Set in a combination live bait and fudge shop in Wisconsin’s vacation wonderland, Door County, filled with quirky, likeable, and energetic characters, and…oh, did I mention?...mouth-watering! That’s the new novel by Madison, Wisconsin author Christine DeSmet who decided to make her mark on the mystery writing world by whipping up a batch of fudge. And not just any fudge. Cinderella Pink Fudge. Which, unfortunately, becomes a murder weapon in her newest book First-Degree Fudge.
Now, the interesting thing to me is how someone who admits upfront that she isn’t much of a cook and who doesn’t live in Door County can write such an awesome book about, well, fudge and living in Door County. The key ingredient here, according to Christine is research.
I had the opportunity to interview the author recently and here are some of Christine’s thoughts on how research can bring a book to life. Oh, and yes! If you go to her book signings, she does bring fudge—homemade fudge. Murderously delicious fudge…
MCW: What role does research play in the fiction you create?
Christine: Research creates my stories. I start out a story with a sketchy outline, and I know in general what the story will contain, but then after I do research I find many, many new angles and facts that change or deepen my plot, characters, and setting. There are also many facts that go into writing fiction; you have to get the facts right. My protagonist in First-Degree Fudge (Book 1, The Door County Fudge Shop Mystery Series) for example, enjoys chemistry and science, though she has no college degree in science; she’s just fascinated by what makes the world run. But to write about fudge in a scientific way, I interviewed the head of research and development at DB Infusions Chocolates in Madison, Wis., for example, and watched their process of making chocolates. I asked questions about how to handle the “crystals” that make up chocolate. That crystallization information became a clue in my mystery plot.
MCW: Do you enjoy doing research or is it just part of the job for you?
Christine: I love it because it’s like mining for gold and always finding nuggets. I feel rich and enriched by research. I actually get very nervous writing too much of a novel without doing research because I know I’m wasting my time and getting something wrong that I’ll have to change later. Story quality and character quality always go up when you do research. I’m constantly tinkering on my stories as a result of my research.
MCW: What is the most amazing thing you learned or the most unique experience you have ever had doing research?
Christine: There are many amazing things! One thing that’s amazing about Door County is that it has one of the largest populations of Belgian immigrants in the United States, and everybody in Door County has an opinion on what makes good boo-yah and beer. I also got to look inside a roadside church while there; I’d never done that before. Those tiny churches—big enough to hold two people maximum usually—dot the countryside in Door County. The local people are restoring them and creating bus tours in an effort to preserve the Belgian immigrant history.
Christine also told me that since starting her new mystery series, she has learned to make fudge. She experiments and tries out all her recipes—which are included in the back of her books—on people she trusts to give her honest feedback. And she hasn’t killed off any of her taste-testers yet. So if you are looking for a rollicking fun read, that tantalizes and intrigues, and you’d like some sweet recipes to tempt the taste buds, check out Christine DeSmet’s First-Degree Fudge, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and in bookstores just about everywhere.
A writing teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Christine’s first published novel, Spirit Lake, was an award-winning, best-selling novel for publisher Hard Shell Word Factory/Mundania Press. Also a short fiction writer, her humorous romantic mystery series set in Wisconsin appears in two volumes: Mischief in Moonstone and Men of Moonstone from Whiskey Creek Press as well as in several anthologies. First-Degree Fudge is the debut novel for her Door County Fudge Shop Mystery Series.
You can find out more about Christine at her website, Christine DeSmet: Author.