As a writer, Andrew Wolfendon has stepped out of the shadows with a bang
After more than 20 years an astonishing variety of books and scripts — and ghost-writing nonfiction other books for professionals — the Ahwatukee man on Thursday, June 13, will be publishing his first novel — a thriller called “Fisherman’s Court.”
The Boston native and father of two daughters moved here with his wife a little over five years ago.
He admits it was a long time coming for a man who has made words his life’s work.
With a master’s degree in writing from Emerson College and a background in teaching creating writing at several New England colleges and writers’ institutes, Wolfendon has written “a zillion non-fiction books,” several children’s books, a comic book, an award-winning stage play, numerous screenplays that have been optioned for film, and even 25 computer/video games.
Yet, as much as his writer’s heart yearned to turn out a novel, time was an enemy.
“For me — practically speaking — it’s finding the bandwidth to write my own stuff after spending 45-50 hours a week ghostwriting books for my professional clients,” he said.
True, there was a creative challenge at play as well.
“My biggest challenge is to have faith in the process and keep pushing forward even when the whole draft is a mess and I am convinced it is the worst assemblage of words in the history of language,” he said.
“There was a point in writing Fishermen’s Court where my wife had to talk me off a ledge, but fortunately I kept at it and all the issues resolved themselves in a way that felt ‘ordained.’”
His wife, a psychotherapist, also prevailed.
“My wife has been insisting I was a novelist for decades,” Wolfendon explained. “I finally ran out of arguments to use against her.”
Wolfendon began his writing career in the games industry in the 1990s, writing software titles such as Darby the Dragon, 3D Dinosaur Adventure, the Magic Tales series and several JumpStart titles, as well as adult games like Darkened Skye and the Warcraft adventure game, the last of which was not released but did contribute to the storyline of World of Warcraft.
“I’ve always been a storyteller, in one form or another — games, kids’ books, screenplays, memoirs,” he said.
“Part of me always wanted to write novels, but I was too perfectionistic in my attitude. I wanted to write the Great American Novel or nothing. So, I went with nothing. Finally, I gave myself permission to just write a good beach book, the kind of book I would want to take on vacation. As soon as I did that, the ideas started flowing.”
“Fisherman’s Court” revolves around a “depressed computer-game artist” named Finn Carroll.
The book opens with Carroll attacked in his home by mysterious killers who intend to make his death look like a suicide, even leaving a farewell note that relates his death to a dark incident in the past that no one should know about.
Though he survives, Carroll flees to an island of the Maine coast and soon realizes he’s trapped with the people who want him dead.
“In order to survive, he must unravel his past, pay some old dues, and discover strengths he didn’t know he had,” Wolfendon said.
Not surprisingly, Wolfendon is a fan of thrillers, and counts among his influences books by some of the legendary ones like Harlan Coban, Tana French, William Lashner and Nelson DeMille.
His idol is Stephen King, whom he calls “the Bob Dylan of novelists.”
“How can you not stand in awe of Stephen King?” he asked. “Still cranking out at least a book a year after nearly fifty years of creativity. And his work is still fresh and original.”
Wolfendon got the idea for his “good beach book” by thinking of the place he and his wife are fond of — Monhegan Island in Maine.
“I decided to create a fictional island that had some similarities to Monhegan, and then I asked myself what suspenseful event could happen there. I immediately thought, ‘What if I were trapped on the island in a nor’easter with people who were trying to kill me?’ That idea was the starting point for the book, and then the story grew richer and more complex from there.”
He spent seven months crafting the first draft — a period of time short enough to surprise him, he said, since he still had his fulltime writing job and had written a novel that was fairly long.
“A fascinating thing about creative projects is that at the beginning you have to push them out and it’s a constant grind, a lot of hard work,” he observed. “But then at some point the momentum shifts; they start pulling you, and you can’t leave them alone. For several months there, I was getting only about five hours sleep a night, because the book was keeping me up. I had to force myself, every night, to shut off the computer and go to bed.”
He needed to do only a little research on Maine islands, which led him to a subplot that he likely would never have made a main part of his book.
Still, “since it was my first novel, I wanted to stick to a world I was sort of familiar with.”
Wolfendon is excited by the early responses to “Fisherman’s Court.”
It won first place in the 2018 Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition, an international contest run out of the United Kingdom.
Best Thrillers called him “an exciting, fresh new voice” in the genre and a “gifted debut novelist.” Readers’ Favorite gave the book a five-star review and said, “A thriller of epic proportions, this is one of the most suspenseful books I ever had the pleasure to read.”
And Online Book Club noted, “[T]his fast-paced suspense kept me guessing from the opening pages until the very end… 4 out of 4 stars.”
For anyone who thinks they might have a novel in them, he has this advice:
“Read like crazy in your chosen genre, and other genres too, but when it comes time to write, ‘paint from life.’ By that I mean, try not to recycle the words and ideas of other writers. Capture your own raw truth, in words that feel authentic to you. Also, trust the process. Write your way through resistance and obstacles. And finish your piece. Completion will teach you 90 percent of what you need to learn as a writer.”
Fishermen’s Court will be published on June 13, 2019 by Black Rose Writing. It can be preordered on Amazon or directly through the publisher (use code PREORDER2019 to save 15 percent). Information: andrewwolfendon.com or fishermenscourt.com.