Thursday, January 12, 2017

Author Interview: Tess Thompson

A Chat with Bestselling Novelist
Tess Thompson

On January 10th, Tess Thompson celebrated the release of her ninth novel, 

Congratulations on the release of Miller’s Secret! This is an outstanding novel. Can you tell me a little bit about how this story came to be written?

Like all my novels, the characters and plot came to me in a visual image. One morning last spring, I woke to an image of a young war hero looking out the window of his beach house and seeing a young woman, sketching in her notebook, on his lawn, the Pacific Ocean spread out before her. This was the beginning of this complex story unravelling in my brain. How it completely falls into my mind, I cannot possibly explain because I don’t know.

Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. This is true for some of the characters in Miller’s Secret. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?

Wow, this is a hard question. If I’m completely honest, I would say the process of getting out of my first marriage. It seemed impossible to imagine forging a new life, a new path, after twelve years of marriage and two kids. Like Caroline in the book, I held onto certain beliefs about my life that were hard to let go of – things I really wanted to believe were true but just weren’t. Like her, I accepted a life that made me feel dead inside, focusing on my children instead of facing the truth about my marriage. I made excuses, again like Caroline, to convince myself that everything was fine, that I was happy. Finally, feeling almost suicidal, I had to admit that something drastic in my life had to change, and that change was my marriage. You don’t get more drastic than divorce. It was gut-wrenching and awful. However, on the other end of all that pain was a chance for redemption and a new opportunity for happiness. This is a major theme in all my books, but especially in Miller’s Secret.

What did you enjoy most about writing Miller’s Secret?

Everything, but probably writing the second draft after I received the notes back from my story editor. Unlike some writers, I adore re-writing, especially after taking in notes from an editor. I find that criticism always sparks a deeper level of creativity for me. The relationship with my editor is key to everything.

What was the hardest part about writing Miller’s Secret?

Keeping the through line of four characters spanning twenty years.

Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?

I don’t have any stories, other than I was very close to my grandmother, who was a young woman during WWII, married to a Navy Officer. Her stories of that time inspired my fascination with the Greatest Generation. Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers fought in WWII. My mother’s father was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. My father’s father was in the Army and told us stories of his time fighting on enemy ground, including the time he accidently wandered into enemy territory and was lost for several days. I’ll say this, though. I wish I’d had a tape recorder for some of these conversations, as all my grandparents have passed now. As a kid, I felt too shy to ask them more questions. I would give anything to go back with my list of questions.

What does your writing process look like?

It’s changed over the years. I used to write the first draft fast and then layer upon it on the second and third pass. This works well for my romantic suspense series that are very much plot driven. Once I have the plot on paper, then I can go back and add the nuances of setting, character and dialogue. However, for Miller’s Secret, I wrote in a more plodding fashion, which allowed me to go deep into the characters’ minds right away. For this book and Duet for Three Hands, my other historical, I wrote as if under a spell. The words seemed to come from somewhere else, somewhere otherworldly. I can’t explain it exactly, other than to say the process felt like magic. The characters seemed to speak to me, like they were sitting next to me at my desk. Perhaps this is the writer’s zone everyone talks about?

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

Lyrical, romantic themes, complex characters, fast-paced plots.

How long have you been a writer? Where did your love of storytelling come from?

I’ve been writing seriously since 2000. I started out as a playwright, but decided after my first full-length production that I hated playwrighting because I’m too much of a control freak and the theatre is all about collaboration. My first novel, Riversong, was released in 2011. Since then, I’ve been pursuing the writer’s life with great energy and focus. Half of my energy is on craft and writing, the other half on trying to figure out how to sell the darn books. The first one is much easier!

My love of storytelling stems from my love of reading. As a kid, I was the one with my nose in a book. I never grew out of my love for story told via the page. It morphed into writing at some point. I’m not sure when, other than to say I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to become a writer. I remember very distinctly driving home from the movie theatre after seeing the first Star Wars movie in 1976 and telling my perplexed mother that the movie made me want to write a story. I can see her face looking at me from the driver’s side of the car like – what is wrong with this child?

I also come from a long line of verbal storytellers. My father is absolutely mesmerizing when he tells a story.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

Every time I read an author better than me, which is a lot, I’m inspired to up my game. Early on I was inspired by Pat Conroy, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice Munro – not that I’m in their league, of course.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about Miller’s Secret, but nobody has?

Did Miller Dreeser suffer from a lack of attachment as a baby/small child, causing his later personality disorder?

The answer to that is yes. Research shows that babies who are not touched and loved as infants and toddlers, (i.e. attaching to their mothers) often cannot establish healthy bonds and feelings of love for others.

Visit Tess:



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Author Interview: S.L. Shelton

Getting to Know Bestselling Author
S.L. Shelton

Where were you born?

I was born in Fredericksburg Virginia, 1966.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Spotsylvania County, just outside of Fredericksburg. We were surrounded by Civil War battlefields, so I knew a bit more about the military than I did about almost anything else by the time I started school.

Tell me a little about your family.

I have two brothers and a sister, all younger. I was a horrible big brother and wasn’t much of a positive influence on any of them, but I was always quick to jump in to defend them if anyone else tried to harm them. My mother was an artist and gave me the space and resources to develop my own artistic gifts. My father worked for Space Surveillance at the Naval Surface Weapons Command in Dahlgren.

Where did you go to high school?

I went to high school in Spotsylvania and excelled in the sciences, but not much else. I was in high school when the MNF barracks was bombed in Beirut, killing more than 200 US service men. I became obsessed with serving at that time and left high school before graduating to enlist (something that was still allowed at the time).
Tell me about your time in the service.

I left high school and enlisted as soon as I was of legal age to do so. My recruiter was hesitant to sign me up with no diploma, but when my entrance exam results (ASVAB) were returned, he changed his tune and said I could pretty much choose whatever job I wanted. To this day, I will always remember my response: “I want to blow shit up.” So, I became a combat engineer (12B). I remained a line unit combat engineer in a Sapper Battalion for a couple of years, then gained notice from a Light Fighter detachment NCO when I taught a class on basic mountaineering. (I had been an avid climber since my teen years.) He asked my battalion if they could use me as a trainer for a few cycles. After I returned, my battalion offered me a job as Battalion Operations Specialist. There I honed my skills as a teacher and communicator, honoring the long time unofficial trainer credo: “Make it grunt proof”, meaning break everything down to its simplest components and explain it so that even the biggest idiot can understand. The military perfected the method of relaying complex ideas to even the simplest of minds. I became skilled in communicating in the same way. I completed my Training NCO courses, expanded my skill set, developed innovative practices and lesson plans and eventually got my GED before starting college, taking classes in the evenings when duty allowed. By the early 90s I was married and had a son. For personal reasons, I left the service at the end of an enlistment cycle. I had just been asked if I would consider going to OCS (Officer’s Candidate School) by my company commander when my first marriage ended. In an irresponsible young man’s manner, I tossed everything, and after nearly a decade in the service, let my enlistment expire, going back to my hometown to sulk. I still regret not going to OCS and often, sometimes daily, regret not continuing in the service.

Tell me about your career once you’d left the service:

By the time I had left the service I had become quite skilled in the use of the computer: programming, and (oddly) HTML due to the primary system used by the military at the time. The World Wide Web was in its infancy and I found myself in the unique position of having a sought after skill set. I worked as a trainer for several tech companies until ending up the head of education for a large internet provider. There I made connections that allowed me to start my own business. For the next decade and a half, I built a system, automating one of the most miserable manual processes in business travel; the annual Transient Hotel Request for Proposal. Fortune 500 companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on transient hotel costs, and the process of getting the best deal was negotiated individually each year. This used to be a manual process. I built a system that automated most of the process on both the hotel and the corporate end. After we had captured the business of most major travel agencies, my partner and I sold the business in 2011.  For the decades after the service, I relied on outside distractions to satisfy my creative desires. I became a photographer, a public access TV producer, sculptor, painter, wood worker, and finally, after selling my company, I began what had been a lifelong desire to write.

When did you realize you wanted to write?

When I was still in the service I had a dream. It was a vivid dream and I remember it to this day as clearly as on the night it happened. It was odd because I didn’t usually have vivid dreams, but on the three occasions I remember them, they all revolved around my grandfather, who became my father figure after my own father left the family. In this particular dream, my grandfather came to me (years after his death) while I was hiding from someone. The hiding dream wasn’t unusual, and many times after coming out of the field from tactical operations I had that dream ... sometimes even to this day. But my grandfather rolled up to the side of the road in an old car and opened the back door for me. He told me to keep my head down as he drove us. We were on the road for a long time, and he wouldn’t talk to me, he just smiled. When we stopped he opened the door for me and we were in front of a book store. He took me in and we wandered the aisles for a while. He came to a halt in front of a table with stacks of a bestselling new release. I remember the name of the book, though I won’t share it here as I’ve never used the title before. It wasn’t until he smiled and walked away that I realized the author was me. It was my name on the book. Without another word, he took me back to the car and we drove away. Despite my many questions, I never got a word out of him. I was twenty-two or twenty-three when that happened. I’ve wanted to write the great American thriller ever since. In 2012, after severely re-spraining my ankle, I sat down and began writing the Scott Wolfe Series.

What was the first book you published and when did that take place?

The first book I published was Waking Wolfe on November 19, 2013. The original title was A Lamb in Wolfe’s Clothing, but I realized after its release that it wasn’t “thrillery” enough. So, when I released the third novel in the series, I changed the title of book one and two, along with heavy rewrites to bring up the quality of the story.

How did the character of Scott Wolfe come about?

Scott Wolfe was born from a Gotye song.  The first time I heard “Somebody That I Used to Know”, it inspired a story in which a young man had to decide if he was going to put himself in danger to rescue a person he was no longer in a relationship with. The story quickly developed into an international thriller.

When did you become a bestselling author?

The first time I was on the Amazon bestseller’s list was during a free promotion shortly after I released Waking Wolfe, but I didn’t achieve consistent bestseller ranking until February 2015. On my wedding anniversary, I discovered that all four (four at that time) Scott Wolfe Novels were in the top 100 Political Thriller Bestsellers, and the ranks just grew from there. By the time I released the fifth novel in the series, all of my books were top twenty political thrillers and I was ranked a top 100 Thriller author. Those rankings stayed very consistent with all the Scott Wolfe books having been top fives at one point or another until my wife Diane became ill in late summer of 2015. We didn’t discover until early 2016 that her illness was being caused by stage four metastasized squamous cell carcinoma. By then my attention had shifted away from writing to caring for my wife.

Tell me about Hedged. How is it different than the Scott Wolfe series? Why did you decide to write it?

I wrote Hedged in a period of about three weeks, beginning on the day my father was buried. I had been estranged from my father for a few years when he died, and the emotion behind our unresolved issues came pouring out in fictional thriller form. There isn’t much in the way of biography to the story, but the emotion behind our issues conveyed well in the story. I found it therapeutic.  This was the last novel I finished prior to my wife’s diagnosis of cancer. Hedged was meant to be nothing more than an emotional outlet for anger and grief; a fictional testament to what happens to otherwise normal people when family isn’t an ideal environment growing up.

Tell me about your personal life:

I’m married to Diane Shelton. We met in 2003, married in 2005 and see ourselves as living in a modern fairytale love story. This is my third marriage. I have one son from my first marriage and she has two daughters from hers. We’ve taken each other’s children as our own and raised them as one family. All three children have graduated from college and have started their lives with great gusto, each choosing different, exciting paths to follow. I remain a full-time professional author, as well as full-time amateur care giver to my wife. She is currently receiving no treatment as her cancer did not achieve remission before chemo stopped working. We wait, receiving quarterly PET scans, to decide a course forward.



Waking Wolfe (originally titled A Lamb in Wolfe’s Clothing)
Publisher (Kindle): Amazon Digital Services LLC November 19, 2013
Publisher (Print): CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 21, 2013)
Scott Wolfe Book 1

Unexpected Gaines (originally titled Second Amendment Remedies)
Publisher (Kindle): Amazon Digital Services LLC February 12, 2014
Publisher (Print): CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 19, 2014)
Scott Wolfe Book 2

Publisher (Kindle):  Amazon Digital Services LLC May 22, 2014
Publisher (Print): CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 22, 2014)
Scott Wolfe Book 3

Publisher (Kindle): Amazon Digital Services LLC November 15, 2014
Publisher (Print): CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 17, 2014)
Scott Wolfe Book 4

Publisher (Kindle):  Amazon Digital Services LLC May 12, 2015
Publisher (Print): CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 11, 2015)
Scott Wolfe Book 5

Publisher (Kindle):  Amazon Digital Services LLC November 17, 2015
Publisher (Print): CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 16, 2015)
Scott Wolfe Book 6

Splinter Self
Scott Wolfe Book 7
Scheduled to release Late 2016, but delayed due to family medical issues.

Publication Date:  Amazon Digital Services LLC December 24, 2013
Stand Alone Back Story Novella in the Scott Wolfe Universe

Publisher (Kindle):  Amazon Digital Services LLC July 26, 2016
Publisher (Print): CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 27, 2016)