Stephen Coonts was born on July 19, 1946 and grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia. He received an A.B. degree in political science from West Virginia University in 1968. He entered the U.S. Navy and received his Navy wings in August of 1969. He made two combat cruises aboard the USS Enterprise. After the Vietnam War, he served as a flight instructor aboard the USS Nimitz. He left active duty in 1977 and received a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1979. He went to West Virginia to practice and later, to Colorado to work as a staff attorney for an oil company.
Coonts published his first novel, Flight of the Intruder, in 1986, which was adapted as into a film in 1991. Since then he has written more than 20 books including ones in the Jake Grafton Novel series, Saucer series, Deep Black series, and Tommy Carmellini series. He also published a work of nonfiction in 1992 called The Cannibal Queen and edited an anthology of true flying stories, War in the Air, in 1996. The U.S. Naval Institute honored him with its Author of the Year Award in 1986 for his novel, Flight of the Intruder.