The Thriller Zone

On today's 169th episode of The Thriller Zone, I'm happy to introduce you to New York Times Bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz.

If you're an Orphan X fan, you're going to join our deep dive in that series. Gregg shares insights into crafting a successful series and the journey of writing a long-running character. The conversation also delves into the role of artificial intelligence in the creative arena and the importance of community in storytelling.

Hurwitz highlights the differences between novel and screenplay writing and provides an elevator pitch for his latest book, 'Lone Wolf.'

Our conversation concludes with a discussion on the writing fire within and the importance of curiosity in driving Gregg's work, plus his insights and writing advice. I enjoy how Gregg emphasizes the power of curiosity and fascination in exploring the world and finding inspiration, plus how he encourages aspiring writers to prioritize their writing time and be dedicated to the craft.

To learn more about Gregg and his prolific work, visit: GreggHurwitz.net.

As always follow us at TheThrillerZone.com, YouTube.com/thethrillerzone and on all social media channels @thethrillerzone, as well as listen to us on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, or pretty much anyplace you get your podcast.

* * * * *

Chapters
00:00 Introduction and Setting
03:01 Crafting a Successful Series
09:12 The Journey of Series Writing
11:30 Writing as Self-Therapy
12:20 The Role of Artificial Intelligence
19:17 The Importance of Community
22:07 The Difference Between Novel and Screenplay Writing
30:06 Elevator Pitch for 'Lone Wolf'
34:56 The Fire Within: Curiosity and Honoring It
38:09 The Power of Curiosity and Fascination
39:07 Writing Advice: Ass in Chair Time
40:10 The Importance of Personalized Correspondence

The Thriller Zone with David Temple is sponsored in part by Blackstone Publishing.

What is The Thriller Zone?

Join podcast host and thriller author David Temple as he gives you a front-row seat to the best thriller writers in the world. If you like thriller fiction in Books, Movies, and TV Shows, you’ll love The Thriller Zone Podcast.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Let me just make sure I'm dressed. I always like, I'll randomly come on when I've been writing all day and I look like a homeless person, but I like somewhat presentable.

David Temple:
You look perfectly handsome. And I noticed how this beautiful book is perfectly positioned in the background.

Gregg Hurwitz:
I know I just did that. You like that? My assistant just came in. So I'm gonna do this in the interview.

David Temple:
That's

Gregg Hurwitz:
Is that

David Temple:
that's

Gregg Hurwitz:
distracting? Is that

David Temple:
not

Gregg Hurwitz:
weird? Okay.

David Temple:
at all. No matter of fact, I'll match you and I'll just do this

Gregg Hurwitz:
Yeah,

David Temple:
with a nice

Gregg Hurwitz:
that'll

David Temple:
little

Gregg Hurwitz:
be

David Temple:
pan

Gregg Hurwitz:
great.

David Temple:
and tilt.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And then a bunch of Japanese school children will have seizures and we'll get a lawsuit and it'll be all over for us.

David Temple:
Is this part of that thing where you have to, where you see the notice at the beginning of every show

Gregg Hurwitz:
Yeah,

David Temple:
about

Gregg Hurwitz:
stirrup

David Temple:
They're

Gregg Hurwitz:
lights.

David Temple:
warning. Yeah, there are flashing lights. Be careful.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Yes.

David Temple:
Yeah. Well anyway, hey,

Gregg Hurwitz:
All

David Temple:
welcome

Gregg Hurwitz:
right.

David Temple:
greg herwitz to the thriller zone

Gregg Hurwitz:
Thank you, I'm delighted to be in the Thriller Zone. The Thriller Zone's where I feel like I live, man. So this is, I just get to talk to somebody else instead of the voices in my head.

David Temple:
Yeah, which I'm sure there are plenty, aren't there?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Hmm. Alas.

David Temple:
There is so much to talk about Lone Wolf. We're gonna get to it. I do want to take just a couple of minutes to talk about you. We're gonna spend plenty of time on this little orphan X thriller that is riveting. And I gotta tell you, so I got some comments about your antagonist assassin that I really like.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Well, I'm looking forward to it. I want to hear.

David Temple:
Should you cheer for the bad person as well as the good person?

Gregg Hurwitz:
You should be confused. It should give you a confused, tingly feeling in your spine.

David Temple:
Okay. I'm going to go with

Gregg Hurwitz:
That's

David Temple:
that.

Gregg Hurwitz:
what

David Temple:
All

Gregg Hurwitz:
we're going for. It's yin-yang

David Temple:
right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
or yin-yin. Darkness and darkness.

David Temple:
Well, well, and there's gonna be plenty of all of that. I do want to say as we mentioned earlier, in case it didn't get mentioned, it was Thriller Fest 22. You had just come off of a panel and let me see if I remember it was, it was Craft Fest, because that's one of my favorite things up there. You had just spoken at a panel, I want to say something you know a little about how to craft a successful series, I think it was.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Mmm.

David Temple:
You were, yeah, you had quite a few peeps up in your arena. And anyway, so it's good to see you again. I remember I bumped

Gregg Hurwitz:
It's good

David Temple:
into

Gregg Hurwitz:
to see

David Temple:
you

Gregg Hurwitz:
you too.

David Temple:
and I said, Craig, what have I got to do to get you on the show? And you said, call my people, babe, call my people.

Gregg Hurwitz:
I called you babe. Gosh, did you call human resources? That could be

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
really bad. And I'm the co-president of international thriller writers. The last thing I needed was a David Temple yellow journalism bit to get

David Temple:
Hehehehehehe

Gregg Hurwitz:
me canceled. I'm never coming back.

David Temple:
God, oh, made me

Gregg Hurwitz:
All

David Temple:
blush.

Gregg Hurwitz:
right. All right,

David Temple:
Anyway,

Gregg Hurwitz:
so should we start this thing, babe?

David Temple:
no, we've already started it, babe.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Oh, I see, I see.

David Temple:
So we're what are you nine? Are you nine Orphan X books

Gregg Hurwitz:
It's the

David Temple:
in

Gregg Hurwitz:
ninth

David Temple:
already?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Orphan X book. I can't even believe it.

David Temple:
You avoid it. Is this one a year? Isn't it pretty

Gregg Hurwitz:
One

David Temple:
much?

Gregg Hurwitz:
a year. Yeah. I think

David Temple:
Dude

Gregg Hurwitz:
time's

David Temple:
that...

Gregg Hurwitz:
getting faster though. So

David Temple:
You have, I did quite a bit of reading on you, you have a prolific output of content. And I don't mean just books. I mean, yeah, these are fantastic. But I mean, between your short stories, your screenplays, poetry, I mean, how do you find the time at what do you, what do you like, you're 30, 32 about now, right?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Bless you. Um, yeah, no, I'm, I'm 50 years old. I'm a half century of age, my friend.

David Temple:
Wow, you look great for 50 by the way.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Thank you. I've had copious amounts of plastic surgery.

David Temple:
That is not true. That is that's

Gregg Hurwitz:
No.

David Temple:
just that's good old gene pool, baby. That's all there is. All right, so let's talk about this crafting a winning series because I want to I want to get inside because a lot of folks really look up to you. Me, one of those included. And we you know, we all want to know the secret sauce. How does he do it? How does he make that happen time and time again? And I know it's a little bit of a Warren slightly cliche, but What is that singular secret do you think if somebody asked you, okay, dude, gun to your head, what is it?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Hmm. Well, I would say I'm not necessarily naturally a series writer. I had one series earlier in my career, the Tim Rackley books. I had two young adult books called The Rains that went together. I did four Tim Rackley books, but the vast majority of my output are standalones. And I think I was just waiting to get the right character. You know, I spend more waking hours with Orphan X than I do with my wife and kids and dogs, right? I mean, this is what I do all day. And it had to be somebody who I found compelling. I had to figure out a way that a lot of different stories could arrive or plots could arrive into the world of Orphan X from a bunch of different angles, which is part of the setup. But the biggest thing to be honest with me is, you know, one of my favorite quotations from a writer is from Joan Didion and she said, "'I write so I know what I think.'" And one of the things that's happened is I used to, I think before Orphan X, I would, I'd write a book, I'd write the whole book.

David Temple:
Mm-hmm.

Gregg Hurwitz:
I don't ever come sort of abstract. I start to see ideas or scenes or images and conflicts. Like it starts with the very particular. And then I'd finish it and I'd look back and go, oh, that was about my fear of becoming a parent. Like I would recognize what it was about after the fact, after I'd already written it. And one of the things that's been very weird with Orphan X is I'm finding, it's like I'm working on things in my own. mind and my own worldview and my own personal relationships. And then I'm dealing with it in the book and then Evan's ahead of me sometimes and I'm ahead of him but I'm really able to deal with and address these issues whether it's stuff like AI, whether it's stuff like, you know, ethics in. technology or whether it's just him sort of forging his way through to a new understanding of himself, which is really the main theme of the series. The main theme of the series is him becoming more like a human and each one moves him closer and closer to that. And so they're, they're quite different. His arc gives me a lot of time. I make sure to reset in every book so that everyone can have a jumping on point. But what I'm really doing is telling one grand story that you can jump into in different segments.

David Temple:
So has, so I'm going to, is it safe to assume that this journey of series, not only has it worked for you, yeah, we got that, but does it feel good to you? I mean, if you're a generally a standalone guy and you found the success and approaching a dozen hits now, do you, you're getting more and more comfortable with it. And a point B to that is, do you feel this going on? Who knows how long?

Gregg Hurwitz:
I am having more fun than I can believe right now. Like I'm

David Temple:
That's

Gregg Hurwitz:
more excited

David Temple:
awesome.

Gregg Hurwitz:
to write. I'm more excited to go on book tour than I've ever been. And that's crazy. I mean, I'm 24 books in, but there's something with this character and the characters who he's hitting and the way that is evolving in the series. He starts off, you know. as the title indicates, so it's referring to somebody else, but he starts off more like a lone wolf. And through the course of the series, he's sort of woven his way into these different friendships or relationships. He takes care of his hacker, Josephine Morales, right? He's friends with Tommy Stojak. He's got this different community spread around. And the engagement for me of going into that world, and I keep hitting him with these different sort of moral. and ethical dilemmas that stretch him further every single time and kind of turn him inside out personally. And I'm just having so much fun. I still can't believe that they pay me to do this.

David Temple:
Yeah, and that's the greatest ever. I find it so interesting when I'm reading a book and something in a still small voice says, do you think he's doing a little self therapy there? And you just alluded to something like that. Do you find that happening sometimes on a deeper, on a level that you're not even sure you're really working on?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Oh yeah, I mean, writing

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
sublimation, I mean, it's such a weird thing. I mean, for some reason, like I'm looking at all these things again with new eyes, I think in part because of how just where the series has gone and what it's meant to me and what it's meant to readers. But You know, it's a weird thing to be somebody who sits alone and stares at a cursor and a blank screen and needs to do that for six to 10 hours a day every day to stay sane. Like that it's weird, you know, it's like being a drummer or something. And so absolutely, like I'm figuring out all sorts of stuff that I'm working on or mashing through and dealing with a little bit, whether it's in my own life and my relationships, whether it's intellectual things I'm figuring out, I do some forays into the cultural political space now and then pro bono mostly to try and combat polarization. But that's something that will, like, I'll look at that and see the role that AI and phones are playing in that. And I'll put that in a comic and I might put it in AI and I might do it when I'm talking in politics. But then what it really is and where it's the deepest and the most pronounced for me is when it's in these novels like these novels. There's a lot of things that I do, but these novels are the spine of my career.

David Temple:
Yeah. Let's go ahead. I was going to mention this later, but let's go ahead and jump on it now. Artificial intelligence in the world, it's playing in the creative arena as it is today. I'm talking to people all the time. Are you aware of AI? Have you heard about AI? What do you think about AI? And I'm surprised at the amount of people, oh, what is that? And then the other people that go, oh yeah, I'm scared about it. So kind of what's your overall global view on it?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Oh, I think like almost everything, it's a tool. And so

David Temple:
Mm-hmm.

Gregg Hurwitz:
it all, you know, so is a nuclear bomb, right? Like it's

David Temple:
Sure.

Gregg Hurwitz:
things can be utterly disastrous, right? Or we can have things under our control and in,

David Temple:
Mm-hmm.

Gregg Hurwitz:
in a different way. And so I think the big question with AI is, you know, to, to drop a, a fantasia reference, we want to be sorcerer Mickey, we don't want to be the eyeless mops hauling the buckets of water. You know, and so there's some ways to ensure why and how that will happen. And we can talk about in writing specifically, but there's a number of things I think that we, that readers want that, that editors and writers want. And if we can match that up and figure out how to situate this, um, I think it could be very helpful.

David Temple:
Yeah, I find so many people that are afraid that AI is going to replace the creative spirit or the author in general. But I find myself and I'm using it more. I'm using it a lot in podcasting. Basically, way to expedite things, anything that will save

Gregg Hurwitz:
That's right.

David Temple:
me time, cut down on repetitive moves that I'm just like that has taken forever before. Hey, go ahead and write my. show notes, we'll use that as an example. And then it's never really fabulous and you know it. You just saved me time, but I can go in there and finesse it and still save the amount of time.

Gregg Hurwitz:
I think there's,

David Temple:
But

Gregg Hurwitz:
oh, I'm sorry.

David Temple:
no, go ahead.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Well, I think there's three things that we need to account for. So when I talk about having it in its proper place, can we continue to use it as a tool? And I think every single thing indicates that we need to do that. And so one of my friends is a big computer chip designer. He's amazing. He designed the computer chip for... the iPhone, right? He did, he's staggering. He was one of my main resources for this book. And so it's really funny when you when you talk to a true engineer and a real engineer, the way his brain works, he understands how things work down to the atomic level, you know. And so he's funny, because I was like, Well, what about the human spirit and blah, blah. And he's like, Oh, sure, if you believe in magic, I mean, like, he's a, you know, insane engineer. And He's also brilliant and much more philosophical, much more of a philosopher than that. So I'm not giving him credit. But so part of it is, is you don't necessarily get very far if you say, oh, well, there's something unique in the human spirit. Is it a soul? Is it a spark? Is it an enlightenment spark of self-worth? I mean, you can go down all these paths. For me, there's sort of three solid ways that I look at AI and what's necessary. And the first is transparency. People wanna know that they are reading something that I've written. I might use an AI to research what the weather is in Maine, but

David Temple:
Sure.

Gregg Hurwitz:
we use AI anyways for that, right? We use a Google search and we use

David Temple:
Right?

Gregg Hurwitz:
spell check. And so if things can continue, if I can get to answers faster, that's fine, but people wanna know that. And we did some polling at ITW, International Thriller Writers, and you can find it on our website. And people, I think it was like 97% of people don't wanna read a book by a dead author. They just aren't interested in getting, you know, push a button and get a Faulkner novel and you can say

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
it's half the length and you can say that you don't want any swear words in it. And you can, we can alternate and get our own content until we're sort of floating around like Wally in these Wally pods from the movie.

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
So number one is transparency. We have to tell people what it is that we've done. If it's an AI book, they need to do it. So far that's backed by copyright. So that's good. But the second thing really is what we want, what fires our engines, what turns us on, what uplifts us is human excellence, right? We go, we wanna see somebody pole vault, when Deep Blue was created, nobody tuned in to see Deep Blue play Deep Blue. We wanted to see how Kasparov would fare against that. I don't wanna watch a AI basketball game, right? I wanna see Steph Curry shoot a three pointer.

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And I do think that there is something like why we watch the Olympics, why we're drawn to these things to know that a human made that. And as much as things can be stamped out and you have like Andy Warhol like commentary, I like knowing that Faulkner sat down and wrote something or Richard Wright or Dennis Lahane or Megan Abbott, right? There's, we like to know that it came from a person. and it's representative of their brilliance and their evolution over time and across books also, rather than something that's merely algorithmically selected. So that's two. The third thing I would say, and in a lot of ways is the most important, is community. And what that means is like, let's say that I can push that button that I said and have, you know, I want my own... Tom Clancy book, but written

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
just for me. And I wanted to be about two submarine captains and pull my references from social media and do all my stuff. And oh, it's so great. It's this bespoke book written just for me. Well, that's a nightmare. Cause what we're lacking is our shared kind of communion around a story that we're discussing in common.

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
We have a community, we're talking about Lone Wolf. There's one orphan X book that comes out a year. It will never be written by AI. And we all read the same book. And that's that thing that we had in movie theaters, right? When we used to line up for it.

David Temple:
Just

Gregg Hurwitz:
And

David Temple:
thinking

Gregg Hurwitz:
there's

David Temple:
about

Gregg Hurwitz:
a feeling

David Temple:
that.

Gregg Hurwitz:
that I have now. And then when I think about those big moments in TV, right? Who shot JR or Heather Locklear showing up on Melrose Place or,

David Temple:
rain.

Gregg Hurwitz:
fill in the blank, Game of Thrones, the last season. And as we've moved away from appointment viewing to streaming. Part of what happens is we have these constipated conversations of like, have you seen White Lotus? Well, what happened? I'm in season one, don't tell me season. We can't talk anymore.

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And there's something that's very important about communing around a shared narrative. That's what we've always done since we were sitting around a fire.

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And so there's times now when I'm laying in bed and I'm flicking through a trillion dollars of free content to me, or not free, content on Apple TV and nothing feels special. You know, and we don't want to be fed everything. We don't know what we want. And I think what we don't want is a bunch of books that are made and tailored precisely to us. I think it's a recipe for disaster. It's Pleasure Island from Pinocchio. That's what

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
it is.

David Temple:
It's so funny, I was just talking to an author recently about the fact that no matter how many channels we get, we want more, the more we get, the more we have, the less we're happy, the more we're frustrated that we can't find something new. It's a ridiculous, wacky period of time. So you're going thumbs up to the fact that you got volumes of work to watch, and then you're like, oh, there's never really anything quite

Gregg Hurwitz:
Yeah,

David Temple:
that I wanna

Gregg Hurwitz:
that's

David Temple:
see.

Gregg Hurwitz:
right. Well, I mean,

David Temple:
It's

Gregg Hurwitz:
how

David Temple:
just...

Gregg Hurwitz:
many stories are there, foundational stories, myths, like I mentioned, Pinocchio about

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
what happens when you have everything you want? Does that

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
make you happy? Has

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
that ever made anyone happy? And we can see the effects of it in a whole bunch of different ways, but we don't need to detour too far into that. But I don't think we... There's something to be said for not having something. I remember even with songs, I used to be so excited when a new favorite song came on the radio.

David Temple:
Mm-hmm.

Gregg Hurwitz:
I mean, I'm like dating myself now as an elderly person. But, you know, because you couldn't have it all the time. You couldn't just

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
have it, and we can download and get everything. And so I don't think that's gonna happen with novels. I think we have too much expertise around it. I think some people might offer that, but, you know, I still wanna read my, you know, I still want to read my Michael Connelly, right? I still want to read my Lee Child. I still want to read Patricia Cornwell. This is, I want to know that somebody's writing it. I want to know there's someone behind it and that I'm reading a book that other people have read that we can react to, that we can argue about, that we can engage

David Temple:
Sure.

Gregg Hurwitz:
on, that make me feel things that haven't been selected by deep machine learning.

David Temple:
You know, my mind flashes back. My first career was radio. So some of my first passions was, hey, when that new single dropped, and you're at school and you're talking about, did you hear that latest single by so and so? And then you would have that sense of community of all cheering on this one song. And then come the weekend when Casey Kasem would come on and talk about where it went up the charts, again, it was a shared event, shared enthusiasm that was kind of singular at that moment.

Gregg Hurwitz:
When

David Temple:
I

Gregg Hurwitz:
we

David Temple:
miss

Gregg Hurwitz:
feel

David Temple:
that.

Gregg Hurwitz:
alive, you know, one of the things I always say, that's so weird, I've never kind of made this connection till now. But you know, one of the things that people ask me like, are you still enjoying it? And I love writing. Like one of the things I say is if I'm bored writing it, people are going to be bored. Reading it. And there

David Temple:
Sure.

Gregg Hurwitz:
is a thing like I always say to my to, you know, family members who cook much better than I do. one of my daughters and my wife. You can always tell when you're at someone's house for a meal or someone serves you a cocktail if it's made with love, there's a difference in it than if it's just made.

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Part of what I hope is my enthusiasm, my curiosity, my engagement that's going on to the page is something that I hope is contagious. And there's a... incredibly intimate relationship too, between novelists and readers. It's the most intimate relationship in some ways of all the arts, because every time a book is read, you are collaborating with someone else in their memories, and they are generating the movie in their own head.

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And that's special, and that's a very important part of the process.

David Temple:
And you are, are you also like this that when you're reading a book and you, you get a sense and maybe this is my self playing games with myself, but you'll read it and you'll go, ah, where was their heart really in this one? Did they really, were they committed to this one or is this, they had a contract doings. They had the bang

Gregg Hurwitz:
Mm-hmm.

David Temple:
out an extra one. It's a,

Gregg Hurwitz:
Yeah.

David Temple:
it's a non-tangible. You ever have that feeling?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Yeah, but we're not gonna name names here, David Temple.

David Temple:
Well, no, of course not. I would never say that. I just, it was a passing thought. I want to bounce around because I'm relatively late to the party. But one of my favorite things about this book, and you have such a fun. I told my wife, I'm like, dude, let me just do it. I call her dude.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Thank

David Temple:
Let

Gregg Hurwitz:
you.

David Temple:
me read this line to you. And she's like, go ahead. It's this finesse of humor. It's this hyper creative. ongoing inner dialogue and that you know, we all have that chatter that's constantly going but there's just a couple things that you do that are just flat-out funny and Applause to you for that

Gregg Hurwitz:
Well, thank you very much.

David Temple:
But I go through and I pick out lines that I like this is completely random it just something I think it's your assassin Carissa and this particular line jumped out at me if you will she wasn't pretty enough to be striking and she was too pretty to be striking in the other direction, which made her perfectly forgettable. I read that three times going, that is so... it's eloquent, confusing, enlightening all simultaneously. I loved it.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Thank you.

David Temple:
There we have it. And she's the ass-kicker that I really enjoy. The way she has this finesse and pleasure in doing some of the dirty work is uh... is enjoyable. There I said it.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Well, thank you. I wanted to put Evan up against someone who's this mirror image. She's almost as mirror opposite, right? So she's a female assassin who does, she matches him step for step. And he really hasn't been up against anyone like her since he and Candy were on opposite sides of the divide. Candy McClure is orphan V in the early books. I mean, she was a lot of fun to write, this assassin.

David Temple:
And I want to bounce off of this thing, because I know that you, having dabbled in filmmaking and writing screenplays, I see certain things that kind of tell me when I know that someone is adept at writing screenplays. And I know you've worked in that world a lot. I just really, what do you, I can see influences in your writing. And I want to take a... Go down a side road for a second because I'm fascinated in its somewhat similar, yet decidedly different aspects of writing. How do you best describe the biggest difference between the two worlds? And I know they're completely different worlds. You're still telling a similar story, but whether it's writing a novel or a screenplay for listeners who are listening and going, oh, yeah, what's the real big difference, Dave? And Greg, what would that be?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Well, a novel is about 400 pages of final product, and it's stuffed. And the novelist is all departments. We are the cinematographer, right? We are the location scout. We're hair and makeup. We're all the actors. We're the director. We're moving the camera. Novels are very, very intense. And a screenplay, in contrast to 400 pages of, you know, generally filled with prose, is about 110 pages with a lot of white on the page. Um, of basically it's an invitation to collaborate. It's a recipe for product, right. Or for in, in art form or for craft, but it's not the thing itself. And so when you're writing a script, you need to intimate a lot more, but there's way less room. You can't, you know, care, you can't be in characters' heads. Everything has to be seen or heard. Right. You're much more limited in what you can do. And the things that lend themselves, you know, there's some rules around screenwriting, which are about as useful as rules around novels, but it's a good rule of thumb in certain times to only break them if you have to. But we tend to have a slight aggravation with extensive voiceover, because it's not something that's inherent to the medium. I always like when I'm working in a medium to do things that you can only do in that medium. And so when you're writing a screenplay, you're sort of indicating the action or indicating the direction. And what you're really hoping for is that you set up on production and on a set. It's one of two things. It's like being in a relationship. Things are either getting better or they're getting worse. And the dynamic around production is very key, but what your hope is, if you've chosen right, is that hair and makeup raises the game and you get an actor who's wonderful and knows just what to do and that everyone's taking this recipe in a way and just building on it and the departments come in and you have design and you have you know you have lighting and the cinematographers figuring it out and it just gets better and better and better as you're crafting this thing into reality so it's quite a different process.

David Temple:
And do you, I have to believe that your preferred is novel writing, but having done so much in the screenplay writing world, do you find yourself being torn between the two at all? I mean, can you be as happy in either sandbox, if you will?

Gregg Hurwitz:
I can be, I'm more often, it's a better ratio of happiness with novels.

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
There's just so much bullshit with screenplays. There's so

David Temple:
Hehehe

Gregg Hurwitz:
many meetings, there's so many permission structures. And look, fair enough. Like, you're asking somebody to spend, I think my last movie was all in, if you add publicity and advertising, you're asking somebody to commit $50 million. Sometimes it's $250 million to something. And so, There's a lot to deal with. And if it's going well, it's a delight. It's like a really fun team sport, you know? But if it's not, then all of a sudden you feel like you're the drunk guy behind the bar at two in the morning, like with the broken bottle, and you're fighting off to defend your script, which if you're in that case, you probably haven't done your job well to begin with. But novels are great. The thing I love about novels too, is they can move as fast as I want them to. If you don't

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
like a scene, you highlight it and you delete. And if I'm on a roll and things are going fast, I can type almost as fast as I can think, and it's just laying out and I'm recording it. There's a real freedom in that. And I have wonderful relationships with my publishers. And so the sort of, I always gauge things for the ratio of kind of bullshit to creative fun. I love, you know, I have a hard time saying no to things that are fun.

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And novels have been wonderful. And they've also given me the freedom to not have to deal with the Hollywood side in ways that are aggravating. So I can kind of go in when it, you know, like my last movie, well, I guess both my movies were based on spec scripts, like original stuff that I wrote.

David Temple:
Whoa.

Gregg Hurwitz:
We have a third one right now that we're hoping to move forward. And so, you know, it gives me a lot of freedom to be able to do that and to move around.

David Temple:
Well, I want to make sure that we don't leave this conversation without pitching and spending specifically the time for Lone Wolf and we've danced around it. I want to say that one of my favorite things about this, and this will be the tee up for your elevator pitch to Lone Wolf, is how you can begin with such a simple and innocent plot like a little girl and a missing dog. And when that first appears, you're like, well, Where did this come from? And, oh, isn't that sweet, but you know, when's the action going to come? And then all of a sudden it does. And this is your T up to elevator pitch. So

Gregg Hurwitz:
Ah,

David Temple:
I don't ruin it.

Gregg Hurwitz:
well, for people who are new to the series, Evan Smoke, Orphan X, was taken, pulled out of a foster home in East Baltimore at the age of 12, and he was trained to be an assassin. But the man who trained him, his handler and a father figure, Jack Johns, really loved him. And so in a way, it's the worst thing that ever happened to him because he was trained, you know, he's, he doesn't just know where the bodies are buried. He's buried most of them himself. But Jack always told him the hard part isn't making you a killer. The hard part is keeping you human. And if Jack was more in keeping with the orphan program, he would have just crushed that and turned Evan into a true believer. So Evan's always had, the series is really about his process of becoming a human. I think about it like an orphan X. He almost wakes up and realizes he's this archetypal hero like Shane, right? He's Pinocchio, but he wants to be a real boy. And the

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
series is about his movement towards, one of the lines I repeat also, as I say, he never learned to speak the strange language of intimacy. And so at some point

David Temple:
Hmm.

Gregg Hurwitz:
he leaves the program, they're pursuing him, he's off the radar, he has an encoded line, 1-855-2-Nowhere, which your listeners can call and see who answers. And he's there for people who are in desperate need, who have nowhere else to turn. Now, usually this is a rather big and exciting case for lone wolf. We start off a way that's very different than most of the orphan X books, because we start off intensely personal

David Temple:
Mm-hmm.

Gregg Hurwitz:
and very, very small. The intensely personal is Evan never met his parents. He never knew who his parents were. And yet somebody has emerged who, you know, he has good reason to believe might be his biological father. The book opens with him going to talk to him. We don't really know what happened, but the next time we see him, we find him rattled in a way he's never been rattled. He's very intense operational. He lives by the 10 Assassin's Commandments. He's a little bit OCD. The second commandment is how you do anything, is how you do everything. He's very driven and perfectionistic, but we see him sort of undone. And to get back on his feet a little bit, the phone rings and it's the most ridiculous. mission he's ever been on. It's a little girl and her dog is missing, as you mentioned. In fact, he makes fun of it. It's like an Encyclopedia Brown plot. Like one of the chapter titles says, Orphan X and the case of the missing dog.

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And so he's going to this easy thing. And one of the things that happens is by the time he catches up to the story, and this was really fun, it involves the longest suspense sequence I've ever written in my career. So we start small, we start intimate, he's putting himself together. There's some humorous, I hope funny scenes that kind of catches off guard.

David Temple:
Barry.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And all of a sudden he walks in on something that's horrific and it just escalates and escalates and escalates and escalates from the small seed of a story into the biggest sequence probably that I've ever written of suspense, action and thrills.

David Temple:
I think that's why it was so much fun because as I said a second ago is you're expecting this and then you're delivered this but then you're caught up in it and you're long for the ride and the ride continues to build like a roller coaster and you think well this can't go any higher and yet it does so wow it's a hell of a ride.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Thank you.

David Temple:
Yeah. I also love this about you and I've heard this from other guys. I talk to other writers and they go, oh, you want to know attention to detail? Oh, you want to know about research? Check out Greg's work. And I'm like. In this book, you really see it. And it's subtle enough that it doesn't go, hey, look, I did research. But

Gregg Hurwitz:
Hmm.

David Temple:
it's detailed enough to go, man, there is some real heft behind the details and the machinations of everything that I'm watching. So you get this extra little appreciation and respect for, wow, this is complex. And I'm really along for the ride. So kudos to that, too.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Thank you.

David Temple:
But as I begin to wrap, there's something that is gnawing. It's a question that's been knocking at the back of my mental door for a while. I suppose it comes from reading your work and listening to you during conference sessions like we did at Thriller Fest, and then just trying to get a beat on you. As we mentioned earlier, spec scripts written and developed for television, comic books, poetry. But how do you explain, and it's It's kind of esoteric, but bear with me. I think it's worth the journey. How do you explain that fire that burns within you, that allows you to craft not only such depth, but this epic expanse of work? What is that thing? And maybe how far back did it start? What lit that fire in you that's so evident and so palpable?

Gregg Hurwitz:
Hmm. I think it's probably two things that come to mind. One of them is I'm very intensely driven by curiosity. So from a pretty early age, I tend to find things in people fascinating. And if I don't, I'll poke at them until I can figure out a way that draws something that then is intriguing. And so, you know, I'm just that's probably something that's like inherited or role model. I'm not from a family of writers. I'm from family of doctors on my dad's side. Pretty, my grandfather, my father, and now my sister. So you can imagine that was easy in a Jewish family.

David Temple:
Sure.

Gregg Hurwitz:
But they're kind of brilliant diagnosticians of looking at things and prying and it's this a story, right? You can't just look at labs, you have to take a history and you have to do a physical exam. And, and so I think and my mom, my mom works quite, she worked passionately in. She was a social worker and she placed adoptive kids with family she placed and she created three about 3000 families kids from all around the world in the Bay Area. And the one value, the primary value they had was you better love your work like we don't care. what it is that you're going to go after, though it would be swell if you were a doctor. However, just love what it is that you do. Put everything into what it is that you do. And so I think it's curiosity and then I'm very willing to be led wherever my curiosity takes me. And that includes in this some dark places, it includes into some nerdy places, it includes into some very unlikely places. And one of the things that I like to do in my forays in politics is talk. to people way across the aisle and then get them to talk way across the aisle this way and put them together and figure out the connections. And, you know, in research, I've gone up and stunt airplanes, I've gone undercover to mind control cults, I've gone swimming with sharks and snuck on a demolition ranges with seals and blown up cars. And I just love it and equally talk to professors or deep dive about something. And so, you know, I think a lot of the fire is from curiosity, but then also honoring that curiosity and making sure that, you know, I, you have to pay attention when something whispers in your ear that it could be, it's a little glimmering light that's asking you to follow it.

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
And if you don't follow it, you know, it's, I try and, I try and pay attention as much as I can to not be in a rut and to not respond to things. in ways that are rote, but to look for the aliveness in people and conversations, in books, in the world. And the world is ceaselessly fascinating.

David Temple:
Yeah.

Gregg Hurwitz:
If you have an appetite to go out into it and to kind of adventure into it, it's just staggering what'll happen. And then you kind of start to have different people in a community where more and more people are doing that. And pretty soon, it's just... It's driven a lot by curiosity and fascination, I would say.

David Temple:
I knew you'd

Gregg Hurwitz:
Not

David Temple:
give

Gregg Hurwitz:
the most

David Temple:
me a...

Gregg Hurwitz:
articulate answer, I apologize, but it was.

David Temple:
No, no, I'm sitting here basking in the fact that it's that's exactly what I'd hoped for and it's going to sound very familiar to my next and final question, which is how I wrap every show. So it's a lot of echoes in there, but I want you to really work with me for a second to see if there's any difference. And my last question is always what's your best writing advice? for up and coming writers because there's a lot of them that listen to the show, a lot of them, and they're always going, oh, what's that one thing? What's that piece of advice? And it's become kind of the signature sign off.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Hmm. I meet a great many people living in Los Angeles and being on book tour who wanna be writers. I meet very few who actually wanna write. So

David Temple:
Oh.

Gregg Hurwitz:
the first piece of advice is, A, as many people say, it's ass in chair time. Sit down and do it. Make your writing time sacrosanct because if you don't, there is always something more important to do than spend day 37 of 365 writing a manuscript. So you have to elevate it. You have to be selfish in a certain way. Well, I don't know if it's uniquely selfish. I mean, if you're a surgeon, you're certainly carving out your time when you can't be reachable, but you're the one who has to do it. There's not

David Temple:
Oop.

Gregg Hurwitz:
a sick patient. There's nothing, the world's not waiting for it. And really, really take I mean, one of the things that I tell people a lot were like, well, how do I get an agent and who do I do it and who do I work, you know, and in a way, you know, I just missed kind of the online thing. When I was starting, like when I was starting out, we The way that you found out about books was you went to a store, you bought books and you looked in the acknowledgements and you saw who people thanked and I mean, it just wasn't a thing. And in a way we were talking earlier about accessing what we need. And I think in some ways we almost have too much information about who's buying what and who's got what deal and who's the agent. And the thing that I impress on people is, you know, I've brought 16 books to my agent, probably I've been with her since 2006. and she signed one person. When an agent is gonna sign you, how often does that happen? Twice a year maybe, maybe if they're expanding their list, three or four times, I mean they're not, and so you're, and then the same process happens with an editor, right? An editor doesn't buy something, acquire something every week. A very active editor has, how many books would you say in the course of a year? It's not a ton. And so the one thing that you have to offer is the way that you see the world that's different than anybody else. It's as unique as your thumbprint. And if you can put your attention on that and figure out what it is that you have to say and get it in as good possible shape as you can, don't write 16 different drafts of a book, write one book through 16 drafts and get it to that point of excellent that makes it undeniable. And then... you put it across and how you do that is not by chasing the market. It's not by researching all the stuff and knowing whose friends, cousins, dad can get you a read at an agency.

David Temple:
Right.

Gregg Hurwitz:
It's knowing that you've done the thing and that you love it, that you've, you've worked on this manuscript and you've read books and you're passionate about it. Um, and the other thing that I'd say, which this is an advice that I've really given as much before, but it's, it's something of a dying art, I think, to have really personalized. letters and correspondence, even if that's emails with people. And I remember early in my career when I was first going out to ask for blurbs. I didn't know anybody. I have my first book sold. I'd never met a novelist in my life.

David Temple:
Wow.

Gregg Hurwitz:
I mean, I didn't know anything. Right. There wasn't Thriller Fest. There wasn't I wasn't hooked

David Temple:
Thanks for watching!

Gregg Hurwitz:
in to any of this. But there was one writer who I admire enormously. Her name is Am Holmes. She's a she's terrific. She wrote a book called The End of Alice. That's just mind blowing. and an arms length of other beautiful work. But I was kind of going to her, I figured it probably wasn't really gonna be a hit for my book, but I knew her through somebody. But I literally read all of her books before I wrote her a letter. I mean,

David Temple:
Wow.

Gregg Hurwitz:
at the time she had maybe four or five. But to really take the time, if you're writing to an editor, know their list, right? If you're writing to reach out to somebody, if you're a huge Mark Greenie fan, if you're a hugely child fan, if you're a huge... Lisa Unger, Lisa Gardner fan, read their work, talk about their work, personalize your letter, be excellent in what it is that you're seeking to do because excellence is demanded.

David Temple:
Yeah. Dude, that's a little time. That's a little miniature master class right there. Can I just say that? Well, thank you for that advice. Thank you for that insights. Appreciate your time. I know I'm running a little bit over, so I just want to say, folks, if you'd like to learn more, go to gregherwitz.net and once again the book is Lone Wolf and it's really something else. You know, they're all great rides. And each ride feels a little more powerful than the last. I don't know if it's because of stacked enthusiasm or what, but congratulations. And Greg, thanks for the time. I really appreciate it.

Gregg Hurwitz:
Well, thank you very much. It's been nice talking with you.