Interview – Stuart Gustafson – Missing in Mexico

Today we are pleased to post an Interview with Stuart Gustafson.

About the Author

Author and million-mile flier Stuart Gustafson is really enjoying life now that he’s retired from the corporate world. As America’s International Travel Expert®, he travels to exciting places around the world, and he’s begun writing fictional mystery novels set in some of those places. The crashing waves in the photo above are from one of his favorite spots — Los Cabos, Mexico — the primary setting for his debut mystery novel Missing in Mexico. His second novel is set completely in Sydney, Australia, and the book introduces a new character who becomes a fixture in future books.

Stuart and his wife Darlene have been married for thirty-seven years, they have one daughter and one son, and  they live in Boise, Idaho. Stuart’s 94-year-old mother lives close by. Darlene likes to garden and grow vegetables, so they prefer to do most of their traveling in the winter months when the sprinklers are turned off, the lawn mower is covered, and all the garden implements are put away for the season.

1.       Which mystery writers do you feel have inspired your work?

I had never really thought about that before, but now that you ask, 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.

2.       What part of the writing process do you struggle the most with?

Time – don’t we all wish we had more of it? I’m constantly working on multiple projects at any given time, and so the actual amount that I’m able to focus on mystery writing always seems to get diluted. Plus, mystery writing is not the same as other forms of literary and other activities where you can just pick up where you last left them. You just can’t say, “Oh, I have forty-five minutes that I can sit down at the computer and write.” No, or at least it doesn’t work that way for me. I need the time to read the synopses of all the chapters, then read everything I’ve written so far for the book, then read the synopsis of the next chapter, and finally I’m ready to start writing. So depending on where I am in the novel, that could take up to an hour just to get ready to start writing.

3.       What is the highest honor you could receive for one of your books?

Wow, that’s something I don’t typically think about, getting an honor for my books. I write my books for the readers and for their enjoyment. But as I think about an “honor,” I do recall a non-fiction book I wrote that did strike a particular cord with one reader; he contacted me and asked me to personalize a full case of books for his family and friends and send that case to him so he could hand them out at a reunion. Now that’s an honor when someone finds a message in your book and wants to buy that book for dozens of his friends and family. That definitely touched me; that’s an honor.

4.       If you could collaborate on a book with anyone, who would it be?

That silver quill of a question certainly has plenty of barbs that can please or sting, depending on which way they’re rubbed. If you asked my accountant, the answer might include someone who’s typically on the Top Ten Lists, someone who sells lots of books, makes money from video rights, someone who knows how to completely market whatever product or service he or she is currently promoting. I’m sure that my banker would also like that choice.

I mean no disrespect to that person, but I think the most fun collaboration would be with someone who would challenge me intellectually. William F. Buckley, Jr., comes to mind; of course, he’s no longer alive. Can you imagine what it would be like working on a manuscript with someone possessing a vocabulary like that? What a challenge that would be. Yes, but what fun it would also be.

Alas, and although Mr. Buckley’s not around, I’d still love to work with someone who’s willing to challenge me and take me to some new places in the literary world. I know that author is out there (or maybe it’s a group of authors who are out there). Go ahead, you’re out there – contact me at

5.       What is the one thing you hope your readers take away from Missing in Mexico?

I’m going to beg for indulgence and sneak two in. The first is what every writer wants – that the readers truly think the story is an entertaining story. The second one is that the readers feel that San José del Cabo, Mexico, is a warm and enchanting place where they would feel welcome, and a place to put on their “Let’s go visit there in the next couple of years” list. We go there every year for several reasons: it’s convenient to get to from Boise, Idaho; the beaches are nice; the people are very nice; the food is great; the culture is charming; it is THE SAFEST PLACE to visit in Mexico. That’s not a plug from the Tourism Bureau – it is a fact that I can easily explain if people want to contact me privately. We love it there, which is one of the reasons I chose it as the primary setting for my debut mystery novel.

6.       Do you believe that other genres come into play in your writing?

Of course. One of the complexities in Missing in Mexico that has come out in some of the reviews is the relationships that occur. I’m guessing that some people could probably come up with a half dozen different genres for the book, all perfectly justified in one place or another in the book. What is it? Is it Travel, Mystery, Intrigue, Foreign, Romance, Suspense, Fiction/Non-Fiction. See what I mean? Actually, all of these genres come into play into the book, which makes it really hard to classify it into one particular heading. Which one would you choose?

7.       Have you ever second guessed yourself in the writing process?
Please introduce me to the writer who’s never second guessed himself, and I’ll show you a writer who’s not been willing to show his work to others. Writing is all about taking chances, and if you’re always second guessing what you’re doing – nothing will ever make it from the keyboard to the page to the reader. Maybe it’s because I’m not taking on risky subjects that I don’t worry about second guessing myself, but I think most authors also realize the requirement to put yourself “out there” unless you want to be just like others who sit inside a lonely cocoon.  

8. Imagine you are writing your obituary in the future. What would you hope it would contain?

Forget the long life stuff; everyone wants that. What’s the point of a long life if it’s not filled with meaning for others? I would want my obit to contain messages from friends who’ve said that my life has been meaningful to theirs. That’s all that matters to me.

9. Are you already at work on your next book?

Thank you for asking. The next mystery novel is underway, if you’ll pardon the pun. It’s set in Sydney, Australia, and I visited there 5 times last year conducting research on the general area as well as certain locations to ensure their descriptions are “spot on” as they say down there. The book introduces a new character that will be a featured character in future books as well, so it’s fun to bring him into the mix. I haven’t asked him where he wants to go next, but I think I know where it is, and it’s someplace that artists love. Hmmm, where could that be?

10. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Yes, my love of travel. I do love to travel, and I have the US Registered Trademarked of America’s International Travel Expert®. Give me a reason to jump on an airplane, and I’m on it. I love to fly, and I’ve flown over one million miles on a single airline. I believe in sharing information, and I send out a free e-newsletter about travel; signing up is quite easy on my website, and you even get a great travel bonus just for enrolling –

We’d like to thank Mr. Gustafson for his time, and you can read a review of his book Missing In Mexico by clicking here