He’s done it all. Or at least his characters have. When professional deadbolt-picking, discussing with local police the scientific specifics of dead bodies, shooting with Special Forces soldiers, and touring the morgue is on the menu, you know this is not your hushing librarians type of research.
Marcus Sakey, acclaimed author of The Blade Itself, At the City’s Edge, and Good People, spoke with me about the newest addition to his literary arsenal, The Amateurs, on shelves tomorrow, Thursday, August 6th. Though his books fall into the crime fiction genre, they are anything but genre-standard, and the same can be said for the verve and dedication of the author – especially when this author prides himself on creating incredible circumstances in his books that literally “put his characters through hell.”
“Usually, when I start off to write a book, I start off with a philosophical idea. For example, how friendships and best friends can turn out to be worst enemies with the right impetus,” Sakey explains. This is a theme featured predominantly in The Amateurs, which follows the story of four best friends who find themselves bored with the “honest approach” to achieving what they want from life. When a simple crime spirals out of control, they find their world unraveling before them and their lives suddenly at stake.
With his fourth novel already garnering advance praise, any aspiring author will clamor to know more about the method behind his success. Luckily for us, he’s happy to share. First, Sakey credits a litany of literary inspirations for his writing (which you can find on his website), and though it’s clear he’s a natural talent, he is also an avid reader and eager student of writing craft. Discipline features largely in his outlook on maintaining a successful writing career, along with creating high stakes (as we’ve already established) and being a keen observer.
When asked about his opinion on the common statement to aspiring authors to “write what they know,” he pointed out the problem. “That statement has misled a lot more aspiring writers than any other,” he says. “What you need to do is to know something about what you write, but more than that, use your knowledge of people, the way the world works, and try as hard as you can to render real life onto the page.”
This is perhaps the golden nugget at the core of successful books: the ability to not only tell a compelling story, but to paint humanity in a canvas of words is a skill entirely on its own. Fortunately, the skill can be learned through careful study. For more of Marcus Sakey’s advice on writing, publishing, and polishing the craft, visit his website. He has some brilliant articles for writers, not to mention a slew of excellent book recommendations of all genres.
Also, be sure to check out Marcus Sakey’s newest book, The Amateurs. The Chicago Tribune has already hailed him as the “new reigning prince of crime fiction” – he’s certainly an author to watch.