We had the pleasure of sitting down with US Navy Veterans and co-author duo Jeff Wilson and Brian Andrews to talk about their latest release, American Operator.
If you’re new to the work of Andrew and Wilson, you’re in for a treat.
They are Wall Street Journal bestsellers whose extensive life experience working in the Navy, along with, as you’ll read, a resumé of current and past jobs that you’d expect to see with the name “Bond” or “Reacher” attached to. Yes, that impressive.
We hope you enjoy this interview with this dynamic writing team – and be sure to pick up your copy of their latest book here.
Wilson: Well, I’m Jeff Wilson, the brains and brawn behind the Andrews-Wilson brand. Actually, while I wish that were true, I feel that over the last three years Brian and I have somehow morphed into a single person—or as I like to say, between the two of us we’re equal to one good writer.
I’ve had a rather eclectic life, having worked as a firefighter-paramedic, a diving instructor and dive master, a jet pilot and flight instructor, a medical researcher, a Naval Officer, and a vascular and combat surgeon. While my mom might think I just can’t keep a job, I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences as they are a deep well from which to draw inspiration in my writing.
During my 14 years in the Navy, I served in a variety of capacities, but my greatest honor was serving as a combat surgeon with Naval Special Warfare, making a number of deployments with an east coast based SEAL Team—from which I learned much about this amazing community of warriors.
I now write full time, still practice medicine, work as a consultant for the DoD, and spend as much time as I can with my beautiful wife and four incredible children ages 3, 10, 11, and 18.
Andrews: If you take away the iron suit, I’m just a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist…oh wait, I’m confusing myself with Tony Stark again. Sorry, I hate when that happens. Actually, I’m a nuclear engineer, entrepreneur, Navy veteran, best-selling author…who happens to co-write with the world’s greatest action writer, CDR Jeff Wilson.
Of course while he was trudging around in the sand with a long gun, I was cruising around underwater on fast attack submarine. After my tour of service, I went to Cornell to earn a Master’s in Business and worked as an entrepreneur and small business owner for ten years, before transitioning into professional story-telling. On the personal side, I’m a husband and father with a penchant for over indulging in caffeinated beverages.
Andrews: Even before I started writing, I loved telling stories to entertain friends and colleagues. In the Navy, during transit periods or uneventful watches, I often told stories to help pass the time. Then, one day a fellow submariner said, “hey Brian, you know you’re a heckuva story teller, have you ever thought about writing a book?”
My response was ‘no’ at the time, but he put the proverbial bug in my ear with that comment and I never forgot it. After I finished graduate school, in my spare time I began work on my first novel, The Calypso Directive, a cautionary “what if” tale about how big business could exploit a human being with an immunity mutation. From there, everything slow snowballed into the career I have today.
Wilson: For me, writing was the one constant in the otherwise chaotic and diverse life I’ve led so far. While it seems I’ve moved around in a number of careers—and I obviously have—writing has been the one thread through it all. I began writing when I was very little, creating my own original stories based on my favorite TV characters when I was 8 or 9.
I published my first short story at age 12 or so. I continued to write shorts for decades after, but never thought I had the attention span to write a whole novel until about 10 years ago or so (not surprising since I change careers like some people change socks). I wrote my first full length novel when I was downrange as a FRSS team surgeon with II MEF in western Iraq.
It was liberating! I found it absolutely luxurious to have 80,000-100,000 words to develop a story and it’s characters. Now a decade from that first attempt and writing is my one true passion outside of my family. Writing is actually the thing I have done longer than anything.
Wilson: Jeez, that could be a twenty-minute interview all on its own. There are so many amazing, talented thriller writers out there and so much diversity in the genre right now. Anything Tom Young has written is high on my list, as is all of my friend John Gilstrap’s work…and Tim Tigner is a superstar.
I think Jack Carr is here to stay and I loved Terminal List. Andrew Gross was always one of my favorites, but he went to a whole new level with his World War Two thriller THE ONE MAN. An amazing novel and the follow up THE SABOTEUR was just as good. The third book in that series, BUTTON MAN, is on my desk waiting to be devoured. And anything Stephen King ever wrote—but especially BAG OF BONES and END OF WATCH.
Andrews: I’m an audiobook junkie, so everything I “read” is via Audible. In genre, I love Andrew Watts and Jason Kasper. Their series are fresh, cerebral, and vivid. Off genre, I enjoy non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi and true crime.
The latest book listened to was Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rawlings). Before that I finished The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Singularity Trap by Dennis E Taylor, and Home Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. All were quite good.
Andrews: It’s impossible in today’s world to watch the news and not get a sense for the global geopolitical chess match being played between the US, Russia, China, Europe and the countries of the Middle East. The impetus for AMERICAN OPERATOR (our latest book and #4 in the TIER ONE SERIES) was watching the systematic, multi-pronged Russian influence campaign to counter and destabilize American relationships and operations in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria.
When Turkey, the NATO member with the largest standing military second only to the US, began discussions with Russia to purchase the S300 surface to air missile system it portends much deeper fissures in the delicate balance of power in the Middle East and Europe. Book 4 in the Tier One series explores “what if” scenarios about how Russia plans to upset the world order and knock the United States out of the driver’s seat.
Wilson: That’s a great summary without any spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that. Like Brian said, while every book in the series is driven by the events in the world we see, the experiences we’ve had in the military, and our ongoing relationships with those out on the pointy tip of the spear, it is mostly John Dempsey and the rest of Ember Team that inform the arc of each trilogy and the series as a whole.
Wilson: Brian and I have both spent times in other genres actually. I’ve written three supernatural thrillers, one of which, THE DONORS, is more horror than thriller. Supernatural fiction is really fun, because you’re limited only by your imagination and have no need to fact check and make sure you get it right—write rich characters and you can take readers almost anywhere you want to go.
Brian and I have a few other things in the works that we can’t quite talk about yet, but one is very much a techno thriller based on real world emerging AI technology, and the other is more speculative in nature. These are being shopped right now.
And I just released my first faith based title, WAR TORN, a couple of weeks ago.
I lead a men’s military ministry in Tampa focused on helping war fighters deal with the all too common crisis of faith that can accompany war time service—both for the service members and their families. WAR TORN was born out of my own crisis of faith from things I’ve seen and been part of in the horrors of war, and is an effort to deal with some of the unanswerable questions that come from those experiences.
Andrews: My latest stand alone, titled RESET, is a near future techno-thriller that ties in real world events, 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 me The Terminator meets War Games with a dash of X-files thrown in. The audiobook was recorded by Ray Porter and I think is some of his best work. He’s a true master voice actor.
Andrews: Real people and real experiences certainly informs every writer’s work, whether consciously or subconsciously, but none of our protagonists are fictionalized versions of real people. In thriller writing, especially the military thriller genre, we need to have the flexibility to evolve and deviate with our characters in lock step with the series. But on the supporting character side of the house, some characters are thinly veiled representations of their real world counterparts (e.g., Vladimir Petrov standing in for Vladimir Putin in this second Tier One trilogy).
Wilson: I agree completely with Brian. Every character has elements from people we know and have served with, which makes if both more fun and much easier to create believable, multi-faceted characters. While I can’t think of any character is a replica of anyone I know, they are all amalgams from both of our experiences with an amazing array of people we’ve shared life with over the years.
Wilson: Wow. Kind of hard to limit it to one favorite character. Obviously, it is an absolute joy to write Dempsey in the Tier One series. I feel a little bit of guilt about all the hell we have put that man through, but he has so any layers that he doesn’t even see in himself which makes it great fun taking him on the journey through this series. I have to say, though, from a pure creativity point of view, Kelso Jarvis, with all of his idiosyncrasies and gifts—and his chameleon like nature—is so much fun to write, don’t you think Brian?
Andrews: I agree. I enjoy writing both Dempsey and Jarvis, but for different reasons. Dempsey is the hero that everyone can relate to and admire. His moral code is black and white. He does the right thing every time because that’s the way he’s wired. Jarvis is not that guy. He’s the guy that makes a reader think, do I like this character? If the answer is yes, the next question is should you?
If the answer is no, then the next question is why not? Jarvis is a hero, but he’s the inaccessible hero, the cerebral hero, the hero who, at first blush, seems to be operating with conflicting motives. It’s the dichotomy between these two characters that helps make the series so relatable.
Thanks Thrillerfix, for such a great interview! For all our latest news and updates please be sure to follow us on our Amazon Author pages and sign up for our newsletter.