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David Koepp: On Finding Hope in the Hopeless

Award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker, and novelist David Koepp discusses the balance of loss and hope in his new thriller, Aurora.

David Koepp has written more than two dozen feature films in a wide variety of genres, including the first two Jurassic Park films, Death Becomes Her, Carlito’s Way, The Paper, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man, Panic Room, War of the Worlds, Angels and Demons, and Inferno. Some of the films he’s both written and directed are Stir of Echoes, Secret Window, Ghost Town, and Premium Rush, the latter two co-written with John Kamps.

He is the author of the debut novel Cold Storage (2019) currently in production with Studio Canal Films, and the Audible Originals #1 bestselling story “Yard Work” (2020). His second novel Aurora (Harper, June 2022) has been optioned for film by Netflix with Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow slotted to direct. He divides his time between Los Angeles and New York. Visit him at davidkoepp.com, and follow him on Instagram.

David Koepp: On Finding Hope in the Hopeless

David Koepp

In this post, David discusses the balance of loss and hope in his new thriller, Aurora, how COVID impacted the writing experience, and more!

Name: David Koepp
Literary agent: Mollie Glick, CAA
Book title: Aurora
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: June 7, 2022
Genre/category: Thriller
Previous titles: Cold Storage (2019)
Elevator pitch for the book: When a coronal mass ejection from the sun causes power and electrical systems to fail all over the planet, the world becomes hyperlocal. An estranged brother and sister, one middle class and the other phenomenally rich, ride out the social collapse in very different and unpredictable ways, and ultimately come to a reckoning with a tragedy in their own past.

David Koepp: On Finding Hope in the Hopeless

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What prompted you to write this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of sudden powerlessness, in ways both literal and figurative. Focusing on the specific stories of two wildly different siblings and their very different levels of preparation for and acceptance of a natural disaster was a way for me to look at a global event through a narrow and very focused lens.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

The idea is something I’ve been kicking around since the mid 1990s, when I also wrote and directed a film on a similar subject called The Trigger Effect. But I felt that in the decades since then, our ever-increasing reliance on electrical systems and the internet made it only more interesting and more timely.

I wrote the book over the course of 2020, mostly from lockdown, which gave me some real-world insight into living in extreme circumstances. It was surprising to me how little that COVID actually changed the content and execution of the book—it may have given me a little more insight and firsthand experience, but the fundamentals of the human behavior didn’t change. Only their weariness, living in a post-COVID world.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

No real surprises along the way after that, if you discount the extremely surprising nature of COVID appearing in the first place! Reactions to the book have been strongly positive since the first reads, and thankfully are continuing as the reviews start to come in.

David Koepp: On Finding Hope in the Hopeless

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

As I wrote and researched, I was surprised by the depth and breadth of the survivalist community in the United States, and around the world. Because podcasts and the internet give us access to people’s real voices, and we can hear them describe their hopes and fears for the world in their own words, I was able to go much further than I expected into the psyches of people who I wouldn’t ordinarily meet.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Most of all, my goal is to leave a spark of hope in a reader’s mind. I think there is a real soulfulness at the end of the book, and that my own family’s experience of COVID—that it was awful and frightening and isolating, but also led to much deeper connections with each other and our neighbors—might be something that others recognize.

Great hardship, illness, and loss of life come out of any unexpected natural disaster; but moments of true grace, beauty, and human connection also occur. We must bear the former as best we can and celebrate the latter whenever we see it.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

No surprise here—write a little, every day. There is simply no substitute. There’s actually a mathematical equation for it: Butt + Chair = Book.

Try it! It’ll prove out.

Fearless Writing William Kenower

If you love to write and have a story you want to tell, the only thing that can truly stand between you and the success you’re seeking isn’t craft, or a good agent, or enough Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but fear. Fear that you aren’t good enough, or fear the market is too crowded, or fear no one wants to hear from you. Fortunately, you can’t write and be afraid simultaneously. The question is whether you will write fearlessly on purpose. In this workshop we’ll look at several techniques you can use to keep yourself in the creative flow and out of the trouble and misery fear always causes.

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