Friday, September 9, 2011

Giveaway & Interview ~ Missing in Mexico by Stuart Gustafson

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a series of book tours with a new company called Partners in Crime Tours. Being a suspense enthusiast I happily joined up to tour *Missing in Mexico :) You can read my review here.

It's my pleasure to have Stuart Gustafson, author of Missing in Mexico, on my blog today giving us an inside look at his writing process. Let's get right to the interview!

Welcome Stuart! Glad you could be with us today.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I haven’t always been a writer, even though I did some writing in high school. But off to college, getting a math  degree, writing computer programs, getting an MBA, and finishing a career in high-technology. I was able to  take early retirement in 2007, which is when I got back into writing and being able to travel more for my own  pleasure instead of for work. Wow that was fast.

In addition to writing, I love to travel, and I have the US Registered Trademarked name of America’s  International Travel Expert®. I’ve flown over 1,000,000 paid miles on a single airline (that doesn’t count all  the free trips) to thirty different countries, and it’s the combination of writing and traveling that I’ve brought  together in my debut mystery novel Missing in Mexico. It’s a fictional story set in a beautiful place that I love  to visit every year, San José del Cabo, Mexico.

What do you feel is the most challenging aspect in writing?

I’m sure the answer is different for every writer, but for me it is finding the time to devote to actually sitting down and writing. For example, my next book has been sketched out for over a year. Each chapter summary is there; the full book synopsis is solid; I’ve written about one-third of the book itself. Finding the time to have full concentration where 100% of my attention is on that book and on nothing else is a very rare commodity. Developing the story idea is relatively simple; the execution is the hard part.

Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?

For me it’s definitely the idea for the novel that comes first. Actually, the VERY first thing is the location. Given that my mystery novels must be set in exciting locations around the world, I have to come up with that first, then I develop a story idea that’s well suited to that location. After all, not all story ideas fit in all locations. For example, a high-speed chase scene that’s supposed to be set in downtown Los Angeles wouldn’t be quite the same if the story’s set in Waco, Texas, instead.

Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a message, but there is an idea that I’m wanting to get across to them. That idea is that Los Cabos, Mexico, is a great place to visit. Some people have asked me about the title of the book, Missing in Mexico, and they’re concerned because of the recent news about missing people or other crimes in Mexico. Here’s what I tell them: this book is a fictional story; I had the title in mind long before there were as many problems being reported; all public records show that Los Cabos is THE SAFEST PLACE to visit in Mexico, and the book has a happy ending.

What books have influenced your life most?

I’m going to avoid the standard response that I typically hear. I tell people that I’m a writer, not a reader, meaning that I don’t read 30 books a year. I’m more of a music person, being brought up on classical music. I have a rather large CD collection, including a boxed set of 171 CD’s of all of the known music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I have even listed to that complete set in order from CD 1 to CD 171, plus we celebrate his birthday, January 27, in our house by watching the movie Amadeus.

If you could sit down and interview one person, living or dead, who would you choose, and why?

I’d love to interview William F. Buckley, Jr., if no other reason just to hear him speak. His command of the English language was so strong, and yet he did it with such natural ease, that you wonder why everyone can’t speak that way (not “talk” that way; there is a difference).

Which part of researching was the most personally interesting to you? Were there any facts that you would have liked to include, but they just didn't make it into the story?

Given that I really like the Los Cabos area of Mexico (we spend 4 to 6 weeks a year there), I wanted to give as much information about the area as possible. I made two extra 4-week trips to San José del Cabo on my own just to do intense, detailed research for street names, restaurants, shops, etc. There was so much that never even made it into the first draft of the book. I had some experts look at the book and they told me that it was too much like a travelogue (and I’d left a lot out of it). So I cut 12,000 words out of that first draft, and continued to make minor revisions. I had to leave Chapter 16 – The Art District – in the book because it is such a marvelous part of the central part of San José.

Since you travel so much concerning your book(s) is there a favorite place that you would love to go back to but haven’t?

St. Petersburg, Russia. I was there for two days on a cruise seven years ago, and I do want to go back for several reasons. The art and the architecture are marvelous, and my wife wasn’t able to go on that trip, so I know she’d enjoy seeing it. I used to speak Russian, and hearing it again was a delight, and so I’d like to learn enough again to be conversational when I return – that would make it much more enjoyable. I think a river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow would be exciting, and it might provide material for a new book. What do you think?

Who is your favorite author, and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I can think of two in particular: Tom Clancy and John Grisham. My brother was working at the Pentagon and one year for Christmas he sent me a book that was inscribed by the author, “To Stuart Gustafson with Best Wishes, Tom Clancy.” That book is Hunt for Red October. The book was fast-paced, and after reading it, I told my wife, “That would make a good movie.” (You think?) I would then buy his next novels the first day they were available and read them page after page. I liked the character progression and the way several sub-plots were kept moving at the same time. Yes, I still have that autographed copy in my collection.

What I liked about John Grisham’s novels was that he was able to write a story about “the little guy,” set it in a no-name location, and make it the most compelling story you could read. The setting wasn’t critical, although it played into the story, but it could have been set anywhere – small town, large town, any town USA, it didn’t matter. Even though his novels were about the legal system, each one was different, each one was gripping in its own way, and I enjoyed taking each one with me on the plane as I was always traveling from one place to another. But John Grisham was always traveling with me.

Can you give us a sneak peek into what book you are working on right now? When does it release?

My next mystery novel is set in the largest city in Australia – Sydney. I’ve been there numerous times, including five times last year conducting research for the book, so the descriptions will be quite authentic in the book. Plus I’ll be revealing one secret in the book that I’ve never seen disclosed before that the Sydney Harbour Security Force might not be too happy to have revealed. Oh well; then they should tighten up their security.

As far as a release date, I’d tell you the date if I knew it, honestly. The best way to find out is to sign up for my free travel newsletter. I also keep my readers informed on the latest news about my books. You can sign up at www.stuartgustafson.com.

Give us three facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details!

My first real job was selling shoes at JC Penney Company. The backroom wasn’t very organized, so I cleaned it up so everyone knew where everything was, what we had in stock, and I knew in my head every size , color, and style of every shoe that we had in stock.

The inspiration for my writing is the joy that I get when I travel to exciting places, and the hope that others will also enjoy visiting them. Meeting the local people as I conduct research and then talking with them again after the book is written, it’s as if we’ve become family. Knowing that I’m helping some people see parts of the world that they’ll never be able to otherwise visit. These are some of the things that continue to inspire me to write.

I also paint, in a somewhat modern style. One of my more interesting pieces was a 14-pound piece of stone whose texture was perfect for painting the ascent on Mt. Everest for a co-worker who attempted (two years in a row) to reach its peak.

Where can readers find you on the internet?

I have several websites and social media accounts, but the best place to find me is at my main site – www.stuartgustafson.com. This is where you’ll find the primary information about me, my books, travel tips and resources, and where you can sign up for my free travel newsletter!

Thank you so much for being here today Stuart and for giving us a glimpse into your writing process and extensive travel experience.



Stuart has graciously offered a copy of his debut novel Missing in Mexico to a commenter! Please leave a comment to be entered. Feel free to ask Stuart a question or share a comment on his interview.  US Only!!! Drawing will be on Sept. 14th.

* While this book is not labeled Christian Fiction, I didn't find anything objectionable in it :)



13 comments:

  1. This was a wonderful interview. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of your book. It looks amazing. I would love to read this. Thanks again.

    agent_beckster(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  2. Thanks, Rebecca. Just so you can get a jump start, you can read the first 5 chapters for free on my website at www.stuartgustafson.com.

    Thanks, and have an amazing weekend!

    Stuart Gustafson

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  3. thanks for the opportunity to read this novel....sounds great :)

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  4. Hey Rebecca! I'm glad you came to enter the giveaway and learn a little about Stuart.

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  5. Hey Karen, It's one of the most detailed novels I have ever read and it really did make me Google the area! It's beautiful and I want to go there :)

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  6. Not only will we get a good read, but get to learn some history. It'll also be my way to travel. Please enter me. Thank you.

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

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  7. Thanks for stopping by Linda! I signed up to follow your blog :)

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  8. This book sounds like a book I would really like. I'd love to read it and WIN it!

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  9. Hey Sarah! Thanks for coming by and entering :)

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  10. This was a very interesting interview with Stuart. His life has been interesting to say the least. He is so well traveled. Not only that, he has had such a full life that our good Lord has given him. And..the CD collection! Wow! I was amused at how he cleaned up the back room of the shoe department while working for JC Penney Company. I would probably have done the same thing! I like organization. My husband and I are totally opposite in this. Guess who drives the other one crazy??

    I would love to win a copy of, Missing In Mexico. Thanks for the giveaway and very interesting interview.

    Blessings!

    judyjohn2004[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  11. Thank you for a chance to win "Missing In Mexico" and learn about the author, Anne. I'm intrigued by Stuart the world traveler, writer and his ability to combine both passions into mystery themed books. I too am interested in travel, writing, mystery and I am a big fan of John Grisham! Can't wait to read "MIM"! Thanks for the great interview and introducing Stuart Gustafson.

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  12. Hi SuzyQ! You have much in common with Stuart :) Glad you came by and entered.

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  13. Hey Judy!! I was fascinated by his cd collection, too! *drool*

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I am so delighted that you've taken time to come by and comment. Blessings for a joy-filled day!

1 Corinthians 1:3 ~ Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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