Stuart Gustafson began writing in earnest after taking early retirement from the corporate world in 2007. His professional life involved travel and so it was natural for him to want to continue traveling once he didn’t have to travel as a job. 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 where he likes to go.
His debut mystery novel Missing in Mexico is set in San Jose del Cabo at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, a charming location where he has spent 2-6 weeks each year for the past eight years. This is how Stuart researches his books, by immersing himself into the culture of the area, and getting to know the people and their charm. The best compliment Stuart has received was at a local event in San Jose del Cabo and some of the residents told him that Missing in Mexico was indeed about their town and would he please consider writing another book about San Jose or at least about Cabo.
His second mystery novel, set in Sydney, NSW, Australia, is already underway, and Stuart took five trips to Sydney in 2010 to conduct research of the area to once again ensure that the book, even though it’s a fictional mystery novel, would still contain authentic details. Publication date for that book is set for early 2012.
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.
Connect With Stuart:
This is my fifth book, but only the second one that is solo. The other three were with a co-author, and they, along with my other solo book, were all non-fiction. So this is in a sense my initial foray into the world of fiction, and I’m finding it to be an exciting adventure.
Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?
My very first book was a self-published book, primarily because it took 20 years to come to fruition. If it waited for someone else to take it to press, it might never have seen the printed page. The next three books, the ones with the co-author, were with a traditional publisher – going the normal route with the New York City literary agent, signing advances, multi-book contract, etc.
This book, Missing in Mexico, is different in several respects, and so I’ve launched it through a small press in two formats – print and digital. It’s different because fiction is new for me, and I’m combining two genres into a single book – travel and mystery. I love to travel (America’s International Travel Expert® is my US Registered Trademarked Name), and mystery books are as popular as ever. So the combination of the two seemed liked a perfect fit.
Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?
Being published through the traditional publisher took eighteen months once the contract was signed, even though the first manuscript was 95% complete. That was just the process. Working with a small press is much easier – they don’t have all the overhead to deal with, and it’s just a couple of months until the book is printed. You can always get it out faster if you want, but that’s still better than 18 months!
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
Of all the interviews I’ve done over the years, no one has ever asked me that. With my very first book, getting the book published didn’t really seem like much; it was more of getting one thing off my “to do” list. I know that’s not very high praise for your very first book, but that’s how it felt. Of course, I was working full time in high technology, and that took my primary attention.
When I received the five-figure check for the signing advances for the co-authored books, I had the chilled bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne waiting to be opened. Oh, it tasted good – as it always does. I still have that bottle (it’s empty, of course), but I keep it as a reminder.
When Missing in Mexico first came out – in print and in digital formats – my celebrations were a little different. I was happy this time that I was able to write a full-length novel (106,000 words pared down from 118,000) for the first time in my life. I was able to show the world a good side of Mexico even though the title might seem otherwise – hey, it’s fiction, remember? I was able to share my pure joy of travel with others in a fun way (and if people ask, I’ll even give them the book for free – no one has asked so far.)
Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
Come on, that’s asking too much for me to remember that far back. Even though it’s only 6+ years’ ago, a lot has gone on since then. I’ve written more books; I’ve taken early retirement from the corporate world, and I’ve flown 500,000 miles. How about if I tell you what I’m doing right now to promote my debut mystery novel? In a way, it’s a “first timer.”
I’m taking Missing in Mexico “on tour,” but not on tour in the traditional sense. One of the great avenues available to authors today is the virtual book tour, and that is one of the ways I am promoting Missing Mexico. The way the virtual book tour works is that the tour coordinator books various stops throughout the month (I am doing August and September) for reviewers, bloggers, radio hosts, etc., and your book is highlighted for that day. Along with a review or interview or guest posting, there are links to where the reader can purchase the book as well as the book’s website – mine is appropriately named http://www.MissingInMexico.com. This is an awesome promotional method that I heartily recommend for ANY author of any genre.
Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now as a published author?
I’m learning all the time, and I’ve really gained so much insight into what readers want to read, as opposed to what writers want to write, during my current virtual book tour. I truly value the honest opinions that are posted, almost daily, on the blogs and other sites. They point out some shortcomings in the book, things that some people won’t tell me. The main thing I see in Missing in Mexico, if I were to rework it, is character development. The plot is there and it grows all the way to the very last page; the scenery is there and is integral to the whole book, and the use of the Spanish language is there throughout.
One thing I have learned, however, is that you can’t please all the people all the time. If you try to do that, you won’t please anyone. I think the authors who do try to write for the masses are doing so for the dollars, and not for the pleasure that the book can bring to the readers. As an author, I would rather hear from the one reader who says my book resonates with her rather than knowing that fifty anonymous people bought it “just because….” Sure, that other author will make more money than I will, but I’ll be more satisfied; that’s more important to me.
Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?
I’ll have to admit that I was naïve when I entered into that first contract with a traditional publisher in 2007. I’ve learned a lot since then, and the digital age has also enabled significant changes. I don’t think anyone could have imagined that digital books would command the numbers that they have today compared to print books. Also, Print on Demand, small press, and other methods of getting your book to market have given the author more access to the public that weren’t previously available. Authors who are just now coming into the field have so many opportunities in front of them that they don’t know what was NOT available to them before – that’s a blessing to them they don’t even know is there.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?
There isn’t just one single thing, and even if there were, it wouldn’t be the same for everyone. For some it’s knowing that you’ve “accomplished” the goal of a lifetime, the accumulation of all of your research has been brought together in a single cohesive work that “says it all.” For others it is being able to call yourself an “author,” which does get peoples’ attention, is a great line to add to a business card or email signature, and it might get you invited to a party or other social function.
For me, and I think for most serious authors, the satisfaction of being a published author comes from knowing that the time and energy that you have invested into your work have been recognized. This recognition is not always immediate or obvious, but it does come – in one form or another. One example for me is that I was in San José del Cabo, the primary setting for Missing in Mexico, and one of the art gallery owners contacted me and asked me to come to her gallery to do a book signing. She knew I was coming there because of social media contacts, and so she reached out to me, and asked me to come to her gallery while I was in the area. That’s not something you plan for; it just happens – and it is rewarding!
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Yes – keep dreaming and keep writing. You never know who is looking at your work and will say, “This person looks talented; let’s take a chance.” That’s all you’re really looking for – a chance. If you are good, that will be proven out later in more of your works. So just keep writing and don’t be afraid to let people see your work. I’ve known writers who’ve said, “But someone might steal it.” And those are the same people whose works are still hidden away in some deep dark cellar, never to see the light of day. Be cautious, yes. But don’t be so safe that no one ever can possibly see it.
In addition to writing, you have to let the world know that you exist! How do you do that today? You have a great website; created by whom? Not you! You’re an author, not a website creator! No, you find someone who develops websites for a living and have him (or her) put together a rather simple website for you that does 3 main things:
1. Compels viewers to take action – buy your book(s)
2. Gets their name and email through some give away promo
3. Gives away some of your book to get their interest and show you’re real
Your website doesn’t have to be complex – take a look at mine and see how I do it – notice how the website name is the same name as the book, clever isn’t it? http://www.MissingInMexico.com.
Thank you so much for the time for this interview. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, and I’ve also enjoyed sharing some of what I’ve learned about being a published author. I’m always happy to answer questions from new authors as a way of paying forward for the authors who’ve helped me. Feel free to send an email to me at email@example.com.