25 October 2006

Author Answers with L.A. Banks

This week's author is L.A. Banks, but you might also know her as Leslie Banks, or Leslie Eisdale Banks, or Leslie Eisdale. Banks writes across several genres, but is currently in the middle of the Vampire Huntress series.

For more about her, check out her website.

WN: You write under several pen-names… why?
BANKS: That was really a marketing decision because I began in romance--and people who read that genre want to know for certain when they purchase a book that there will be a happy ending, whereas, folks who read what I will call "the darker genres" know that anything goes. I wound up having to have multiple personnas! Romance = Leslie Esdaile. Crime/Suspense Thrillers = Leslie Esdaile Banks. Special Projects (like the Soul Food TV series books) = Leslie E. Banks -- which is a one-time-only name use just for that series. Anything Paranormal and oddly, also the Scarface series books) = L.A. Banks. It's a branding strategy, so that people know what they are getting when they pick up a certain name to go with a title.

WN: You have a background in marketing. What made you decide to become a writer and how has that background helped you?
BANKS: I fell into writing, literally, because my child was involved in a tragic daycare center accident whereby she was severely burned with an iron. The kid went through 17 surgeries and I was home, unemployed, and needed an income--something I could do from home. The sales rep in me knew that being an entrepreneur was feasible, I just needed a product. Novels became that after a short story contest in a magazine piqued my interest. It was a process becoming a full-fledged novelist, however. But the background of having strong marketing acumen meant the world. In today's market with all the competing entertainment choices, you cannot afford to sit back and hope to get noticed. I've heard staggering numbers like 60,000 new book titles come out annually. To that I say, you'd better get out there and hustle or get smothered by the sheer volume of choices people have!

WN: You are one of the authors in the paranormal fiction genre… Why did paranormal and vampire stories become so popular?
BANKS: I think people have always been titillated by the paranormal, the dark, the mysterious, the forbidden eroticism of the vampire... and the concept of immortality with a price, all of that creates a very seductive content. I'm not sure that the market is more interested as much as the entertainment industries (including publishing) have embraced the genre and put more choices out there for an already hungry market. If you look back, every time a good vamp flick came out it did well. The bad ones didn't. But people always gravitated toward the subject matter with almost "closet curiosity."

WN: If you got stranded on a desert island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
BANKS: Carlos Rivera! Sometimes that guy makes me just shake my head, ha ha ha! Then, again, I could be really happy with Kamal, or Shabazz, or Big Mike--Rider, or Jose...Hey, what can I say? I like the men in the series--they all (to my wicked sensibilities) have a lil' somethin' somethin' to offer a girl :)

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
BANKS: The autobiography of Frederick Douglass. My mother read this to me as a kid versus Grimms Fairy Tales. She basically wanted me to understand real horror at an early age, and to use that to propel my ambition to read--because as you know, in that era, it was illegal for folks like me to read. As a kid, I couldn't wrap my brain around the concept that you could be killed, maimed, tortured, blinded, all because you dared to read. That book also told of the indomitable human spirit to rise above whatever circumstances... talk about REAL heroes and heroines. That book made me hold my head up, put "the straight in my back" as my grandma would say, and every time I felt like complaining about what I couldn't do, all I had to do was think back and do a reality check. That book was the monster for me. Whew!

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
BANKS: Can. It has no limitations.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
BANKS: I was telling someone an idea once and they said, "Write it down. If it is not on paper, it doesn't exist." That was Gospel. You cannot believe how many people "tell" the most profound, wondrous stories in the oral tradition of many cultures--but because it isn't captured by a chronicler on paper, it doesn't exist... and it could very well be that person's NY Times Bestseller--had they written it. So, my advice is "writer on!" Do it every day, something, anything, just like an athlete exercises daily to stay fit. Write!

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