The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast welcomes U.S. Navy veterans Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, who met at a writers’ conference and have since coauthored 27 bestselling books. Andrews and Wilson discuss their transition from military service to civilian life, how they started writing together, ground rules they set from the start for a successful writing career as co-authors, and tricks to keeping the same voice when they’re both writing separate pages and chapters.
Andrews, a Navy submarine officer, was never a writer prior to meeting Wilson but he did love to tell stories to pass the time while deployed.
“I became his collector of stories,” he said. “I’d go to port, I’d find my buddies on different boats, I’d get stories. I would collect them and when we’d go out on the next deployment, I’d save them up and tell them to people. When I was leaving the Navy one of the guys on the boat said, ‘Hey, you’re a pretty good storyteller have you ever thought about writing a book?’ No, I never have. But he put that earworm in; he put it in there. A couple years later I said, maybe I should write a book.”
That’s when he went to the writers’ conference and met Wilson, who has an eclectic background but has always been writing. He’s worked as an actor, firefighter, paramedic, jet pilot, diving instructor, a vascular and trauma surgeon, and he served in the Navy as a combat surgeon with an East Coast-based SEAL team.
“I do have a strange path, that’s for sure,” Wilson said. But it’s their paths, people they know and situations they have experienced that have created action-adventure thriller books. “There’s no superheroes in our story. There’s ordinary people doing remarkable things. Which is what the military really is.”
Andrews approached Wilson with the idea to co-author a book together based on their military background. “I thought oh my gosh, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Wilson said. “What does that look like? We’re brainstorming at a story and the story is getting better and better.” They both wrote five chapters and Andrews told Wilson that if it’s not going great, ‘you can have the story because I can’t write I without you.’ I thought, ‘man that’s a great idea,’” Wilson said. “I just got a book. We sat down, wrote the first five chapters, and never talked about it again.”
Andrews thought, “this guy is funny, and we get along, but suddenly I want to do into business with him?! At the time it seemed like a great idea. And thank God that it did because I’ve had so much freaking fun and Jeff’s my best friend and we work together every day.”
Since 2015, they have been writing together, exchanging pages and re-writing each other’s work “that makes it that one solid voice.”
“The military background is what allowed us to do that,” Wilson said. “That team before self, that mission before self-ethos … without that bred into our DNA from military service we couldn’t possibly do what we do. I don’t think.
“We have found a rich network of fellow veterans who have made similar choices. Whether you’re going to go into writing, whether you’re going to stat a coffee business, whether you want to go become a PA … whatever it is, you really do need to seek out your brothers and sisters from service because somebody has done it before, somebody’s coming after you, and we as a community, we veterans, we have a special skillset, but we also have a special ability to lift each other up. The brotherhood and sisterhood of service doesn’t end after you transition out. So that was a big impact for us as we transitioned into a writing career. You need to find your fellow veterans because we’re a tight community, but only if you seek each other out, right?”
Listen to this episode to hear which book you should start with, which was their favorite and the latest one that everyone must buy.
Also on the episode, hosts Jeff Daly and Ashley Gutermuth discuss:
· The story of a corporal who gave a speech in front of a top Marine and got promoted on the spot.
· How the United States is growing a robot army
· A post in Montana helped create 988 challenge coins for suicide prevention efforts
Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 190 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.