Face Value, Ian Andrew’s detective thriller and the winner of the 2017 BookLife Prize, is packed with action and suspense. It’s easy to imagine that a first draft was dashed off in a storm of passion, the author seldom pausing to apply edits until after everything was down on paper. But, in fact, Andrew edited the novel section by section as he wrote it, taking contemplative breathers to review and perfect each scene before advancing to the next.
“That constant back-and-forth allows me to tighten the story as I go,” Andrew says. “I also like my details and write almost visually, so I have to be cautious that I don’t slow the story down too much because of that.”
Andrew, who has worked as an intelligence officer specializing in antisubmarine warfare, is also mindful to give readers the grit and adventure they may associate with upper-level military operations. But, most of this stuff is pure fiction.
“The majority of real intelligence gathering work is boring, but with a novel you get to leave out all of the humdrum and concentrate on the exciting highlights,” Andrew says. “I think being able to use appropriate language and having a handle on the equipment and techniques helps set up believable scenarios.”
Writing under a pseudonym from the rural southwest of Western Australia, Andrew self-published Face Value, the first of the Wright & Tran series, in 2015, followed by the second in the series, Flight Path, in 2016, and the third, Fall Guys, last spring. “I went indie in 2014 after I finished my first novel, A Time to Every Purpose, [which was] cross-genre, not easy to pigeonhole, and had a religious twist to it,” explains the 52-year-old writer. “Also, I wasn’t 20 years old and didn’t have the luxury of waiting for a decade or more to be ‘discovered.’ After the fifth rejection letter, I decided to go it alone. When it featured as an Amazon bestseller in not only its genre, but overall in the top 100 Amazon lists, I felt quite vindicated.”
Help an Author Out
Andrew also feels a calling to help other authors get their work out there. He’s been running Book Reality Experience, a publishing-on-demand service since 2015.
“Having learnt by trial and error how to independently publish a novel, I thought it would be good to run some training courses for other authors wishing to do the same,” Andrew says. “After a lot of the training sessions, authors said thanks, but then asked if I could publish it for them. That brought about the Book Reality Experience.” Along with ambitious writing plans (by this time next year he anticipates having the fourth Wright & Tran novel published and the fifth nearly completed), Andrew plans on further building out BRE.
Now for the kangaroo in the room (hey, he’s in Australia): what will he make of this BookLife victory? Well, first he’ll finish processing the shock of the win.
“Not in the slightest did I think I’d win,” Andrew says. “I simply thought the fact that the competition included a [critique] from the professional reviewers of Publishers Weekly was too good to miss. As each round went by and I continued to progress, I became more excited, yet was just happy to have gotten as far as I did. I am honestly not sure what the reality will bring, but I would like to think a major opportunity would be for increased exposure of my novels to a much wider audience.”
Less unclear is what he’ll do with the $5,000 writing stipend. “Part of it will go on a gift for my wife, Jacki, and part of it will go on a signet ring for me,” he says. “I think it’s important there are some tactile, material things that I can look to and that will remind me of the award. Most of it will be plowed back into the business of writing and will probably fund a promotional trip back to the U.K. in April.”
On a broader note, Andrew is hopeful that this achievement will give a boost to fellow indie crime authors—and perhaps the self-publishing category as a whole. “[Indie] crime thrillers are already an amazingly strong genre, so I don’t believe that it needs much in the way of help; however, in the wider indie author world, a high-profile award like this—backed by an industry powerhouse like Publishers Weekly, with almost 150 years of history behind it—can’t do anything but strengthen the indie author brand,” he says. “I honestly do not see that indies and traditional pathways should be pitted against one another. I see it simply that indie offers a new way, new opportunities, and added diversity for the world of books.”