Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Interview with Marcus Sakey

Joe sez: I've known Marcus Sakey for years. He's a great guy, a great writer, and is currently doing something very worthwhile with his re-release of his ebook short story collection, Scar Tissue, now available on Kindle for $2.99.

One of the reasons I still blog is for occasions like this. A terrific book, and a terrific cause.

Joe Konrath: Scar Tissue contains some stellar short stories--stuff that really sticks with the reader months later. How did it come about?

Marcus Sakey:  It came about because I find writing short stories brutal.  They need to be so damn perfect.

With a novel, there’s a certain freedom to play.  You can try things: flirt with a style, dance with a quirk, toy with a notion.  Now, understand, I’m tenured faculty in the Kill Your Darlings School of Writing, so I believe that ultimately an experiment has to succeed to survive, and that failed attempts should be shot in the head and dumped in the garbage.  It’s just that the breadth of a novel gives you room to maneuver.

Short stories, on the other hand, are themselves an experiment.  By definition they are almost certain to leave a reader wanting.  They’re one night stands.  And so they have to be stellar, or all you’ll be left with is annoyance and regret and in the worst cases, blue balls.

I’ve written dozens of short stories.  There are exactly seven that I’m satisfied with.

And that’s ScarTissue.

Joe:  You’re doing something unusual with this release.  What is the Team Julian Foundation?

Marcus:  In 2010, two of the best people I know got unimaginable news: their four-year-old son had an incurable brain tumor. 

Julian Boivin was a superhero in training.  He was sweet and bright and joyful and incredibly tough.  He and his parents fought an epic battle: surgery, radiation, chemo, things no child should have to experience.  But in the end, cancer stole this beautiful boy.

Founded in his honor, the Team Julian Foundation is trying to give other kids a fighting chance. To help, I’m donating 50% of the proceeds from every copy of Scar Tissue sold to pediatric cancer research. 

Joe:  But that’s not all…

Marcus:  No.  For the next two weeks, I’m going to donate 100% of the profit.  Every cent from every sale.  The reason is simple: your blog.

I’ve been reading A Newbie’s Guide for six years.  I know how many readers you have, and how influential they are.  If we all pitch in, we’ll not only raise a lot of desperately needed funds, but hopefully build momentum that will encourage others to help.

So please,  if you’re reading this, consider buying the anthology.  It’s $3.  It’s not even a latte.  But every bit of the profit will go to helping kids like Julian.

Joe: And besides doing good, you get the book.  I’ve read it, and it gets my highest recommendation.  And others agree.

Marcus:  First off, thanks.  I’d say the check was in the mail, but I know you prefer payment in beer.  Which I admire.

The stories have been well-received, with a lot of critical praise and some Hollywood interest.  The most successful, “The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away,” was nominated for the Macavity and the Lovey, as well as being shortlisted as the best short story of 2009 by the International Thriller Writers.

But I think one of the most memorable honors I’ve received was for my shortest story ever, the 25-word tale “The Time Before the Last.”  The anthology that published it was used as source material for an artists’ competition, with individual painters choosing the story that moved them most.

Several people selected my story, and it was just the coolest thing to see artists take inspiration from a story I wrote and then go on to create something completely different. 

I tried to buy one the pieces, but they’d sold the opening night.  Which is pretty cool too.

Joe: What's your writing background?

Marcus:  Lying to people. 

For me specifically, it was advertising.  There’s no better way to prepare for writing about criminals and thieves than a job in advertising.

I enjoyed it for awhile, but the business eats its young, and one day I realized I was at best an appetizer.  So I decided to quit, and the next morning, I went to see my boss.  Before I could get a word in edgewise, he fired me.  With severance. 

Talk about a karmic kick in the pants.

Anyway, I threw myself into writing short stories—the fact that they need to be perfect is the exact reason you should start with them; you’ll miss more than you hit, but you’ll learn from the swing, and you can swing a lot—while taking classes towards an MFA.  My plan being that if I failed as a writer, I could become a teacher.

Then this hot-shit newcomer spoke to my class.  He was all fire and energy and system-breaking, and he laid some serious business on us: how the industry worked, the truth about money, the need for focus, the idea that you can either talk about wanting to be a writer or you can write.  After class, I asked if I could buy him a beer. 

Our bar tab, five hours later, was $96.  Joe let me pay.  Bastard. 

It was worth it.  I dropped out of my program and wrote my first novel.  The Blade Itself sold at auction, won some awards, and was bought for film by Ben Affleck.

Joe: I hope you wrote that off on your taxes. :)

Besides buying Scar Tissue, how can people contribute to the Team Julian Foundation?

There are a hundred ways.  For a checkbook liberal like me, the easiest is just that: write a check.  Team Julian is completely volunteer managed—Julian’s parents Brad and Nettie, along with their amazing friends, handle everything—so your money goes pretty much directly to pediatric cancer research.

But there are lots of other things you can do to help as well.  Check out TeamJulianFoundation.com for more details.

Joe: I already have the ebook (hell, I wrote the foreword for it) so I just donated directly to Team Julian. If you have Scar Tissue, I invite you to do the same. If you don't have Scar Tissue, get it for $2.99 and as previously stated, Marcus will donate all profits to the foundation for two weeks, and after that half the profits, forever. Marcus's short fiction is every bit as good as his novels, which is to say it's spectacular.

Spread the word.


Unknown said...

Loved the post. Brings into foucs the important things in life.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

This is one of the very best short story collections I've ever read. Really fantastic. Don't just buy it, read it.

And of course, I will be donating money. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Marcus and Joe!

Gary Ponzo said...

Of course I will buy the book. Thanks to both of you for the generous act. No one should ever have to bury a child and if this donation helps even one child or one researcher get one minute closer to a cure, it's worth it.

Werner said...

Got the book and can't wait to read it tonight. In Julian's memory!

Ender Chadwick said...

This is great. I just picked up Scar Tissue. I wonder if it might be beneficial to gather a group of authors, decide on a cause (this one seems perfect to me), and each give all our profits from one book for a month to said charity.

If we pooled everyone involved's marketing prowess and cross promoted, and got a few bigger names on board it could very successful.

Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Randall Wood said...

I'm in Joe,

I also like E.C.'s suggestion, hard to see a down side to that either.

Kate Madison, YA author said...

Just bought. Thanks for allowing us to help out.

E.C.'s idea sounds great.

Kate Madison

John Barlow said...

Got it. will tweet.

Mark Terry said...

On my way to my Kindle now, Marcus. Good to hear from you.

Nick said...

Just bought my copy!

Marcus Sakey said...

Hey all! Thanks so much to those who have bought a copy--it really means a lot.

EC, that's a very cool idea. Working together we could raise a really significant amount of money.

Andreas said...

Bought it, and tweeted the article. Kudos to Marcus Sakey for doing something like this, and to Joe for spreading the word!

Stephen Knight said...

Bought it. Thanks for doing this.

David L. Shutter said...

Bought. There's no tragedy worse than what Julian's parents endured. I speak from experience.

"..you can either talk about wanting to be a writer or you can write."

Joe, can we quote you as saying that? That's a good one!

brianleedurfee said...

Love Sakey's "Hidden City", or whatever it's called, on the history chanel (might not even be on the history chanel). It's on TV somewhere. Thanks for posting the interview, Joe.

Anonymous said...

I've never been more excited to buy a book in my life. Which I just did. Well done guys!

Kathy said...

Just purchased my copy. I'm looking forward to reading, I'm honored for the opportunity to contribute.

Meb Bryant said...

Thank you, Marcus, for sharing Julian's story (a precious little guy).

Just purchased SCAR TISSUE and "liked" it on Amazon.
I look forward to reading your stories. Carry on and best of everything.

Unknown said...

What a lovely and decent human being you are, Marcus - and thanks to Joe who, as always, is there helping us all.

Downloaded the book and privileged to do so. Wishing you great success in your fundraising for children like little Julian.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Got my copy, and shared this post on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you, Marcus.

Spike said...

henbyleJust bought the book. Thanks for allowing me to help, and to entertain myself, and for the lessons in writing short stories which is my next project. Three times a winner.

kathie said...

What a gift in the name of a very special child and his parents. You are a good friend. You expressed my frustration with the short-story I'm writing now--the quest for very tight perfection...ugh, hoping to succeed with a teeny bit of good-enough.

Mark Edward Hall said...

Just bought Scar Tissue and shared this post on facebook and twitter. I feel terrible that Julian and his family had to go through this. Hope your generosity saves a child. Good going, Marcus.

Rob Cornell said...

A worthy cause all on its own, but folks have no idea what a great deal they're getting here. As someone who studied writing with Marcus at Columbia, I've already felt the effects of his prose. This makes it an easy decision to head over to Amazon and purchase this collection.

Well done, Marcus.

Woelf Dietrich said...

Got it and did the tweet and facebook thing. I've kids of my own and reading Julian's story just rips at you. His parents are very brave and my heart goes out to them.

planetkimsmith said...

Ahhhh.... Love, light and everything shiny and bright as we curse the darkness and light candelas (I shall launch a rocket too) sparkling plenty! ...glad you plugged back in Joe. Following Joe.

Right on with the shorts... Under my pen, I published regionally in a mini-syndication thingie I cooked up. Perfection on pointe.

So nice to feel all my fellow egg-heads sunny-side-uppin!

Mark Asher said...

It appears it's not DRM-free, which means I can't read it on my Nook.

Tara Saran said...

So tragic. Such a beautiful little boy. Have bought and liked. Looking forward to reading these short stories.

Angela McConnell said...

Just bought it. Didn't mean to start reading it. It's 3:00 in the morning. I'm up early to get ready for an early job assignment. But I looked at the first story, "The Days When You Were Anything Else"...wow. Really solid story. This one's going to stick with me, I can tell. Thanks, Joe, for introducing Marcus. And thanks Marcus, for such a damn good story. I can't wait to read the rest. I'll be shouting about you to folks, that's for sure. :)

Trent Evans said...


Brad and Nettie: You'll get to hold your baby again, someday.

Marcus and Joe: Thank you for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

It is a very nice gesture and filled with good intentions. However the Cancer "cure" industry is a thousand times worse than the legacy publishing industry. They want your money for doing cancer "research" and then they come up with "cures" which not only don't cure but cost an arm and a leg. I know many people who have really cured cancer by changes in diet and mental attitude. I have witnessed many people die after getting treatments like chemo, radiation and surgery (otherwise called poison, burn and slash method by regular people). I personally know a friend who recovered from brain tumor by adopting a raw vegan diet just for 6 months and applying principles from the book "Your mind can heal you" (written in the early 20th century by frederik bailes). He is now cancer free for the past 25 years! People should stop giving their money to these cancer research foundations, that don't give anything back to you. They just want all your money and want to continue to scare people into buying their expensive drugs. Cancer is totally curable by holistic means. It is not a death sentence nor do you need to spend millions of dollars on the pharma industry which does nothing but hastens the death by creating fear in the person's mind and feeding poison into the person's body. I myself was diagnosed with a rare form or cancer, which is in most cases "incurable" according to the medical doctors. The two surgeries that I underwent did not work. Now after I adopted a raw vegan diet, things are changing for the positive. I am on the road to recovery. I sincerely urge all people to spread real knowledge to people rather than wasting money on supporting pseudo cancer research. Peace.

Mike Fook said...

Just bought the book. My worst fear is that our 3 year old daughter will end up with something like that. Wait, no. My worst fear is that she is taken from us by someone that intends to do her harm.

Anyway... I wanted to suggest Indiegogo.com - for fundraising efforts. Not difficult to set up, and the money gets to you whether you reach your funding goal, or not.

Cheers and best of luck,


Brian said...

Just bought it. Looking forward to reading it.