Hi, and this week I’d like to introduce Stacey Gustafson. She is the bestselling author of Are You Kidding Me? My Life With an Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives. She’s also an inspirational speaker, blogger and comedian. Her short stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, seven books in the Not Your Mother’s Book series, as well as Midlife Boulevard, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Pleasanton Patch, Bay Woof, and Better After 50. She writes the blog, Are You Kidding Me?, where she dispenses her humorous take on kids, husbands, parents and everything in between.
What is one thing people wouldn’t usually know about you?
After writing humor for 10 years I was ready to try something new. I saw Tim Allen do stand-up way before his TV show, Home Improvement and wondered, “I can do that. What did I have to lose?” So at age 50, I went to the local comedy club open mic night and won Best Comic of the Month, $25.
I know a lot of people thought, “She can’t do stand-up, she’s too old, she’s a woman.” Now I travel around the East Bay making people laugh and raised over $20,000 last year for charity.
What did the best review you ever had say about your work?
“Gustafson covers much the same ground as Erma Bombeck, but updated for the 21st century, with a splash of Seinfeld-esque observational humor mixed in. (Why do take out restaurants that serve heaping portions of greasy, sloppy food invariably give you just one dinky napkin with your order? And, more important, what can you do about it?) Gustafson can be grouchy, but she’s never mean-spirited, and while she complains freely about her hubby and kids, she’s clearly, at heart, a loving wife and mom.” – Roz Warren, Huffington Post Reviewer
What did the worst review you ever had say about your work?
Worst Amazon Review (Confused why this single surfer dude even bought my book in the first place? But great stand-up material for sure!). “If you buy Starbucks 3 times a day, drive a minivan and think jokes about your husband not taking out the trash is comedic gold then by all means, read this book. Laugh your little forehead off you suburban buffoon. This book is terrible. Short little unfunny blurbs about that family at school you most likely hate. Is this book for you? My advice is read a sample first. Stacey’s comedic “stylings” might be your cup of chai latte soy vente tea. If so, please don’t talk to me at school functions. We are not compatible and I might slash your tires while you are busy taking vertical video footage of your drooling kid in the school play. If you hated this book as much as I did, let’s go around the corner and get a few shots of well whiskey and be judgmental about others. It’s fun!”
How important are the names of your characters?
Like I said in the front matter of Are You Still Kidding Me?, “Although a few names have been changed, this is a work of nonfiction and any resemblance to real people and events is probably true.” Of course, I used my family member’s real names. I want to be perfectly clear about who said what.
How did you choose a title for your book?
My first book, Are You Kidding Me? My Life With An Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives, covered all the relatable topics we face each day. As a mom, I found myself yelling, “Are You Kidding Me?” a million times a day. It’s catchy and everyone knows what that means.
The second book became part of a series, Are You Still Kidding Me? Even thought the kids are out of the nest, I’m still saying this regularly to my husband.
Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?
Your butt goes numb with all the sitting. A writer’s job is very solitary. We tend to isolate ourselves from friends in order to get the job done. I force myself to get out there each day. After all, I am constantly on the lookout for new material which you rarely get from looking out a window.
Have you ever wished you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so, what?
If I could’t be a writer, I’d be a full-time stand-up comic. Don’t know if I could hack the travel for more than a year, but that would be the best year of my life.
Do you think there is any elitism attached to the different book genres?
Like the Oscars, you’re never going to win an award for best comedy. Literary types look down on the humor genre. However, if you ask most authors, humor is one of the hardest forms of the craft. You have to be witty, relatable, trendy, universal, honest, subtle, uninhibited, creative, crafty, insightful, aware, and naughty.
Have you ever written naked?
I’ve written in various stages of undress. Sometime in a robe when I’m trying to finish something up after a shower. OR just panties and a bra in the summer when the air conditioner is off. My husband says I need to keep the A/C lower.
Who would play you in a film of your life, and why?
Patricia Heaton would be a perfect fit. In real life and onscreen, she exemplifies the way I feel, a regular mom who gets frazzled often, speaks her mind, blows up but in the end, loves her family.
What is the biggest challenge you faced when writing your book?
The writing part is only 50% of the equation. The promotion part is the hardest. You have to step outside your comfort zone and beg your friends for help, brag about yourself on social media, sell at bookstores, set up interviews…self-promote without sounding like a jerk.
Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
Constantly develop an inner circle of like-minded friends through social media, clubs, and writers’ workshops. You will gain knowledge regarding your craft as well as promotional techniques. Writers are a generous bunch. We like supporting other writers.
How do you remain sane while writing?
Not to be overly dramatic, but writing keeps me sane. I bundle up all my frustrations and ooze them out onto paper, one pain-in-the-ass problem at a time and it feel good.
What is the best excuse you have had for missing a deadline?
I tell the truth. “I just flaked out.”
What has been the best experience of your life?
I won Best Comic at Open Mic Night with the help of over 70 friends and family in the audience. Since Tommy T’s Comedy Club was unprepared for the large crowd, they ran out of food but made it up with free margaritas. My biggest compliment of the night? My daughter said, “Congratulations, you broke Tommy T’s.”
Are you jealous of other writers?
I get envious of famous authors but remind myself that I have to work harder and longer.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My husband and two kids provide me with an endless supply of inspiration. I write about parenting and daily frustrations like my dislike of laundry, the DMV, and being middle-aged.
What was the most important thing you learned at school?
My English teacher, Mrs. Hill, inspired me to take a risk and try new things. And when someone tells me no it only makes me try harder.
Have you had to learn new skills and tricks, or attempted impossible feats in order to get a book finished?
In order to promote my first book, I started a blog. I was overwhelmed by all I needed to learn and nearly gave up.
What is the strangest thing you have ever had to do to promote a book?
I was hired to speak at a local high school about writing. The organizer forgot to make an announcement beforehand at the school, plus they had a fire drill and I ended up speaking to only one person. Felt so awkward. Do you sit or stand? Ask questions?
Which book would you like to have written?
I had a dream I would write the Great American novel then downgraded it to a pretty good book. That’s the one I imagined writing.
What is your favourite film or TV moment of all time?
Hands down, it’s got to be School of Rock. I’ve watched it 30 times at least. It’s a comedic treasure, full of great lines. When Jack Black says, “Okay, who’s got food in here? You’re not gonna get in trouble, I’m hungry,” I’ve spit milk right out of my nose.
Do you have a favourite writing resource you would like to share with other writers?
- Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker by David Nihill
- The Comedy Bible: From Stand-Up to Sitcom-The Comedy Writer’s Ultimate How-To-Guide by Judy Carter
- Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Book on How to Think Funny, Write Funny, Act Funny, and Get Paid For It by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz
Tea, coffee, water, juice, beer, or wine … what do you prefer when writing?
Gallons of unsweetened iced tea is my drink of choice.
Are there any habits you wish you didn’t have, and if so what are they?
I work until the wee hours of the night. Writing until 2AM is not usual. That practice messes up the next day and spending time with my husband since he’s an early bird. I love the nighttime when it’s quiet and serene. I think better.
If you could commit the perfect murder, what would you do with the body?
I’d hide it in plain sight. Then turn myself in.
You can find Are you still kidding me? in paperback and Kindle format here:
You can meet Stacy on her website here: http://staceygustafson.com/
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