30 January 2008

Author Answers with Marcus Sakey. Take two.

Word Nerd first interviewed Marcus Sakey last year around the time of the release of his debut novel, "The Blade Itself." Sakey is back with a second book "At the City's Edge" and was gracious enough to subject himself to a second round of questions.

WN: "At the City's Edge" just released. What's this story about?
SAKEY: It's the story of a discharged soldier who returns from Iraq to find a similar war raging in his South Side Chicago neighborhood. It features corruption and politics and gang warfare and love and redemption and car chases and gunfights and Roman history, all the good stuff.

WN: What kind of research did you do for this novel?
SAKEY: Doing research is one of the joys of writing thrillers. You get to see a whole side of life most people never experience. For this novel, I spent a couple of days in a bulletproof vest, riding with the Chicago Gang Intelligence Unit, the "CIA of the CPD." I also interviewed gang experts in DC, New York, and Los Angeles.

What I learned was staggering. The gang problem in American cities is out of control. I mean literally out of control, as in the police don't even try to get rid of gangs. They just try to channel them, guide them, and to limit violence. But when you've got ten-year-olds being recruited at recess, it's like fighting the tide. If we don't make some changes, and quick, things are going to get out of hand.

WN: Both of your books contain violence - is violence hard to write? Why or why not?
SAKEY: I should probably be careful making statements like this, but I love writing violence. It's gratifying to take your id out for a walk. And because violence is all about speed and intensity, those scenes tend to go fairly quickly, too. When I have an action sequence coming up, I usually get bombed out of my skull on caffeine and write great wacks at a go. There's a section in the new book I wrote all in one sitting--well, not counting bathroom breaks--that's over 5,000 words long. Since my daily goal is 1,000 words, you can see why I like those scenes.This is your second novel. Was it easier or harder to write book #2 than book #1?Harder. Much. The pressure that comes from expectations is pretty significant--every good thing that happens on the first cranks the dial on the second. Plus, if you have any balls, you're trying to do something a little different, and that's always scary.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid? What turned you on to the idea of being a writer?
SAKEY: God, yeah. I was the kid in the back of the room holding a paperback fantasy novel beneath the lip of the desk. Don't know how I would have gotten through school without that trick.When you grow up as desperately in love with words and story as I did, the idea of becoming a writer gets seeded pretty early. It's something I always wanted to do. Though I never expected it to work out the way it has.

WN: You've got book tour dates lined up for the new book. Wat are the good and bad things about book tour?
SAKEY: Book tours are great fun, because basically you're hanging out with readers, fans, and booksellers. These are my people, so I love touring.

It is tiring, though, and it's time that I'm not writing. Since I'm on a deadline now, that part is frustrating.

WN: What book are you currently reading? What do you like about it?
SAKEY: I'm 165 pages into Denis Johnson's TREE OF SMOKE. It's pretty terrific thus far, though I'm curious to see where he's going to take it.

But the language is wonderful, and he has this habit of sneaking in zingers that just broadside you:
Sure: war, intrigue, the fates--certainly he'd face them. Just please, not Mom. Not her laundry flapping in the sorrows of springtime. Not Clements, Kansas, with it's historical license to be tiny, low, and
I love graceful prose; if it's well enough written, I can be content with the side of a cereal box

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