James S. Murray: Five Things I Learned Writing Obliteration

Thanks to the heroics of former New York City Mayor Tom Cafferty and his team, the world is once again safe. The villainous Foundation for Human Advancement has been dismantled, the cities of the world are safe from nuclear annihilation, and Cafferty is now on a hunt to decimate every nest of creatures on the planet.

When Cafferty enters a nest underneath the Nevada desert, he is horrified to find it completely empty. It can only mean one thing: the battle for survival is not over. Across the planet, creatures are emerging from their subterranean homes. Now, the all-out war against humanity has begun—a war in which only one apex species will survive. Humankind has finally met its match. 

Cafferty knows that only one man can help him stop the onslaught. A man who is despised by the world. A man who has already caused the death of millions. A man who is a sworn enemy hell-bent on taking Tom Cafferty down forever: Albert Van Ness. 

But even this desperate move may not be enough to stop the creatures and save humanity . . .

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TRILOGY IS A POWERFUL WORD

Fifteen years ago, when I started writing the short story that eventually evolved into Awakened, I never imagined it would become the sprawling international trilogy that it is now. The first book was a New York-centric thriller, inspired by the action movies and novels that affected me as a kid growing up in Staten Island. But planning and nailing an entire trilogy is a whole lot more difficult.

The sequel The Brink took the story overseas, and by the time we get to Obliteration, we’re following characters in every corner of the globe. To nail down each twist and turn of the plot while staying true to the emotional arcs and backbone of the story, the plan had to be in place long before words hit the page. Mapping out the course of this massive story was one of the most challenging yet most rewarding tasks of my time as an author.

A CO-AUTHOR IS A BLESSING

On a similar note, no book happens alone. This is especially true in the case of the Awakened trilogy.

When my publisher proposed the great idea of pairing me with a co-author, I somehow stumbled upon the devilishly handsome and very British Darren Wearmouth. Our partnership has evolved into a lifelong friendship of collaboration. I can’t express enough gratitude for his steadfast creativity and persistence to make this trilogy as great as we both knew it could be.

I highly recommend finding your Darren. When you’re stuck on a word or a turn of phrase, chances are, your co-author knows the exact right answer.

KILL YOUR FRIENDS (IN THE BOOK)

What’s the point of writing a thriller series about a race of monstrous creatures threatening humanity without killing off a few of your friends?

Over the course of the trilogy, I’ve fictionally murdered a lot of characters inspired by people in my life. And I can tell you honestly: nothing is more satisfying that describing a friend’s brutal death for thousands of people to read.

Is a creature tearing apart an old buddy from high school an honored tribute? Or is it because I’m secretly holding a grudge against them? They’ll never know. Either way, it’s a nice little surprise for them when they get around to reading the book (if those jerks ever do.)

EASTER EGGS BRIGHTEN EVERYONE’S DAY

As every writer knows, some days go smoother than others. Sometimes, you need an extra bit of spice to keep the words from blending together on the computer screen in front of you. For me, easter eggs have been that special seasoning.

Darren and I are lucky enough to have the support of a lot of fans of Impractical Jokers, so anytime we can give them a nod, we try to. In all three books, there are fun little references to fan-favorite episodes and inside jokes that keep the series hyper personal to me. And each time I read them back, they make me smile.

THE ENDING HAS TO BE RIGHT

At the end of the day, when you strip away all of the bloodshed, the atomic bombs, and the decades-long conspiracies, you’re left with the characters. And ideally, those characters are the reason you started writing in the first place. We’ve all probably read a fantastic book where the ending leaves us unsatisfied. To put in all the work of the previous two books and to have Cafferty’s story fall flat was a fate we weren’t willing to accept. Apart from tying together every loose end plot-wise, the emotional side of the ex-Mayor’s story needed to feel full and complete. I probably stared at those last chapters longer than I stared at the deed to my own house. The ending of a trilogy has to be right. It’s true of every story ever told and a lesson that every writer should have buried deep down inside.

***

JAMES S. MURRAY is a writer, executive producer, and actor, best known as “Murr” on the hit television show Impractical Jokers along with his comedy troupe, The Tenderloins. He has worked as the Senior Vice President of Development for NorthSouth Productions for over a decade and is the owner of Impractical Productions, LLC. He recently starred in Impractical Jokers: The Movie, and also appears alongside the rest of The Tenderloins, and Jameela Jamil, in the television series The Misery Index on TBS.

James S. Murray: Twitter | Instagram

Obliteration: Harper Collins

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