Bestselling authors Blake Crouch and Marcus Sakey are the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon of the crime fiction genre. These two write, research and even make s’mores together. Learn more about their bromance writing styles and friendship.
Blake Crouch: So the second book in your Brilliance Saga was just published. It's called A BETTER WORLD, and I think it's even better than the first, BRILLIANCE, so congrats!
Marcus Sakey: Thanks! I’m really proud of it. It picks up a couple of months after the first, and since I’ve always imagined the saga as a trilogy, I think of it as my The Empire Strikes Back. Like that film, you don’t need to have seen the first to enjoy, although it’s more fulfilling to start at the beginning.
This is actually the first time I’ve written a series, and it’s an interesting challenge. There are some great things about writing a sequel, like knowing the characters and having plot forces in play. But there are also real frustrations, like trying to seed in backstory from the last book. That must have been particularly tricky in your new book, THE LAST TOWN, given that it’s the third in a series--and that it starts in a pretty intense way.
B: It was really challenging. I would even go so far as to say that THE LAST TOWN (which is the third and final book in the Wayward Pines Trilogy), was the hardest book for me to write, and I've written twelve.
M: Showoff. Why was this one the hardest?
B: The bonuses you mentioned to writing a series are great. But there comes a point where you've just had enough of this world and you're kind of ready for a hot new thing. At least that's how I felt by the time I type "the end" on this series. Not that I didn't have an absolute blast writing it, but three years in one world with one set of characters is a lot.
M: That’s why I’ve only written stand-alones in the past. As much as I dig my characters, by the end of a book, my feeling tends to be, “Thanks, see you, don’t let the door hit you on the imaginary ass.”
And man do I know what you mean about the hot new thing. Whenever I’m in the middle of a book, I find that ideas for other novels are almost unbearably sexy. They’re whispering in your ear, telling you that they’ll meet you at the motel on the highway, that no one needs to know. But at least for me, I know if I cheat on the book I’m writing to romp with a new one, chances are I’ll end up screwing it up with both. Do you feel that way? Or can you see other ideas?
B: No, once I've committed to an idea, I stick with it. I played that game early on in my career where I was three chapters in and then another idea came calling. But the problem is, it's not the new idea that's so attractive, it's the relief it promises from having to actually figure out the book you're writing. But you'll have to figure out that idea as well, so I've found it's always better to stick it out. Believe in the idea you committed to.
M: Exactly. When I come back to the hot new ideas later, they never seem as sexy.
B: To wrap this up, we should share with people how we came up with the ideas for Brilliance and Wayward Pines. We were together when it happened….
M: Yes we were. At 14,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies.
B: You had come to visit me in Durango, Colorado, for a camping trip. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were both in between books and trying to figure out what our next projects would be. So we hiked up to this gorgeous lake and we were talking the entire time about how we wanted our next books to be different, bigger, world-building.
M: The intention was to be hardened mountain men and spend several nights in the backcountry--
B: But you wimped out.
M: You wimped out!
B: I merely suggested that our brainstorming session (which is what the trip was turning into) might be more productive over steaks and martinis and soft mattresses instead of sleeping bags….
M: I will confess that my arm didn’t need twisting.
B: At any rate, we spent the next several days in a scenic little mountain town in southwest Colorado, coming up with the bones of Wayward Pines and Brilliance.
M:, Now the trips are part of that tradition. You came out to Chicago a couple of months ago when we were both between books, and we did the same thing.
B: Minus the mountain.
M: Minus the mountain. But the same process, only informed by what we’ve done before. Hey, there’s our adorably clever ending--we’ll get meta on it, and point out that we’re making our careers into a series.