Thursday, August 11, 2011

Authorsday: Stuart Gustafson

Stuart Gustafson, author of Missing in

How did you pick the genre you write in?

I’ve always loved to travel, and I did a lot of it when I was in the corporate environment.  I knew that I still wanted to travel when I retired a few years back and I also wanted to write. So the idea of writing fictional mysteries set in wonderful places where we like to travel to just seemed like a natural way for me to combine writing and travel.

Was there something else besides travel that drew you to the subject of Missing in Mexico?

Yes; we’ve been vacationing in Los Cabos, Mexico, for 8 years, and the people there have always made us feel so welcome to be there.  Once I knew I was going to write a mystery novel, I knew it had to incorporate the charm and the culture and the warmth of the marvelous people of that area. The book also had to pull the reader into the town of San José del Cabo and let him or her get the feel of the town, to be able to walk around in it.

I see a common thread of travel; tell me more about it.

I’ve flown over 1,000,000 miles to 28 different countries, and I do have the US Registered Trademark Name of America’s International Travel Expert®. So, yes, I love to travel. I also enjoy sharing any travel information that I know with other people. They just have to ask.  Writing the mystery novels set in exciting locations is one of the ways I have found to share my love of travel.

Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

The quick summary is that I first plot it out and then it let it flow from there. Here is how it goes:

·         The true genesis of the book is that I decide where I want to spend a lot of time researching. I want the reader to feel as if the book’s setting is authentic and so I do spend a lot of time in the area. We’d already been going to Los Cabos each year since 2003, spending an average of six weeks per year there. I know the area quite well, and I talked with a lot people, gathered a lot of materials, and felt that I had enough research.

·         After I have the location for the primary setting, I write out the story plot chapter by chapter. Each chapter synopsis can be one sentence or it can be a long paragraph – just enough so I know how the story progresses through that chapter.

·         Once I start writing, I start at chapter one with its synopsis and I start writing at the computer; here is where it becomes “by the seat of my pants.” I don’t know how a given chapter is going to progress when I start it, which means that I don’t have any pre-conceived notion what the next chapter will actually – just its synopsis.

·         I just keep doing this, chapter by chapter, until the book is completed. This process invariably leads to many changes along the way as my brain develops new twists and turns that add to the mystery.

Are you working on a next book and what can you tell us about it?

Yes, I am working a next mystery novel set in Sydney, Australia. In keeping with my pledge to make the story and its settings as authentic as possible, I visited Sydney five times last year to conduct research. It is an exciting city, and I think I discovered something about the Sydney Harbour Bridge that not many people know about – and it’s something that they certainly don’t publicize. Hmmm, you’ll just have to read the book to find out what that is.

You’ve made us curious now – when will that book be out? And is there another after that in the works?

I’m not committing to a release date for the Sydney book right yet, but it’s probably early 2012. I’m thinking that the book after that needs to be set in Florence, Italy, a place loved by the Renaissance painters.

I see more research trips in the future for you. How can readers keep up with you, your travels, and your books?

Jumping on the airplanes alongside my wife and me might be a little inconvenient, so the next best thing would be to sign up for my no-charge e-newsletter that’s on the book’s website at

If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?

Once they pick up a mystery and start to read it, what does it have to have for them to keep reading it to the very last page, to the very last word?

Which authors today do you like to read, and why?

I like to read the young authors, and by that I mean the ones like me who are writing their first or second or third novels and who are really open to feedback from readers, bloggers, and reviewers. I don’t think I can learn anything from reading one more novel by Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Barbara Kingsolver, or Steven King. Sure, they’re wildly successful, but it’s not a success that you can imitate or copy. So I prefer to read the online reviews and blogs of the newer authors like me, and then read some of their books to see how they advance their plots and storylines.

What do you think are your strengths in terms of your writing?

I know the area very well, and so I’m confident that readers could almost use the book as a guidebook when they visit the area. Now that’s not the purpose of the book, but it was critical that the descriptions of locations be accurate, although some of the places are fictitious.
After all it is a fictional story, even though some people have tried to tell me, “Oh, isn’t that hotel supposed to be the such-and-such Hotel?”

What has been your favorite compliment about the book?

I’ll hope you’ll let me give you three compliments that I’ve received:

·         I’ve heard from many Los Cabos locals (from the former mayor, gallery owners, and residents) who’ve said that the book describes “their town” so well – that was part of what I wanted to do in this book.

·         Jess Todtfeld, Former Producer for ABC, NBC, and FOX said, “The story’s so real I felt like I was right there!”

·         Jimmy DeMesa, M.D. and author said, “Stuart brings ‘Cabo’ to life with his intimate knowledge of the area and his skill in writing. Even if you’re not familiar with Los Cabos, Mexico, Missing in Mexico is a must read if you’re into travel, suspense, and real-life drama – since this riveting story has it all. I couldn’t put it down and I’m sure you’ll be happy you read it!”

Where’s one place that you haven’t visited that you’d like to go to?

Africa is on my list of places to visit (with a notebook and a couple of cameras). I’ve heard so many intriguing stories about the beautiful scenery and the wonderful people there. It might become a book setting, or perhaps it just might be a great month or so of travel. In either case, it sounds like a wonderful place that I must see.

What did you enjoy most about writing Missing in Mexico?

Seeing the places in my mind as I first wrote the book gave me so much enjoyment. The story line is fictional, but yet the setting is real and so now every time I re-read the book or even certain parts of it, it’s like transporting myself down to San José del Cabo. For example, Chapter 16 is about the Art District, and going through that chapter is like strolling through the Art District during the weekly Art Walk on Thursday Nights.

Your book’s been described as ‘Mystery Tourism’; please describe that for me.

The book is primarily a fictional mystery novel, and I could probably have stopped there. Given that I’ve made the primary setting as authentic as possible while still making it fictional, there is the tourism factor thrown in, such as the Art District chapter that I mentioned earlier. So the combination of those two items makes it a Mystery Tourism novel.

Is the book just an e-book, and where can readers get a copy?

Missing in Mexico is available in soft cover as well as an e-book on the book’s website at I personally autograph each of the print copies before they are mailed out from Boise, Idaho.

Author Bio: Stuart Gustafson began writing in earnest after retiring from the corporate world in 2007. His work involved travel and so it was natural for him to want to continue traveling once he retired. Now when he travels, it's for fun; it's for pleasure; it's to see new places in the world. The way he has chosen to combine his love of travel and writing is to write mystery novels set in exciting locations around the world. Stuart has been married for thirty-seven years to Darlene and they have one daughter and one son. Stuart and Darlene live in Boise, Idaho.

Book Blurb: Sarah Johnson is a 19-year college freshman who’s not on the plane back to Seattle after a family vacation in Mexico. The family hires Stan, a seasoned Private Investigator, to locate her. Even with local help and some promising leads in the town of San José del Cabo, he's unable to find her, and he returns to Seattle to tell the parents. Months later he receives a mysterious letter from someone who says she can help him locate Sarah, and he jumps on the next plane to Los Cabos. Will this be the lucky break he needs to find her? Or will she remain missing -- Missing in Mexico?

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