The Many Sides of Endgame
5 Questions with author James Frey
James Frey (left) and Nils Johnson-Shelton
It all started with a simple goal: create an “experience.” After all is said and done however Endgame, the much anticipated new YA series by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, may be the most ambitious multimedia experiment ever attempted in publishing.
Based around the story of a global game between 12 ancient cultures that will decide the fate of humankind, Endgame holds an elaborate code—one that will direct readers towards a key hidden somewhere in the real world. That key will open a case containing $500,000 in gold.
To enhance the hunt, Google’s Niantic Labs has made an alternate reality game based on the plot. Two more books are coming. Fox is developing a movie concurrently, and around it all is a scavenger hunt base on cryptic numbers, coordinates, and other details hidden in the book.
We caught up with the one half of the writing team, James Frey, an author best known for his 2003 smash hit A Million Little Pieces (and subsequent), to talk about the multifaceted new project.
What prompted you to branch out from writing for adults to YA?
Basically I branched into YA because I have a short attention span and I was kind of bored. I wanted to get away from the preciousness of the literary world and do more collaborative work, and also make stories for a different audience. I also really enjoy genre fiction in general and YA in particular, so I thought, “Why not?” I’m glad I’ve done it. It’s been a ton of fun and a real education and at times humbling. Endgame specifically has allowed me to do all kinds of things that I never would have the opportunity to do if I stuck with literary books—I mean, would I ever get to pitch Google the idea of making a mobile video game for Bright Shiny Morning or The Final Testament of the Holy Bible? No, I would not.
What were some of the challenges of writing for the genre?
A main challenge for Endgame has been getting everything to work together in the way I want it to. Not just the story but the puzzle, the legal aspects of the prize, the collaboration with Niantic and the Alternate Reality Game, coordination with Fox and Temple Hill, getting Caesars to sign up for displaying the gold at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the marketing, the promotion, the social media—all of it. As for the storytelling, my main challenge has been figuring out how to work with other writers. Working with Nils (my Endgame co-author) has been great, but there are still hiccups along the way. And I imagine there will be more as the Endgame world expands and gets bigger and bigger—but in the end these are all great problems to have.
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