Autism, Bourbon and Lies with Marcus Sakey

Back in YEAR, the Word Nerds met Marcus Sakey when his first book “The Blade Itself” burst on the scene.

Since then, we’ve been fortunate to keep in touch, catching up at conferences or signings here and there. His latest book, “Brilliance” hit shelves last week, and Marcus shared with the Word Nerds how the book came about.

Sakey_Headshot_378Autism, Bourbon and Lies

by Marcus Sakey

When people ask me where I get my ideas, I lie.

I tell them I draw inspiration from the news, the world, my dreams.  Or I joke, and say that I steal from other writers.  I lie because I don’t know where ideas come from, and I’m afraid if I look too hard, they’ll stop.

This book is an exception.  I know exactly where it came from—my wife.

G.G. recently got her masters in child development, with an emphasis on autism.  Besides being a passionate student, she’s an optimist, and what inspired her was that for all the challenges children with autism face, many have advantages too.  Yes, they have difficulty understanding emotional nuance and social dynamics.  But many a four-year-old autistic can recite the names, in Latin, of every breed of shark.  Or update the operating system on your iPad.  Or list all the routes between two places.

Which cranked up my novelistic engine.  I found myself imagining a world where the 1 in 110 children born with autism have advantages, but not challenges.  And what if the abilities were more pronounced—say they could see patterns in the stock market, or read a person’s darkest secrets from their body language.  What would happen when those children grew up?

Bam!  There it was, a capital-I Idea, delivered with a bow on it.  Only one problem—I shouldn’t write it.

The novel would have to be speculative fiction.  I’d written five crime thrillers, books which had won awards and been optioned for film and built a fan base.  To make a dramatic left turn at this point in my career would be foolish.  Grudgingly, I filed the idea away.

About a month later, a novelist friend and I went mountain climbing in Colorado.  After an exhausting day, we made camp at 12,000 feet.  We’d brought along a bottle of Eagle Rare, and sipped bourbon and looked at the stars and talked books.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, my buddy also had an idea that he wasn’t sure he should write.  An idea that flew in the face of conventional wisdom.  But like me, he found the concept nagging at him, tugging him, showing up in his dreams.

Maybe it was the liquor, or the altitude, or the isolation, but the more we talked about our twin ideas, the more it felt like we had to write them.  If we felt this passionately about them, others would too.  And screw conventional wisdom.

Out of that trip came two novels.  Blake Crouch’s runaway bestseller Pines—and this book, Brilliance.

I hope that you’ll enjoy it.  I’ve never been as proud of a novel.

And best of all?  When people ask where I got the idea, I don’t have to lie.

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One thought on “Autism, Bourbon and Lies with Marcus Sakey

  1. […] Bonus:  Check out the idea behind the story with the Word Nerd’s guest post Autism, Bourbon and Lies with Marcus Sakey […]

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