Brian is a US Navy veteran, nuclear engineer, and former submarine officer. He holds degrees from Vanderbilt and Cornell Universities and is a Park Leadership Fellow. Brian co-authors the Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon best-selling TIER ONE military thriller series with Jeffrey Wilson under the co-author brand Andrews & Wilson. Starting 2021, he and Jeff will be taking over duties writing the W.E.B Griffin Presidential Agent Series. His latest novel, COLLATERAL, is available now wherever books are sold.
When I was a submarine officer in the US Navy, collaboration and teamwork was a prerequisite for operational success. No one person can command and operate a multi-billion dollar, nuclear powered, underwater, machine of war all by him or herself. In the civilian world, trying to build and run a successful business by yourself is equally daunting. I can’t name a single Fortune 500 company with only one employee. Which is why, as a veteran and former business owner, when I decided to throw my hat into the thriller novelist ring, I automatically gravitated to the idea of co-authoring. For me, it was a natural fit to want to collaborate with a partner—someone whom I could share the workload, brainstorm, and also swap motivational duties. Because let’s be honest, writing novels can be a very lonely business. After writing my first two novels by myself, I realized it was time for a change.
Enter Jeff Wilson, stage left.
Like me, Jeff is a US Navy veteran. Like me, Jeff was a published author but also somebody who appreciated and understood the power of teamwork and collaboration. We met as ITW debut authors at Thrillerfest seven years ago and became fast friends. After mulling the logistics of co-authoring for bit, we came up with a plan and started collaborating on our first novel. That novel was TIER ONE, a military thriller that tells the story of a decorated Navy SEAL and his story of transformation and retribution after terrorists deal the United States special operations a horrifying blow. TIER ONE was released by Thomas & Mercer in September of 2016 and became an Amazon bestseller. Fast forward to the present and Jeff & I have collaborated on a dozen novels since TIER ONE’s release—a feat we never imagined possible five years ago. As a testament to the effectiveness and efficiency of our model, we are now writing three thriller series (TIER ONE, SONS OF VALOR, and THE SHEPHERDS).
Both readers and other authors are often curious about co-authoring and how we make it work. One of the most common questions concerns division of labor and mechanics of our method. I think curiosity is the main driver, but people are also interested to know if we’ve discovered the “secret ingredient” to cooking up a great novel in the co-authoring kitchen. In the immortal words of the Kung Fu Panda: “there is no secret ingredient.”
That said, we are very open and forthcoming when it comes to talking about our process. We write using the Three-Act Structure. We brainstorm each Act sequentially and we write them in order. We divide up writing duties by chapter and POV. Every Andrews & Wilson novel is written in the third person with multi-POVs, and we are very disciplined in having only one POV per chapter.
The next most popular question we get is who writes which characters? Many readers assume, for example, that one of us writes all the John Dempsey chapters and the other writes all the Elizabeth Grimes chapters in the TIER ONE books, and that we just blend them together. That’s not the case, however. We rotate character POVs so that both authors get a chance to spend time in every character’s head.
The invariable follow-up question becomes “then how do you get a consistent voice throughout the novel?” The answer to that is a single word: EDITING. In our method, both authors make multiple passes with permission to change any and all prose as deemed necessary. By the conclusion of the developmental editing phase, every sentence in the book has been “rewritten” by both authors—the end result being a singular voice, not Brian Andrews, not Jeff Wilson, but Andrews & Wilson.
If I was forced to name a secret ingredient to our partnership (even though I stand by my previous “there is no secret ingredient” statement) it would be trust. Co-authoring will not and cannot work without trust—which I think is one of the key reasons we were recently asked by industry legend Tom Colgan, to pen the next novel in the late, great W.E.B Griffin’s PRESIDENTIAL AGENT series for Putnam. As one of the pioneers in the military thriller genre, Colgan has been trusted by both the Clancy and Ludlum estates to manage their iconic legacies and hand pick authors to carry the proverbial torch onward.
In picking Andrews & Wilson for the Presidential Agent series, our collaborative model undoubtedly factored into the decision because William E Butterworth III was no stranger to the co-authoring model. In his case, he collaborated with his son, William E Butterworth IV on the very series we will be taking the mantle on. Which brings me back full circle to the beginning—a new partnership, a new collaboration, and an unknown destination…but a whole lotta trust for the Griffin estate and Penguin Random House to hand us the keys such a vaunted series.
If you enjoyed this blogpost, you can find more of Brian’s thoughts and writing advice at Career Authors where he is both a principle and regular contributor. You can find links to all his books at www.andrews-wilson.com or follow him on Twitter: @lexicalforge and his Amazon Author Page to stay informed about all his new releases.