Wednesday, December 13, 2006

KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY, PT 1

We turn the spotlight on crime novelist Marcus Sakey, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007. His debut suspense novel, The Blade Itself (St. Martin's Minotaur), hits shelves in January:

Danny Carter thought he was safe in his new lifeuntil his old one came looking for him. In the working-class Irish neighborhood of Chicago where he grew up, you were only as strong as the reputation you built. Danny and his best friend Evan built theirs robbing pawn shops and liquor stores, living the reckless lives that their blue-collar parents had strived so hard to avoid for them ...



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AS A NEWBIE NOVELIST, WHAT'S SCARIEST FOR YOU?
For a long time the scariest thing was the second novel. Writing it is a beast, mostly because of the expectations. Every time something good happens around the first book—a nice blurb, or a little buzz—you start to compare the second book to it, and see the differences as weaknesses. Then you start looking out the window and wondering if a fall from the second floor would be fatal if you went headfirst.

Now that my second is done, though, the scariest thing is pretty predictable—what if no one buys the first?

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO COMBAT YOUR FEARS?
These days, everybody knows that self-promotion is part of the game for most novelists. The trick is finding a balance between marketing and writing.

Luckily, the glacial pace of publishing gives you some room for this. I signed a contract last October; my book, The Blade Itself, comes out in January. So I spent the early part of last year building a web site and getting on blogs, going to conferences and securing blurbs. Later you start to think about chapbooks and mailers and ads. And at this point, I’m all about booking signings and planning launch parties (Jan. 11, by the way—if you’re in Chicago, come drink my beer)

HOW HAVE YOUR "KILLER YEAR" CLASSMATES HELPED YOU THROUGH THIS CAMPAIGN?
Killer Year has been wonderful in a lot of ways, but the best part is that we’re a community, and we support and help each other. It’s great because we’re all in pretty much the same place.

It has also proven a really valuable marketing tool. We’re officially part of International Thriller Writers now, and we’re sharing our resources to reach more readers. We’re doing group mailings and looking at ad buys. It’s a way of making our limited individual funds go a lot further.

By the way, to folks with a book coming in 2008, there will be a new Killer Year class. We haven’t figured out how the process will work—a lot of that is up to ITW—but keep your eyes open for it.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
I generally spend a few hours a day pacing, banging my head into the wall, and wondering when people will notice that I have no talent. Eventually I get worn out, drop in the chair, and write my thousand words. That’s my personal bar—a thousand a day, five days a week. And they have to be words I intend to keep.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?)
Like most people, I look at the front tables first. So the easy answer is co-op and a good cover design.

I also tend to take blurbs seriously ... I know a lot of folks give out blurbs like candy, and I got some that way, and I’m grateful for them. But if I buy a book on the strength of a recommendation and it’s crap, it does lower my opinion of the blurber.

KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY, PT 2

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Thanks to crime fiction novelist Marcus Sakey. Find him online at MarcusSakey.com and his blog as part of The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers.

You can also find more at the Killer Year website, the Killer Year blog and the Killer Year MySpace page.

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Related links:
KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER (Big City, Bad Blood)
KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN (Suspicious Circumstances)
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
Q&A: ANDREW KLAVAN (Damnation Street)

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