Marcus Sakey On His New Book ‘Brilliance’ [INTERVIEW]

Photo credit: marcussakey.com

By Amber Lena

If you haven’t heard of Marcus Sakey yet, you surely will sometime in the very near future. He is the author of multiple novels including (among other titles), “The Blade Itself,” “Good People,” and “At the City’s Edge.” His latest work, “Brilliance,” is an alternate-reality look at the present day as it would be if humans with astonishing abilities of the mind started being born in the 1980’s.

I had the opportunity to chat with Marcus and learn more about “Brilliance” as well as pressing information involving ice cream and James Franco.

MTV Geek: I know with writing, the initial idea can come from anywhere: a character, a scene, the world itself. What was the first puzzle piece you came up with for Brilliance?

Marcus Sakey: The idea of the abnormal themselves. It’s the first time a book came to me as completely as it did. In essence, I had the idea that about 1% of the world population would be born with exceptional but potentially realistic abilities, like the ability to see patterns in the stock market, or to read someone’s darkest secrets from their body language. The question then was what would happen to the world when suddenly one small group of people was objectively better than the rest of us.

It just lit me up and everything flowed from there.

Geek: What was your favorite part to write? Were there any scenes that, once you finished writing them, you couldn’t believe came from your own mind?

Sakey: Oddly one of my favorite scenes is a quieter scene. It’s the scene in New Canaan when Cooper and Shannon get their moment, a time out. It was really fun to write them just having a moment, not being concerned what’s going on in the outside world.

I like all of the New Canaan stuff quite a lot. It’s really fun toying with the ideas of the abnormals and their powers. I wanted to explore what the human brain is capable of.

Geek: There is definitely a pretty big message concerning tolerance, discrimination, and the gray areas in between. Was that a conscious decision or did it merely happen naturally in the writing process, and is it connected to anything in the present?

Sakey: Both. It was conscious in that the book is about the world having to face this very visible difference and the changes it makes. I wanted to write a world in which you feel one way about the Brilliants and then discover you child is one and have to rethink.

But I had fun with the unintended consequences. There is absolutely no homophobia or struggle for gay rights in this world because we had other things to hate instead. It was fun to do that.

A lot of the message of the book — I see it as three book saga — is that extremist points of view are the most destructive. We really aren’t all that different and if we could meet somewhere in the middle, things could be worked out.

Geek: I’ve heard “Brilliance” compared to “X-Men” and it reminded me a bit of “Heroes.” Were either of them inspiration? Are you an “X-Men” fan?

Sakey: I wouldn’t say they’re inspiration. I’m a geek of old: a sci-fi fan and gamer, so none of this stuff is new to me. But while the X-men comparisons are flattering, I really don’t think they’re all that apt. Stories about supermen among us didn’t begin with “X-men.” What “X-men” was doing was a very small group of superheroes, whereas what I really wanted to focus on the broader scope that the whole world has to deal with.

Geek: Which character was the easiest to write? And did any of them give you trouble?

Sakey: Shannon came to me pretty well. I really liked Shannon—I have a bit of a crush on her. I like female characters that are strong in their own right, and not because the author said so. It was really fun to write this woman who from one point of view is a terrorist, who from her point of view is a soldier for a noble cause.

Geek: What do you really hope people get from reading “Brilliance”?

Sakey: The thing I’m always trying to do when I write is hit that sweet spot where the book both keeps you up late at night, and yet a week after you’ve finished, it still pops back into your head.

Geek: Brilliance has already been optioned by Legendary Pictures, which is obviously crazy exciting. Have you played around with the idea of who might be cast? Or do you have a dream cast?

Sakey: No, I really don’t. When I write I try not to cast in my head because then I’m writing to a major movie star and it picks up those ticks and that’s not what I want to do. And now I feel like I’m in such good hands. Legendary has made some of my all-time favorite movies. They bring a sophisticated take to these stories. For me its really about partnering up with people who make exceptional movies and letting them make the movie.

Geek: Now it’s time for the really fun questions. You host the show “Hidden City” in which you say you get pepper sprayed and attacked by dogs. What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever been in for the show?

Sakey: Getting pepper sprayed was pretty crazy not only because I volunteered for it, but also because it was the pilot episode, and the show hadn’t been bought yet. About the time the spray hit my eyes it occurred to me that maybe I should have waited until I knew I was getting paid.

Geek: You’re on Twitter. Have you gotten any really bizarre tweets? What was your favorite?

Sakey: You know the usual messages of local lonely women who would really like to meet me. I don’t think I’ve really gotten anything all that strange. I guess I’m not that active on Twitter.

Geek: Name one book you could read over and over again and never get tired of it.

Sakey: “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. And I have read over and over again and never gotten tired of it. I first read it probably twenty years ago. He gave birth to the whole genre of cyberpunk, which has really developed over the years.

Geek: If you could be any flavor of ice cream, what flavor would you be?

Sakey: I would be lemon ice.

Geek: Why?

Sakey: I like really sharp flavors and I like contrasts. Something sweet and sour at the same time is a big win.

Geek: If you could have a tail, what kind of tail would you have? Mythical creatures are, in fact, up for grabs.

Sakey: If I had a tail… You know I feel like I should say a dragon or a demon, but I feel like I’m going to go with monkey. I’m a huge klutz and it would be nice to have one more thing to catch myself with before I face planted.

Geek: Is there anything else you have a burning desire to share with the world?

Sakey: Other than the flavor of ice cream I am? Well the book comes out July 16th.

Oh, and that another of my books is being filmed right now. The book is “Good People” and stars James Franco and Kate Hudson. My wife and I just flew out [to London] to watch them shoot. It is a supremely surreal experience to watch your imaginary friends walking around and talking.

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