Today Frankie Champagne is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Deep Green Envy, the latest novel in the Deep Lakes cozy mystery series.
Welcome, Frankie. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
My name is Frankie Champagne. I’m a baker and vintner in the Deep Lakes Mystery series set in Wisconsin. Deep Green Envy is the fourth book of the series (which includes a Christmas prequel). Each mystery occurs during a different season, and this one is set in summer, otherwise known as “tourist season” where I live. I love running Bubble & Bake, bakery-by-day and wine-lounge-by-night, but truth be told, I went to college to become an investigative journalist. When I returned to my hometown, there were no opportunities for female journalists, so I ended up writing fluff stories about dinner parties and firemen fund raisers. Then, a mysterious death happened on frozen Lake Loki, and I jumped on the chance to investigate it and scoop the local paper. That was in the first novel, and now, with two murder investigations under my apron, I’m learning the recipe for tracking clues and solving crimes. I never expected I’d be sleuthing my way around a sheep farm to solve a mysterious shooting, but when my daughter is dating one of the suspects, what’s a mother to do? I pulled my detective hat out of my shop pantry and started sleuthing, this time with the help of my business partner, Carmen.
Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?
Oh, I definitely get a say in the side stories and how I find information. My writer talks to me when she’s out for walks or in the shower, and she actually listens to my advice.
How did you evolve as the main character?
I’ve changed from being self-conscious about my decisions to understanding who I am and what matters most in my life. As an amateur investigator, I’ve become smarter at asking the right questions from authorities, and I have found my own voice stemming from successful experiences and painful lessons. I’m still learning to navigate middle age parenting my adult daughters, as well as allowing romance to be part of my life. I was badly burned in an unsuccessful marriage, so I’ve waded carefully into the dating waters again. But, I’ve become more open-hearted and trust my own judgments.
Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?
I’m surrounded by wonderful characters in the series. My business partner and best friend, Carmen Martinez, is the voice of reason who brings me back to earth when I wander too far into impossible scenarios. Carmen is reliable and a straight-talker, even though I often lead her into the thick of my sleuthing escapades. My romantic partner, Garrett, has become my biggest fan in my pursuit of investigative reporting, but he also treats me with tenderness and care. The sheriff, Alonzo Goodman, is a straight arrow who doesn’t appreciate my involvement at his crime scenes. But, our relationship is complicated. We grew up together and after my divorce, Alonzo took on the role of protector, and may even have romantic feelings for me. Like I said, it’s complicated. The two aunties who work in the bakery are some of my favorite people. My aunt CeCe is a free spirit, estranged from our family for years, she brings her artistry, generous heart, and penchant for mischief into the books. Carmen’s Tia Pepita, shipped north from her Texas family, never misses a chance to add drama to the story. Tia bakes delightful empanadas and dulces in the Mexican tradition, but her superstitious nature often provides comic relief when the plot becomes heavy.
What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?
Deep Lakes is a Wisconsin tourist lake town. The people who live there are small towners who know each other as well as the local gossip and history. The town swells in population during the summer and into autumn, but you could shoot a cannon down the street in winter and not hit any traffic. The town is idyllic with three lakes skirting one side and two rivers cutting through the middle. Spurgeon Park has lovely waterfalls where everyone stops for photos, and the downtown is sprinkled with charming shops, eateries, and the necessary businesses of life, too. Bubble & Bake occupies the corner of the main streets and features an eclectic mix of pastries representing many cultures. My Scandinavian grandmother taught me to bake delightful kringles, butterhorns, and shortbreads. Carmen and Tia Pepita make authentic Mexican goodies, while our college baking intern, Tess, adds in spices from her Ethiopian background to our traditional pastries. After the bakery sells out, we shift over to our lounge area, made cozy with traditional Scandinavian furnishings and soft lighting. The U-shaped black walnut bar made from a fallen tree is home to wine tastings, where my Bountiful Fruits vintages are featured.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?
I love furry critters, so Bubble & Bake plays host each book to a featured kitty looking for a forever family. Our local vet, Dr. Sadie provides the little orphan, and we watch our patrons make friends or fall in love with the felines as someone claims them for their very own. But cats are not the only fur friends highlighted in the series. In Deep Green Envy, I develop a trusting relationship with a retired herding sheltie named Sonny.
Thank you for answering my questions, Frankie, and good luck to you and your author, Joy Ann Ribar, with Deep Green Envy, the latest book in the Deep Lakes cozy mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Joy Ann Ribar: Joy lives in central Wisconsin with her business partner-husband, John. She writes the Deep Lakes Mystery Series, starring baker/vinter and all-around spitfire, Frankie Champagne. Joy’s writing is inspired by Wisconsin’s four distinct seasons and local flavors, which she hopes to promote for all to enjoy.
Joy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Midwest Independent Booksellers, and Wisconsin Writers Association. She enjoys researching viticulture at area wineries, birding, hiking, and chatting with readers. Joy and her husband, John, someday plan to sell their house, buy an RV and travel around the U.S. spreading good cheer and hygge!