Updated: Mar 3, 2020
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.