An authors chat with insightful questions
April 13, 2021
I had a lot of fun appearing on “Chat With the Author,” the live video event put on by the BingeBooks Book Club each month. We spent some of the time discussing Rising Moon (the book club’s Book of the Month), the 19th novel in my Jesse McDermitt series. It’s set in a somewhat fictional Grassy Key — part of the Flordia Keys — and covers the disappearance of a local girl.
For those who couldn't attend, here's the video of the event:
I saw a few friends' faces, and it was great putting a face to the many readers who attended and who I knew through email and social media interaction. I've done a lot of interviews, but nothing like this, with so many attendees and such insightful questions. Most interviewers know a little about me and scratch the surface of my books for questions, but it was obvious from the start that hosts Alessandra Torre and JD Lasica had read Rising Moon cover to cover, as did most of those in attendance.
As one of the founding authors, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for BingeBooks.
Want to participate in the next Book Club read and live author chat? Join the club here.
Transcript of our Chat With the Author session
Some folks prefer to read rather than watch videos (thank God), so if that's your preference, here's a transcript of the event that the BingeBooks folks whipped up:
JD Lasica: Hi everybody. For those who don't know Wayne, Wayne Stinnett is consistently ranked among the top 100 of Amazon's action adventure authors. Besides being an author, Wayne is a husband, father, a Marine vet, boater, biker, and I think today you're coming to us from this Stinnett Global headquarters in the beautiful Buford, South Carolina. Is that right? Is that where the magic happens?
Wayne: I'm at home in the studio.
JD Lasica: OK. Alessandra, can you mute folks or do I have to do that?
Alessandra: I'll do it right now.
JD Lasica: Why don't we start with the nickel tour of your background Wayne. So you've been a Marine, dive master, taxi driver, a commercial fishermen, long haul trucker; those jobs plus your time as a Marine must really provide some nice rich texture for your characters in your writing, yes?
Wayne: I think a lot of it comes to do with my time that I spent in the Caribbean and then the Keys. There's just so many rich characters that you could draw from in these exotic places like Key West. Well, we call it Key Weird where I'm from.
JD Lasica: All right, so let's talk about your book. So Rising Moon is book 19 for those who haven't seen it in the Caribbean Adventure series. Where are you these days on the Beard-o-meter, by the way?
Wayne: It's about to be shaved off. April 19th will be the release date for Rising Tide and I'll shave then, and then I won't shave again until Steady as She Goes comes out in August.
Alessandra: How much growth is this? So, how long did this take?
Wayne: This is since last August, six months.
JD Lasica: OK, that's pretty healthy. So last week you started book 21 in the series. and we're talking about book 19 today, Rising Moon. So you already got another book in, and you're basically going to be tying John D. MacDonald's 21 Travis McGee novels, is that right?
Wayne: Yes. I struggled with that for a long time, for the last two years, whether or not I would write the 21st book in the series. And then I realized, well, Randy Wayne White has already written like 27 or 28 of these novels, so why not? I mean, the master storyteller is that. He's the one that led us all by example. And I see a few familiar faces in here, Nick Sullivan and Nick Harvey; they're both sea adventure authors. And Nick Sullivan is also the narrator of Mario books, so that's kind of cool. Hi, Nick and Brittany.
JD Lasica: So is that what you consider the Caribbean adventure series a sea adventure? You know, who do you sort of compare yourself to, your books or style?
Wayne: Well, I took a lot... well, a little bit from several different characters over the years. I grew up reading John D McDonalds, Travis McGee novels, obviously, and then got on to Randy Wayne White Stock Board, Lee Child, Jack Reacher, Mitch Rapp from Mitch rep series. I don't remember, but just a lot of different things that I've read over the years. My mentor, Michael, once told me there's no original thoughts. We both have a Jamaican character named Rufus in our books, completely unintentional, but there it is. I mean, it's the odds of that happening are extremely high and he chalked it up to, well, we both lived in the keys about the same time, probably bumped elbows in a bar and the Jamaican bartender's name was Rufus or something. Neither one of us can explain it, but that's where it came from.
JD Lasica: Yeah. I think Vince Flynn, but he's more of a hardcore, you know, assassination kind of thriller author.
Wayne: When looking at Mitch Rapp and Jesse McDermitt, and there's a little bit of Doc Ford, a little bit of Jack Reacher, Jesse 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, so he's a big guy. And just a whole lot of... a little bit of DNA from a lot of different characters and a lot of characters that I've met over the years. So he's not any one person. Morally, he's me. We share the same moral and ethical compass, but outside of that, he's a mix of a whole lot of people, a whole lot of fictional people and real people.
JD Lasica: Now, I personally couldn't even imagine writing a 21 books series. So, how do you think of Jesse's character and growth in Rising Moon as part of a transformation over the length of the entire series? Like, where is he on his personal journey here?
Wayne: Well, the entire series now covers about 22 years in Jesse's life. And in the first book, he meets this woman and they have a relationship and her name is Savannah. And throughout the entire series, he is not looking for, except in the last few books. He's not actually looking for her again, but eventually, he does find her and now they are married.
Alessandra: Was that your plan from the beginning? How far out did you plot his life?
Wayne: I don't even plot the next sentence. I'm a 100% pantser. I have no outline, no plot ideas or anything, except for this 21st book that I'm writing now. I've been planning it for two years and I'm really excited about this next one. It's going to be a lot of fun to write.
JD Lasica: Are you going to wrap up this series or do you have more to go after that?
Wayne: No. After that will be... the next one will be Rising Tides and Steady as She Goes. I ran out of words with Rising; just as I ran out of words using Fallen in the title. So this next 10 books won't have Steady in the title, but they'll all be nautical related. Steady As She Goes, Right Full Rudder, Full-Speed Ahead, Man Overboard; these are all planned for the next two years, but it's a long process and I don't see the end of it coming anytime soon.
Alessandra: So, this is going to be a new cast or you're going to continue in Jesse's world for those 10 books?
Wayne: Jesse, Savannah, and a new character that I'm not going to name because you have to read it in Rising Tide. The three of them will be changing their life. A very drastic change. There'll be a lot of new characters coming in. Occasional old characters will visit from time to time, but mostly it's going to be a whole new set of characters around Jesse's world.
JD Lasica: Alessandra, where are the questions that folks have been asking in our group?
Alessandra: I can pull them up. While I pull those up, Wayne, give us kind of how you got into writing if you had always planned to write. You've had such an interesting life, which I know has given you so much fodder for stories and characters, but how did your writing journey come to being?
Wayne: I've been a storyteller pretty much all my life. And in the Marine Corps, we called the larger than life stories, you know, stories that get bigger with each telling we called those Sea Stories. Basically, it's an outlandish lie. So, I'm a teller of sea stories. And when I was working for an HVAC company back in the eighties, I created a computer program that basically did my job for me. And that gave me a lot of free time and gave the other two estimates in my office, a pink slip. And so I ended up with a half a day with nothing to do, but since I was salary, I was required to stay.
So I sat down at the computer and I started making up stories. And I wrote a bunch of short stories with this character named Jesse McDermitt, who was fresh out of the Marine Corps, 22 year old, hard charging Marine. And those short stories never went anywhere. I applied to several publishers and agents and I didn't get a lot of rejection letters. I got a lot of people ignored me. But one thing led to another and I got married, had children, work and career and life happened. So, I put that thought to the side of being a writer. And then, about eight years ago, my son-in-law and our daughter gave me a Kindle for Father's Day. And I started reading Kindle books, and I thought, this is really neat, and it'd be nice to get back into writing again.
Then a friend of mine who was a Patriot Guard Riders, he's a retired colonel, he just passed away last Thursday. During our ride briefing, he leaned over and we were telling sea stories as Marines always do, and he said, "Ypu know Wayne, you should write a book." Well, he was a Colonel and I was a corporal, so the next day I started writing my first novel. And the Colonel never told me to stop. And now he's passed on, God rest his soul, and so I can't stop, so I'll be writing until the day I'm gone.
Alessandra: I love that. We do have several questions from attendees that are here today. Andy said, "Are those original short stories available?" Have you ever published or put them anywhere?
Wayne: Well, one of them. Well, part of one of them was written on the back of my divorce papers from my first wife and handwritten. And when we were cleaning out the garage, my wife found it, "This is pretty good. You ought to try this again." So, that was another reason to get back into it. But all the original short stories are on the big five and a half inch floppy disc, the real floppies, you know. And I dug those out, I found those in the garage when we were cleaning it out. And once I found them, I was like, OK, what do I do with them? No computer that I know of still uses these things, but we managed to find a computer that had a five and a half inch floppy drive, and I transferred it onto a three and a half inch floppy disc, and then onto a CD and managed to get it on my home PC. I'd merged the best two stories into one; made Jesse 20 years older, retired Marine. And those two became the first novel Fallen Palm, which is now the second novel in the series.
JD Lasica: When there's a lot going on in your novels, you're sort of mixing me in island culture and the backstory of an ex-Marine, some Marine culture, gun culture, Florida keys; detective storytelling. What are the kinds of things that you're talking to your readers all the time, so what's been resonating the most with them?
Wayne: I think they like the settings a whole lot. Everybody knows of the Florida Keys. A lot of people have visited, and the setting is as real as I can make it. I try to describe not just what Jesse sees and hears, but what he feels and tastes and smells and all the different combinations of the above that go into making the reader feel as if they're experiencing exactly what he's seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling. And then, I think the setting is a character in itself. Certainly, the equipment are. The boat is called Revenge Charter Service. If a lot of people know that, these stickers are all over the back of people's cars, it's all over the keys. I didn't put them there. Seriously, I didn't. The setting I think resonates a lot with readers and even if they've never been there; most people have been to the beach and they've experienced standing right at the water's edge and feeling the waves wash over their feet and then wash back again. And what happens; your feet sink into the sand. And if you've experienced that and you read about it, a little light bulb goes off in your head and you say, "Oh, I know exactly what he's talking about here." I think that resonates a lot with readers.
JD Lasica: You did grow up in the Keys?
Wayne: I grew up in Melbourne, Florida about 200 miles North of Miami, 150 miles North of Miami and 250 miles from Key West. But I lived in the Keys for a while and lived aboard a boat in Boat Key Harbor.
JD Lasica: Yeah. You can tell the little details that you add to your storytelling to make it real, right?
Wayne: I make it out as real. And my friend, Nick Harvey right down there, he writes about scuba diving in the Cayman Islands, and he's a dive master like myself, and he comes across very believable. Nick Sullivan is also a diver. He does a lot of... his two characters are dive masters also. So when you write about something that you know intimately well, it comes across as very, very genuine to the reader I think.
JD Lasica: We do want to encourage folks here to ask questions. So Don is asking, how do you keep track of the historical details over 20 novels? You know, is there any Caribbean adventure bible that you keep or it's all in your head?
Wayne: It's not really a bible, but things like characters, as soon as I introduce a new character, say his name's Bob, and he's the bartender. And I immediately stop, go to the end of the manuscript where I have a section called characters and I write Bob the bartender. And then if later in the book Bob has blonde hair, I go back down there and add blonde hair. So that way, if Bob ever comes back into another book sometime later like Tank did; he first appeared in Fallen Out, appeared again in Fallen Pride and then not again until Rising Moon. And that was a long time span and I've completely forgotten what Tank looked like. So, I just jumped back to my notes from that book and right there was all the information I need.
JD Lasica: Yeah, Tank is kind of up there in years too. And we're trying not to give away too many spoilers, so those who aren't having read the book yet, but you know, most of the folks here I think have. So are you treating Tank and sort of the last chapter of his life in the next couple of books?
Wayne: Tank survived Rising Moon. He's got cancer. He is dying. Rising Tide he appears again, and he's not as healthy as he was in Rising Moon. And he actually get... well, no, I'm not going to say that because some people haven't read it yet.
JD Lasica: That's right.
Wayne: Something happens that most people will be scratching their head thinking "He's got cancer and this happened and he's still alive." But it eventually, Tank, like all of us will pass.
JD Lasica: Alessandra, did you want to ask a couple of the questions people are asking?
Alessandra: Yeah. You talked a lot about setting, and I know for a lot of us on the team when we were reading it, that really stood out in the Keys. And in fact, some were looking at real estate because they were ready to move there after doing a few sets. But Patty California said; "What's the setting for those next 10 books? Are they also going to be in the Keys or is there a different setting that they're going to go to?
Wayne: The one I'm currently writing now, Steady As She Goes, is set primarily in Venezuela. There'll be some movement along the coast of Venezuela and Paraguay and Ghana and all the way to Brazil. But Jesse's in command of a 199 foot research vessel now, so he's going worldwide. The next 10 books will be set in the Red Sea, the Sea of Japan; all over the world.
Alessandra: Have you been to all of the places that you're writing in?
Wayne: Most of them. I've run out of places I've been to. I want to write about places that I'd like to go to and before COVID hit that was the plan. I would send a book to my editor and then jump on a plane and go somewhere and do research. At least that's what I'm telling the IRS I'm doing. But the plan was to write about new places, and so far, we haven't been able to do that, but I'm hoping to get back to it here in 2021, 22.
JD Lasica: Do you ever add anything to any of your books like what's fact versus fiction? Somebody is asking you here about the green flash that you mentioned when the sun sets and whether that's real in the Keys. I know I've seen a green flash and I've heard sailors talk about it, right. So it's kind of interesting now sort of like, you know, how do you sort of tell people you're not just making this stuff up, it's something that's really cool and interesting?
Wayne: I've seen it on videos and I've seen it in pictures many, many times. I've seen it myself in person one time, and with a year and a half living in the Keys, the sunsets are spectacular and it's just so rare an event. But yeah, there are some fictional things in there. In one scene in Fallen Honor, Rufus suspends time and climbs up the bad guy, punching him and wailing on him as he goes to vault over him and land on his feet. And Rufus is in his eighties. So that's very, very fictional and it couldn't possibly happen, but who knows?
JD Lasica: There are a lot of old guys in your novels, which you don't see in a lot of trailers, right. Do you think about that? And you're trying to set me up, you know, what are you trying to say here?
Wayne: A lot of people have pointed out that, no, it's just not possible for a man in his late fifties to be able to do the things Jesse does. Well, I'm here to tell you that that is not the case. They walk among us. I mean, right now in the Marine Corps, there are 223,000 Marines, of those, there are somewhere around 50 to 100 Marine snipers, and these are guys that can kill you from a mile away without any hesitation. And every day they leave the Corps and go into civilian world to find a job just like Jesse did. And there's not a lot of jobs with that kind of know-how. So yeah, they walk among us. There are 55 year old, 60 year olds; I'm 62 years old and I can still do 20 squats, one or two, but I just don't want to.
There's a lot of people in the world who have the capabilities to do what Jessie does who are in their fifties and sixties, and time is irrelevant. So long as you person takes care of themselves, well, Colonel Roy Shelton, who I spoke of earlier just two weeks before he passed away, he posted a video doing twenty-five pull-ups. Not kipping, not bouncing his knees, not swinging, just dead arm pull-ups with his legs crossed. And he did that at 79 years old. So yeah, there are a lot of people out there who can still swing the bat.
Alessandra: Well, talking about Rufus who's an older character, we had a question; Bert said, would you consider giving him his own story? He has some interesting gifts that might lead to a really great tale.
Wayne: I've thought about that a few times when Rufus was younger, but Rufus is now in his... nobody knows how old Rufus is, but he's been around. He was in his sixties or seventies in Fallen Out, and that was 22 years ago, so he's easily in his nineties now. But my wife and I talked about creating a Rufus' cookbook. And we actually put together some Jamaican dishes and Caribbean dishes and took pictures of them and everything and made it. And she was going to take the pictures and write the recipe. And then I was going to write a short story, a little fictional story from Rufus' point of view about how his grandma used to make this or his great aunt used to make this and just write a cookbook.
JD Lasica: In a minute we're going to announce the winner of the drawing. But we've got some for you to answer the last questions. So Nicholas is asking you about how do you name your characters especially the antagonists, you know, or what kind of research goes into it?
Wayne: That's the simplest part of my job. As I'm writing, when I come to a new character, I stop, I go to Facebook, I hit page down four times. And the first name that comes up is the first name of that character. I hit page down four more times, and the first, last name I see is the last name of that character. It's pretty simple way of doing it. I got tired of making up names. In Fallen Hunter, virtually every character in that book is a real person. I asked people if they wanted to be in my book because I didn't want to make up names anymore. And I had a whole bunch of people respond and I make two lists, one male and one female. And when the male character came up, the first person on that list was that character's name and same with the female characters. Even my daughter and her husband were in that book.
Alessandra: I like that practice. I'm going to have to borrow that because naming characters is a struggle for...
JD Lasica: You know, we don't have to just read people's questions in the chat. So if anybody wants to ask a specific question about Rising Moon just raise your hand. So Jim, you can unmute and ask your question.
Jim: I know this show is pretty much all about you and I've read just about every book that you've written. And I love the genre, but I'd like to hear a little bit about too your relationship with other authors. And I find it fascinating that sometimes you'll share characters and Michael was one I think you mentioned. There's plenty more that... there's a new one, a Dawn Lee McKenna. I don't know if she is a part of your group, but I love the interaction that you have. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Wayne: We have a rather large group that Nick Sullivan, who's one of our guests here he's in charge of called Tropical Authors. tropicalauthors.com is our website. And yes, Dawn's a part of that. And I was a character in one of her books and she made me cry. And so, I made her character in my next book and she saved Jesse's life. And Nick Sullivan in his first book, Jesse appears as Buchanan. And I've shared characters with Steve Becker. He and I share characters quite often. It's usually just in passing, and Michael be pulling in and "Hey, Jesse, how you doing?" "Good, good to see you Mac." And then that's it.
Evan Graver and I shared characters, both Jesse and Charity in one of his books, and it spans several chapters. It was a key part of the book, and I replicated that in Rising Thunder. And let's see; who else was there? Oh, the late Ed Robinson. I just finished his book. But in one of his earlier books, his main character is facing the deck. He's waiting for something to happen, waiting for a phone call or something. And he sits down and picks up a paperback to see what Jesse McDermitt is up to. I thought, "Oh my God, he just made my fictional character, a fictional character in his fiction. How am I going to top that?" So in my next book, I made Ed and Kim Robinson fictional characters. He was an author and Jesse McDermitt served him at the rest of the anchor. So my fictional character served the writer of the fictional character who wrote about my fictional character being a fictional character in his fiction. And it gets really involved sometimes.
Jim: It's a great big family.
Wayne: Yeah. All of us, the Tropical Authors, we all help each other. We work together. We lift each other up, critique each other's work, and there's no way that two writers can be competitive. I mean, I consider myself moderately fast. I'm not a fast writer. I'm not a slow writer. I'm what you call a half-fast writer. And I do three or four books a year, and the average reader reads a book a week. So there's no way I could compete with Nick or Steve or John Cunningham or any of these other authors because the consumer consumes the product at 50 times the rate we can produce it. So just because John's got a new book out next week, and I've got a new book out the same day; readers are going to read both of them.
Alessandra: Steve said, at what point did you realize an author could be more than a hobby? Did you know early on?
Wayne: It was pretty soon on. I wrote Fallen Palm and Fallen Hunter from June through December of 2013. And Fallen Palm only sold 23 copies from October to December when Fallen Hunter was released. And when Fallen Hunter was released, both copies, suddenly sold over a hundred copies each before the end of the year. And that was just, you know, 15 days, two weeks. And so, I started writing... my whole goal was to make enough money from my books to buy some power tools to do some woodworking and get off the road and start building things to sell. And it was probably about January or February of 2014 when I realized that I didn't really need those tools. I already had them right there in front of me. And wrote the third book and halfway through the fourth book, and May of 2014, I saw that my income from our writing was already more than my income as a truck driver. So I came in the yard one day and the boss pushed the wrong buttons, and I just tossed him the keys. And I've been happily unemployed ever since.
JD Lasica: Self-employed. It's worth mentioning that we haven't even said this on the two author chats we've had. Wayne is one of the 120 founding authors of Bingebooks. We're just getting going here, and this is only our second authors to chat. We're bringing on another founding author, Cheryl Ben, on our next chat in late April. But if you haven't heard of our site, you know, check out bingebooks.com. Come on over. We've got over 200,000 books on the site by more than 50,000 authors, and you can like read the opening chapters of most of those books. So people are starting to come over, and we just open up the doors to any author in the world this past week. We haven't told anybody about it yet officially, so you guys are all hearing about this as early folks who we want to get involved in our little author and book community.
Wayne: I've notice there's been a huge explosion in the number of authors in BingeBooks in the last year.
JD Lasica: It's crazy. The word's getting out. All right, Alessandra, what else do I do before I wrap up here?
Alessandra: We want to give away some hardcover versions of some of your titles, is that right?
Wayne: Not hardcovers, it's paperbacks. I've only got the hard covers have fallen out so far and we're working on getting those produced.
Alessandra: I'm sorry about that. So we're doing paperbacks of Rising Moon, and we do have three winners from the attendees today. So congratulations to Sharon Hamilton, D Satcher Wilson and Don Rich. So you guys are winners, congratulations. And if you could just check out a member of our team, Kristin who's here today, will reach out to you to arrange getting you your books, so congratulations.
Wayne: John Rich wins everything.
Alessandra: He needs to buy a lottery ticket. Any final questions, and then we're going to break into smaller rooms and we can discuss the book and we'll sign off with Wayne. So, you can stay right here in zoom and break out into a group. Or if you don't want to discuss the book with others, you can feel free to hop off. But any last questions before we say goodbye to Wayne? You can raise your hand. Michelle. Now
Wayne: You might have to wave them around.
Alessandra: Oh, Bruce, did you have a question? I think you're muted if you want to unmute.
Bruce: Not a question so much, but the explosion in BingeBooks over the last few days in two different Facebook groups that I'm in, people made the comment that if Wayne Stinnett was in, then that gave it credibility. I don't know about that.
Alessandra: We love that. Yeah. And if you haven't had a chance to check out BingeBooks, please do, we'd love to see you there and chat with you there. So without further ado, we'll move into those breakout rooms. You can just stay on screen and you'll be assigned into one. And Wayne, thank you so much for joining us today and congratulations to the winners and to everyone who joined the chat. Thank you for coming by.
Wayne: Thank you, Alessandra. And thank you, JD and Margaret, everybody involved in BingeBooks. This is going to be a really, really big deal here in the next year.
JD Lasica: We appreciate your time. Let’s head to the breakout rooms.
Alessandra: Thanks Wayne.
Wayne: Take care.