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Andy Andrews on his past, present and preaching at the Flora-Bama

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Bestselling author and popular speaker Andy Andrews is a Birmingham native who now lives in Orange Beach. (Photo by Christy Haynes/
Bestselling author and popular speaker Andy Andrews is a Birmingham native who now lives in Orange Beach. (Photo by Christy Haynes/

Andy Andrews wrote his latest release, "The Traveler's Summit," about 10 years ago, intending it to be a sequel to his first book, the 2002 bestseller "The Traveler's Gift." But his publisher thought the first novel should stand alone and published the next book under a different title.

In the meantime, Andrews wrote "The Noticer" in 2009, followed by a successful sequel to that book - which must have convinced the publisher that a sequel to "The Traveler's Gift" might be a good idea. So Andrews wrote an additional 7,000 words, and the sequel was released at last in mid-June.

"Only three people read the first one," Andrews jokes.

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In the book, "Humanity is in trouble," Andrews says. The Archangel Gabriel takes David Ponder, the main character from "The Traveler's Gift," to a gathering of all the travelers who are supposed to answer one specific question. They each get five chances to do so.

Among the travelers are Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc and Abraham Lincoln, among others. Since the author and motivational speaker records all of his own audiobooks, Andrews had to perfect all their voices.

"This was one that exhausted me," he says of having to record so many different voices.

Guests at an event in Fairhope on Wednesday, June 27 (see below for details), will hear him read from the book.

An Alabama native, Andrews lives with his family in Orange Beach. Born in Birmingham, he moved with his family to Montgomery and Dothan, then back to Birmingham for high school. When he was 19 years old, both of his parents died within a few months of each other - his mother of cancer, and his father in an automobile accident. Lost, he moved to the beach and eventually ended up homeless in Gulf Shores, living under the public pier and in various garages.

Reading saved him. With his free library card, he started reading as many biographies as possible to see if he could determine what successful people have in common. From the 200 or so books he devoured, he came up with seven basic guiding principles for life, and determined that making good decisions based on those principles might be the key to happiness.

Capitalizing on his sense of humor, he became a stand-up comedian, touring with Joan Rivers for two years and with Kenny Rogers for five. He has opened for Dolly Parton, Cher, Chaka Khan, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis and others.

It was Rogers who sent him on his current path one night when they were riding on the country singer's tour bus. Rogers told him about growing up in a large family in Houston, and Andrews shared how he had lived for a while beneath a pier beside the Gulf of Mexico, how he'd read so many biographies and how he'd identified his seven things.

"You need to talk about those onstage," Rogers told him. "You're not a joke-teller as much as a storyteller. You could transition into those principles."

Andrews's mind was blown. "And be serious?" he asked.

As it turned out, the audiences loved "the serious part." His style became a mix of serious and funny that he still uses when he speaks to crowds today.

A popular and inspiring speaker, Andrews makes some 50 appearances a year onstage, pacing back and forth with a mic in hand like he did when he was a comedian.

Andrews has come a long way from the days of living under the Gulf State Park pier, but he lives not far away from there on Ono Island with his wife of 30 years, Polly, and their sons Austin, 18, and Adam, 16. They attend the Flora-Bama Church, where Andrews preaches a couple of times a year.

"We had 5, 877 people there on Easter," he says. "They have a great band, and Dan Stone, the pastor, is awesome. My dad was a minister of music, so I grew up hearing the best. Dan is unbelievable. I told my boys, 'You have no idea how fortunate you are to go to a church where every Sunday you're interested in what the guy is saying."

When Andrews preached there in February, Stone introduced him as "the real deal, a man of integrity."

His sermon focused on one of his favorite topics, "The Andy Griffith Show." At the conclusion, he showed off some of the memorabilia he's collected from the show, including a Ford Galaxy that was the squad car in the show's second season.

When he needs to write, Andrews says, he retreats to a place in the country where there are no distractions. He gets up early in the morning and doesn't check his email, voicemail or texts before he gets started. "I am ADD," he says. "I need quiet to be able to think. ... I have to almost be in a vacuum to knock out pages."

He advises aspiring writers not to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. "The biggest part is self-discipline," he says. "I've had several New York Times bestsellers, but I was not the best writer in my senior English class. ... I have to write, whether I'm inspired or not."

Above all, Andrews says, he aims to teach people through whatever he does. "I want to make a difference for people," he says.

He had a difficult time paying attention when he was a child sitting in a classroom, or in church, he says. "The only thing I remember is when somebody told a story. I would have really loved history if someone had said, 'Close your books. Today I'm going to tell you a story, and it's true.'"

In fact, he has commissioned the creation of educational curricula that is free to schools, parents and students from K5 to the graduate level. The content can be downloaded from his website. "I just want to pass on that love of story," he says.

Andy Andrews will speak and read from "The Traveler's Summit" on Wednesday, June 27, at 6 p.m. at Fairhope United Methodist Church. For more information, visit Page & Palette's website at

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