Interview with best-selling author Maya Banks

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Maya Banks is the best-selling author of over 50 novels, including her KGI series, Sweet series, and more. She is one of very few authors to write in three genres, and has hit the New York Times and USA Today best seller list for each category. Her Colter series gave her the status of being the first author to have an original release in eBook format hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Maya took the time to speak with TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Angela Corry about her latest threesome of erotic novels, the Breathless Trilogy, her passion for reading, hunting and how she got started as an author.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: You have a new series coming out, which starts with the book Rush. Is there anything different about your Breathless Trilogy?

Maya Banks: It’s not really anything out of the box for me. I’ve been telling readers that if you marry my Sweet series to my Harlequin Desires, the result is the Breathless Trilogy. It’s very similar to the Sweet series with the flavor of the Harlequin Desires, with the wealthy heroes, mixed up together in a trilogy.

It’s not really groundbreaking for me because it’s basically what I’ve been writing for the past 6-7 years, but the timing is better for this new trilogy.

TCC: For me, Rush has similarities to Fifty Shades of Grey. Is that intentional?

MB: I will confess I have not read Fifty Shades, and I get asked a lot what I think about it or if I’ve read it. And I haven’t for no other reason than, as a reader, my preference aren’t first person stories. I tend to avoid books told in first person, it’s one of my reader quirks. I don’t enjoy them as much as I enjoy third person stories.

TCC: I read it because everyone else was. I thought it was poorly written.

MB: I’ve heard that a lot. My readers talk about it, other authors talk about it and I’ve heard everything from ‘OMG I love it, this was the best book ever’ to’ this is the most poorly written, immature childish book ever,’ and everything in between.

I may have to break down and read it just out of curiosity.

TCC: After the similarities, like a contract, Rush is really different. I like the way Mia is enjoying Gabe.

MB: It’s really interesting because when Fifty Shades came out my Sweet series, which began publishing in 2007, and the second book, which is Sweet Persuasion, had a contract and had all that in there, and it was amusing as an author because people who read Fifty Shades and then were looking for what next to read, were getting a lot of recommendations to read my Sweet series. I got a lot of people saying I had ripped Fifty Shades off with a book that had been published 3 years before Fifty Shades (of Grey) was even heard of.

It was just really funny because it had the contract in it, the wealthy hero, the not so confident heroine, that sort of thing in Sweet Persuasion. Actually, Rush is similar to Sweet Persuasion in that regard.

TCC: I am very much enjoying Rush, but, I’m not really into Gabe. I want to know about Ash and Jace.

MB: This is what I’ve gotten from the little bit of reactions to the few people who have read Fever, (the next book in the trilogy) is that they really like Rush, but Fever is their favorite. I have had several of my die hard readers say, "This is my favorite erotic romance that you’ve ever written," and I’ve written several.

I think it will be one of those books that readers either really like or really hate. That’s the way most of my books are, there’s not that much in between.

TCC: You seem to focus on warrior type men – do you have an inspiration for that?

MB: I approach writing the way I approach reading, because I am a voracious reader, and so I write what I love to read. First and foremost, I have to love what I am writing or I can’t expect readers to love it. As a reader, if I pick up a book, what would I want to read about? That's how I write. I incorporate all of my favorite tropes and elements into my own writing so that I enjoy writing that book every bit as much as I hope a reader will enjoy it when it’s finished. And I like the really bad-ass, dominant, alpha-heroes, but I don’t like them to be complete assholes either. I like to write a really tough exterior with a mushy inside; a gruff tenderness that he has towards his heroine. I love stories when the hero meets the heroine, she is it for him.

TCC: I am starting to see that with Gabe, that he wants what he wants, but he’s starting to pull back because he is really starting to care for Mia.

MB: Yes, and you’ll definitely see that in Fever with Jace because when he meets the heroine she is it for him. And you know that from page one. Everything they have to overcome is within that relationship. I like books, and I like to write books, where the reader gets to see the hero and heroine together a lot.

TCC: Who are some of your favorite authors?

MB: I really love Christine Feehan. She was the first paranormal author I ever read and I am really not a huge fan of paranormal as a rule. I love Julie Garwood. I like what they write. I love the older Elizabeth Lowell stuff.

I adore Nalini Singh. And that’s again in a genre that I don’t typically read. And I remember gushing to Nalini Singh because of my reader quirk about first person, and most urban fantasy is in first person. And when I first read her books I was like, ‘Thank you so much Nalini Singh for writing an urban fantasy in third person.’ I thought it was wonderful. Nobody else was doing that.

TCC: I am in the middle of her Archangel series.

MB: Ahh, that’s my favorite. Her writing is so lush and so beautiful I have to be careful when I read her stuff because if I’m not in the right frame of mind I will be in the corner in the fetal position because she makes me feel so unworthy as a writer because she is just that good. She’s really amazing. I love the way she writes, it’s really lush and evocative.

TCC: Now I understand why I am enjoying reading you, because you read my favorite authors.

MB: People will say sometimes, well she likes Christine Feehan, and she must be ripping her off with this book. That’s not the case. As an author you’re going to write what you love to read, so it’s only natural that your favorite authors are going to be somewhat similar to what you write.

The thing is I would write what I write whether I had ever read these favorite authors anyway because that’s what I gravitate towards as a reader. I first and foremost, I have to enjoy what I am writing because a reader can tell in a heartbeat if a writer is not invested in their story and they’re phoning it in. Readers are smart, they know if a writer is just eh and throwing something out there.

TCC: How long does it take you to put a book together?

MB: It really depends. My KGI stories tend to take me a little longer because it is a big cast of characters, and I have the Kelly family as the core of that so I have a lot of characters to keep up with and since it’s action/adventure, romantic/suspense, I have to build together the plot element. So those, sometimes 6 weeks, sometimes 2 months. There have been a couple that I have written really fast because the story just came to me really well.

The historicals, I just love writing a historical so much, I usually average about a month on those. Just because they are so fun to write.

TCC: How much time do you spend writing, then?

MB: A lot! I usually try to write 5,000 words a day. If I write a hundred thousand word book, that’s going to take about twenty days. But I am a one direct writer – I edit as I go. I write 5,000 today, then tomorrow before I start the next 5,000 I go back and edit whatever I’ve written the day before, re-immerse myself in the story, polish it and make it pretty. Because for me, if I get to the end of 100,000 word manuscript and I am looking at a complete rewrite, I meltdown. There’s no way I want to write a book twice. I am very thoughtful when I am writing it and editing it, when I get to the end I don’t have major – not to say it’s not ever happened, because there have been times when I have torn out an entire 200 pages of a book and completely rewrote it from scratch - But as a rule, I don’t like to do that.

TCC: That’s understandable! Now with a longstanding series, like the KGI series, do you have to go back to some of the earlier written books to make sure you are sticking with your facts?

MB: Oh, absolutely! I re-read. In fact, I am working on a KGI book now and I had to go back to the last two and get my timeline correct because I have this huge cast of characters. I have a younger character who’s just starting college, and a secondary character that was pregnant, so for this book I have to go, ‘Is she entering her second year in college? When would Rachel have her babies? What time of year is it?’ And I have to keep up with that over the course of the book.

TCC: With the Breathless Trilogy, I’m sure it’s similar with the death of Mia and Jace’s parents, you have to keep track of that as you write about Jace then?

MB: Yes, I have to go back to book one and make sure of what I said so that something in book two doesn’t contradict that. I have to keep notes on it, how old was Mia when they died, how old was Jace when he took over her care. He was in college, all of that kind of thing.

It’s easier when you write the books back to back. I wrote Rush and Fever back to back so it was a lot easier. But with the KGI series I’ll have 3-4 other books between each KGI book so it’s a little harder to go and pick up with that world again, so I have to give myself time to re-immerse in it, remember the details and make sure I don’t get something wrong.

TCC: Is it easier to come into another book in a series fresh after writing something else?

MB: Yes. I get asked that a lot. I write a lot. I am a prolific author, I write several books a year. For me, I’ve often said that if all I had to write was the KGI series I would go out of my mind. I would get bored with it. The ability to write a KGI book, and then write historical and then write an erotic romance keeps it fresh, so each time I go to write a KGI book or a historical book I am excited about it again. I love being able to alternate genres with each deadline because it keeps it new and exciting and I’m not burnt out on it. If I had to write three straight KGI books I don’t know that I’d be able to do that because I get bored.

TCC: And then your readers would get bored.

MB: Exactly. I would get burnt out on it. Writing Rush and Fever back to back was a rarity. I don’t often do two books in a series back to back like that.

TCC: With the research you have to do for the historical series, does that ever translate into your other books?

MB: I’m not one of these authors that can multitask. I am very linear in my writing. I can’t work – I wish I could – work on multiple projects at the same time. I know many authors that can be writing 2-3 different books in completely different genres at the same time, and I’m not one of those. I won’t even think about it. If I’m writing a KGI book I’m not thinking about the historical I have to write next until its time to write that historical. One book at time, every time.

TCC: In your free time you enjoy hunting and fishing. That might just be the New York in me, but it seems strange to read what you write and coordinate that with hunting and fishing.

MB (laughs) It’s actually funny, evidentially that really pissed one reader off, because she posted on her Facebook - apparently she read my bio and she was greatly upset over the fact that I hunted and fished - she said that I was worse than a child molester. She said she would never read my books because I was a professed hunter and fisherman.

I was born and raised in the South, I live in the South, and it’s something my whole family enjoys doing. My husband and I just got back in December from a hunting trip. That’s something we like to do together. My kids like to hunt. My daughter has been hunting since she was 6 and she’s a crack shot.

TCC: What do you go out for?

MB We do a lot of deer hunting. In fact, for many, many years that’s all we ate. We fed our family, we fed my sister who was in college at the time, we fed my husband’s family. We just didn’t eat a lot of beef, we eat deer meat. We do a lot of fishing for recreation and fun, but deer hunting we hunt to eat.

TCC: Do you feel that hunting is something you have to hide from certain readers?

MB: I think if I were to start splashing around pictures of bloody deer or something I think I could get into trouble. I think as long as I’m not shoving it in people’s faces, I think people are okay with it. I do think I probably would have some backlash if I started splashing pictures all over the place or giving detailed accounting of our hunting trips, but a general, ‘I just got back from a hunting trip with my husband,’ or putting in my bio that I hunt and fish, most people just read that and go on. They’re not having it shoved in their face every day with pictures and accounts.

TCC: Yes, because they want to see the pictures of naked men and be good with that.

TCC: Your family is very patient with your writing. I had seen a post that you had been on vacation and had an epiphany and needed to write and they were very good with working with you on that. And that’s a normal thing?

MB: In the beginning it was an adjustment, because they were used to having mom’s undivided attention and that slowly changed over the years and now they don’t think twice if I say, 'You have to leave me alone. I’ve got two weeks to finish this book.' My husband is really great about taking care of the kids, making sure they’re where they need to be, and leaving me alone to write.

TCC: So you started writing after you had kids?

MB: Yes, it wasn’t until after my daughter was 2 that I started writing.

TCC: Was there something that made you decide to start writing? Was it something that was always in you?

MB: As a child I wrote in these 5-subject notebooks, I would fill front and back, all longhand. I had piles of notebooks from junior high and high school from stories that I wrote. Most people in that situation say, ‘oh I want to be a writer when I grow up,’ but back then- this was before the internet and authors were so accessible- they had this rock star image back in the day of authors living these glamorous lives, and I thought this was untouchable. It wasn’t on my radar, it was like shooting for the moon. Pipe dream material.

TCC: There was no self-publishing; you couldn’t get online to talk to your readers. You got letters in the mail.

MB: Exactly. I met a friend of mine in an online expecting group; it was for people who were going to have kids in January/February of 2000 and over the course of two years we became friends and both discovered we had a love of romance and that we both liked to write. So literally when our kids were two, I basically challenged her and said ‘hey, we'd both love to be a writer, we both like romance, let’s try to get published.’ We made a pact, to start trying back in 2002. We both started writing and then it was four years after that I got my first publishing contract in 2006.

In 2002 it was a little easier because you had access to online resources and you could get information about what do I need to do if I want to become published. I was in my 30s and I finally decided I would really like to try to do this and never looked back after that.

TCC: You’re doing it very successfully.

MB: I’ve been very fortunate and very lucky. I still sit back and wonder how did this happen? I tell people all the time I have the coolest job in the world because I get paid to make up shit - in my pajamas at home.

TCC: Now for the standard question – what would you want your readers to know about you that they may not already know?

MB: It’s probably not anything they don’t know that they might want to know, because one of the things I always tried to do, even before I was published, was build an open line of communication with readers that wasn’t just based on ‘buy my book’ or shoving marketing at them. Even on my Facebook and Twitter I don’t often promote. I really think the best promotion an author can do is to be open, accessible and interested in readers and being willing to talk about other subjects than just you and your book.

I ask readers all the time 'What are you reading? Have you read anything great yet or do you have a recommendation for me?' We’ll talk about other authors and other books. Or we’ll talk about my daughter’s softball – just day to day normal stuff.

TCC: I follow Jessica Andersen on Facebook and she posts her typos, which are hysterical. You definitely feel more connected to an author knowing that they aren’t perfect either.

MB: It’s being willing to show a more human side of you that you’re not some prima donna somewhere, you’re just a normal, average, everyday person just like they are. I think it’s important for authors to show their appreciation to readers as well. Every time one of my books hits the USA Today or the New York Times I am always very careful to credit the readers with that. I can write the best book in the world, but if readers don’t buy it, it doesn’t mean anything. Just because someone writes a really great book doesn’t mean it’s going to be a success. It’s because I have this really loyal following that my books are the success that they are. I am always very careful and conscious to credit them with that.

TCC: Does it ever feel redundant saying that?

MB: It doesn’t for me, I am very conscious and aware that no matter how well I’m doing now, six months from now it can be a different story. There’s no guarantee in my line of work… that what’s selling today, a year from now, I may not have a career. I enjoy and celebrate every single success knowing that it may not happen again. For me thanking the readers each time is very sincere. I don’t think that is something that will ever get old for me.

TCC: That’s a big thing to have on your head like that.

MB: Yup, but I wouldn’t want to be bopping along and have the rug pulled out from under me. I am very prepared for the fact it could all go a different way down the road.

TCC: I don’t foresee that happening. Your popularity, especially with this new series, I think you’ll be okay for a while.

Rush, the first book in the Breathless Trilogy features Gabe and Mia, and will be out February 5th, 2013. The second book in the series, Fever featuring Mia’s brother Jace, will be out in April. And Burn the final book, featuring Ash, will be available in August.

For more on Maya, her books and to chat with her visit her website at Maya Banks.com

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