Let me tell you a little story. It’s a true story and I think it’s now at the point where I have to tell it.
Parta of this can probably be found on my own blog, but you’d have to do a little research to find it.
I’m not exactly sure of the true chronology here, so I’ll tell it the way I remember it.
Last January, Al Guthrie and I thought I was done with my book. We thought it was clean and ready to sell and we were going to start sending it out. It was a Jackson Donne novel, and reminded me of my old favorite Ross MacDonald novels. And Al said, “We’re ready. Let’s just have someone else read it and see what they think and then we’re good to go.”
So we sent it to Sarah Weinman who read it and came back a week later and said “You will never sell this novel the way it is. The stakes are too low and the beginning is way too slow.”
Ouch. Al and I both agreed, and went back to the drawing board. Where I literally got just plain old stuck. As in, I couldn’t write anything, I didn’t know what to do with the book.
Al and I talked. Sarah and I talked. Nothing was working.
I had just finished reading Ray Banks’ Saturday’s Child and it really stuck with me. There was something about that book, something I wasn’t able to put my finger on yet.
So in February I made a trip to Baltimore to meet with Laura and at some point we were talking about Points of View and how it was really hard for her to go back to one point of view in a novel after writing Every Secret Thing. Point of view opens up a story, we agreed. And I thought how there was a character in my book that I thought was really important, but at the same time completely underused in the book. Between the alternating POVs in Ray’s book and Laura’s talk, something was starting to itch in my brain.
When I got back from Baltimore, I started a re-write, but wasn’t happy with it, yet.
Sarah contacted me. She had just read a book, she said. And it’s voice reminded her of me. Thoughtful and dark, she said. And man, the stakes are raised to unbelievable heights. I had to read the book when it came out.
What was it?
Marcus Sakey’s The Blade Itself.
In April, Sarah (who is one of my biggest saviors in this whole thing, if you couldn’t tell) went to a convention. And on display were advance copies of The Blade Itself. Being the wonderful person she is, she picked me up a copy and gave it to me during Edgar week, at the Black Orchid party. (At the same party, Sarah was talking to someone. I asked her who he was and she remarked “A writer our age with a thriller coming out. His name is Jason Pinter.”)
As soon as I got home, I started Marcus’ book. It was everything she said it was. Dark, realistic, pulse pounding. Just a complete rollar coaster ride.
By the time I finished the book, I knew what I had to do. I saw how to raise the stakes in my own book. I wanted to write a book as good as Marcus had.
I sat down and pounded out the revisions in two months (that included another draft, after Sarah and Al read that re-write.) Two weeks after we put it on submission it sold to one Jason Pinter.
All thanks to Sarah and Marcus (and Ray and Al and Laura).
So if you haven’t read Marcus Sakey’s The Blade Itself, go out and get it as soon as it’s published. It is absolutely brilliant and one of the best novels I read in 2006. Without it, there’d be no When One Man Dies.
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