Indie Author Sunday: Gerald Stoppel

Updated: Mar 3


It's Indie Author Sunday! Every other Sunday, we're posting an interview with a different indie author along with posts about them on all our social media accounts. This week it's Gerald Stoppel, the author of The Saugatuck Murder Mystery Series.

WW: Tell us about your experience with Indie publishing?

GS: Experiences with independent publishing: On the whole, it was far easier than working with a traditional publisher. I did that in the past with a book on the Stations of the Cross. It was time-consuming and took the better part of a year from submission to publication. Working with CreateSpace, and especially with a woman who was highly experienced in, was a proverbial cake-walk.

WW: Tell us about your book.

GS: The first in the Saugatuck Murder Mystery Series came to mind while I was at Ox--Bow Summer School of the Arts one evening. The main building - The Old Inn - is well over a century old and overlooks a meadow and lagoon in the Kalamazoo River. My mind began wandering and within a few minutes had the entire story mentally blocked out: Saugatuck in the 1920s, Ox-Bow, and a murder. For the most part that has happened with the sequels. I let my mind wander, I listen to an idea from someone, and suddenly the basic plot is in front of me.

WW: What made you want to write in the genre of your book?

GS: Several things were very important to me. I wanted it to be as non-violent as possible for a murder mystery, and I wanted it sufficiently 'clean' that a reader could let a grandparent enjoy it without blushing, or a youngster read it without having to explain biology. I also chose my main characters with care. I wanted an old amateur detective, a retired surgeon, widowed, a veteran from World War One, who was lonely and bitter. As a counter-balance, a younger girl who befriends him. I'll leave it at that and not give the plot away. In the second book, Death by Palette Knife, I added a retired forensic pathologist, a woman from Dr Horace's past, and began to reveal that both of them were on the high end of the autism spectrum. That was a bit tricky because there was not a diagnosis for autism at the time! I chose the time - the 1920s - because it was the era of Prohibition and the Big Pavilion here in Saugatuck.

WW: What has been your favorite part of being an Indie Author?

GS: That's simple - being able to work on my own schedule. I am a full time Episcopal priest, and committed myself to writing one hour a day. It's also a delight getting to know the major characters as they interplay with each other. Frankly, once the plot is done, I just let them have their fun.

WW: What do you wish you knew before going the indie-publish route?

GS: Churchill was right: Everyone wants to write, everyone wants to have written and been published; writing is the hard part. And that is especially true of editing and re-writing.

WW: What books or authors have inspired you?

GS: Nearly all of the classical English murder mystery writers - Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, among them. I also admire many of the televised English mysteries, especially Midsommer Mysteries.

WW: Are you working on anything now?

GS: I just finished the third mystery a few months ago - A Murder of Crows, which included lots of wonderful garden poisons, van Gogh, and esoteric Parisian cults, all of which unfold in Saugatuck. This autumn, I published The Murder of the Saugatuck Yarn Hoarder which was inspired by a friend talking about her 'stash' of yarn. And most recently, when I delivered the Yarn Hoarder to a vendor, the woman asked, "How would you murder someone on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry in the middle of the river and get away with it?" I went for a walk, and the story appeared - and am currently working on it.

WW: What does your writing space look like?

GS: Cluttered! I have a candlestick phone on the desk, an antique radio and an old Victrola, and there is a typewriter sound app on the computer. I step into the 1920s. Oh, and an assortment of pipes and a rarely empty coffee cup.

WW: What is your writing process like?

GS: Lots of walks around the block to think, and nothing happens without a steady infusion of caffeine and my pipes. And, I keep to the commitment of writing for an hour every afternoon.

WW: What advice would you give writers looking at indie publishing?

GS: Just do it! Write, re write, get a good editor or two, and create something. And then go straight to CreateSpace and Kindle. If you aren't computer savvy, then search around for another indie-writer and get some help.

WW: How connected are you to the indie publishing community? What is that experience like?

GS: Connection to indie-publishing community. Until I happened to meet EJ one morning here in Saugatuck, I was very limited in a sense of community. I want that to change.

WW: What platforms do you use to promote your work?

GS: Some social media, the local newspaper, word of mouth, signings, and very little beyond that. I originally thought that the setting was so local that there would be less interest more than a few miles from Saugatuck-Douglas. I'm changing my mind. I'm searching for community and/or a good agent. And, because the two main characters, Horace and Beatrix, are both part of the autism spectrum community, I would like to work closer with that area. I think there might be some appeal - but far more importantly, that sense that 60+ year olds on the spectrum are vital to our culture,

WW: Tell us about yourself

GS: I am 66 years old, an Episcopal priest here in Saugatuck for the past 28 years, and retiring soon. I grew up in an era before autism was diagnosed, and certainly before the high end of the spectrum - Asperger's as it was formerly called, was really known. In short, I was always an outsider. And so was a very good friend who is the muse for Beatrix. I'm fixated on history, the 1920s, and still face the challenges of coping with all of those neuro-typicals in my world. Just as we did 60 years ago, the real Beatrix and I 'have each other's back'. One thing I remember very clearly that still has a tremendous influence on me was the final scene in "St Elsewhere" where a young boy is holding a snow-globe of the hospital. I realized then that I was not 'weird' in creating my own worlds and stories, quit obsessing about it, and began enjoying life much more.

You can find the Gerald Stoppel on Goodreads and his books on Amazon.

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