Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times #1 internationally bestselling author of 22 thrillers including the ORPHAN X series. His novels have won numerous literary awards and have been published in 33 languages. Additionally, he’s written screenplays and television scripts for many of the major studios and networks, comics for DC and Marvel, and political and culture pieces for The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Bulwark and others. Gregg lives with his three Rhodesian ridgebacks in Los Angeles.
The latest book in the bestselling Orphan X series, PRODICAL SON will be published on January 26, 2021.
I recieved an advance copy from the publisher. As usual, Gregg doesn’t dissapoint. This book has great action, intrigue, twist and turns, and cool gadgets in thrilling locations. Highly recommend you give PRODICAL SON a read.
During the interview we chatted about his latest book, his past books, inlcuding his YA Thriller books. We talked about writing during the pandemic, the latest on the Orphan X movie and a lot more.
Gregg Hurwitz Latest Book
Other Books by Gregg Hurwitz
Orphan X Series
YA Thriller Novels
Video Version of the Interview
[00:00:00.090] – Alan Petersen
You are listening to meet the Thriller author, the podcast for interview Writers of Mysteries, Thrillers and suspense books. I am our host, Alan Peterson, and this is episode number one hundred and thirty one. In this episode of the podcast. I am happy to welcome back Gregg Hurwitz. He is The New York Times number one, internationally bestselling author of twenty two thrillers, including The Orphan series of books, the Lidice Orphan X thriller Prodigal Son will be available on January 26. I got a chance to read an advance copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun getting deeper into Evan’s spokes childhood back story and how he ended up in the orphan program. So go check that out on Amazon or wherever you like to get your books. I asked Greg about that writing process. The latest Hollywood news about bringing Evan spoke to the big screen, how he’s been dealing with a pandemic and a lot more.So stay tuned for that interview coming right up.
[00:00:58.830] – Alan Petersen
First, though, please go visit ThrillingReads.com/go, where you’ll be able to rate and review this podcast on Apple podcast or wherever you listen to this podcast. I appreciate your help in feeding the Apple and Google algorithms that makes this podcast discoverable overall on their platform for others. You can also sign up for my newsletter there to stay connected and to receive special discounts and great deals on thriller mystery and crime fiction e-books. So check that out at ThrillingReads.com/go. All right. Here is my interview with Gregg Hurwitz.
[00:01:37.380] – Alan Petersen
Hey, everybody, this is Alan with Meet the Thriller author. And on the podcast today, I have Greg Hurwitz, who is The New York Times number one internationally best author with a 20 thrillers, including The Orphan Series, one of my favorite books series out there, the sixth book in that series, Prodigal Son. It will be released on January 26.Welcome to the podcast. Greg,
[00:01:58.590] – Gregg Hurwitz
Thank you for having me on.
[00:02:00.630] – Alan Petersen
Thank you for being on here. Excited to talk to you. So the Nowhere Man can smoke his back meets a mystery woman claiming to be his mother who gave him up as a newborn. Really excited with that storyline. Is that something you’ve been wanting to explore for a while?
[00:02:15.000] – Gregg Hurwitz
You know, it is. I always felt it’s funny when I pitched the series to First Selous, I wrote the first book Orphan Acts on spec, which I hadn’t done in like a decade. So I wrote it on my own because I wanted I wound up staying with my same editor, but I wanted to make sure that I really knew what the character was on my own. And one of the first things I said when I was talking about the life of the series is I said, someday there will be a book that the phone’s going to ring that one eight five five to know where encrypted phone line that people call in desperate need with nowhere else to turn that he picks up to help them. And on the other end, a woman is going to say, Evan, it’s your mother and we’re not going to know if it’s really his mother. He was given up as a newborn, put into a foster home, and then he was taken out of the foster home at the age of 12 and trained on the trained off the books in a black ops program to be a US assassin. And so he never knew his mom. He never knew any of that. And so I always knew this was going to be a key story. And finally, six books and I got to it.
[00:03:13.050] – Alan Petersen
Cool. I was wondering about that, wondering if that’s always kind of been as you’re writing this, you’re kind of chomping to get to this to this part. So that’s that’s good to hear that. So what did you tell us about the about the storyline? And in Prodigal Son, what’s what’s the story about?
[00:03:28.320] – Gregg Hurwitz
Well, so even as as some of your listeners will know is he was trained to be an assassin. He was trained by Jack Johns under we as the Ten Commandments, the Ten Assassins’ Commandments that he lives his life by and at a certain point, his moral compass, what he was trying to keep in tact, ran into a collision when the things that the government was asking him to do. So before I opened the whole series, he has left the program, which you’re not allowed to do. He’s too valuable an asset and knows he doesn’t just know where all the bodies are buried. He buried most of them himself. Right. So the government is in pursuit after him and he’s on kind of off the radar. And he lives among ordinary people. He lives off the the Wilshire corridor in a penthouse living among ordinary people. So he vacillates between these very extreme kind of crazy thriller missions to his cover identity as a normal guy, fitting in and having to attend HOA meetings. And I wanted to see him in the real world where you and I live. But this time when the phone rings, it’s not somebody in desperate need asking for his help. As we said, it’s this woman who claims to be his mother. And as he goes to explore and see what happens, she sets him on a course that goes all the way back to his path. She has to go back through and burrow through all these sort of painful memories of his upbringing. And it takes him all the way back to memories of the foster home and through his childhood, through all this early stuff.And we can’t tell initially. Is it a rouse? Are they doing this to draw him out, is the story legitimate and so on the one hand, well, it’s the most personal or for an exhibition because it takes him back to to his earliest memories, these early vulnerabilities, these parts of himself he left behind with some survivor’s guilt and he still views them as being dirty. On the other hand, the mission itself is escalating to sort of the highest levels of power. And so he’s stuck in an intrigue that’s pulling him in both directions at the same time with greater and greater threat coming at the hands of greater and greater power. And at the same time, this personal internal threat that’s that’s needling in at all of his Achilles heels and vulnerabilities.
[00:05:37.600] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, that’s been that’s been so great about the series, too. This is the from the first book on is seeing him a lot in the world. But it’s unusual for an action packed thriller is is his growth, his personal growth, emotional, personal, really like what’s been going on with Mia Halll throughout the series is that’s something that. How do you tackle that now? You have a black ops assassin, a vigilante, then, you know, showing his softer side. How does that work out?
[00:06:08.380] – Gregg Hurwitz
The whole series was you know, there’s a key line for me around which the entire series coalesces. And that’s when Jack Johns, who is his handler and a father figure to him, he’s the one who takes him out of the foster home. And when he’s 12 years old, he tells Evan, you know, the hard part isn’t going to be making you a killer. The hard part is keeping your human. And for me, that’s what the whole series is about, is Evan has succeeded in being trained as a top operator, assassin, all the strategy, all the tactics. But what he’s really trying to learn is how to be the best human that he can be. And that’s something to do that he has to learn. I call it the strange language of intimacy. I mean, he was trained completely separate from everybody else. And as he keeps interfacing with the real world, he has to he has to learn and grow in ways. And one of the things that he learns is that a lot of the disciplines that he applied to the assassin are, let’s call them, or similar disciplines that can be used psychologically and emotionally. So the series has always been about him and his growth.
[00:07:08.740] – Alan Petersen
You’re known for your research, you’ve swim with sharks and shooting with Navy SEALs. And this book, which is cutting edge medical military technology. How is the research for this? And did you find stuff out there that kind of freaked you out?
[00:07:26.670] – Gregg Hurwitz
It’s one of the problems with researching thrillers is it makes you fairly paranoid. I always try and catch the lip of something that will be known to the public in like four or five years. And so I don’t want to have any spoiler alerts in this. But there’s some military technology in this that I talk to people who worked on this in labs at MIT. I talk to people have experience with what’s going on in DARPA labs to really get to the cutting edge of what the next some of this next level military technology is that Evan’s going to find himself up against typically the long term story arc over six books.
[00:07:59.800] – Alan Petersen
So how how do you keep track of the other big series Bible you go to when you start writing these?
[00:08:06.220] – Gregg Hurwitz
It’s kind of all in my head. Oh, yeah, I have I have a general sense of plot. I tend to know the book that I’m writing, then the next one. And I have a notion of the one after that. And when I wrote Orphan X, I knew a lot of the scenes that are in this book here in the foster home. I just didn’t put them in. I wrote I wrote a lot of drafts of them. So I really before I wrote Orphan X, I filled in a lot of some some parameters that was back story, I would say. And so as the new books move forward, I tend to have a sense, at least of what the architecture is of some of the stuff from his past and how it can stitch together the present. And then I have ideas about where I’m going to take them. I always knew book for book four is called Out of the Dark and it’s my To the Day of the Jackal, one of my favorite thrillers. And that’s where Evan goes up against the highly corrupt president of the United States, who is responsible for having many of the orphans killed. And the aim was to say, how do I put my protagonist up against the president of the United States and have most people root for him? And it took me four books to get there. So I tend to have some bigger plots in places that I want to push. Push him. Yeah.
[00:09:20.320] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, Day of the Jackal, that’s one of my favorite books, too. I saw the movie first when I was a teenager and then read the book later as an adult and I was like, wow, the book’s an amazing book.
[00:09:30.880] – Gregg Hurwitz
Wonderful. It’s written so brightly, you know, it’s like, hey, all this shit’s just happening, man. I’m just telling you about it. Like, it’s so devoid of kind of emotion or any any mawkishness.
[00:09:43.900] – Alan Petersen
So were you a fan of the genre before you became a writer? Do you reading these books?
[00:09:49.960] – Gregg Hurwitz
Oh, yeah. I grew up. I wasn’t allowed to watch television growing up. And so I read Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock and three investigators. And by fifth grade, I was on the Stephen King. As obsessed with Stephen King, I liked horror a lot earlier, I read Jaws, I loved all the Peter Benchley books and yeah, I always just loved it.And then I studied I was very taken with literature. I studied literature. I was one of my majors undergrad. And but I always loved, like Faulkner or like I was drawn to The Great Gatsby, which, you know, centers around in a lot of regards builds to a murder. Right. A lot of the a lot of the books and Faulkner. I collect the Faulkner paperbacks from the 50s and they look like dime store thrillers. It’s like, you know, from America’s leading purveyor of lust, intrigue and murder comes sanctuary. Right. And so even when I was studying literature, I was always drawn to crime and punishment. I was I was drawn to the stories that dealt with with with crime and the ramifications and looking at the world around us through a lens that is that has to do with, I don’t know, mystery elements, thriller elements, elements of intrigue.
[00:11:02.710] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. That’s what makes this book so much fun. Even like like you said, Jaws have it’s kind of it’s kind of like a thriller. You know, Jaws is like the the assassin out there hunting them down and trying to get him before they get to them. So there’s lots of fun. I was surprised that you’ve written a couple of thrillers for teens. How does that experience compared to writing for adults and what goes on in a teen thriller? Well, it’s so fun.
[00:11:28.720] – Gregg Hurwitz
I wrote two books once called The Rains, and the second one is called Last Chance. And I wanted to write these like great old fashioned stories, like the ones that I read growing up, like Kidnapped and Treasure Island, these sort of. And so in a weird way, they’re sort of like I think of them as is the Walking Dead for teens. I mean, they have, you know, the language and sex is tamped down, but the gruesomeness and violence is certainly present. And there are these thrillers, you know, at the center of them is a 16 year old kid or 15 year old kid, and it was really fun, the things I really focused on the most there was the pacing I just wanted to have like to rip people through the story. And they were a blast. And I was very I was quite honored that the first one, one young adult thriller of the year, and they were both scholastic picks, there were a lot of schools. And so they took on a bit of a life of their own, which was really thrilling for me to have kids and hear from kids in schools and hear from adults. A lot of adults like young adult fiction, and I certainly wrote it with the pacing and the mechanism that it could feel like you could read it at any level. There were. There were, but they were a blast. I had a great time.
[00:12:44.420] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. You mentioned the teen. I really enjoyed the Joey character in in your books. Now, is that something that kind of you came from from your teen thrillers that you had the idea of putting the character like that into the next series?
[00:12:59.690] – Gregg Hurwitz
No, Joey came all on her own, man. Joey came I was writing Hellbent. And so Joey is a washout from the orphan program. She’s a world class hacker. Her name is Josephine morales. And she’s like, that’s very unlikely foil to Evan, right. Evan is like locked on and he’s got OCD. Everything is neat, everything’s precise, everything’s operational. And she’s this teenage girl with big emotions, big deal. And she’s an absolutely brilliant hacker. I mean, her hacking skills can put them to shame and she can undercut him. And in Hellbent, which is the third Orphan X book, he gets stuck with her when all he wants to do is pursue this mission. And he gets kind of saddled with this then 15 year old 16 year old hacker who he has to kind of keep in his care and save and protect. And I was supposed to kill her at the end of that book. And if you read Helbert, you know, write the scene where it was supposed to happen. And I got there and I just couldn’t do it. I got so attached to her. I love so much who she is, the energy she brings to the books. I love what she brings out and elicits an Evan and I just couldn’t do it. And it’s the best decision I’ve ever made because she’s an ongoing part of the series. I’ve just released a short story featuring her on the list that came out earlier this year or earlier last year, I guess. And so she’s just been a very vibrant part of the orphan universe.
[00:14:21.380] – Alan Petersen
What’s your writing process like? Do you outline these? I mean, obviously the things change, so you must not do too much of an outline.
[00:14:29.240] – Gregg Hurwitz
I have what I kind of call a rolling outline. It’s living and breathing the whole time I’m writing the book, so I never lock it in all the way. But I have this big document that’s amorphous and as I write and discover new things, I change things in the outline. I pull things from the outline over. It’s always growing. And I think an outline is like a big massive it’s called 30 pages of bullet points, roughly shaped in categories. And it’s like this big mass of clay. And as I go forward, I keep kind of shaping it as I learn what the story is and I go back and forth. I toggle between the two documents. When I’m done on one screen, I have a four hundred page novel and on the other screen the outline is down to zero because it’s been absorbed into the manuscript. Kind of curious, not too. But everything has been going on the past year with the pandemic.
[00:15:12.770] – Alan Petersen
Has the pandemic affected your writing process at all?
[00:15:15.770] – Gregg Hurwitz
It’s affected obviously much of my life. I’m in L.A. and we’re in the hot spot of the world here, which has been which has been trying. But in a way, it’s the pandemic that’s that’s made for novelists. I got plenty of bourbon. I have my laptop. And, you know, aside from my social life, not much has changed in my working life. It’s slowed down some production and other things on the film and TV side. But, you know, the novel writing has progressed. I’ve been pretty fortunate.
[00:15:47.120] – Alan Petersen
I was wondering about writing for the movies and television shows that you’re opposed to writing a screenplay or teleplay compared to writing a novel is like a whole different beast. Or is it the same barebones?
[00:15:59.510] – Gregg Hurwitz
It’s a different muscle, but it definitely helps if you’re in writing shape because a script is is it’s not a final product the way a novel is. Right. It’s an invitation to collaborate. It’s a recipe. And so what you’re doing is you’re putting something forth in a way that’s open that you hope you bring in a director and other talent who will take it and make it better. So it’s a bit of a different muscle. But of course, it always helps if you’re if you’re on if you’re writing, if you’re writing, discipline is there and present. But there’s different rules of engagement. It’s a bit like it’s a different muscle. It’s a bit of a it’s a different sport in some ways.
[00:16:34.490] – Alan Petersen
And any updates on Orphan X movie. I know its been optioned forever. Anu updates on that front?
[00:16:42.620] – Gregg Hurwitz
Well, I’m shaping it now for TV series for streaming, and I’m actually working on that right now. So we’ll see how that goes. Stay stay tuned.
[00:16:50.960] – Alan Petersen
Cool excited for that. What does your writing day look like for you when you’re writing a book?
[00:17:02.910] – Gregg Hurwitz
For me, it’s a lot about time in a place. It’s just about being in my office for a set amount of time. And so I don’t have a word count because sometimes I’ll be writing and I’ll realize there’s a problem and I have to write backwards. Right. And I have to go fix it. So some days there will be a lot of research. So I used to have more of a rigid writing account and more and more now it’s about me being in there and tackling and chewing on the manuscript for X hours a day and carving out that time and trying to push out other distractions, like if I have comics or TV or calls or other things, it’s about kind of protecting that time.
[00:17:39.470] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. So many, so many easy ways to get distracted nowadays. Yeah. So what’s next for you and for Evan Smaok. What’s what’s in the horizon?
[00:17:51.360] – Gregg Hurwitz
Well for those of you who have read Prodigal Son or are soon to read it, you can see I end on quite an explosive note. And so, you know, I had to I have to figure out I what’s coming next. And it’s not it’s not predictable in any way that is predictable upon my ending in order for next book, because the ending of this, I close out the plot. We get we get the answers that we want. And then then I kind of pull at a thread and a whole bunch of things come loose again. And so I immediately have to go into figuring out how I’m going to write my way out of that corner and what comes next. And I have quite a few ideas, but I don’t want to share them here because of spoiler warnings.
[00:18:30.150] – Alan Petersen
Cool, cool. Looking forward to that. And the best place for the listeners to find you is at your website that Gregg Hurwitz.Net?
[00:18:38.340] – Gregg Hurwitz
Yeah. GregHurwitz.net that you can sign up for my newsletter. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Twitter, I’m on Instagram so you can find me any which way to get updates about about what I’m what I’m working on and what’s coming out when.
[00:18:51.750] – Alan Petersen
All right. Cool and prodigal son will be out on the twenty six. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really enjoyed talking with you.
[00:19:09.210] – Gregg Hurwitz
My pleasure. Nice to talk with you.