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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Author interview with Stuart Gustafson, author of Missing in Mexico

Hi, everyone!

I am pleased to participate in Stuart Gustafson's Missing In Mexico Virtual Book Tour sponsored by Partners in Crime Tours.

About Stuart:

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:

Author Interview:

Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Stuart!

How did you pick the genre you write in?

I’ve always loved to travel; we traveled as a family, 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.  Once I knew I was going to write a mystery novel, I knew it had to incorporate the charm, 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 30 different countries, and I do have the US Registered Trademark 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 I 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 be – 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, if so, 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

Stuart, if you ever need someone to help you do "research", you know where to reach me! I will clear my calendar to help you do research in Sydney and Florence, anytime! :)

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? 

Interesting question, Stuart! For me, I need to be able to connect with the characters. They do not have to be infallible - actually, the characters are more believable if we do see their flaws. I like to see layers in their personality, the more complex the better - what makes them tick, their Achilles' heel, that sort of thing. Even if the storyline is lacking, I will keep reading the book if I find the character interesting. 

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 Stephen 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, 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.

Fun Facts: 

Favorite Color? Blue, especially the color of the sky as the day fades to evening.

Dogs or Cats? My wife is allergic to cats, so they’re out. We recently adopted a rescue dog from the humane society, and she’s fitting in quite well into our busy lifestyle.

Vanilla or chocolate ice cream? Vanilla, of course! I used to own a Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlour, and I made the ice cream five days a week. A good vanilla is the true test of good ice cream; anything else can just mask the real flavor.

Beer or wine? Wine, or a nice single-malt Scotch.

City or Country? I’m more of a city person; I like access to a variety of ethnic restaurants, art, music, and, of course, airports.

An ideal all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world would be to… board the ms Amsterdam on January 5, 2013, in Fort Lauderdale for its 115-day Grand World Voyage as we settle into our Deluxe Verandah Suite.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your tour, Stuart! It was a lot of fun getting to know you better!

To read my review of Missing in Mexico, click HERE.

About Missing in Mexico:
Title: Missing in Mexico
Author: Stuart Gustafson
Publisher: AITE Publishing
Published: May 2011
Genre: Mystery Tourism 


Sarah Johnson is a 19-year college freshman who, along with her roommate Mary, spent an extra week in Los Cabos, Mexico after a family vacation over the Christmas break. Unexpectedly, Sarah's not on the plane back to Seattle, and her parents hire Stan, a seasoned Private Investigator, to locate her. Even with local help and some promising leads in the town of San Jose del Cabo, he's unable to find her, and he returns to Seattle to inform 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? 


Chapter One/Uno

Flight # 1476 from Los Cabos to Seattle

Saturday, January 5th

     The voice over the intercom system announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we trust you had a good time in Los Cabos, but it’s now time for us to take you back to the States. The cabin doors have been closed, and Alaska Airlines flight 1476 with nonstop service to Seattle-Tacoma is ready for departure.”
     “Hey, wait. Sarah’s not here; we can’t leave without her,” the girl in seat 14A yelled in a frightened voice. Mary reached up and pushed the flight attendant call button even as the flight attendant was already headed toward her seat. “We can’t leave yet; Sarah’s still down there,” Mary continued, now reaching the point of hysteria.
     “Please calm down, miss. Everyone’s already onboard. You can look for yourself,” the flight attendant said in a calm voice as she pointed to the window.
     “What do you mean everyone’s onboard? Sarah’s not here; she should be sitting right here!” Mary pulled her tearing eyes away from the empty seat and looked out and saw that the boarding ramps had been pulled away from the airplane, but what she didn’t see scared her. How come Sarah’s not out there, running in a panic toward the plane? “Where’s Sarah? She was just there with me. Where is she? Don’t leave; Sarah’s missing!” Mary cried out as tears began flowing down her cheeks.
     The annoyed passengers felt a jolt as the plane was being pushed back. They were ready for their flight home from Los Cabos. But Sarah wasn’t on board; she’s missing – Missing in Mexico.

familia (fă·mĭl’·ē·ă) – family. Hay cuatro personas en mi familia. There are four persons in my family.

Tour Participants:

August 1-Review@Tammy's Book Parlor
August 4-Review@A Good Day To Read
August 5-Spotlight@Suspense By Anne
August 8-Guest Post@Tribute Books Reviews
August 11-Interview@Chris Redding, Author
August 15-Interview@Blog Talk Radio's G-Zone (11am)
August 16-Guest Post@Words By Webb
August 17-Review@Oodles of Books
August 18-Review@Words by Webb
August 19-Guest Post&Review@The Book Shelf
August 22-Interview, Guest Post&Review@Joel M. Andre, Author
August 23-Review@Coffee and a Keyboard
August 24-Review@Let's Book It
August 25-Review@Reviews By Molly
August 26-Review@From The TBR Pile
August 29-Review@Stuff&Nonsense
August 30-Interview@Beyond The Books
August 31-Review@Cami Checketts
September 1-Review@The Musings Of A Book Addict
September 2-Review@Gelati's Scoop 
September 5-Review@Kritters Ramblings 
September 6-Review@Romancing The Book (Valerie)
September 7-Guest Post@The Top Shelf
September 8-Review@Rhode's Review
September 9-Interview@Stuff@Nonsense
September 12-Review@Lady Lit Reviews
September 13-Review@The Top Shelf
September 14-Review@The World According to Dave
September 15-Review&Guest Post@ Legacy of a Writer
 September 16-Interview@Coffee and a Keyboard
September 19-Review@Reading, Reading, & Life
September 20-Review@Sweeping Me
September 21-Interview@Book Marketing Buzz
September 21-Review@GenreWench
September 22-Review@Terri Forehand
September 23-Guest Post@The Book Faery Reviews
September 26-Interview@Rhodes Review
September 27-Interview@CelticLady's Reviews
September 28-Review@CelticLady's Reviews
September 29-Review&Interview@Darlene's Book Nook
September 30-Review@Books, Products & More


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