Author Interview: Gary Stelzer

I'm really excited to welcome author Gary Stelzer, who has just penned his first novel, The Cost of Dreams. It is a powerful story of a young Mayan woman's extraordinary journey of survival, and is sure to touch a chord in every reader's heart. Thanks a lot to Gary for taking the time to answer my questions!

Hazra: Can you tell us something about your debut novel?

Gary: This a tale about a young woman from Central America whose parents were murdered in a civil war, and who, with her siblings, walked and begged rides to California. She trusted that she’d found safe haven for her young family in the remote US southwest, only to discover that all of her life’s greatest challenges, by far, still lie before her.

Hazra: You are a doctor by profession. Why did you decide to switch to writing a novel?

Gary:The physician work was very intense and interesting, for the almost three decades that I practiced medicine. But as the health industry threw up such enormous cost & bureaucratic barriers, denying more and more people care essential to life and health, I felt I must leave. At the same time, a remarkable number of astonishing tales presented themselves in my work that I decided I wanted (and needed) to write about, rather than simply allowing them to accumulate in my brain with no reasonable outlet!!

Hazra: How have your experiences as a doctor shaped you as a writer?

Gary: The work of a health professional, be it nurse, paramedic, or physician, requires one to really, really reach deeply into ones mental and emotional reserves to answer the circumstances of health crises, day after day, for a number of years. Especially in so-called primary “frontline” care, one has to be on ones toes, paying alert attention all the time, and coming to work with the A game everyday.
Which I would say is decent preparation for the serious writer, enabling him to plumb the depths of his brain to flesh out, with real feeling and astuteness, a fine story.

Hazra: That is such a wonderful thought! Well, who is your favorite character from the book?

Gary: By far, Flora. She just will not quit until she obtains what she must have to survive and position herself for the care and mothering of her children (by her own very strange standards!). And she is just absolutely unafraid, of anything!! Very admirable attributes indeed! And though Marguerite was utterly lost and insane in the US, I cared (care) for her greatly.
And poor flawed and intoxicated and cowardly Monte is not all that unlikable either.

Hazra: Your book deals with a young American Indian, and also explores American Indian culture. How did you undertake your research to give the authentic Indian feel to your book?

Gary: Actually, there are two “sets” of indigenous persons in the book:
The first is the Mayan highlanders of Central America, which is where Flora Enriquez was born, and from where she flees with her siblings for her life.
And the second is the “natives” that are the very ancient inhabitants of the Barrancas del Cobre in Chihuahua, Mexico, called the Raramuri, also called the Tarahumara Peoples.
For both peoples, I bought a pile of research books and drew upon the best information I could find. The “Acknowledgements” page at the end of my book explains further.

Hazra: Which authors have you been inspired by?

Gary: Dickens, Faulkner, Dreiser, Steinbeck, Traven, Smiley, McMurtry - to name a few.

Hazra: Stalwarts indeed! Can you share how it feels to be a debut writer?

Gary: Insecure and uncertain, especially starting this late in life. But, for me at least, it is work that feels really important to be doing.

Hazra: Tell us something about the projects you are currently working on.

Gary: I’ve begun reading for the next book which is to be set in New Orleans during the time of Katrina. I have spent some time there already, and I’ll be returning soon to look for the thread of a story.
And, I’m trying to collect some deeper background (than I possess in my brain at the moment) on Detroit, site of the third planned book and home to the epicenter of America’s industrial collapse. There are thousands of tales wanting and waiting to be told there. Writers, heads up!!

Hazra: Finally, if you could organize a dinner with five of your favorite fictional characters, who would they be?

Gary: Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae from LONESOME DOVE, by Larry McMurtry,Ginny Cook Smith and Rose Cook Smith from A THOUSAND ACRES by Jane Smiley, and…Atticus Finch from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee.
THAT would be an interesting evening, would it not!!!

In The Cost of Dreams , Flora, a Mayan teenager, has escaped Talapa, her civil war-torn Central American village where herparents have been slain-and where even being seen in native wear could result in summary execution. Following her dream with nearly superhuman determination, she makes her way to San Diego, and against all odds, becomes a wife, mother and teacher. By hard work and shrewdness, she even obtains legal U.S. status. But her life takes a horrific turn when she's shot by her drug-dealing brother in-law.

Nearly a year later, still gravely wounded and disfigured, a freed Flora arrives at the Lake Michigan home of Kate Bowman, an American aide worker who had previously befriended Flora in Talapa. Kate's nephew had vanished on that mission, leaving Kate devastated and overwhelmed with guilt for permitting him to remain in a civil war ravaged Central America while she returned home.

Now Flora, eager to heal her injuries and desperate to restore what remains of her family, reignites in Kate a fire to learn the fate of her long lost nephew. The two women embark on a harrowing journey that takes them to the ancient caves of northwestern Mexico in the Barrancas del Cobre, an exceedingly vast abyss of canyons, in search of a storied Indian healer. The cost of healing borders on the unendurable.

You can read reviews of this book at
Cheryl's Book Nook
Raging Bibliomania

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1 Response
  1. Teddyree Says:

    Really enjoyed your interview, and thanks for bringing Gary Stelzer to my attention.

    There are a couple of authors work that I love, one a former paramedic and one a Doctor so The Cost of Dreams sounds like one for me!

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