Andrew CoussensWhen I think about who Andrew Coussens is, I have to pause a minute. I know I have become a very capable father, widower (if there is even such a thing) and friend. I get stopped cold at who I am as an individual. My mission has clearly changed in the last several years. I have what is known as the impostor syndrome which means sometimes I don’t feel I’m deserving of much. What I do know is that I’m very capable of helping others using my own experiences as a template. I find that I can write as easily as I can breathe.

Despite a degree in journalism, I never wrote more than an occasional editorial, a short story, or even a work-related document until the untimely death of my wife in early January of 2016. I wrestled with anxiety from over 21 overseas deployments prior to her passing and suddenly, it was coupled with the heaviest burden of grief I had ever experienced. Hayley survived for 14 years of our union for all practical purposes as a single mother. She raised our three children alone while battling alcoholism and suffering from depression. I never fully comprehended her burden until after I had lost her.

After her passing, I wrote my more than 90,000 word autobiography as a means of therapy. Initially, I never intended to print it. Over time, I saw validity in how it might help others who were going through the same issues as me. I suddenly became passionate about helping anyone I could through the lens of my own experiences. Upon the completion of my life story, I submitted it to my organization in the hope that they would understand my intent. The review of my autobiography was a multistage process that included a legal panel that scoured the manuscript for the presence of anything that might be considered classified or secret information. When a hard copy was returned to me via email with so many redactions it was virtually unreadable, I knew my efforts were wasted. I was crushed. My personal story would have to remain mine alone.

A friend, veteran and fellow author who has read a portion of my autobiography convinced me to consider writing fiction. After all, fiction would give me greater latitude to tell my story. When my manuscript was cleared my organization’s the review board, I wrote with abandon and finished my first book in a season.

It’s important to note that my first book, A Failed State was a test fire of sorts. I wanted to make sure the story held water not only with some of my former team mates downrange, but also good friends who happened to operate in units either portrayed in my story or stories to come. Since I look up to these men and their families as well as their sacrifices and strengths, it only stands to reason to get testimonials from them about my story’s accuracy and engagement.

Lastly, it is important to give credit where credit is due. The good Lord saved me from the worst year of my life and blessed me and my children with the strength to start over. A Failed State and future stories are just a few rungs of our climb out of the bottom.