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Wayne Stinnett is a USA Today Bestselling author of more than thirty novels and one non-fiction book on writing. He’s also a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, as is his main character, Jesse McDermitt. Between those careers, Stinnett has worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, dive master, taxi driver, construction manager, and truck driver, among many other things. He lives with his wife and youngest daughter in the South Carolina Lowcountry, just a few miles from Parris Island, where he went to boot camp. They also have three grown children, four grandchildren, a crazy Carolina dog, and a large cage of parakeets. He grew up in Melbourne, Florida, and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico.
Twelve-year-old Wayne Stinnett received his first mask and fins, a Christmas gift from his parents. Before the decade would end, the soon to be writer would become an advanced open water scuba diver. Early the following year, his father bought the family’s first boat, a 24′ dual console IO set up for offshore fishing. Young Stinnett became the navigator; fishing the Gulf Stream with his dad, twenty miles from shore. Using nothing but a radio direction finder, the young navigator was able to pinpoint their location and guide the boat back to Sebastian Inlet without fail. “The worm had turned,” he often says. Since he’d learned to write, Stinnett had always carried a pencil and small notebook, where he’d jot down things he saw or heard that were interesting to him. Many were filled with descriptions of the sea and fishing with his father. This became a habit he would continue for fifty years, filling boxes with little notebooks, each filled with ideas, descriptions, and characters.
Graduating from Eau Gallie High School, in Melbourne, Florida in 1977, Stinnett enlisted in the Marine Corps as a heavy vehicle operator, and went to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina from July to September. After going on and finishing MOS school at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he was assigned to an artillery unit there. During his four year tour as a Marine, Stinnett visited Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 1977 and it being much like his home state enjoyed the tropical heat. A month after returning, his unit was deployed to northern Germany as part of Operation Northern Wedding, a joint NATO exercise. During the float, the convoy stopped in ports all over the North Atlantic, including Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, to name a few. During a weekend off, he managed to catch a train to Paris, France, as well.
Leaving the Marine Corps in 1981, Stinnett worked in the heating and air conditioning business back home in Florida, quickly moving into job estimating. He created a computer program that would accurately calculate the needs of customer’s homes and was able to do in less than a day, what had taken three estimators a full day to accomplish. With extra time on his hands and an empty office, he began to write short stories on the office computer. In 1985, he submitted what he thought to be the best three to almost fifty agents and publishers, receiving a lot of rejection letters and being simply ignored by most. Discouraged, he set his dream of being a writer aside and concentrated on life. Taking a management position with another company, he handled the day to day operations of one of central Florida’s largest HVAC contractors for several years.
In 1984, Stinnett married and the couple had a daughter in 1985. By then, he had continued his passion for scuba diving and first earned a dive master and assistant instructor certification and then a master scuba diver rating, with a number of diving specialty certifications, including deep diver, mixed gas diver, wreck diver, and underwater hunter, to name a few. After a divorce several years later, Stinnett relocated to the Florida Keys, where he worked “as little as possible,” driving a cab a few nights a week and as a dive master during the day. Living aboard a sixty year old sailboat during part of that time, Stinnett spent his off hours diving and fishing the back country, enjoying the solitude and peace of the Content Keys on many overnight excursions.
In 1992, he was offered an HVAC maintenance position with AUTEC (Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center), on Andros Island in the Bahamas. AUTEC tests guidance and sonar equipment for the United States Navy and it was during this time that he learned to free dive, with the help of one of the recovery divers assigned to retrieve spent torpedoes. After six months with AUTEC, Stinnett moved on to Cozumel, Mexico and worked for a short time as a dive master in arguably the best scuba diving destination in the Caribbean. Taking a job as a deck hand on a small freighter, he soon found himself on the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles, where he again used his skills as a dive master to work and stay for several more months, before hiring on as second mate on a private sailing yacht back to Miami.
Returning home in 1994, Stinnett soon remarried, but the marriage was short lived and the couple divorced six months later. Returning to his roots, Stinnett took a job in Westminster, Colorado, installing the heating and air conditioning system for a new high school. There he worked four days a week and spent the other three days high up in the Rockie Mountains, traveling 4×4 trails to secluded streams and camping until it was time to return to work. With the project complete in 1996, Stinnett returned to Florida and soon received custody of his then eleven year old daughter, finally settling down in his home town of Eau Gallie.
At the turn of the century, Stinnett met his current wife online and moved with his fifteen-year-old daughter to Upstate South Carolina. The couple had a daughter in late 2001 and bought a house outside of Greenville, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Having had his fill of the construction industry and being a wanderer with a mortgage, Stinnett got his commercial driver’s license and began what would be a thirteen year career as a long haul trucker, specializing in over sized loads.
In 2013, Stinnett came across the old floppy discs that held the short stories he’d written nearly thirty years earlier. At the urging of his wife and a number of friends, he began writing his first novel, working at night in the sleeper of the truck in whatever truck stop he found himself. His first full length novel, Fallen Palm, is based on the short stories he’d written so long ago. The book was published with very little fanfare in October, 2013 and Stinnett began work on a sequel, Fallen Hunter, also based on the short stories. This one was completed much faster and was published in December, 2013, again with very little fanfare.
In the early days of 2014, Stinnett noticed that his sales were actually bringing in some decent money and he devised a plan to finally get off the road and settle down full time. Being the son of a master carpenter, and enjoying building things, he decided to use this extra income to outfit a wood working shop where he could build cabinets, furniture and maybe even a boat or two. Stinnett redoubled his writing effort and, no longer having the short stories as a guide, took his wife’s advice and started work on Fallen Pride, a novel about Veterans with post traumatic stress and the camaraderie between them. Fallen Pride was published in April, 2014 and Stinnett decided to donate half the royalties produced by that book to Veterans’ charities. A year later, the donation rose to all of the royalties from Fallen Pride, which he continues to this day.
By mid-April, it was suddenly obvious that his writing could do a lot more than outfit a wood working shop. By then the long dormant dream of earning a living as a writer had rekindled and consumed his every waking hour. After receiving a number of emails from readers asking questions about the characters’ back stories, he quickly wrote a short novel, Fallen Out, that was published as a prequel to the first three novels. Knowing that this new book was going to be published by the end of May and his writing income already rivaling his income as a trucker, he turned in his keys and cleaned out his truck on May 14th, 2014, less than a year after starting his first full length manuscript.
Since that day, Stinnett has written and published many more novels in the Jesse McDermitt Caribbean Adventure Series. He also wrote several novels in a spin-off series, featuring one of the recurring characters Charity Styles, and a non-fiction book on writing. More importantly, he was now home every day and able to say a bedside prayer with his youngest child, instead of doing it over the phone as he’d done for the previous thirteen years.
Just before Christmas, 2015, Stinnett moved his family to the coast. Literally, two days before Christmas. “The old man has returned to the sea,” he often quips, paraphrasing Jimmy Buffett. Buying a six bedroom home with a separate office on the first floor, he was finally back in an environment he knew and enjoyed. He’d always dreamed of having his own Grady-White center console powerboat, arguably one of the best small boat manufacturers in the world. Buying a twenty year old Grady, he began living the dream he had as a much younger man, writing, boating, and enjoying the outdoors. Sometimes, all at once. The boat was named after his favorite character in his books, Pescador, which is Spanish for fisherman. In 2018, Pescador was traded for a larger boat with a head, something sorely missed by his wife and youngest daughter. The boat was aptly named Rusty Anchor.
Moving from his home office to a 1000 square foot office overlooking Lady’s Island Marina, Stinnett continued writing and began mentoring other authors. During a book signing at Dockside Tropical Cafe in Marathon, Florida a couple of years earlier, Stinnett met and became friends with the owner, Eric Stone, an accomplished trop-rock singer and songwriter. Stinnett wanted a bigger boat and began going to boat shows to find just the right one, running into Stone at nearly every one. In St. Petersburg, Stone was playing the show and after-party, and introduced Stinnett to Dan Horn, owner of the startup Pyrate Radio, who was broadcasting the after-party live. Before long, Stinnett became one of the network’s largest investors. At that same show, Stinnett and Stone began collaborating on a song idea, revolving around Stinnett’s books. The Rusty Anchor Bar & Grill was released as a single early the following year and on Stone’s LP “All The Rest” in the spring. Meeting Bob Bitchin’, owner of Latitudes and Attitudes Magazine, at the Miami Boat Show, as well as a bunch of cruisers at the Lats and Atts Cruisers’ Party after the show, rekindled Stinnett’s desire to sail and he concentrated on finding the right sailboat. By the end of 2018, Stinnett and his wife decided on a 2019 Beneteau Oceanis 41.1 sloop, which they named Write of Passage.
Going into 2019, Stinnett planned to slow down a little, as he took on the responsibilities as president of Novelists, Inc (NINC), an international organization of professional novelists. During his tenure, he planned to only release two new books, the 14th and 15th in the Jesse McDermitt Series. Meeting Kimberli Bindschatel at the previous year’s NINC conference, the two authors shared characters and scenes in their books Operation: Dolphin Spirit and Rising Charity. Stinnett had been looking for someone to coauthor the Charity Styles series and offered it to Kim. The collaboration resulted in Vigilant Charity being released in July, 2019.
With the coming of a new decade, Stinnett began having new ideas. By March, he and mystery author Stewart Matthews launched into a new series together, featuring characters and situations from Stinnett’s books. DJ Martin and Jerry Snyder, from the 15th novel in the Jesse McDermitt series, became the main characters in the new Caribbean Mystery Series, with the first book being released that spring. He further plans to move his personal publishing company, Down Island Press, into a more active role, scouring the depths for similar storytellers who might need a little help.
With his eyesight failing, and his family not all that interested in sailing, Stinnett decided to sell Write of Passage and downsize. At the same time, he was changing his lifestyle to be more fit. Thirteen years holding a steering wheel and eight more sitting at a computer had taken its toll. So in January, he set two goals. The first being to get into shape and the second, to realize a long dream of being an actual bestselling novelist, which meant a complete change in his publishing and marketing plans. Over the first six months of the year, he worked hard on both, dropping almost thirty pounds of body fat and gaining twenty pounds of muscle, through daily walks and twice-weekly workouts at the gym. At the same time, he and his team at Aurora Publicity worked on how to make his next book, Man Overboard, into a legit bestseller. On Thursday July 14, USA Today announced that Man Overboard was the #75 bestselling book in the United States, finally earning Stinnett that coveted stamp of approval from his fans. Later that same morning, charged with enthusiasm, he hit the gym and attempted his first heavy lift since beginning training, easily dead lifting 305 pounds not once, but three times. He plans to reach 500 pounds by the end of the year and release a second bestseller in November. “It’s all about setting goals,” he often tells other writers. “Then creating small easy to achieve steps to reach those goals, with each step building on the previous accomplishment.”
Stinnett opened a new company early in the year along with Samantha Williams, owner of Aurora Publicity. Down Island Publishing began accepting submissions of manuscripts in early 2022 and they plan to grow the business slowly, initially only looking at books similar to Stinnett’s own. He has no plans to end the Jesse McDermitt series, due to his aging character. “He’s two years younger than me and has stayed fit all his life,” he once said. “People like Jesse are out there. They walk among us, and can be relied upon in a pinch. That doesn’t end just because a guy’s beard turns gray.” More Charity books are also in the plans, as well as more Jerry and DJ stories. Join the newsletter for all the latest in what’s happening in Wayne’s world.