degree Fudge, Hot Fudge Frame-Up, and Five-Alarm Fudge. She’s also the author of a romantic suspense, Spirit Lake (Mundania Press). Her short stories have appeared in anthologies. Also a screenwriter, she’s optioned scripts to New Line and others, and teaches scriptwriting online for University of Wisconsin-Madison where she’s also director of the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat held every June. Christine is available through Facebook or her website, www.ChristineDeSmet.com and University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches writing and welcomes emails, firstname.lastname@example.org.