Author Interview — Wayne Stinnett
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
It's time for the third installment in my author interview series, where I ask authors the tough (and fun) questions and dive into their writing processes and motivations, while gaining bits of wisdom they have for aspiring writers.
Today I'm happily including best-selling sea adventures writer, Wayne Stinnett. He has been a true author success story, while readily supporting other authors and helping them discover their potential in the publishing industry.
A prolific writer who takes his readers on great adventures, Wayne is about as interesting as they come.
Read on . . .
You'll see what I mean.
— Sarah Flores
Wayne Stinnett, author of the best-selling Jesse McDermitt adventure series, the Charity Styles thriller series, and the self-publishing business book, Blue Collar to No Collar.
SF: Your bio says you’ve worked as a “deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and a truck driver.” At what point did you pick up a pen (or a laptop) and say, “Hey, I’d like to add “novelist” to that list”?
WS: Haha. Actually, there are a few others left off that list. As an adult, I’d never quite found my true calling. All the time I’d looked, it had been there staring me in the face since I was a kid. I was the nerdy kid who carried a pencil and notepad in his pocket, taking notes of things I see and anything that happens. I was the one who told stories in the fort in the backyard, and later at a campfire on a spoil island in the middle of the ICW. Spoil islands are where the dredges dig up the bottom of the Intracoastal Waterway and pile it up outside the channel. Over time, trees and plants grow, and teenage kids start coming to hang out and drink beer. My passion for storytelling evolved into writing when I was a young teen. I didn’t do well in school and barely finished high school. Story essays were the only thing that got me through English with a low D. After the Marine Corps, I wrote a bunch of short stories about a guy who just got out of the Marine Corps and lived on a boat. His name was Jesse McDermitt. This was in the 80s, when query letters were the only way to get published. Out of several dozen, maybe a hundred queries I sent, with the two best shorts printed out and sent with it, I got about eight or nine replies, telling me basically to not quit my day job. Eventually, a wife and kids came along, and I shelved the dream of being a published author, along with the floppy discs the short stories were on. Then in 2012, I received a Kindle for Christmas. Reading’s always been a passion, and at the time, I was an over-the-road trucker. I opened an Amazon account and started reading my way all across the country. Our son-in-law worked for Amazon at the time, so I asked him why the eBooks by my favorite authors cost more than the paperbacks. That was when I learned about indie publishing. I read a lot of indies’ works, but kept coming back to my favorite traditionally published authors. Nine months after receiving that Kindle, which I still use, I published my first novel on October 8, 2013. While trying to figure out just what genre category it fit in, I found Sea Stories. Now, if you’re reading this and you’re a Marine, you’re laughing. In the Corps, a sea story is a tall tale that gets taller with every telling. The perfect place for my books.
SF: Do you feel that you’ve become a better writer over the years? If so, how do you believe you’ve accomplished that?
WS: Oh, definitely. I have no formal writing education, and as I said, barely passed high school English. To this day, I don’t know what the different parts of a sentence are, much beyond nouns and verbs. But I paid attention to what my editors and proofreaders did, wrote, and said. You don’t have to have a PhD in English Lit to tell stories or to write properly, and you don’t have to know what a dangling participle is. Just make your prose look like your editor’s. If you’re a storyteller, the rest can be learned. I’m learning guitar right now, and though I’m not certain what chords I’m playing, I know where to put my fingers on the fret board. I think the one thing that has done more to make me a better writer was having my books recorded as audiobooks. My narrator brings out the characters’ personality in his voicing of their dialogue. Before, I’d heard Jesse’s words, his story, in my head. Now I hear his voice.
SF: What does writing feel like to you? Does it feel like a job or a hobby that you get excited about?
WS: Though I treat it very much like a job, it’s not really. Both my wife and I are “unemployed” since we’re not old enough to retire yet. My books are our only income. I have an office outside the home with a nice view of the marina where I keep my boat, Write of Passage. I go to the office early every morning and don’t go home until sunset. A bit earlier on weekends, because I only write Monday through Friday. Before the sun comes up, I’ve usually finished my writing for the day and spend the rest of my day doing the business side of indie publishing. But when others are lugging themselves out of bed on Monday morning, dejected at the thought of having to go back to the drudgery of their nine-to-five, I’m jumping out of bed, yelling, “Hell yeah! It’s Monday! I get to go to the office and write!” So, yeah, it’s both a job and a hobby I get excited about.
SF: In Fallen Out, book one of your Caribbean Adventure Series, Rusty teaches Jesse about navigation by constellations. Was that research on your part, or do you have an interest in and knowledge of traveling by the stars?
WS: I wouldn’t trust my celestial navigational ability too far. Given time, I can use a sextant and get a decent read on latitude. But that’s only half the equation. Rusty has grown up right there on Vaca Key and is very in tune with the heavens. He knows where the prominent stars are supposed to be at what time and on what day. Fortunately, Write of Passage is equipped with the latest in high-tech Navionics. But I do have a sextant, a gift from my friend, Dan Mason, who writes as Cap Daniels. And the boat’s equipped with a regular compass. If all else fails, I could get by. I once sailed across the Gulf of Mexico with nothing but a compass. Of course, when your target is the size of Texas and Mexico, even that wasn’t needed.
SF: How much of your own experiences do you draw on for your story lines?
WS: A lot. Not so much for the plots, but more for character development. Jesse and I are both Marines, but where I left the Corps after six years, he stayed for twenty and retired. He started his own dive and fishing charter business, and I’ve worked as divemaster and deckhand. The island he lives on is real, and the fire ring he finds on that island is the one I left behind. Having traveled a bit, I’ve met a lot of interesting people. And like I said, I was a kid who took notes. These days my pencil and notepad have been replaced with a digital voice recorder, but when I meet someone interesting, I’ll make a few notes about them. Not right in front of them, that would be rude. But later, behind their backs. My office is above a marina, and there are always new people coming and going. I get a lot of fodder from conversations around boats, and a lot of people I meet make it into my books, with their permission. Or I might use one attribute from this person and another from someone else and create a Frankenstein character, made of parts of many people.
SF: Through your stories, what do you hope to leave your readers with?
WS: I try to educate a little. I don’t put parenthesis after the word starboard and tell the reader that’s the right side of the boat. I use nautical terms as if I were a sailor talking to another sailor. If they’re really interested, they can look it up. If they’re reading on a Kindle, they can just tap a word and get the definition. I get a lot of emails telling me I misspelled anchor rope as anchor rode. It’s not a typo; whatever connects the anchor to the boat, be it nylon line, chain, cable, or silly string, it’s called the rode. One tap on that word, and the nautical definition appears after “past tense of ride.” I want my readers to sense what I’m writing. Not just see the colors but hear the lap of the ocean against the hull, taste the salt spray, smell the ozone during a storm. Most of us have sensed all these things at some point, and they’re familiar to us, way down in our reptilian brain. The feeling of the sand washing away under your feet when a wave recedes, things like that. If you can stimulate that memory in someone who has experienced it, or convey to someone who hasn’t, just how it looks, sounds, tastes, smells, and feels, you’re a storyteller.
SF: Many authors in your genre look up to you with high esteem. (I might know one of them personally.) How does it make you feel to know that the connections you’re building with other authors might be leading to their successes?
WS: It’s very humbling. I try to be an open book. Many people have asked why I don’t do lectures or paid classes. Why? If someone has a question and I have an answer, I’d call that a match. No need for money to change hands. I guess I’ve assisted some people in finding success, but with most of them, they would have found it anyway. Especially that guy you’re talking about. Another writer friend and I just happened to be reading his first book, and we hatched a plot to turn him onto our readers. Dawn and I were just a couple of the first to recognize Dan’s talents. That’s the same with most others I’ve helped. I write what I like to read. So, it stands to reason that anyone who likes what I write will also like what I read. So, when I read something I really enjoy, usually in the Sea Adventures genre, I pass it on. I received help from several authors early on and just pay it forward. We’re a unique breed. Though we work hard for every book sale, we’re not competitive toward one another. I mean, how can you compete when it takes the average reader a day to consume what took you months to create. A rising tide truly does float all boats.
SF: Your books are often praised for your ability to take readers on journeys to locations they might never see. Do you always visit these locations before incorporating them into your stories, or do you sometimes take virtual tours for research?
WS: Most of the locations in my books are places I’ve been. I lived in the Keys for a while, as well as the Bahamas and Mexico. So, Jesse and friends visit these places quite a bit. But I’m running out of places, so I’ve come up with what I think is an ingenuous solution. My editor works on my manuscript for two weeks, before I hear anything from her. So, starting this March, my wife and I are going to travel during those two-week periods and scout out the location for the next book. We’ll leave on the day I send the manuscript, then I’ll write a quick plot idea and the first thousand words of the opening scene during the second week of editing. Since writing is my only income and I write about the Caribbean, traveling to some tropical island and comparing rum-runner recipes is legitimate research.
SF: What does literary success look like to you?
WS: It looks like Hermann Melville, Earnest Hemingway, and John D. MacDonald. I read the first of MacDonald’s Travis McGee series when I was probably too young to have done so. It was a book called Deep Blue Good-by and was published in 1964, but I didn’t read it until I was 12, in 1970. I then binge read the rest of the series to that point, anxiously waiting for the next one. My first road trip as a naïve 16-year-old was to Fort Lauderdale and the Bahia Mar Marina. I walked up and down every dock but couldn’t find slip F-18 or the Busted Flush, Travis McGee’s boat. When I asked the dockmaster, he just shook his head and said, “Those books aren’t real.” If you look the book up on Amazon today, it’s probably ranked about #30,000. That’s not bad for a story that’s 56 years out of date. But people still buy it and enjoy the story. As Rusty would call the stars, “They’re timeless and predictable.” Of course, Rusty stole that from one of the greatest storytellers, Jimmy Buffett.
From Wayne . . .
At some point in the coming months, my narrator and I will air our first live video podcast, where we’ll talk about stories, books, and audiobooks with one or two guests. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Nick and I did a Facebook Live event while I was at his house in Stanhope, NJ, after visiting the Audible headquarters in Newark. We may or may not have been drinking the rum and beer we had in our hands, but it was a hoot. All 2-1/2 hours of it. So, keep an eye out for that. It will be broadcast live on www.tropicalauthors.com and then released as a recording on YouTube. We now have about 30 or so authors on this website, so doing one show a month means we have a couple of years of stuff all set to record.
Also, I'll be the guest speaker on a cruise in the British Virgin Islands in March 2021, talking about writing and indie publishing. For anyone interested, here is more information.
Wayne Stinnett is an American novelist and a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, Diver Master, taxi driver, construction manager, and truck driver, among many other things. He lives on one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina Lowcountry, near Parris Island, with his wife and their youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grandchildren, three dogs, and a whole flock of parakeets. He grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico.
Series and Books by Wayne Stinnett
Sarah Flores, Editor
Write Down the Line, LLC
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