By John Raab
A BETTER WORLD is the second book in Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance Saga series, with his newest character Nick Cooper.
Marcus was born in Flint, Michigan, and attended the University of Michigan. He mentions that he had two majors, both promptly ignored. He spent ten years in advertising and marketing, which gives him the perfect experience to write about thieves and killers. He is the writer and host of HiddenCity, which can be seen on the Travel Channel.
Other books by Marcus include BRILLIANCE, the first book in the new series, as well as THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES, THE BLADE ITSELF, ACCELERANT, THE GOOD PEOPLE, and THE AMATEURS.
THE BIG THRILL was lucky enough to catch up to Marcus and ask him some questions.
What can you tell us about A BETTER WORLD that is not on the back cover?
The Brilliance Saga is the story of an alternate present, a world very much like ours with one fundamental difference: since 1980, one percent of the population has been born with exceptional abilities, akin to savants. Many of the talents aren’t much more than curiosities—able to instantly multiply huge numbers, or play perfectly a song heard only once. But some of them are world-changing, capable of spotting patterns in the stock market, or reading your darkest thoughts from body language.
But this isn’t a superhero novel; to me, the brilliants aren’t the point. The point is how the world reacts to them. What would happen if one percent of the population was objectively better than the rest of us? How would society adapt, or fail to adapt? Would we become dependent on them? Would we enslave them? Would they, in fear for their own safety, work against us?
What makes Nick Cooper so perfect as your series hero?
Cooper is a fun character with a lot of contradictions. He’s a brilliant hunting his own kind. At various times he’s been a government agent and an outlaw and an advisor to the president. But what holds it all together is that throughout, his goal is to make a better world for his children. It’s something I think we can all relate to. Anybody who has kept a job they hate because it provides health care for their family would understand Cooper perfectly.
Your Brilliance Saga has brought a new light to the dark side of the world. How did your fans react to you after your first book?
You know, before the first book was released I worried about that. It’s still very much a thriller, but it’s also a work of speculative fiction, and I wasn’t sure if my fans wanted that from me. But my existing readers seem delighted with it, and I’ve been able to reach a much larger audience.
I think that so long as you’re writing your ass off, telling the story you really want to tell, no one is all that concerned about where it will be shelved.
With a topic that can hit so close to home, where do you need to place your mind as an author to get the words right on the page?
Putting the words together has never been the part that frustrates me. I love language, and I’ve developed a style and a voice that feels right to me, that echoes the one in my head.
What is more challenging by far is planning the thing. I can’t write if I don’t know what I’m writing, and I don’t know what I’m writing until I monkey with it for awhile, turn the idea over in my hands like a bauble, looking at it this way and that. It requires a certain narrative flexibility; I have to allow contradictory possibilities to coexist until one of them gathers enough mass that it starts to have its own gravity. At the same time, I can’t over-plan, can’t detail too much, or I’ll lose interest.
What is your biggest challenge when you first sit down to write a new book?
The page count indicator in the bottom corner of Microsoft Word. In the first days and weeks, it’s so depressingly tiny—one digit, then two. I tend not to really relax into the thing until I break a hundred. After that, I stop looking, and just write.
We would like to thank Marcus for taking the time to talk with us. For more information, check out Marcus’s website.
Marcus Sakey’s thrillers have been nominated for more than fifteen awards, named New York Times Editor’s Picks, and selected among Esquire‘s Top 5 Books of The Year. His novels GOOD PEOPLE and BRILLIANCE are both in development as feature films. Marcus is also the host of the acclaimed television show “Hidden City” on Travel Channel, for which he is routinely pepper-sprayed and attacked by dogs. Prior to writing, he worked as a landscaper, a theatrical carpenter, a 3D animator, a woefully unprepared movie reviewer, a tutor, and a graphic designer who couldn’t draw. Marcus lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.