Author Interview: Christine DeSmet (January 2021)
Writers Exchange Author Interview
Christine DeSmet is the author of the Mischief in Moonstone novella series published by Writers Exchange E-Publishing, and the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House and Writers Exchange E-Publishing), among many writing projects.
Christine lives in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, USA, and works as a Distinguished Faculty Associate in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies where she teaches novel writing and screenwriting.
My first publication was a novel, Spirit Lake, published in 1999 (e-book) and 2000 (paperback), a romantic suspense set in Wisconsin that is still in print. It won a contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America, which of course encouraged me. My local Wisconsin chapter of RWA was instrumental with their support of my writing, as were my colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’d won RWA awards previously but had not yet published until the company Hard Shell Word Factory sponsored the RWA contest. I was a pioneer back in those years because indie and small press publishing were still frowned upon as “vanity.”
I’m a member of several writing groups and associations, including Mystery Writers of America. Those groups are so valuable for keeping abreast of trends in the marketplace and for support of my writing.
My writing meshes with what I do for my job. I’m a writing instructor at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies in Madison, Wisconsin, where I teach novel writing and screenwriting, and coach novelists to help them finish their manuscripts and feel good about the quality.
- What do you feel is your greatest personal achievement?
It’s not really an achievement, but over and over again I’m grateful that I grew up on a farm where I experienced such a variety of hard work, interactions with varied personalities including those of the animals, learned how to be independent, and learned how to get hard things done by a deadline. All of that defines the skills or acumen needed to be a successful writer.
- What do you think people would be most surprised to know about you?
That I’m half-Belgian and like Belgians I love gardens and flowers, pies and chocolate (and chocolate pies, LOL), harvest celebrations called kermisses, and other Belgian things. Belgians have a rich history and were significant immigrants in the settling of Wisconsin, in particular its peninsular Door County that reaches into Lake Michigan like a thumb on a mitten. Of course I love the Packers. The Green Bay Packers football team was founded by a Belgian, Curly Lambeau, whose grandfather was an immigrant, and Lambeau Field is named after him. Belgians were fishers, farmers, and foresters—the latter making many shingles that were shipped to Chicago in the 1800s when it was expanding rapidly.
- If you could charm any person in the world and compel them to read a piece of your work from cover to cover, who would it be, which work, and why?
I’d love the King and Queen of Belgium to read my Fudge Shop Mystery Series because one of my characters is related to the royal line. Writers Exchange E-Publishing has published Book 4 of that series called Deadly Fudge Divas.
- Writing: Art, Science or both?
I’ve learned from my many novellas and novels as well as my screenplays that writing is both art and science. There is structure (science) that is needed, but there is always the creativity (art) of the writer that births something all their own that is special. Every book and novella and story I write is distinctly different than the last and yet every one of them adheres to a structure that brings suspense, momentum, and emotions to the reading experience. At least I hope that’s the result of my long hours and labor with my art and science of writing.
- Describe your body of work in 3 sentences or less.
I’ve written several novellas, starting with When Rudolph Was Kidnapped, published by Writers Exchange E-Publishing, and the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (with Penguin Random House and now Writers Exchange E-Publishing), and a romantic suspense called Spirit Lake. In addition, I’m an award-winning screenwriter of many screenplays, some of which I’m currently pitching to producers. I’ve also written a stage play. A short film has also been produced recently and will go into film festivals.
- What do you think readers like best about your stories?
Readers love the warmth in the relationships of my main characters. Many have written to me asking when the “next” book is coming out because they want to know what Ava and her Grandpa Gil are up to in the Fudge Shop Mystery Series. Grandpa always gets himself into big trouble and that draws in Ava as well. I write with humor and whimsey, but also strong family and relationship emotions, and bring in history of the people and place. The same goes for my novella series starting with the Rudolph story, and the entire Mischief in Moonstone series, which is set on the opposite side of Wisconsin from the Fudge Shop Mystery series. Readers love the whimsey and kindness that ultimately prevails in Moonstone, Wisconsin.
- If you suddenly became infinitely wealthy would you try to translate your work to a visual medium and who would you try to get involved in the project?
My novellas and books would make ideal TV series or TV movies. They’re family-friendly, and Hallmark’s viewers would love them. Several people from Wisconsin work in the industry in Los Angeles and elsewhere and I’d call on them to produce and direct.
- How do the words get from your head to a document? Do you pre-write and transcribe or write directly into the computer, or have some other approach?
I usually do research first on any idea or character I have in mind, and even travel to places to get a refresher on what’s there and how it feels to walk in that environment and eat at its restaurants. I even take note of what weeds grow alongside roads. Almost simultaneously I make notes about the next story’s plot points—those five main structural poles that hold up any story. Once I have the plot points decided, I know what I’m aiming for and I sit at my computer and write one to two hours every day during weekdays and up to six hours a day on weekends. As I finish typing, I record the scenes in a big notebook that is handwritten scene by scene so I can keep track of what has transpired in an easy format.
- How long does it take for you to typically finish a chapter or section?
About one to three hours on one day.
- Do you have an unusual activity that is integral to creation of your works?
After I write a scene or chapter each day, I immediately take an hour-long walk with the next day’s plot questions in mind. Walking in nature is a proven way to spike creativity, experts say, and it works for me. I always have something to write the next day after taking my walks.
- Talk about what it is for you to have writing as past-time? Do you get support from family and friends? How has writing affected your life?
I get a lot of support from my family and friends. They are gifts in my life really. Writing is my life, so to ask how it affects my life is like asking somebody if they enjoy breathing. It’s just what I do and it feels very good to write.
- Community? As a writer do you seek feedback or try to help others?
A community for writers is paramount and that’s why I love my job with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We create classes and conferences to help bring writers together and to help nurture our creative ideas. I love belonging to my groups or associations because I learn so much from other writers. Yes, I seek feedback on my projects, too. I always have a beta reader or two for every project.
- What is the one thing you want readers to know about you?
I love hearing from readers! Readers—you make my day! I heard from one older couple who met in a grocery and got married and loved the setting in my Fudge Shop Mystery Series and thus bought all my books. I’m putting them into my next novel, with their permission of course and under different names.
- What, in your opinion, is the most critical things an aspiring writer must know?
An aspiring writer must know that it’s helpful to read good how-to books but it’s not helpful to get caught up in them and read twenty or thirty before writing. Find a good community of writers and get their advice on good books. I’ll recommend three that most writers say are essential: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, and Writing the Breakout Novel, by literary agent/writer/teacher Donald Maass, and The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler. If new writers read those, they will be well-armed to start their first novel.
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