A character he can live with

10 Apr 2019 / 10:48 H.

AS A writer of novels, comic books, movie and television scripts as well as being a movie producer, New York Times best-selling author Gregg Hurwitz knows how to tell a good story.

Most of his novels are standalone thrillers such as Don’t Look Back, Tell No Lies and The Survivor. His very first book series began with Orphan X, published in 2016.

The first book in the series introduced the character of Evan Smock, who was placed in a top-secret programme called Orphan X when he was 12. There he was trained alongside other youngsters to be an assassin.

The programme was later shut down but Evan, now in his 30s, uses the skills he was taught to fight corruption. However, he also has to contend with his past catching up to him.

Orphan X became such a hit that there were even talks of adapting the book into a film. Instead, it is being turned into a TV series under Brad Weston’s Makeready production company, which has landed the rights to the book, together with Justin Lin’s Perfect Storm Entertainment.

Hurwitz is involved in the script for Orphan X just as he was for the TV adaptation of Joby Warrick’s Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS and the screenplay for 2017 film The Book of Henry.

During a tele-conference interview with the author who was in Los Angeles, Hurwitz was asked about the inspiration behind the creation of Evan Smock.

Hurwitz used to write for DC and Marvel, and among the comicbook heroes he has written for were lone wolf types, such as Wolverine, The Punisher and Batman.

“I have always been drawn to these characters ever since I was a kid ... to that style of character,” he said. “I will say that while I was writing about Batman, one of the things that interested me ... was the balance Batman had to strike between perfection and intimacy.

“If you don’t have anyone in your life, you can be perfect, you can keep a perfect schedule, you can train perfectly. But people are complicated. The more people you have in your life, the more complications you have.”

Hurwitz was always a fan of thrillers especially Frederick Forsythe’s The Day of the Jackal. The meticulous planning the assassin character takes really drew him in.

Referring back to Evan, Hurwitz said: “Evan is the perfect assassin, but he is longing to have some version of intimacy and relationships in his life. The series is actually about someone in search of his share of humanity.”

Orphan X was initially supposed to have only five books, but the series has now been extended. Hurwitz explained: “It took me a long time to write a series [based on one] character because I had not met anybody who I thought was compelling enough that I could live with him year after year.

“I spend more time with my characters than I do with my wife and kid, so [that character] has to be someone I like.”

So when he was thinking of what type of character he would like to place on a proverbial bookshelf with other thriller characters, one of the things that came to mind was that “we never really get to see James Bond go home ... [or] Jason Bourne have an awkward encounter with a single mum at a HOA (Home Owner’s Association) meeting”.

He added: “I was always interested in taking these archetypical characters and give them lives in the real world.

“Because of that, Evan is rather ordinary. I would describe him as an average guy, not too handsome, not devastatingly charming like Bond, [nor] a giant like Jack Reacher.

“He is just a guy who lives in the same world that you and I live, trying to make sense of it.”

From that, the author realised he had a unique angle on a character that readers could grow to love – and that is when he realised he could write a series based on one character.

The latest in the Orphan X series, Out of the Dark, which was published in February this year, sees Evan going after the US president.

When asked how he would ultimately like to end the story of Evan, Hurwitz said: “As long as readers keep reading [the series], I am willing to keep writing because I really love doing it.”

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