When dark forces rise, are faith and firepower enough?
On the eve of his medical retirement, Navy SEAL Jedidiah Johnson receives a frantic call from his estranged childhood best friend David Yarnell. David’s daughter has been kidnapped off the streets of Nashville in broad daylight. The police have no suspects and no leads. The only clue: the body of a dead priest left behind at the scene. With the clock ticking, David is growing desperate, as is his wife, Rachel . . . Jed’s first love.
Despite his painful history with David and Rachel, Jed agrees to help. But he’s spent his career as a door-kicking Navy SEAL, not an investigator. His presence immediately draws unwanted attention, creates friction with the local police, and triggers a mysterious attempt on his life. Just when he thinks things can’t get worse, it starts to happen again–the voices in his head, the nightmares, the visions. Dark memories and strange abilities, things he believed he’d left behind when he fled Nashville for the Navy at eighteen, begin to resurface.
Jed realizes that to save the missing girl, he must take a leap of faith and embrace the gifts he’s denied for all these years. To foil this dark intercept, he’ll need more than just his years as a SEAL operator, because he has no choice now but to take up arms and join the battle in the unseen spiritual warfare raging all around him. And there is far more at stake than just a missing girl: the world is not the place he thought it was–and he is not alone.
BOOK RECON Q&A With Brian Andrews & Jeff Wilson
1. Dark Intercept is an ominous title…What came first the title, or concept for the book?
Brian: (laughs) Well, you’re not the first person to ask that question which means the title is definitely doing its job of getting people thinking. Generally, we find the book titles tend to come for us about the middle of a project as the themes of the novel solidify. In the case of Dark Intercept that was certainly true, however, the series title came much earlier, which we’ll address in one of your follow on questions. The title, DARK INTERCEPT, is a play on the idea of the intersection of good and evil, light and dark. Our hero, Jed, literally needs to intercept the dark forces that have kidnapped a young spiritual prodigty and confront his own demons if he is to win the day.
Jeff: Very true. Like Brian said, we’ve been playing this this series idea for quite some time—the idea of unseen, covert forces battling in the shadows in a classic good versus evil struggle for control of the world. This is a theme that resonates with thriller readers from Ian Fleming’s original James Bond days all the way to today. Our twist on it was the idea of a sanctioned, worldwide, covert operations team that fights not only in the traditional way, but also in spiritual warfare arena, against dark forces that use man’s weaknesses and violent nature to foment hatred, violence and warfare to shake man’s faith in God. So, the idea of THE SHEPHERDS as the title series, using the name for our fictitious covert operations unit, rose easily out of that. DARK INTERCEPT is the origin story, not of the unit, but of our main characters journey into that world, and seems to us to capture both where his life came from and now is headed.
- Jedidiah Johnson seems like a very interesting character. How did he develop between your collaboration together?
Jeff: Well, like all of our stories and characters, Jed developed over a few weeks of brainstorming both the story arc and his character and how he fit into that story. Honestly, our method involves so much cooperative effort that it is impossible to look back and remember who thought of what or when—not just for Jed and for this series, but for Dempsey in Tier One, for Chunk and his team in Sons of Valor, and all of our work. We both bring our own military backgrounds and our life experiences into the growth of a character, and of course a lot of that also happens during the writing and re-writing of the stories.
Brian: Exactly. Ours is a method that always involves team work in growing the story and characters, and honestly it makes it a lot more fun and highly efficient. With Jed, we take the reader on a classic hero’s journey. When we first meet Jed, he’s not in a great place—physically, emotionally, or spiritually. And when he’s first presented with his quest (whether or not to try to look for and rescue 12 year old Sarah Beth Yarnell) is first inclination is to say no. But like all great heroes, Jed is motivated by his principles—a deep sense of duty, honor and justice. Unbeknownst to Jed, however, in accepting his quest he will be forced to confront his own personal demons in the process. It’s hard to say more without spoilers, but suffice it to say that Jed is a pretty complex character emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.
- I always love the call signs you come up with, like Scab etc. How do you go about picking those?
Jeff: (Laughs) glad you like those. To be honest, its fun to choose those and most are amalgams of personal nicknames, mission call signs, and checkpoint call signs we encountered in our time in the military. When I was deployed to the middle east, on a given mission, there would usually be a theme—cars, beers, types of whiskey, favorite beaches, or whatever—for the mission and we would fill in the waypoints from that theme. You saw us do that in Sons of Valor, where we were able to give a shout out to the amazing patriot John Rick for all he does to support the military and veterans, naming the jackpot call sign after his whiskey brand, Redneck Riviera. Coming up with those is actually a real fun part of the story building for us.
- Can you gave us some insight into why the series is called Shepherds?
Brian: Everyone is familiar conceptually with the role of shepherd—a guardian and watchman who diligently protects his flock. And most of us have heard the metaphor that society can be divided into Sheep and Wolves—sheep being the innocents and wolves the hunters/exploiters. The Shepherds organization in our fictional universe are metaphorical shepherds and they accept the mission to be the guardians and protectors of the innocents. In our series, instead of farmers with sticks wandering the hills, our Shepherds are a covert operations unit that works behind the scenes, unseen by the sheep they protect, battling to keep the wolves at bay. The idea of Shepherds protecting their flock is common in Christianity. Jesus referred to himself as The Shepherd. He commanded his disciples to be as shepherds, tending their flocks. While the flock we’re referring to here is modern society, it just seemed the perfect name for our team and their mission.
- How was your experience writing Dark Intercept as opposed to writing the Tier One thrillers, and Sons of Valor?
Jeff: In terms of the process, it wasn’t any different than any of our other works. I can tell you that it was truly exciting to be able to combine our love of covert operations thrillers, storytelling, and our passion for some of the themes in this book—crisis in faith, spiritual warfare, etc—together in one series. As some people know, I lead a men’s military ministry for a large church in Tampa where we work together to explore and come to terms with these very issues. Men and women who have encountered true evil on the battlefields naturally find question about how a supposedly loving God could allow such things to exist, and it can impact their faith, relationships, and lives in a dramatic way. Pulling that thread through this series was exciting, but also a fair amount of work
- How was the pitch for this book initially received by the publisher?
Brian: That’s actually a funny story, because while we had been toying with this series for a while as we said, and in fact had written maybe fifty pages or so, we really weren’t actively shopping the series. As you know, we have a lot going on with Tier One and Sons of Valor and so while it was the next series we intended to develop, we were in a bit of holding pattern in our minds. Then, out of the blue Jeff got a call from our close friend Josh Hood, who writes the Treadstone Series for Putnam. Turns out he’d been flying home from a conference and sat beside a woman in publishing who struck up a conversation with him, during which he proceeded to open a very big door for us.
Jeff: That’s right, they were talking about their faith, and when she realized he was a thriller writer, she told him she worked for Tyndale House and that they were looking to grow their action adventure titles and wondered if he had anything that would work for them. Josh knew about our Shepherds series concept, and like the selfless and highly motivated veteran brother that he is, he pitched it to her. A few days later, we got an email from who is now our incredible editor, Karen Watson, who is the fiction publisher for Tyndale House. We got on a zoom with Tyndale, chatted about the project we had in mind, and a few days later had a three-book deal for the series. So, for us it seemed like the project sort of came to us from above, if you know what I mean.
- Does Dark Intercept have a certain theme like Spiritual Warfare?
Brian: Dark Intercept has three primary themes and Spiritual Warfare is one leg of that triad. The second is Crisis in Faith, and the third is the Finding Purpose. All three of these themes are important to us and we believe will resonate with all readers whether they are looking for a spiritual or secular message. The reason we feel confident making such a statement is because at its heart, Dark Intercept is a story about a man facing his personal demons (figuratively) and external demons (literally. But both battles are symbolic of the struggles that every warrior faces trying the navigate the horrors of battle and the psychological aftermath that follows.