Christine DeSmet‘s First Degree Fudge, the first of her Fudge Shop mysteries, left me hungry for more fun flavored fudge and mysteries. The Wisconsin settings for her Fudge Shop and Moonstone mysteries are idyllic, and apparently ideal for murder, in the way cozy mysteries always find quaint towns to be. In addition to writing her own stories in short and long form, Christine helps others as a developmental editor and writing coach. I’m thrilled to share Christine’s answers to my five simple questions below. You can find her mysteries in bookstores anywhere, though she does suggest her local independent Mystery to Me Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin.
What is your favorite book (or other source) about the craft of writing? Why?
Christine: The books by Donald Maass have definitely stood any test by writers at large and over time. Writing the Breakout Novel is essential reading because it’s based on this agent’s incredible knowledge and years of experience. His writing is succinct and he uses relatable examples. All of his books together create something of a Master’s degree in writing fiction.
What do you like most about writing a first draft?
Christine: Being led into the story by my characters! I love that feeling of the characters knowing the story better than I do. They surprise me all the time. Sometimes I have to argue with and constrain them, but other times I let them do crazy and fun things because SURPRISE is what readers expect from my books.
Sarah: I love how you value this surprise factor from your characters—it’s surely fun for you as a writer, but also a gift to your readers.
What is your favorite part of revision?
Christine: Discovery! Revising is like going prospecting in a diamond field. The diamonds are there; I just need to uncover them and move the unneeded material aside or delete it. I LOVE revision and editing. When revising I always discover new aspects of my characters and plot. And of course I do rewriting when the ugly or odd discoveries occur. It’s very satisfying to get something right.
Sarah: This metaphor sounds like a perfect way to get beyond the feeling that words, once written, are hard as stone. Diamonds would not only be the best of the stones, but by nature harder.
What book (not about writing) are you reading right now or have you recently finished that you would recommend to others? Why?
Christine: I recently finished Black Cake, a mainstream mystery by Charmaine Wilkerson. Once I started it, I could not put it down! I loved it for its mystery, its cultural intrigue, and its interesting characters involved with secrets. She used an object that I use, too—a recipe—to anchor her book. Her book moves back and forth in time to a few generations of men and women within a family and she does this seamlessly, so those writing historicals might also like this book and its techniques. The book starts with teenage girlfriends and then follows the consequences of their actions in dire circumstances. I wanted to make this cake after reading the novel. This is also a first novel for this author and it’s an amazing accomplishment.
Can you give an example of how you have been kind to someone else recently, in real life or through one of your characters?
Christine: I give a lot of free advice to writers in general because I’m dedicated to helping others who want to write, polish, and publish. I’ve been a writing instructor and writing coach for most of my professional life, as well as a writer/author. I welcome questions.
In my book, Undercover Fudge, my protagonist Ava Oosterling names a fudge flavor in honor of something that was important to her arch-enemy and the enemy’s father who is a war veteran. Kindness, forgiveness, and honor go together in life.
In the manuscript I’m working on now (Holly Jolly Fudge Folly, coming November 2022) I’ve also discovered a tender note happening between dueling characters. Kindness always surprises people and re-sets the tone or mode of a plot or communication style of characters.
Sarah: I cannot help but appreciate your statement: “Kindness, forgiveness, and honor go together.” What a great thing to offer to your readers through Ava’s actions, and in your words here.
I so appreciate your kindness to other writers, especially those still trying to find their place. Part of my impetus for this blog series was my own desire to learn more about writing process from other writers, and again I’m so grateful for your contribution here.