"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
L. A. Banks
L.A. Banks, the author of The Vampire Huntress Legends series, has written over 30 novels and contributed to 10 novellas, thus far, in multiple genres under various pseudonyms. She mysteriously shape-shifts between the genres of romance, women’s fiction, crime/suspense thrillers, and of course, dark vampire huntress lore. A graduate of The University of Pennsylvania Wharton undergraduate program with a Master’s in Fine Arts from Temple University, one never knows how or when this enigma will appear… her forms are many, her secrets of crossing genres vast, and she does this with her teenaged daughter and a dog from some remote, undisclosed lair in Philadelphia.
Also writing as Leslie Esdaile-Banks:
An Interview with L. A. Banks
PNR: Have you always wanted to be a writer, what led you to pursue writing as a career?
L.A. Banks: I wish I could say that I had always known I wanted to become a writer, but I really didn’t. Fate pushed me into this profession. Back in 1991 my 6 month old daughter was involved in a serious daycare center accident, whereby she pulled down on the cord dangling from a hot iron that had been left up on the ironing board while the babysitter ran to the bathroom. The result was that the child was severely burned by scalding water, and after 17 surgeries and the loss of three fingers, I found myself home, jobless, in the midst of a divorce—and badly needing money that I couldn’t go out and earn via a traditional job. A short story contest in a magazine sparked the idea, and I haven’t looked back since. (My daughter is now a happy, funny, beautiful, 17 year old and doing fine, probably wondering why her Mom is this crazy writer—BIG SMILE!)
PNR: Could you tell us about your writing routine, how do you balance writing and personal time? What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
L.A. Banks: I begin my writing day the exact same way most people begin their work day—I’m up at 6:30am when my daughter gets up to go to school. I put on the coffee (or green tea, depending on my mood), and I make sure I’m at my desk by 8:30am. At the top of the day, I clear off e-mails for like 1-2 hours, and then I begin doing research on-line or editing what I wrote the day before. My Muse tends to work better at night for original creative content, but my mental “editor” is ruthless in the cold light of day. I take a lunch break and wrap up my day about 4:30pm-ish. This way I can sit with my daughter, find out how her day was, and we have dinner together. When she goes up to do her homework, I close my office door and create until about 10pm—then watch the Ten O’clock News, and I’m down for the count by eleven. When I’m not working, I LOVE to go to the movies, take salsa dancing classes (I’m a newbie but love the music), go to my yoga class… and you can always tempt me to go to a good metaphysical workshop or street festival.
PNR: Who is your favorite author(s)? Who or what has most influenced your work?
L.A. Banks: A fav author is hard, because it really depends on genre. For Sci-Fi there’s Octavia Butler and Steven Barnes… but I also loved Tananarive Due’s, “The Living Blood.” Her prose is gorgeous. Then Sherrilyn Kenyon—standard (BIG SMILE) But I also can read Walter Mosely as easily as I could Tina McElroy Ansa’s, “The Hand I Fan With” (I adored her supernatural character, “Herman.”) I pretty much read across the board when I get a chance to read for pleasure—anything from non-fiction biographies to steamy romances. Right now I’m loving, “Casanegra,” by Tananarive Due and Steven Barns with Blair Underwood—a mystery that is like exotic Belgian chocolate. About a month ago I got to The Historian and stayed up two nights in a row to inhale that masterpiece. Therefore, the who and what influences my work are many elements. For example, I might take the world-building and sci-fi basics from Butler, Barnes, and Kenyon… but would keep a lot of the Old World legends in tact, while looking at the way established mystery writers handle suspense. The movies, which I am addicted to, also play a big role for me visualizing scenes and creating tension. One of my favorite movies, Goodfellas, is excellent for doing that manic day in the life of a day that has everything going wrong. I love that Ray Liota scene when he’s driving around losing his mind just like I can recite lines from Alien (ala, “Game over, man.) Hey, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, From Dusk To Dawn, Salem’s Lot, The Lost Boys, Blade, et al, you can add those types of flicks into the influence pile, too, for me—so it’s hard for me to narrow down “an influence.”
PNR: What do you feel are the essential elements of a great story?
L.A. Banks: Oh, action, movement, character depth and development… and ya gotta make me believe it. Do the emotions ring true, are they deep enough, is the question I always ask.
PNR: Your Vampire Huntress Legend series has received much recognition and your work is very popular with readers and reviewers; how does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?
L.A. Banks: Like I’ve died and gone to heaven. Seriously. Is there any greater place to be than to be able to do what you love, what you’re passionate about, and have others enjoy it? I feel deeply honored and sooo appreciative, there are no words.
PNR: For readers who are not familiar with your Vampire Huntress Legend series, could you give us an overview?
L.A. Banks: In short, this is a story about good versus evil, whereby a young woman is called to become the Neteru. She doesn’t want this job, it has severe limitations, but humanity requires that she step up to her role. There’s also a very hot romance threaded through it that begins on the dark side—her one extremely hard-to-ignore temptation. But with the Armageddon so near, she and her family of Guardian warriors must try to find a way to beat back the scourge of evil to give humankind a fighting chance. Each book is set up to run as an building block based on the action in the previous book, almost the way one would think of a running epic. If readers go to www.vampire-huntress.com they can click on the legend and see the characters, and under web exclusives there’s a Book Trailer and some info on the major themes behind the legend.
PNR: Your writing features complex plots and characterization, moral and ethical dilemmas and an exploration of the commonality of religious ideologies; where do you get the ideas for your books? How much research is involved?
L.A. Banks: Of all the projects I’ve ever embarked upon, this project, by far, requires the most research I’ve had to do. I generally glean the story-lines based on large, global events happening in the world (the tsunami, global warming, things that affect people on a massive scale.) Then what I’ll try to do is match them up to passages found in the three major religious texts (the Bible, the Q’uran, the Tora), and then will research the politics and history of the region I’m working in… it gets crazy. Then there’s weapons research, biology, logistics—basic stuff like the name of the hotel in Sao Paulo that I can have the team stay at, or going into Map Quest to track the route of a potential chase scene and have accurate streets mentioned. It’s an integrated approach.
PNR: The plot in your Vampire Huntress series centers on the struggles of good vs. evil; could you tell us about the development of this storyline? Do you feel this is a universal theme, regardless of setting?
L.A. Banks: Yes, I absolutely do believe it’s a universal theme. Each book has an overarching theme of good versus evil, which I think is the human condition—people always trying to figure out how to (or not to) do the right thing, and how to bring fairness and justice to their landscape. But within each book, I may play out those struggles differently. For example, in book one, the anti-hero was struggling with his vampire urges versus his love for a woman, while she is trying to decide whether or not to slay him for the good of the community or to try to help him find a way out of his dilemma. Every plot and subplot has this struggle embedded in it—and often the answers (just like in real life) aren’t clear cut. My forum boards keep raging debates going, because what’s right or wrong for any character’s decision is largely a matter of perspective. That’s also by design… while I’m dealing with the subject of good versus evil, the last thing I want to do is preach to people. I’d rather my work give folks pause and make them think and open dialogues about issues they may not otherwise want to talk about. Having the conversation about fictional characters is safer for people, in a way, which I think is cool if it can open mental doors to get people to see things from a broader perspective.
PNR: THE CURSED, the ninth book in the Vampire Huntress Legend series will be released in July 2007 from St. Martin’s Press; can you tell us about the challenges of keeping a long running series and its characters fresh for readers?
L.A. Banks: Ah…. The great challenge is not repeating yourself. As an author you have to dig down real deep and bring new dilemmas, issues, and struggles to each book or else it won’t feel authentically new to the reader. I believe as authors we owe readers that. Who wants to read the same problem hashed and rehashed. The challenge, therefore, is to give your characters room to grow and evolve into different people throughout the series, which means you have to push them, break them. And take the risk to experiment with them to keep them edgy and the story moving forward.
PNR: Readers are enthralled with your world building. Tell us about the challenges you face in world building and making it work with the ideas you have in mind for the progression of your characters and the series? Do you write your characters to fit the world you have created or vice versa?
L.A. Banks: Wow… that’s a tough question (LOL!) I think, for me, world-building and character-building is a symbiotic process. I will develop the world first, in most cases, I think, and then work the characters into it… but upon occasion there’s a character that just seems to straddle the fence of the world I’ve built and the one he/she wants built—and that’s when I expand the boundaries of the world. Carlos Rivera was just one such character. I tried to keep him within the vampire paradigm I’d built, but he kept doing things that made him so borderline that I had to expand the world just for him! LOL! But once I did that, then it meant I had to expand the world of his Neteru mate… and the danged thing just kept going and getting wilder and wilder until I ended up in The Land of Nod. Go figure?
PNR: Readers cannot get enough of the dark worlds you create but it is your characters that capture the imagination; can you tell us what inspires their development?
L.A. Banks: the characters come from compilations of people I know or have known (BIG SMILE!) That is the most fun. For example, growing up, I had all these huge male cousins that could have doubled for bouncers… tall, good looking, and would be sent to etch us from a house party that we’d snuck into. Those guys are the foundation of the wild Guardian brothers around Damali. And my heroine is a young, impulsive, combined version of me, my sister, and best girlfriend—yeah, back in the day we’d jump off the stoop and open up a can of whoop-ass in a minute. My mother had a devil of a time refining us into ‘ladies” (God rest that women’s soul in peace!) Marlene is my mom with all my favorite, ribald, and wise aunties and grandmothers all rolled up into one—and when we were kids I swore my mother was psychic. She knew what I was going to say before I said it and would give us “the eye.” Most of the characters in the series are from that old school neighborhood system of checks and balances. They are homage to the community village that feels like it’s currently falling apart, and to those old men (now) who were once dapper cats and-or street corner philosophers that kept a lot of neighborhood drama at bay. My inspiration harkens back to a time when you could leave your door unlocked and walk down the street at night feeling relatively safe, even in a so-called poor neighborhood, because folks looked out for each other. Conversely, my vampires are easily gleaned for many ex-bosses, attorneys, and wanna-be business managers I’ve had, LOL! Easy!
PNR: Your Vampire Huntress Legend series features a strong heroine, Damali Richards, that readers really connect to, would you describe your writing as female focused? What is her appeal for readers?
L.A. Banks: I’m not sure that the writing is female focused, albeit Damali is a really strong leading character. I guess I say that because she’s balanced by a core of strong male Guardians and her partner, Carlos. But I think her appeal is that she’s complex: feminine but tough, tough, yet sensitive; confident about some things and very insecure about others… she embodies polarity, struggle, imperfection and a good heart. To me she’s what we all are—too many facets of emotion to catalogue and vastly misunderstood by most of the people around us.
PNR: Your books are fast paced and action filled, do you feel your writing is plot or character driven?
L.A. Banks: I’d have to say character-driven… even with the fast-action plots. The reason I’m leaning in that direction to answer this question is because there have been too many times when I knew the overarching plot and the actions that needed to happen, only to have them shift and change because a character moved a little differently than anticipated. I couldn’t force the character down a specific path because it wouldn’t have emotionally rung true—and as a result I’ve had to re-blueprint scenes on the fly to accommodate the characters’ shifts and demands.
PNR: Your stories are dark and very sensual; do you find it challenging to write the love/sex scenes in your books?
L.A. Banks: LOL! No… I go get a glass of wine, put on my fav CDs, wait until the house settles and gets real quiet (always after midnight), then work from memory (wink!)
PNR: Paranormal romance is experiencing an incredible surge in popularity, what do you feel accounts for the sudden interest in the genre? What is it about the paranormal genre that captures your imagination?
L.A. Banks: I think what does it for me is the ability to stretch one’s imagination to the limits and beyond. In the paranormal genre there are no limits, per se… if you build the world, they will come. There may be rules you’ve self-imposed in creating your world, but you have control over that which you’ve created. Now, this is mere speculation, of course, and I have no hard scientific or polling data on the subject, but I think when people are going through particularly tough or uncertain times, the concept of superheroes and heroines, other worlds and other alternative dimensions, takes one out of the mundane drudgery into the fantastic. It is a wondrous escape and a thrilling ride.
PNR: You have written in the crime thriller, women’s literature, romance and paranormal genres; what is your favorite genre to write? Is there any style or genre of book that you would like to try but haven’t yet?
L.A. Banks: I have to say, bar none, I love the paranormal the best—because you have reality but can set the terms and conditions on what so-called reality is. I think I’d love to one day try my hand and a grand, sweeping, historical epic in the paranormal genre. Not sure.
PNR: Could you tell us about your “alter egos” Leslie Esdaile Banks, Leslie E Banks, and Leslie Esdaile; why did you decide to use pseudonyms for different genres?
L.A. Banks: (What, aside from the outstanding warrants? Just joking!) These other names actually were marketing decisions, because I started in romance. I began in the early nineties as Leslie Esdaile, writing for Kensington/Arabesque and then BET and others. What my publishers and I discussed as my scope broadened was, people who buy romances generally want to be sure that the book they’ve purchased by the author who writes their fav romances is going to deliver just that—a solid romance. The paranormal doesn’t always guarantee the happy ending with the couple in tact. Hell, in the paranormal, you might just kill them off, who knows—same holds true in the crime genre. So, when I moved to crime thrillers, I had to be very careful to “brand” myself away from the romances I was doing so that a romance buyer didn’t inadvertently say, “Oh, Leslie’s got a new book out,” and pick it up to be sorely disappointed that the ending (according to romance conventions) sucked. Conversely, those who read crime or paranormal might be looking for the smoking gun and the fangs, respectively, when they’d accidentally stumble upon my romance backlist. Therefore the simplest thing to do was to break it down into categories for readers: Leslie Esdaile = romance titles; Leslie Esdaile Banks = crime/mystery/thrillers; L.A. Banks = all things that go bump in the night.
PNR: In July 2007, THE CURSED, the ninth book in the Vampire Huntress Legend series will hit the bookstore shelves. Could you give readers a peek at this latest offering? What are your plans for the “Vampire Huntress” series?
L.A. Banks: I’m planning on taking the series to 12 books, with a heavy emphasis in 10, 11, and 12 on the whole end of days subject matter found in Revelations, and seasoning that with Nostradamus predictions. But below is a brief synopsis of that July 2007 release:
Chairman has been killed and now Lilith, Satan's
Consort sits on the vampire throne as the Vampire Council’s
new Chairwoman. She raises all the dark covens—calling
every major dark witch and warlock to do her bidding. Her
goal is to distract the team members, while the unborn heir
to the Dark Realms awaits his own birth. All Lilith needs
now is Damali's newly discovered angelic powers to make that
come to past. That will allow her evil progeny to walk
through the veil between worlds and take his throne as the
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
L.A. Banks: I’ve been dabbling with werewolves, BIG SMILE—and in the coming months expect to see: an anthology by Harlequin, “Creepin’”, that I participated in and my story has a werewolf bent, “The Cursed,” book 9 from the St. Martin’s Press VHL series, plus under Leslie Esdaile Banks the last of four books in the “Betrayal of the Trust” crime series (Kensington) will be out, entitled, “No Trust,”, and in April 2008 = “Bad Blood,” the first book in a sizzling, hot new werewolf series for St. Martin’s Press. I’ve had a blast writing that!
PNR: Thank you Ms. Banks, for taking the time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what's new and how can they contact you?
a.k.a. Leslie Esdaile Banks
Leslie E. Banks
St. Martin's Griffin
July 10, 2007
A Vampire Huntress Legend: Book 9
The Chairman has been killed and now Lilith, Satan's Consort sits on the vampire throne as the Vampire Council’s new Chairwoman. She raises all the dark covens—calling every major dark witch and warlock to do her bidding. Her goal is to distract the team members, while the unborn heir to the Dark Realms awaits his own birth. All Lilith needs now is Damali's newly discovered angelic powers to make that come to past. That will allow her evil progeny to walk through the veil between worlds and take his throne as the true Anti-Christ.
Damali and her crew race to stop Lilith. However, raising not only the dark covens, but all vampires that had not been slain by Damali, puts the world out of balance and kicks off the Armageddon.
St. Martin's Griffin
February 6, 2007
A Vampire Huntress Legend: Book 8
Damali and Carlos have finallty tied the knot, but there is no happily ever after. There are bigger problems on the horizon. Eve's son, Cain, has escaped his banishment in order to assume his father's throne and is now the new Chairman of the Vampire Council. He is amassing a new army, which includes resurrecting one of the Neterus' old foes--the deadly Fallon Nuit. But Carlos isn't about to let that happen. The coming battle will be the battle to kick off Amageddon.
St. Martin's Griffin
June 1, 2006
A Vampire Huntress Legend: Book 7
The Chairman of the Vampire Council is dead, and Lilith, the consort of the Unnamed One, and the Unnamed One himself are out for revenge against Damali Richards, the Vampire Huntress, and her lover, Carlos Rivera. A ruthless and carefully planned strategy—one that not even Damali will anticipate—has been developed. There is only one entity who can best Damali, send Carlos packing, and put the Guardian team at mortal risk. This powerful being was once banished into a forsaken land and possesses everything that would bring a Neteru to his or her knees. This time the fight is not so clear-cut, and it is not only Damali's soul in the balance but her body and heart as well.
St. Martin's Griffin
January 1, 2006
A Vampire Huntress Legend: Book 6
Lilith, the consort of the Unnamed One, has released the Damned, tortured souls from all levels of Hell, to walk the streets as the living dead. A dark chaos leaks onto Earth, taking the form of a deadly contagion that not even the Neteru team can handle. One touch from these deadly creatures infects a human, driving him to madness, death...and worse.
This time, Damali Richards, the Vampire Huntress (aka the millennium Neteru), Carlos, and the Guardians cannot effectively close ranks. The infection spreads to key team members and threatens to wipe out the entire squad. Even the Covenant is infected. They must track down the Chairman before members of the Neteru-Guardian team are lost and the team implodes. The only antidote is to behead Lilith. But first they must find her.
St. Martin's Griffin
July 1, 2005
A Vampire Huntress Legend: Book 5
After the destruction of all the topside master vampires and the death and resurrection of her council-level vampire lover, Damali is called before the Council of the Neterus to answer for her actions. It is there that she discovers there are consequences even she could not foresee. She also learns that the consort of the Un-Named One, Lilith, has come up from the seventh level to set the affairs of the Dark Realms in order. However, Lilith has a hidden agenda of her own and it involves the unborn child Damali thought had been taken from her. The news devastates Damali until a cold and deadly determination leads her to map out a plan for Lilith's destruction. An evil force beyond recognition, Damali's newest nemesis literally brings men to their knees. But Damali will not be stopped---not even by someone as dangerously powerful as Lilith. It is a battle that spills over into the streets and involves the people Damali has sworn to protect, leaving fewer standing before it's all over.
For Additional Titles from L. A. Banks
Featured in this issue:Interviews with: L. A. Banks Margaret L. Carter Nathalie Gray Chris Marie Green F E Heaton Doreen Orsini Jaden Sinclair
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