Set in Chicago, Sakey's wonderful first novel, The Blade Itself, examines the conflict between two childhood friends Danny and Evan, who become partners in crime.

If readers are looking for good guy vs. bad guy in your novel, Danny would have to be the good guy, but he's certainly no saint, is he?

I wanted to create two characters in a rivalry that played them off each other realistically. Obviously, it's important that Evan be a bad guy, but my hope was that at the end of the book some small part of a reader would empathize with him, and maybe even feel a little bit sorry for him. As for Danny, he's made a success of himself, but he still has to deal with his past, and truly deal with it in the form of Evan.

How did the idea of the book develop?

I was walking home one day down my nice street with my nice house on it and my nice wife in it, and it occurred to me that any of those things could be taken away. That, oddly enough, the more I had, the more anyone has, actually makes them more vulnerable—more so than someone who doesn't play by those rules and who recognizes that vulnerability. And that pretty much is how Evan was born and where the novel came from.

You write advertising copy for a living. How did you find the time to write The Blade Itself?

Actually, I've worked freelance for the past couple of years so it was a great thing—I could be on for two weeks, then off for two weeks, and I could focus on the novel during that time.

Did any established writers give you a hand?

I feel incredibly lucky and blessed that several of my literary heroes, the stars that I navigate by, actually gave me blurbs: Lee Child, George Pelecanos and T. Jefferson Parker.

What's in the works?

My second novel is with my editor. It's the story of a discharged U.S. Army soldier returned from Iraq to find a similar kind of war raging in his own Chicago neighborhood.

Any pressure on you to develop a series character?

I might some day try a series character, but right now I'm more interested in stand-alones. When I'm reading a novel, I kind of want it to be about the biggest story this character can tell me—the biggest story of their life. And I just don't see how you can have three or five or 10 of those.