Christine Husom is a national best-selling author from Buffalo and served with the Wright County Sheriff's Office. She pens the Winnebago County Mysteries, and the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries.” She has stories in six anthologies and co-edited one. Her latest titles are Remains In Coyote Bog and Frosty The Dead Man. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and loves events and serving on panels with fellow siblings. www.christinehusom.com.
1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
Remains in Coyote Bog is the eighth in the Winnebago County Mystery series, set in central Minnesota. Although Winnebago is fictional, Wright County residents recognize it as their own.
Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson is the young protagonist in the series. Her father died before she was born, leaving her mother alone with two small children. Corky overcame her mother’s overprotectiveness to pursue her lifelong dream of a law enforcement career. Her need to help victims and solve crimes drives her. Her instincts and training enable her. Corky recognizes her shortfalls and works closely with her friend and mentor, the seasoned, smart, and sexy Detective Elton aka “Smoke” Dawes who has experienced a lot over the years. Their relationship ebbs and flows and grows through the series.
The plot for Remains in Coyote Bog was inspired by a project Wright County did a few years ago to fix a sinking road. When the road was constructed over 50 years ago, they spanned a stretch of it over a swamp. That section was under water and closed several times a year. Added layers of asphalt made it worse. Engineers came up with an ingenious plan of placing large foam blocks under the road and that corrected the problem. When I heard that the swamp was a sixty-foot-deep peat bog, one of my first thoughts was, “Ah, hah. I’ve read about bodies buried in bogs, seen photos of them. What if . . .”
I landed on a basic plot, then worked through who the antagonist was, what led her to commit her crimes, why she buried the bodies in the bog, and how she managed it. The subplot of the book is centered around a crime the sheriff’s son was involved in, and its far-reaching impact.
I believe that characters guide and drive the plot. I delve into their psyches, uncover what makes them tick, what drives them. In the case of the antagonists, why they chose a bad or evil path over a good one.
Back cover blurb: Bodies marked with religious symbols are recovered from Coyote Bog and send Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Smoke Dawes on a quest. Who buried them there? They pore through missing persons’ files, consult an FBI profiler, and are soon in pursuit of an angel of death. Their investigation leads them into uncharted and dangerous territory, but they’ll stop at nothing to end the death angel’s reign.
2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Before I put words on a page, a criminal activity forms in my mind and I loosely create a plot and subplot around that. I imagine characters in scenes, immerse myself into those scenes, watch their actions, and listen to their exchanges. I know who the bad guy is, the beginning, the end, and a few key plot points. Then I go to work.
I build the story as I write and have been surprised along the way, like when a character I hadn’t yet thought of walks in, or when one of my characters does something unexpected. I’ve sat on the sidelines and called out to them, “What in the world were you thinking?” or “Why did you do that?” As if they could hear me.
There are often twists that present themselves as I write. I go back in the story and insert the newly found clue where it fits. My writing process varies from book to book because each story is unique and has a different antagonist up to his or her own criminal activities.
I do a great deal of research and rely on experts, or others with experience in different areas, to educate me, help ensure accuracy in my stories. I’ve studied adipocere, Arabian Horse diseases, FBI profilers, the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths, human trafficking, organ harvesting, types of snowshoes, decomposition, maggots, various psychological disorders. In my third book, I researched for about six months before I wrote the story. I got onto chat lines with victims of ritual abuse and studied cults, dissociative identity disorder, and healing therapy. I interviewed a former minister who worked with abuse victims. As examples.
For Remains in Coyote Bog, I studied types of wetlands and bogs in Minnesota—and around the world—and how they were formed. I read many articles on bog bodies found over the centuries and how they were preserved in the peat, angel of death/mercy serial killers, and ground-penetrating radar. My research has taken as long as writing the book at times.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Carving out the time to write is my biggest challenge. Then when I’m at work, taking care not to get distracted.
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It motivated me to finish the second book in the series in a timely manner. People who read series look forward to the next one a year or so later. I haven’t turned out a book every year in the Winnebago County Mysteries but have launched eleven books in eleven years between the two series. I work well under pressure so when Penguin Random House set due dates for the three Snow Globe Shop Mysteries, I pushed myself to meet those deadlines.
5. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
Some of the classic writers I appreciate are Dickens, London, Melville, and Christie. When I first read contemporary mysteries, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, and Tami Hoag, were among my favorites that hooked me on the genre. There is a long list of talented Minnesota authors, and if I start a list, I may inadvertantly leave some out. The Twin Cities Sisters in Crime has a fan page on Facebook. It’s a good place to check out local authors.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I completed two romance novels over thirty years ago and have a few partial mainstream manuscripts I may finish someday. I’m currently working on the 9th Winnebago County Mystery and the 4th Snow Globe Shop Mystery.
7. What does literary success look like to you?
When readers tell me how much they love my books and can’t wait for the next one. That they can imagine meeting my characters on the street. Or they’d like to hang out with Corky and her friend, Sara. Or have a beer with Smoke. I feel blessed so many people are sharing this journey with me.
8. What inspired you to start writing?
The inspiration has always been inside of me. I have a warm memory of walking into my first-grade classroom and seeing the letters of the alphabet posted on the wall above the blackboards. I was in awe, excited that I would learn to read and write so I could put my stories on paper.
9. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I belong to the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime and enjoy doing mystery panels with them around the state. I love visiting book clubs and speaking at libraries and other venues. I also sell my books at a number of art and craft fairs most years—sadly, only one in 2020.
I also serve as a Wright County Commissioner and that keeps me hopping. This year I spent a lot of time remodeling a home we bought. My husband and I enjoy having our children and grandchildren over for Sunday dinners. I volunteer at church and civic events, garden, decorate and read.
10. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work?
Yes, my website is www.christinehusom.com, facebook.com/christine.husom, Twitter, @christinehusom