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.

 Visit SLShelton.com


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)