"I was an actor in New York," said Charlie Huston, addressing fans, "which means I was a bartender."
First time novelist Marcus Sakey countered by saying, "I worked in advertising for ten years, which means I was a prostitute."
Wisecracks like this set the mood Thursday night when both writers appeared at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. Huston was promoting No Dominion, sequel to his popular vampire noir tale Already Dead. Sakey, meanwhile, plugged The Blade Itself, a first novel with an unbelievable amount of buzz behind it (According to Murderati’s own Paul Guyot, Sakey is the next Lee Child).
Seldom have I heard such praise for a pair of writers. Word on the street says that Huston and Sakey have got the goods. And who am I to argue with the street? Argue with the street and you’ll find yourself with an ass full of asphalt. (Wait… What the hell am I talking about?)
Anyways, I was not disappointed. Both men spoke sincerely about the craft and business of writing with keen insight and wit. A few highlights included…
- Sakey recounting his days in the advertising field before becoming a novelist. "I was working in one of those places where everyday I thought to myself, I could set the building on fire."
- Huston’s imitation of his first literary agent. "Hey, great book. I almost finished it!"
- Sakey’s advice for writers seeking agents. Go to bookstores and check out the acknowledgment pages of your favorite writers. If they mention their agent, chances are they might be someone you’d want to work with.
- Huston working the terms FETISHISTIC and APOCALYPTIC GLORY into the conversation.
- Sakey gleefully flipping Huston the bird after being reminded he’d been fired from his advertising job.
While I have only read the first few chapters of Sakey’s Blade, the novel immediately establishes an uncompromising voice pandering to no one. And Huston, who claimed he had to sign away his first born child to write the Marvel comic Moon Knight, has kept his hardboiled street cred in tact. I devoured the hardback edition (collecting issues 1-6) in one sitting. Huston’s Moon Knight has all the classic comic book elements–larger than life characters, brutal fist fights, tough guy banter–while touching on themes of guilt, redemption, and self awareness.
As writers, how much are you willing to compromise your art for a chance at better book sales? Most would agree keeping your voice as a writer is essential, but so is paying the mortgage. So where do you draw the line? And how do you know when you’ve crossed it?
My thanks to Huston and Sakey for doing what they do. It was great meeting you guys.