Monday, June 1, 2015

a Five Alarm welcome for ....Christine DeSmet!

Meow, this week my guest is Christine DeSmet!
Christine is a novelist, screenwriter, short story writer, and playwright.
She teaches writing in the Continuing Studies division of University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s the director of the annual June “Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat” and the fall “Weekend with Your Novel.”
She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and Jewels of the Quill. She is a past Golden Heart winner and finalist (three times) in the contests sponsored by RWA. Her romantic suspense novel, Spirit Lake, won RWA’s Golden Pen Contest before the book was published by Hard Shell Word Factory/Mundania Press.
  • Meow, welcome Christine! Tell us a little about your background
I’m a farm girl who graduated from a class of 29 students in southwestern Wisconsin and went on to earn a couple of journalism degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Go, Badgers! From there, some writing contests helped me take the leap into writing novels, screenplays, short stories, and stage plays. Now, I teach all of those things in my day job at UW-Madison Continuing Studies.
  • You write two series, one about fudge and one about fowl. Where did those ideas come from?
All of my short stories in the Moonstone series, which are set on Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin, include silkie chickens. They’re quite funny, fuzzy chickens and my short stories are light romantic mysteries, so I felt the chickens fit the mood. The fudge idea came through my literary agent who saw that there weren’t any fudge books. I loved the idea of writing about a fudge shop in Door County, Wis., which is known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” I’ve visited the vacation area and its fudge shops many times in the past so couldn’t resist setting a series there.
  • Tell us a bit about your latest book
Here’s the plot summary of Five-Alarm Fudge:  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.
This new book delves into some interesting history about the Great Fire of 1871, which took the lives of over 1,500 people in the region near Green Bay including Door County. Many people have heard of the Great Chicago Fire that happened the same October day; it took 300 lives. But there were stories of survival and miracles, and I use one of the miracles in the plot of Five-Alarm Fudge. The miracle involves a real-life nun who, with my fictional license, may have hidden her recipes in a brick church to protect them from the fires raging.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I visit Door County every year and visit events such as the Belgian harvest festivals there called a kermis (also spelled kermiss). Talking with local people and sharing in local customs is the best way for me to “become” my characters and write about them. While I’m writing, I look at the notes from my travels. I also keep biographies of my characters and review them a lot. I work hard to be true to the Belgian heritage and the various cultures found in Door County.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I don’t use an outline, nor do I go by the seat of my pants. Instead, I use a method I learned from screenwriting. I do “a beat sheet.” I figure out the 5 or 6 major plot points of the story first. Then I flesh out what might happen in between those plot points. My scenes aren’t outline in detail, but I know my targets and write toward my targeted plot point. Each day, I outline the next day’s scenes. In that way I have my assignment when I sit down to write.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character. All plots stem from character pain and need. Plots are about a character’s journey through a problem.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The biggest challenge is finding time. Since I work full time as a writing instructor, my time is taken up by coaching writers. The success stories about new writers that come out of our workshops are what keep me motivated. I witness a lot of hard work—and publications. Those make my day.
  • You also teach fiction – what career do you enjoy more, teaching or writing? Or both equally?
Those are equal.
-        Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
My agent found me by contacting our local Sisters in Crime group in Wisconsin. I wasn’t actually looking for an agent at the time, but one of my friends emailed me to say she’d been contacted by an agent and she thought we’d be a good match. After John Talbot and I talked, we felt we were a good match in developing the Fudge Shop Mystery series. And here we are three books later!
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m working on a new series with my agent at the moment, which I can’t yet divulge. My future writing plans include the reissuing of the Moonstone series of short stories and the publication of several other short stories I’ve written. All of them are light romantic mysteries. I’m also marketing my screenplays.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
My teaching and coaching of writers is pretty much an all-day job and sometimes it takes my weekends to catch up with my writer-clients and students. But I usually find a few hours during the week to write, and then on many weekends I write around 6 hours each day.
  • If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
My own books, LOL! But being serious, I simply can’t answer that because there are too many good books. I could never decide. Perhaps I’d take a book of fairy tales, because most of our literature is a re-telling of fairy tales.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write. Then write the next book or story. Then the next. And write from the gut and heart and your own experiences. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to write about what matters to you. Your unique voice is needed in this world and it will resonate with readers. There are readers for every good writer.
I also like to recommend that new writers save themselves time and heartache by learning from others. There are many good writing groups to join, good workshops and conference.
Also read basic books like Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. Many other writing how-to books are based on his fine knowledge and wisdom. The other book that has changed the world of writing is Christopher Vogler’s book on the 12 steps of a mythic journey for a character. The book is called The Writer’s Journey. Every new writer should read it.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Ride a cow! As a kid we used to climb atop our Holstein cows and ride them. If only we realized how dangerous that was. But it sure was fun at the time!
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I’m a softie. I tear up at Hallmark commercials.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What makes me happy? Flowers. I love seeing them, smelling them, cultivating them in a garden, wearing them, eating them. (See my Rose Garden Fudge recipe in Hot Fudge Frame-Up.) I love watching butterflies and bees enjoy the flowers in my backyard.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
At, and bookstores online and otherwise. I’m also available through UW-Madison Continuing Studies,
I’m also on Facebook where I focus on writing topics and tips with writer friends.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Day.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Love them both, have had them both in my life.
Beach or Pool?   Beach.
Steak or salad?  Both! Together!
Favorite Drink?  Root beer.
Favorite Book?  The one I’m working on.
Favorite TV Series?  “Last Man on Earth” contains excellent writing. It’s subtle and astounding.
Favorite Movie?  Too many. I’m a screenwriter; I love a lot of them.
Favorite Actor: No faves, but I love gritty, down-to-earth portrayals on film.
Favorite Actress: Any actress who can be genuinely funny. Comedy is hard to pull off, so I admire those actresses attempting it on film and TV.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada; I like vacations in hot places that serve them.
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Eve.
If I had just one wish, it would be to have limitless time.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be with a kid just starting kindergarten again. Kids have cool toys, and I love learning. I’d love to spend days just reading those picture books and early-reader books again and coloring.
Thank you, Christine!
Here are all the places you can find her:; and UW-Madison Continuing Studies, email; and Facebook.
The good folks at Berkley Prime Crime have donated a copy of Five Alarm Fudge to be given to one lucky commenter!  To enter, leave your name and email addy in the comments section below.  A winner will be chosen using  For extra entries, you can:
* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)
Contest ends midnight, June 6th!


  1. Rocco, you've hit another one out of the park!
    I visit the blog regularly
    We are FB friends and I've linked this to my page
    Don't tweet or have a blog

  2. Wow looks like great cozy.
    I follow your blog by email.
    I like on Facebook.
    I follow by Twitter.
    xzjh04@ Gmail. Com

  3. I am one who loves following your blog and also your facebook page.

  4. I like that the author rode a cow---as a youngster I rode a buck sheep all the time--so I think we are kindred spirits.
    I am an email subscriber,
    follow on facebook,
    and follow on twitter.

  5. Excellent interview, as always. We're friends on Facebook and I follow your blog. I don't do Twitter. Thank you for the chance to win this giveaway.

  6. Love these books about FUDGE!!!!!!! Oh and a mystery too!!!!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Looking forward to reading this one.

  9. I look forward to reading this new release. Great interview. itsacatslife17 (at ) yahoo dot com . Thank you for the chance to win.