Sherri Crichton and James Patterson, ERUPTION

Sherri Crichton and James Patterson, ERUPTION

Zibby speaks with Sherri Crichton and literary giant James Patterson about their collaboration on ERUPTION, a partial manuscript written by the late Michael Crichton—creator of Jurassic Park, ER, and Twister—before his passing in 2008. Sherri, who discovered the unfinished manuscript in 2010, describes the years-long journey to piece it together and her partnership with Patterson, who helped finish the heart-pounding summer read. They delve into the book’s themes, such as humanity’s interference with nature, discuss the challenges of blending two writing styles seamlessly, and share the meaningful impact of this book on readers.


Zibby: Welcome to both of you.

Thank you for coming on. 

Sherri: Thank you. 

James: Thank you!

Zibby: Oh my gosh. Eruption. This was like, I'm so afraid. I didn't know. I mean, I thought COVID was bad. Let's just put it that way. And then you read this book and you're like, Oh, we're so vulnerable. It's ridiculous is how I feel about it. Okay. So tell me about your collaboration, Sherry.

I read your author's note of finding the manuscript, but tell me the story of the whole story of how you all teamed up. 

Sherri: Well, I mean, really, the short story is I found that partial manuscript very early on. It was about in 2010. And it just, it, it was so emotional for me because of Michael's connection to the island and me always hearing about this volcano story.

He wouldn't go into detail characters, nothing. I just knew about it. So it was very emotional after he passed that I felt so close to him through this book. And it went on a, like a year pilgrimage to find all the pieces. I mean, years. years of pilgrimage to find all the pieces. And then when it was finally put together, where I finally felt like I am ready to launch this with the right partner, I was like, now what?

Now who? And all of a sudden, I was like, let's go to the top. Let's go to the top. 

James: He's not doing anything. 

Sherri: He's not doing anything. He's, I'm He's bored. He's like, you know, he, if let's find out if James Patterson is even a Michael Crichton fan, even if he has time, would this be intriguing to him? And Jim encompasses everything I wanted for this book, like an incredible storyteller, fast paced, you know, you love his characters and you just buy into Jim's books.

And I was like, that could be phenomenal. These two powerhouses meeting on the page. And then the big question is, let's reach out to Jim and let's see if it would, if it would be something that he would be interested in. 

James: And I was reached out to and there I was. And Sherry sent me the, you know, what Michael had written.

I said, well, let me, let me read it quickly. And I did. And, and I called her back and I said, if you want me, I'm in. The reasons were a lot of reasons really one was I'm a big Michael Crichton fan have been and I just read four or five of his books again, but I'd read all of his novels, a couple of the screenplays his nonfiction er, we're all aware of.

And I just thought he was just a great storyteller and had kind of done something to this kind of fiction that hadn't been done before, which is bringing in this intelligence and the science or, in the case of the great train robbery, an incredible amount of history. So I, I definitely wanted to try. I love the challenge of because I don't write with a lot of science.

And, uh, to see if I could keep a story going with a lot of science in it. And I got my own researcher then cause to help with the parts that hadn't been written yet. Uh, and then talking to Sherry, I mean, it was, you know, we were kind of on the same page about a lot of things. Um, I had lost, as you know, the love of my life in my thirties.

First love of my life. Uh, so we had that and, um, uh, you know, it just kind of clicked and we were very comfortable with each other right away and I loved the challenge and I thought this could be one of those. And I think it turned out that way, my opinion anyway. One of those kinds of books you don't, they don't, you don't see them anymore.

That's sort of like, wow, blockbuster big, just because the story is so big. I mean, it has this double, I mean, you take a book like a day of the Jackal and it's got one engine. Well, the Jack will get the goal or not. This had these two big engines. One. This volcano that's like, oh my God, it could be the worst volcano eruption ever.

But there's something worse on the island, which is the waste materials. And Michael, as Sherry can talk about Michael, the way he was always, you know, a decade ahead of everybody else in terms of his research and things that he was curious about. 

Sherri: Well, to that, yes, exactly. Jim, to that point, I mean, Michael, he was so prolific in his thinking.

And, and, and I look, you know, it was like, it was during the pandemic, everybody, every time on Google, like those Google alerts, I kept seeing Michael Crichton, Michael Crichton because of Andromeda strain, which he wrote 50 years ago about a pandemic, and he was talking about DNA before we were even considering it, unless you were a doctor, you really aren't talking about DNA when he created Jurassic, so when this book came and it was like, You know, it was so heartfelt to me because I knew how much Hawaii meant to him.

And then like Jim said, it's got these two hooks and you cannot put it down. I was like, Oh my gosh, this is going to require, first of all, for me to do the necessary research to go back into all of his papers and drives and whatever, and find everything I possibly can. Because this book meant that much to Michael.

And what I found out is he researched it since the seventies. He started writing it in the nineties and from the nineties forward, he kept going back to polish and polish and polish, but he didn't move past that initial partial manuscript. So the idea that I could partner with somebody as special as James Patterson and him.

I say this with all my heart, be so genuinely. Like connected to the material but connected to the research and such a genuine man of integrity like he wanted to do right by Michael and and take that story where it needed to go and in his words. I'm not going to say it for you. It's like Sherry. I just need to know how this ends.


James: You know, the other thing is the subject matter of this is so current because Man keeps messing with nature and in all ways, whether it's, you know, because we were dumping waste into the ocean, which we kind of stopped, but we're putting it somewhere. So that continues. And it's very, very dangerous. And then, you know, in terms of global warming or whatever you believe in, something's going on there.

And you feel it every time you take a plane right now, because you're always bouncing around. You see it with, you know, nature's just acting in, in weirder, weirder ways and there, there, there have been more earthquakes, uh, of late and, and, and more volcano activity, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, uh, you know, it's, I think it's a very current kind of a story to read as well.

It's not like an old fashioned story, which I love. 

Zibby: So how close to the end of the world do you two think we actually are? Do you think the whole world is going to come to an end? It sometimes feels like that. 

James: Well, today feels like one of those days, right? Or yesterday, weird stuff in the, in the whatever, you know, 

Sherri: I just, I, I feel like, and this is something that really Jim and I had so much fun with when we were dancing on the pages.

Really it was Michael and Jim dancing. I, I was like, I had the front seat, which was quite phenomenal, but Nature does find a way, and it is truly that with this human interference, you know, it can be weaponized if it's in the wrong hands, and I think that we all have to, Michael used to always, he was so, this is like the foundation of his books, he would always say, Set up these what if scenarios and those scenarios really make us if you're engaged in the material, it wakes us up to say, Oh my gosh, what if?

So on another level, I think what he was doing is he was setting the stage with this book was really like, pay attention, pay attention, get out in nature, make sure that we are, we are, you know, communities gathered together that we're fighting for the right cause. 

James: You know, and Zibby, this was, it's a collaboration, obviously, between myself and, and Michael and, and Sherry, but this book is really about collaboration as well.

And, and, and in terms of your question, how long before the end of the world, if we don't learn how to collaborate, Bad things are going to happen because during the next 10, 15, 20 years, there's going to be a lot of things, water shortages, things are just going to really. And if we don't learn to collaborate, you know, the positive thing about about the covert experience was, oh, my God, in a year.

People collaborated and got a vaccine out there. I think that's very positive. The sad thing is we don't seem to have learned anything. We, we, we, we still don't get together. We just keep going onto these little islands and drifting apart and fighting each other rather than know, you know, okay, the border is a problem.

Okay, fine. Let's collaborate and figure out what's the fairest, best thing we can do there. Uh, okay. You know, whatever problems America is facing, uh, they, we would do better if we could collaborate instead of fighting each other. 

Zibby: Very true. I think. Very true. Oh my gosh. When it came to character development and all, there are so many characters in here, different scientists, different, you know, People experiencing, whether it's missing their children post divorce, or post having their wife leave, or missing, or longing for a career, or people who have had strokes, or people, I mean, there's like, lots of physical things, physical and emotional things, sort of, in everybody's way, in addition to the big challenges here.

How did that come about, and was that something that was already written, or? Jim, is it something that you decided to infuse into the narrative? 

James: It's, that's a total mixed bag. Some of the characters, Mac obviously was, was, was, was there. Mac's family situation was there. Several of the scientists were there.

I don't want to get, you know, that specific, but there was, there were some new, you know, I mean, the, the, like character that was new and, and, and the two crazies, uh, Volcanus, but, but, but a lot of it was there. And, and, and then there, and then there were some new characters that, that, that there were added as well.

Wow. But, you know, an interesting thing, and Jerry and I talk about this a lot is one of the things we wanted to do was to try to make it seamless. So I challenge anyone to, to Find that point where Michael stopped writing and I started writing. I think that's kind of a cool thing. I remember years ago when I, when I did a book with President Clinton and in England, somebody went out and they did computers and all this stuff, and they nailed down what they thought.

They were absolutely sure. This is, these are the chapters that Clinton did and these are the ones and they were totally wrong, totally wrong. But they were so sure, so sure about it, you know? 

Zibby: Sherry, how does it feel bringing this book into the world and getting people talking, not that they've ever stopped talking about the genius of your late husband, but just to have to, you know, talk about that every day.

Is it a comfort or is it a trigger? 

Sherri: It's not a trigger. It is a comfort It's really exciting and to see this book be completed in the way it was I think I I mean i'm i'm so proud of it. My son is proud of it I i'm just so grateful to jim for being the phenomenal partner that he was But this material was doing no good tucked away And the archive.

It felt like a really selfish endeavor to just leave it to me, you know, just to hold this back. And so it really does, you know, I say freedom because it's out there. I I I love the idea of thinking of Michael on every exploration that he would do for every volcano and all of his research for it to have the integrity of of someone, you know, As talented as Jim, finish it and it be so beautifully told and the message still stay on par with what Michael had written, it warms my heart.

James: One of the crazy things when you get to haters out there and they go, Oh, it was all about the money. It's not about the money. You see behind Sherry there? That's a Jasper Johns behind there. She don't need the money. I don't need the money. We did it because we wanted to do, uh, we thought there was a potentially really, really, really good story here to tell.

And hopefully now we're talking to different people out in Hollywood, hopefully a movie as well. But, but, but our thing with the movie is, is not, we had a couple of people that came to us. And they said, Oh, we're really great at these disaster things, and we can do it and dah, dah, dah, dah. And they wanted to do the same old, same old stuff.

And the other one of us wanted to do that. And we're, we're thinking of partnering now. The whole idea is that it's going to be better. You know, Jurassic Park was, it, it just reinvented the, that disaster kind of scenario. And that's what we're hoping with the people we're working with. Not, not about, you know, who's going to make the most money, but about, we just want to be proud of it.

And, and, and, and obviously Sherry, she wants, uh, John Michael, the person to be their son, to be proud of it. 

Sherri: And honestly, I, I, when I read the book, I'm like, to put myself in the mind, even of an actor, I'm like, how great these characters have such depth and levity at the same time, and to be able to play, you know, Any one of these characters would be, I would just think that would just be a joy ride.

James: So there are some cool parts. Yes, there's some. Want to be in the movie, Zibby? 

Zibby: Yeah, here's what I don't want. I don't want to be in the helicopter on the side of the volcano while it moves and someone's trying to save me and I'm scared of heights. Thank you very much. I'll pass. 

James: There are some bad helicopter scenes.

There are a few bad helicopters. We, we, we come down hard on helicopters in this book. 

Zibby: Yes, seriously. 

Sherri: You know, they're called the national bird over in Kauai because they're everywhere now. And it used to frustrate us so much when Michael and I would be out hiking on the trails. And then we put in 12 miles to get to this one spot so that you could oversee all of like Hanalei Bay or it was out on Alakai Swamp.

It's the greatest hike. And maybe it was more like, well, I don't remember how many exact miles, but then out of nowhere, these helicopters would just come zooming in and it would just disrupt all of nature just because you know, people want to see it too, but they want to, they want to be in that helicopter.


James: I went to, uh, actually my, my honey honeymoon on Hawaii, Lanai and Maui. It's tell, tell, tell me about, about your honeymoon, where you went. 

Sherri: Well, we got married in Hawaii, but my honeymoon was in Italy and we had a side trip. To Pompeii. I didn't really understand why Michael wanted to take me to Pompeii, but he had romantic, very romantic.

We're sitting at the base of Mount Vesuvius and he's telling me about, you know, ash and volcanic activity. And he, he knew everything, but, you know, underneath it all was one of the reasons why this is so important to me because underneath it all, it's like, Ah, a research trip. I see. 

Zibby: That's one of the things where like people really do show you who they are when you first get married and sometimes you can just like ignore those signs.

James: Well, it was very smart. You could write the trip off then. How many people can write off their honeymoon? 

Zibby: My, I went on, my honeymoon was in Hawaii also for my first marriage, but I won't hold it against. Hawaii. Are you doing anything with the, the people of Hawaii for this book and all of that? I mean, there's a lot of, you know, language and culture and all of that embedded in the, in the book as well, which was beautiful.

Sherri: Yeah, I, I think at this, we have all the, all the fingers are out and we, we just had a really wonderful podcast the other day. And if what you're asking, if we're going to show up in Hawaii, unfortunately the two of us together will not be in Hawaii together for this book launch. But I think we, it is time we really consider firing up the jets and heading, heading.

James: We did try to be very respectful and, and Sherry certainly pushed this because she knows that she spent so much time there. And you'll notice there's a lot of the pigeon speech in throughout the book, which which Michael had had initiated that and Sherry brought up the notion of in the book where one of the issues is the burial grounds and and and dealing with the burial grounds is getting in the way of the rescue, which is so it's a big problem.

Sherri: It was. 

James: But, but there is like that. And, and then, you know, you know, in, in the coming months, will we try to do some good works here? Probably. Yeah. 

Zibby: Giving it out to the people or something. I don't know. I feel like maybe there's, there's some characters who could hold their own in another book after this.

You know, like you could continue something. 

James: We can't, we can't say who, who, who survives. So we won't totally get into it. I will.

Zibby: I didn't, did I say a name? I didn't say a name. 

James: There was one, there was one character who didn't make it. And that was a controvert. We had to really talk that one through. But that was something that Michael did, and I frequently do, which is to let the reader know no one is safe, including, including our hero.

And, and toward the end, you really don't know what's gonna happen. And you, I think you've, have some bad feelings, which, which I think is great in terms of storytelling. 

Zibby: Is there a reader who is like your ideal reader? You're like, this person has to read this book or who? 

James: John Michael. 

Sherri: It was John Michael.

He read the original pages and he didn't want to read the chapters as they came in. He was like, I want to wait. He did have, you know, some, you know, words about, you know, as. Parts of the other creative process with the cover and all of this stuff, which is fun. I wanted to make sure he was a part of it.

But when he really finally got the book and he was able to sit down and read it. Yes. His endorsement was all I needed. 

Zibby: I love it. 

James: Yeah. He's a really, really smart. I finally met him a week or so ago. A really smart, really tall young guy. And, uh, and my wife Sue loved it. And so did our son, Jack. So, uh, that's, that's a rather tough audience.

Zibby: Well, that's, that's wonderful. When you were making the book, as propulsive as it is, I know there were a lot of short chapters. There are sort of, the structure of the book itself is sort of designed to be consumed readily and like sometimes the scientific passages are sort of outlined and then sometimes they're embedded, but there's never too much, right, at one time.

Is that something, like, what are some of the things, was that one of the things in, in drafting it that was like, okay, I want to make sure that we don't overwhelm the reader with this type of jargon, or I want to make sure they go to the next chapter quickly, or, like, what were some of those major considerations?

James: Well, I, you know me, Zibby, I mean, that's kind of what I do. Michael does it too. I would say if Michael had done the whole book, some of the chapters might have been a little longer. That's about the only minor change. Uh, um, he also was very smart about not overwhelming you with the science. He knew when to get off and, and, you know, he really had a sense of, he's a storyteller.

You kind of know when you've said enough and people are starting to glaze over and we got to get going here. Uh, and he had that great sense of, you know, the, the whole, I will say that that initial helicopter thing, that's the thing that had, that's all Michael. 

Zibby: Wow. 

James: That's all, Michael. 

Zibby: That was intense. We were, I was in, in it, ready to keep going on this ride, and that was like, gripping.

James: But I will say that, that you did it so superbly, Jim, and Michael does it in his books, that you lay in the science to where it's information you actually need to know. And once you finish, when you, once you come off that, that. That scientific jargon, you're smarter, you walk away from a book a little harder, you know, a little bit more.

Michael was famous for that, where you, you know, you kind of walk, you walk away thinking, you know, a little bit more about quantum physics and timeline, or, you know, DNA and gene patent, I mean, cloning in some of his other books. But in this, I think, I think the reader will find that they're a little smarter when it comes to knowing volcanic activity and the horrors of toxic waste.

I was tested and my IQ went up two points just working on the book, which is kind of cool. 

Zibby: What, what are Sherry, the challenges of sort of preserving the canon of work of a legendary author? You know, what, like, how do you approach that and how do you think about it? And.

James: Well, there are movies coming too and more of the movies, you know, from Michael's works.

Jurassic. I think there's another one. Are they, what are they doing? Is there any pre production or are they shooting? 

Sherri: No, I don't think they, they start shooting until maybe next month or in August. Mm-Hmm. . And yes, there's twisters that's coming out this summer and there's always something going on. I think that's the most remarkable thing about Michael's work.

It is. So it it, it was so brilliantly. Told and so captivating and so, uh, before it's time that it has this, this legacy of, you know, like, it's not going out of style, you know, it continues on and continues on. There were so many different elements of it. So really like in all of Michael's work, it's, it's really doing pieces like this, which are really important for me.

It. Continue to kind of, you know, honor this man that we all, he had just such a phenomenal cultural footprint along the way, whether children are reading, got getting inspired by his books, you know, with reading Jurassic Park or going to the movies or, or how he touched people's lives, whether it was er and people were inspired by that, he really was Uh, somebody who was quite inspirational in the way he wrote and the way he told stories.

And, um, I think the, the, the bottom line is he was always curious. He was just always curious and, and needed to know the why. And once he, he, he was captivated by a subject, he would begin writing. And it was, it was. Effortless. And it wasn't the job. I think he really enjoyed the research more because he was constantly, he was an adventurer at heart, but he, he, he loved it.

It was his passion. Writing was truly his passion, which I'm sure it is for, for Jim. I mean, once you know, 

James: I love it. I always say that, you know, I don't, I don't work for a living. I played for a living. And you know, one of the things that be is, I always think our greatest strength is usually our greatest weakness as well.

Uh, And for me, it's that page turning. I'm going to do these things. I'm keep people, and sometimes I don't dig as deep as I should. Because of Michael's research on this book, I really dug deeper than I usually do, and I think that turned out a better book than some of what I've done. 

Zibby: One of the takeaways from the book for me, in addition to, you know, world crises and all of that, is there was one line about how a lot of the researchers are behind their computers, and now they're not even in shape enough to go on these big hikes.

Right. Like that is a big takeaway, right? What are, how are we interacting with the world? How are we using our brains? What can we do better? And what are we losing by what we're getting? 

James: Yeah. That's our whole society now. Absolutely. 

Sherri: Well, and Michael wrote in his foreword to the book, Micro, and he dedicated that book to John Michael.

He He wrote in it where we have got to put our devices down. We have become so out of touch with nature. We don't even know what we're fighting for anymore. He encapsulates that with like, I really do believe if Michael were here today, he would get rid of any interference like he, he would really push our, our, these new generations out in any way that he could.

And I'm, I'm really hoping that our, our book, Jim does that. I hope it really kind of opens, you know, people's eyes and, you know, polishes the lenses to say, let's, let's, let's really pay attention. Let's pay attention.

Zibby: I love it. So will you, is there anything left to collaborate on? Can you find any, is there anything else in the archives to, to exhume or no?

James: We'll see. We're, we're, we're talking and, you know, at some point, I mean, Sherry obviously will do what she does. Of whatever characters survive this book, we'll talk about that. We're going to get this one out and then probably deal with the Hollywood auction in a month or so or whatever the time frame is, maybe shorter.

And then, and then we can see, uh, you know, if something else makes sense for Sherry and, and, and for myself. 

Zibby: Yeah. I'll probably be dealing with the Hollywood auction in a month. You know, most people are, you know, it's just usually at the calendar. So, whatever. Okay, well what advice, I know I've asked you this a hundred times, Jim, so you're probably getting sick of it, but when you're giving advice to aspiring authors, give, give us some advice or even give advice to people who are not aspiring but who are trying to like write their millionth book because you've written so many books and they keep getting better.

So what is the secret there? 

James: I don't, you know, as you know, Zibby, I tend not to give advice. I just kind of talk about what I do and then people can. For me, outline, outline, outline. And on this book, before we really agreed to do it, I said, let me, let me do an outline for, for what needs to the rest of the book and showed it to Sherry.

And that was something where I think she felt deep, took a deep breath and said, okay, this is, this is going to be good. So outline, outline, outline, I think is huge. I think it saves people so much time. You you'll, you'll write a better book in most cases, maybe not, you know, like Ulysses, I don't know if you used an outline for that, but.

Or certainly for Finnegan's Wake, I'm sure he didn't use an outline. But, um, that's huge to me. And then story, story, story is another thing. Uh, you know, just be aware of, you know, you're, you're talking to somebody, you're, you're telling somebody a story. And, and, you know, my thing is always, I think there's one person across from me, And I don't want them to get up until I've finished.

So that's useful. 

Zibby: I love that. Amazing. Congratulations. It's really good. And I learned a lot too, and thought provoking and all of that. So congratulations. 

Sherri: Thank you. 

James: Thank you. Zibby. As always. 

Zibby: Thank you.

Sherri Crichton and James Patterson, ERUPTION

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