Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson are the authors behind the Shepherds Series, the Tier One and Sons of Valor Series, and Rogue Asset, the ninth book in the W.E.B. Griffin Presidential Agent Series. They write action-adventure and covert operations novels honoring the heroic men and women who serve in the military and intelligence communities.
Brian is a former submarine officer, entrepreneur, and Park Leadership Fellow with degrees from Vanderbilt and Cornell. Jeff worked as an actor, firefighter, paramedic, jet pilot, and diving instructor, as well as a vascular and trauma surgeon. During his fourteen years of service, Jeff made multiple deployments as a combat surgeon with an East Coast–based SEAL Team. Jeff now leads a men’s military ministry for a large church in Tampa.
In this interview, they talk about the new book in the The Shepherds Series, Dark Angel.
FF: Dark Angel is the second of three novels in the Shepherds Series. What are you most excited for readers to discover in Dark Angel specifically?
In Dark Angel we get to take our readers on an insider’s tour of the Shepherds—who they are, where they came from, and of course what is next for them. We get to see the Shepherds in action, in training, and in the relationships they have. We also learn more about the depth and breadth of their connections in government and equally just how far the Dark Ones’ tentacles reach around the world. Jed will continue his journey to find his destiny, but there is no time to waste because the next attack from the Dark Ones, with an impact of global consequence, is right around the corner!
FF: “Taken meets Stranger Things” and “supernatural thriller series with military elements” have been two phrases used to describe this series. Why are those great descriptive phrases?
Taken is the story of a man who is willing to risk everything and do anything to rescue his kidnapped daughter. In the first book, Dark Intercept, we find Jedidiah Johnson in a similar situation—except in Jed’s case, there’s a twist. Instead of setting out to rescue his own daughter, Jed agrees to rescue the daughter he wishes he’d had. Dark Angel picks up where book one left off.
The Stranger Things mash-up is a super-fun and appropriate reference because just like in that series, in the Shepherds Series, the reader quickly realizes there’s more going on than meets the eye in the streets of Nashville. Seemingly impossible supernatural occurrences are happening all around Jed, and the more he tries to deny them, the worse things get. An unseen battle is raging, and the players are engaged in spiritual warfare.
FF: You’re known for having coauthored the popular military series Tier One. Why will readers of the Tier One Series enjoy the Shepherds Series? What is different about the Shepherds Series that fans will find surprising?
The Shepherds Series incorporates all the thrilling elements our Tier One readers love and look forward to: covert operations intrigue, fast-paced action sequences, and nefarious plots carried out by bad guys who are as competent as they are vile. What sets this series apart from our previous work is a deeply personal spiritual component. Through the protagonist’s eyes, we tackle questions of faith and purpose. Like so many of our readers, our hero has regrets. He needs answers to questions that he’s too afraid to ask. He second-guesses the choices he’s made in his past, and the path forward he’s seeking is both unclear and frightening. To the world, he presents himself as a battle-hardened warrior who has it all figured out. But on the inside, our hero is racked with self-doubt. Like so many of us, he realizes he can’t figure it all out by himself, alone and in his own headspace. He needs help. He needs faith. He needs God.
FF: As coauthors, can you describe your writing process? What strengths do each of you bring to the table?
We’ve had a number of years now to perfect our coauthoring process and the one thing that makes it possible is having a shared vision of the project and constant communication. When we are writing a new project, we talk many times a day, to make sure we are on track with the same story line and writing with the same voice. This is particularly important for us, because our process involves writing simultaneously.
We begin every new project by brainstorming the story. The brainstorming phase is super fun and we feel like two kids playing Army in the woods. Every new project usually starts with a what-if question—like “What if a Navy SEAL had a crisis of faith after confronting real evil and in order to find his way back to God, he has to overcome an enemy his SEAL skills alone aren’t sufficient to fight?”
After we’ve brainstormed the crux of the story, we start mapping the arc into three acts. We create a bullet-style outline for the first act and then get to writing. We write in the third person with multiple POVs, so naturally, to get started, the first thing we do is assign chapters based on POV characters. As a writing team, it’s important that we each get to share time in every character’s headspace, so we rotate as we go so both authors get to spend time writing all the POV characters.
Also critical to our process is the idea of continuous developmental editing. Every two or three chapters, we pass chapters back and forth and do a rewrite of the other author’s work. This allows us to both bring our individual strengths to every chapter but also ensures that each chapter has the shared, singular Andrews & Wilson voice we are known for. These then go into the master file and we move on. As for what strengths we each bring to the table, well, that is an Andrews & Wilson brand secret.
FF: Where did the inspiration for this series come from?
This series is one we’ve been kicking around for a while. Obviously the inspiration for the military and covert operations side of the story comes from our time in service and the real-life special operators we’ve had the honor to serve beside. Blending this with faith and biblical supernatural elements, however, is inspired to an extent by the same service. In our own lives and service, we’ve had to deal with burning questions about the nature of God, His role in the world and our lives, good and evil, and supernatural, spiritual warfare the Bible tells us rages around us every day.
Jeff’s opportunity to lead a men’s military ministry for a large church further inspired both of us as we worked through the issues with veterans and active-duty service members struggling with the same questions.
FF: What can you tell us about the research process for a series like this? Did you learn anything new while writing this particular series?
As we said above, our personal experiences inform us tremendously on all aspects of the stories in this series, both our military service and our intimate involvement in the military ministry at Grace Family Church. It is exciting to delve into the Bible to research the supernatural elements of the story. Our goal was to craft stories with strong faith-centric supernatural elements that could be supported by Scripture. To help with this, we spent many hours consulting with our own personal faith leaders but also a Catholic priest friend so we could get a variety of perspectives on these elements. In the end, the Shepherds series is fiction and so our goal was not to get these aspects perfect, but to make them comfortable to those who know Scripture.
FF: Do we meet any new characters in Dark Angel?
Absolutely! As Jed reports for duty with the Shepherds, we get to learn more about characters introduced in Dark Intercept and also meet some exciting new characters that will round out his team: Nisha, Hyeon, and Bex are other newly acquired Shepherds and we also meet many others as we take the reader on an inside tour of the Shepherds. More exciting is introducing our readers to a whole new, chilling antagonist in Nick Woland. Not only is he a compelling and very dark enemy for Jed and his team, he has a secret past that makes him even more dangerous. And of course, we get to learn so much more about Jed, Rachel, David, Ben Morvant, and everyone’s favorite, young Sarah Beth and her journey.
FF: The Shepherds Series includes a faith element. Is this a new direction for your novels? Why did you choose to include a faith element?
One of the greatest blessings of writing this series for Tyndale House has been the ability to blend elements of our faith into our passion for writing gut-wrenching, authentic covert operations fiction. It was such a thrill to have great discussions with one another and others about what we believe and what the Bible says, about both the spiritual warfare aspects and the faith crisis aspects of the stories in this series. This was a new, but very natural, direction for us and one we feel is important because, as we said before, these are questions that an enormous number of combat veterans, as well as everyday folks, struggle profoundly with. After twenty years of constant, sustained, and highly kinetic combat operations in the Middle East, the number of active-duty personnel and veterans with this experience is enormous. Add to this their loved ones who often must struggle beside them with similar questions, and you have millions and millions of people for whom the questions we pose are relevant. Being able to put all of this into an exciting thriller fiction series gives readers a new medium to tackle their own questions of faith and spirituality. We hope as the readers of this novel and the whole series go on Jed’s journey with him, they find their own answers and insights in parallel.
FF: Male readers will enjoy this series, but why do you think female readers will enjoy it?
Over the years, we were delighted to find that our novels have always resonated with an unexpectedly large number of women readers. One reason is that there is much more crossover of genre between men and women now than in the past and there is a huge population of female thriller readers. We also have always worked to place strong female characters into all our stories, as this accurately reflects the world we live in. In the case of the Shepherds series, we also have the universally accessible themes of crisis, faith, loss, and the nature of evil that we hope will resonate with everyone.
FF: Some of the underlying themes in the Shepherds Series are war, crisis of faith, and the nature of evil. Why are these relevant themes for a thriller series releasing now?
These themes are not only impacting an increasingly large percentage of our population as war rages on for twenty years now, but these are also themes that are increasingly relevant to those who have never served or been close to those who have. Terrorism, COVID-19, violent protests, racism, increasingly divisive social pressures—these are things that have touched all of our lives in recent years and, we believe, are just as relevant to the themes explored in the Shepherds series as wartime service.
FF: Why do you think this series may be especially important for members of men’s ministries?
We believe very strongly that frank discussions of faith crisis and about what God does (and doesn’t) promise in His Word are of paramount importance in men’s ministry. This equips men for the future as much as it helps deal with the past. We are all either in crisis, recovering from crisis, or have a crisis in our future. That is the reality of faith in a fallen world. We also believe strongly that biblical principles of good and evil and spiritual warfare, because of their controversial nature, are underdiscussed in ministry in general and men’s ministry in particular. As military men, we know that you can’t defeat an enemy you don’t take time to understand, and the very same principle must be applied to dealing with these issues in our faith. The Scripture is a major component of the armor of God we are called upon to wear, as Christian men, in Ephesians 6.
FF: When readers turn the last page of this series how do you hope they feel? What new idea or lesson do you hope they carry with them?
First, we want you to be breathless from what we hope is an exciting ride—this series is written to be an action series. But we hope the reader also walks away inspired to find hope and answers to some of their own spiritual warfare and faith crisis questions as they get an intimate view of Jedidiah’s struggles for those answers.
The Shepherds Series #2
Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson
Genres: Suspense. Military Thriller
Release Date: April 5, 2022
Former Navy SEAL Jedidiah Johnson returns to Nashville ready to begin his training with the elite warriors known as the Shepherds. He thinks he knows what to expect when he arrives on the sprawling, state-of-the-art facility but quickly realizes he’ll have to find his place as the rookie leader of a new team. Then he starts having visions of an imminent attack overseas, and with the clock ticking, Jed and his team are dispatched to neutralize the threat. All the while, Jed hears whispers of another threat . . . a name that raises unexplained fear and anger throughout the Shepherds organization.
Once a military man, Nicholas Woland betrayed the Shepherds and all they stood for when he joined their enemies. After years in prison, Woland is eager to get back in action spreading chaos and death. And he has been freed for a purpose: a sinister plot that will result in hundreds of casualties and incite worldwide religious warfare for years to come.
As Woland and the Shepherds race toward a collision, Jed must rely on his gifts, his training, and his untested team to make critical decisions on a global stage—never realizing that a secret servant of the enemy is growing closer and closer to him.
Buy Dark Angel from the FF Store HERE!
Buy Dark Angel from Amazon HERE!