Andrews & Wilson: Show They’re “Tier One” Quality
Interview by Jeff Ayers for Suspense Magazine
Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson have found success writing together. Not only do they write the #1 bestselling series Tier One, they have also written standalone novels featuring ex-Navy SEAL Nick Foley, under the pseudonym of Alex Ryan. They took time out from their busy writing schedule to answer five questions for Suspense Magazine:
Jeff Ayers (J.A.): How do you edit your work when it’s a collaborative process?
Jeffrey Wilson (J.W.): One thing that’s different for us—at least from me and my solo projects—is there is so much more editing that goes in during the rough draft phase. Our process involves writing concurrently, brainstorming constantly, and splitting up chapters, usually by POV. About every three or four chapters we trade work, edit and re-write the other guy’s chapter, and blend them together into a master file. As a result, when we finish the rough draft, we have functionally been through one complete edit. After the rough, we start the developmental editing (DE) phase and bring our amazing developmental editor into the loop. She reads the entire manuscript, prepares detailed notes, and we conference all together. With the manuscript back in our court, we begin the process all over again but now as a DE pass—with me and Brian splitting the work, and swapping the master file back and forth. It sounds cumbersome, but it’s actually insanely efficient and is the reason we can produce a book so quickly.
Brian Andrews (B.A.): And when Jeff is finally done with all the heavy lifting, I write “The End” and attach the file to a snarky, self-indulgent email to our publisher, and send our latest masterpiece off for publication. But seriously, all kidding aside, one of the more important elements of our process is the mechanics of managing the prose so the novel reads with a singular voice. One of the great compliments for us as a writing duo, is when a fan or reviewer comments about the consistent voice and the absence of stark or contrasting style from chapter to chapter. That is intentional, and the cornerstone of the Andrews & Wilson process. A very wise author once said, “All writing is rewriting” and we embrace this adage to the core. Our editing phase is the heavy lifting of the project, during which all sentences are fair game for deletion, relocation, or rephrasing. As you heard Jeff explain, by the time we’re done with DE the book has been collaboratively rewritten two times, which is why a unified voice emerges by the end. This process requires that you trust your co-author and lock your ego away in a drawer. Even if we wanted to, it’s impossible to “take credit” for specific ideas or sections of prose—every novel is an Andrews & Wilson collaboration and is virtually impossible to deconstruct.
J.A.: Why do you think your Tier One novels have been so popular?
B.A.: When a reader picks up a Tier One novel, our goal is that he or she is fully immersed in the story before finishing the first chapter. We try to accomplish this by using three levers: premise, plot, and protagonist. Every Tier One book is based on a “ripped from the headlines” premise. Given the long production cycle for books like these, this requires a good measure of crystal ball gazing and a little bit of luck so that we get it right. For example, the impetus for “American Operator” (the latest book in the series) was born from us observing a systematic, multi-pronged Russian influence campaign to destabilize American relationships and operations in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. The premise of the book is a “what if” scenario in which Russia orchestrates a false flag operation in Turkey that fractures the US-Turkish alliance, thereby knocking the United States out of the driver’s seat in the region and shifting the balance of power and influence to Russia.
The second lever is plot, and every Tier One novel opens with an inciting event that draws the reader into the mind and motivational machinations of the villain. For example, in the opening chapter of “American Operator,” the US Ambassador to Turkey is murdered and his Chief of Staff, Amanda Allen, is kidnapped. We pose the question immediately to the reader: Why was Amanda Allen taken instead of murdered? And if she’s not recovered, what will the consequences be?
J.W.: I think readers are drawn to the realism in our premises, and the intrigue in our plots, but most importantly the realism of the characters. All the series characters are real and relatable; our protagonist, John Dempsey, most of all. That’s highly intentional—writing characters with strengths and weaknesses, faults and frailties, instead of just superheroes—because those are the type of men and women we know and have served with. In Special Warfare, you have ordinary people who do amazing things because of their drive and sense of service, but then pick up milk on their way home, go to their kids’ ball game, and take the garbage to the curb. We try hard to imbue humanity into all the characters, because it brings them to life and makes you care what happens to them. Dempsey is just a man, but he is a man of the highest possible caliber. He is a former Tier One Navy SEAL—an operator, a patriot, and a member of an elite brotherhood. In his world, heroism is expected. In his world, country is put ahead of self. And in his world, tragedy is unavoidable. To do his job requires a level of self-sacrifice—as well as mental and spiritual toughness that few people will ever know. To understand him, you have to walk in his shoes, which is why we write his character using an intimate, and intimidatingly close, third person POV. After reading any of the Tier One books, you will feel like you’ve been through “the suck” with Dempsey, and that’s the level of realism we strive for.
J.A.: How do you find your distinctive voice, both with your individual works and those done together?
J.W.: Well, I think understanding our process that we described earlier answers that a little bit, but I also think that Brian and I have a very similar outlook on writing. We think alike now to the point where we joke that we have one brain that we share when it comes to the craft of writing. Others might say that if you sum us up, you almost have one good writer.
B.A.: In our co-authored works (the Tier One and Alex Ryan series), the mission is to eschew two distinctive voices in exchange for a unified voice. There’s no soloist in this performance, only the choir. That’s the beautiful irony of your question—when you read our collaborative work, what should resonate is that the Andrews & Wilson voice should feel different and distinct from our solo stuff. We want it that way, because each co-authored novel is truly a 50/50 collaboration.
J.A.: What is the Andrews & Wilson brand?
B.A.: When we started this journey we decided that we wanted to write books about Military Characters, Covert Operations, and Science & Technology. Those are the three pillars of our brand and will always be a common theme in all our co-authored works. From book to book and series to series, the emphasis might shift more heavily from one pillar to the other, but all three elements will always be present.
J.W.: Thematically, that’s correct. From a storytelling perspective, I would say the hallmarks of our brand are hard-hitting, realistic action that ebbs and flows through a nail-biting, and sometimes gut-wrenching plotline. As far as the writing itself, well, when it comes to a two-name brand everyone brings their own personal strengths. I’m the talent and the good looks and the brains, and Brian…wait, what did you say you do again?
J.A: Have you thought about writing either solo or together in other genres?
J.W.: Well, Brian and I have both written outside the military and covert ops thriller genre. I’ve written a few supernatural thrillers—one being more classic horror than anything. Brian recently released a speculative technology thriller called “Reset” that’s an incredible near future techno-thriller that ties climate change, artificial intelligence, and government conspiracy into a ‘what the heck just happened’ plot. If I had to describe it in a single sentence, it would be: “The Terminator meets War Games with a dash of The X-files thrown in.” As far as co-authored off-genre work, we do have an exciting new Andrews & Wilson novel in the pipeline. The book features a former Army CID investigator turned homicide detective, Valerie Marks, as she tackles her first domestic case in which the murderer is unlike any serial killer the world has faced before. We don’t have a pub date yet, and can’t release the title, but in this new book we explore some cutting-edge science and mix in some true crime elements for the first time.
B.A.: And Jeff just released his first faith-based title, “War Torn,” a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been incredibly well-received. Something that folks probably don’t know, is that Jeff leads a men’s military ministry in Tampa focused on helping war fighters deal with crisis of faith dilemmas that can accompany war time service—both for the service members and their families. “War Torn” was born out of things Jeff has seen and been part of in the horrors of war, and it is a beautifully written, emotional novel that I encourage our readership (even those who don’t typically read faith-based fiction) to explore.
To stay up to date on their work and sign up for their newsletter, check out these links; Brian’s Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2OZEkXd, Jeff’s Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2DcHQqW, and
Andrews & Wilson Newsletter: www.andrews-wilson.com. ■