Friday, October 23, 2009

Interview and Giveaway with Dakota Banks, author of Dark Times

I am so excited to present to you the wonderful Dakota Banks who was kind enough to answer a few questions and give two lucky winners the chance to win a signed copy of Dark Times, the first book in her Mortal Path series. I had the privilege of reviewing the book back in September. You can find my review here. Needless to say I love it.

She is a brilliant author with an interesting background and childhood. Which included growing up in a converted funeral home. With her passion for archaeology and the paranormal she is able to blend them together to create a wonderfully fleshed out world.

So with no further ado I present to you Dakota Banks in her own words along with an excerpt from the next book in the series, Sacrifice. Giveaway details will be at the end.

First of all I just want to thank you for you time and the opportunity to speak with you. I would like to start off with a basic question. When and how did you decide that you wanted to write a book?

I've known I wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school. I wrote science fiction short stories in high school and got hand-written rejection letters, the key word here being rejection. Then the haze of life drifted in, or maybe the Mists of Avalon, and when I awoke again to the idea of writing, I had gotten to the point where my husband had stopped using individual candles on my birthday cake and instead bought those big, dramatic candles shaped like numbers. If I was going to be a writer, I'd have to stop using the excuse that I didn't have time to write. So one day I typed "Chapter One," and kept on going. I'd like to say that I started writing just then for the joy of it, but what actually motivated me to start at that particular time was a contest deadline and prize money. I love writing and can't imagine doing anything else, but it took a deadline and dollars to get me to start my first book. Oh, the shame of it. Plus I didn't win.

That first book, a futuristic thriller, was good enough to get me an agent. Although publishers liked the writing, they weren't too taken with the main character, since there wasn't a clear main character. After numerous rejections, I finally got the hint. I needed to write something that I loved and that was salable too. I developed a series based on virtual reality recreations of homicides. Full immersion VR, where you step into the life-sized scene. There are five of those books published under a different name. I eventually went back and rewrote my first book, using what I'd learned over the years, and it's published now too. So I can legitimately say I published the first book I ever wrote.

After six books I wanted to try something different, a series that would allow me to switch to paranormal. Dark Time is the first book in the urban fantasy/paranormal thriller genre for me. It is so exciting to be writing in this area, but scary because it is almost like starting all over. Okay, it is like starting all over. There's not a great deal of cross-over from techno-thriller readers to paranormal. But I strongly feel that if a writer isn't doing something she loves, it's apparent to the readers. So even in the bottom-line-oriented publishing world, a writer has to follow her heart, and that could mean writing in different genres at different times in a writing career.

Where did the idea for Dark Time come from?

Dark Time was a long time in the making, since the idea was born during the early days of the Iraq war, when the Iraq National Museum was looted in 2003. Iraq includes the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and has treasures from ancient Mesopotamian civilizations, among them Sumeria. The theft and senseless destruction of so many artifacts in the museum hit me hard, as it did many others around the world who have been working to restore the museum's collection.

I've been an amateur archaeologist for years, with a particular interest in the Sumerian civilization. Some of those artifacts have been around 3,000-5,000 years. That got me thinking first about what if there were ancient artifacts that were much more resilient and couldn't be destroyed by mere humans? And if there were artifacts, why not stretch it more and have ancient gods still here? Why not a human or two from that time period, although they wouldn't be fully human anymore? As a writer, these ideas excited me because there was a lot of wiggle room in them--paranormal elements with ancient legends coming to life in the present, a quest for artifacts, personal stories that could play out on both a very big stage and a small one, drama, romance, action. The ideas were so big and powerful that it took a long time to create characters and a story structure from them.

Why Sumerian/Babylonian mythology as an inspiration as opposed to Native American, Celtic or some other myth system?

I'd have to blame the Epic of Gilgamesh I read years ago for that. Many who read one of its various translations--the original is written in cuneiform on twelve tablets--are briefly caught up in the imaginative story of the legendary god-king and the Sumerian gods who are sprinkled in it, then slip back to other things they can relate to more easily. In my case, I got stuck in it, like an insect in amber, and it generated an interest in civilizations in the Mesopotamian region. Gilgamesh is an epic poem from roughly 4,200 years ago that tells the story of the Sumerian King Gilgamesh, who may or may not have been a real-life character from about 4,700 years ago. Recent discoveries support the existence of Gilgamesh, which makes me wonder what he did as a real man that inspired such legends. Of all the tales told about him, the most human to believe is that he started his kingship with the unsavory habit of deflowering virgin brides on their wedding days, leaving the grooms to twiddle their, er, thumbs and causing plenty of marriages to start with humiliation and anger. A perfect setup for a murder mystery, and exactly the type of behavior Maliha Crayne (Dark Time's protagonist) would bring to a halt.

There's another reason I couldn't resist using Sumerian myths. The Sumerians believed that their gods didn't originate on Earth. According to their myths, the gods (or Annukai) came from another planet, Niburu, supposedly a part of our solar system but with a wildly eccentric orbit. Niburu approaches Earth every 3,600 years. All of this is speculation and myth; not proven fact. About 450,000 years ago, the Annukai transferred from Niburu to Earth to search for gold. The Sumerian creation myth revolves around these aliens and their actions here. To get in on the 2012 frenzy already beginning to build, the story is that Niburu will return to Earth's vicinity in 2012 and one of two things will happen. It will collide with Earth, or the Annukai will come back to Earth and be pleased--or not--with the humans they created and refined long ago. I don't believe all this, but I do eat it up, and it's definitely timely!

I've always wanted to ask an author why the abundance of protagonists in the genre are women. Is it that most authors in the genre are women? Are most of the readers women? Or is it another reason I've never even thought of?

The contemporary urban fantasy genre is currently heavily shaded toward vampire, werewolf, faerie, and shape shifter stories. I'm going to stick my neck out (hah!) and probably get blasted, but I think there is a strong undercurrent of sexuality running through these stories that are fantasies women have about exotic, powerful creatures. Women readers relate better to women protagonists when it comes to sex or emotional issues, and there are a lot of women authors writing material that caters to these fantasies. A woman reader loses herself in the female protagonist's world and has two dark, dangerous vampires fighting to possess her, or two alpha werewolves, while discovering that only she can stop the war that will throw the world into chaos for centuries. Beats doing the laundry any day--I can vouch for that! The best of these books also contain deep character development, especially on an emotional basis, that creates a bond to the character and helps the woman reader put herself into the scene.

I think this is the "mainstream" of urban fantasy right now, but there is also traditional urban fantasy that predated the sexy vampire craze and continues alongside it, and a lot of that is written by male authors. A good example is one of my favorite authors, Charles de Lint, and his series of books set in the imaginary city of Newford. Also consider these vampire stories: They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon; I Am Legend by Richard Matheson; and Salem's Lot by Stephen King. (My thanks to the Goodreads October Newsletter for refreshing my mind about these three.) Not much in the way of pervasive sex there.

I think there's room within urban fantasy for stories that have strong female protagonists who create an emotional bond, but are coupled with a lot of action: a thriller-fantasy. I had a great time researching and writing Dark Time and book two, Sacrifice, due out in August 2010. They're the type of books I love to read because I can get the fantasy (paranormal) punch while exploring some new territory as a reader.

As I said in my review I loved the cliffhanger ending. Can you give us a hint at what is in store for the next book?

The title, Sacrifice, is meaningful and refers to events that made me cry when I wrote them. I can also offer a short excerpt from Sacrifice below. It's not the beginning of the book, and it's still unedited, so it may change in minor ways. This is the setup to an action scene as Maliha visits the lab of her friends, scientists Ty and Claire Rainier, who are analyzing a specimen from Africa that she sent to them.

Sacrifice Excerpt

At various times in the past, Maliha's fighting outfit had been made of loose cotton, silk, or leather, but it had always been black.

Wear black to hide the blood, Master Liu said.

Tonight she slipped on the black cotton trousers of the ninja and tied strings around her calves, nipping in the wide material. The top wrapped around her and secured with ties, and she filled the hidden pockets with throwing stars. Tabi socks and boots, with their traditional split toes for better gripping, followed. The bottom of her trousers tucked nearly inside her boots, and at the top of each boot she fastened a sheath with a short knife for close-up fighting. Maliha braided her black hair into one heavy braid down her back, and then tucked it inside the back of her top. She wasn't ready to use the mask and hood, so she put them up her sleeves, where they were held in place by forearm ties.

With her throwing knives strapped to her thighs, she moved through the lobby of the building and tossed a wink at the wide-eyed door attendant.

"Late Halloween party," she said.

"Uh …" he said, and she was out the door into a November night with a sliver of moon in the sky. It was exhilarating to be out on the streets, dressed to kill.

Even now I understand the temptation to be Ageless. The power, fearlessness, answering to no one but the demon, the decadence …

She shook herself out of the memory before those thoughts could take hold.

Moving rapidly, her cold breath trailing behind her, she headed south to the University of Chicago. Flitting through the parks that lined the lake shore, she came to Jackson Park in the Hyde Park neighborhood. From there it was a straight shot west along the Midway, a large grassy area that was the site of the 1893 World's Colombian Exhibition, an event Maliha remembered well. She'd ridden the first Ferris wheel there and ridden the same one again at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

The route from the lake shore to the Midway wasn't the most direct way to go, but she felt like running and she liked to stay to the green areas whenever she could. When she passed the crenellated towers of Harper Library, she left the Midway. It was only one long block past the hospital to get to the buildings of the Pritzker School of Medicine.

The Rainiers' lab was located in an older stone building with Gothic arches. Maliha knew of a window with a broken lock above a side doorway that projected out from the building like a Lego block stuck onto its side. The window had been that way since Maliha moved to Chicago, although it had been fixed twice in the interim—and Maliha promptly broke it again to preserve her access. Because of the Rainiers, the building was a useful place to her, and it was, after all, in her backyard.
She climbed the outside of the building, using the ridges and curves of the Gothic features as handholds. She didn't have far to go, about ten feet to a flat section of stone roof atop the projecting doorway. The window was topped by arched glass, but she was interested in the bottom panes. She lay down on the stone roof and placed her rubber-soled boots on the glass. Pushing up with her legs, she expected the heavy window to rise enough for her to slip underneath it, but it didn't move.

The window's lock had been fixed again.
Impatient to get inside, Maliha didn't want to try anything else, like
breaking in through the building's door. There was an electronic lock on the door, and it wouldn't yield without time and tools. Glass, though, yielded to many things, among them a swift kick from one of her boots. She swept the broken glass out of the way as best she could, put on her mask and hood, and dropped ten feet to the floor inside the building, landing with the relaxed knees of a trained parachute trooper.

Maliha made her way carefully through the halls, dimmed except for security lights every twenty feet or so. Professors Ty and Claire Rainier didn't rate prime facilities, which for Maliha's purpose was fine. Larger, better-equipped labs were crowded with grad students who worked all hours of the night. Most of the time, the Rainiers worked alone.

As she approached the door, she heard noises coming from the lab. The sound of glass breaking was followed by a muffled scream. She ran the last thirty feet and did a handspring that brought her feet-first toward the door. The door sprang open, torn off its hinges. She landed with a roll, ending up behind a solid lab bench. Taking a quick look, she was horrified at the scene.

Bright lights flooded the lab. She blinked and tried to adjust her eyes rapidly. There were two men dressed in black, but they were blocky and moved with no grace. They were not trained martial artists. She dismissed them, but not the guns they held. Even the hired muscle could get lucky.

Claire was tied in a chair in the center of the lab, her head slumped forward so that her chin rested on her chest. Ty was on the ground, clutching his belly and groaning. There was broken equipment all around. A tall, thin man stood next to Claire. His hair hung in greasy lanks and he wore a long, heavy robe. There was a bulge in his coat pocket that was probably the canteen containing the specimen. He turned his face toward Maliha and for the briefest moment their eyes met. His were black, flat, and emotionless, a snake's eyes fixed on its prey. Just as she ducked back into the shelter of the lab bench, she saw him pick up a piece of broken glass from the floor.

Maliha knew his intent as though their minds were one.

She rolled out from behind the bench and planted a throwing star in the wrist of the nearest gunman. He screamed and dropped the gun. As she passed by him, she finished him with a blow to the throat, then turned her attention back to the real danger in the room.

Dakota, I want to thank you once again for the time you spent in answering the questions so thoroughly. After reading that excerpt, I can't wait to get my hands on Sacrifice.


All right boys and girls just for reading this far in I'm going to give you the details of the Giveaway now. Two lucky winners will each receive a signed copy of Dark Times. Dakota has graciously offered to ship them anywhere in the world so this contest is open to everyone.

To enter the giveaway please leave a comment stating your favorite mythological character. It could be a god, goddess, hero, or creature. Please include your email address with your comments. No email, no entry. The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM CST on Friday Nov. 6th.

You can earn extra entries by doing the following, leave a separate comment with email address for each entry.

+1 for following my blog through Google Friend Connect

+1 for twittering/blogging/or adding this giveaway on your sidebar


Krista said...

How cool! This was a wonderful interview, Ryan! You did a fantastic job! And I would love to enter the giveaway, please :)

I'm a follower :)

Thank you,

Krista said...

I also put this giveaway on my sidebar here

Thanks again, Krista :)

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating woman - and a great interview, Ryan.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Great interview. No entry for me this time, just wanted to mention that it looks like an amazing cover!


Trisha said...

I have to applaud Ms. Banks's answer on why there are so many female protagonists. I completely agree that the reasoning is about female sexual fantasies. When I hear girls at the school discussing any SFF book, it is typically in terms of the hotness, sexiness, or dreaminess of some character or some event.

My favorite mythological creature is a tough one; there are so many to choose from! AAAH! Er..sorry about that. I'll go with the mermaid though as my favorite. Mermaid myths are 1000s of years old and so fraught with contradiction.

My email is

Dakota Banks said...

Ryan - Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog. I feel privileged to be here! I'll be around to answer questions.

Dakota Banks said...

Trisha - Thanks for your view on the female protaganist/fantasy issue. Any other opinions on this?

Alexia561 said...

Wonderful interview! Have to agree with Dakota's thoughts on why so many urban fantasy authors are women. I think that most male authors get hung up on gadgets and seem to lean more towards techie sci fi than plot-driven fantasy. Plus, most men seem to have a tough time writing from a woman's point of view. Just my opinion of course.

I already have a copy of Dark Times, and just wanted to say that Sacrifice sounds amazing! Can't wait to read it!

Thanks again Dakota!

Misty said...

I would have to say Aphrodite the Goddes of Love is my favorite...

Anonymous said...

Great interview. She really is a fascinating lady. My favorite mythological character is Athena, but that answer could change tomorrow.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Dakota Banks said...

Alexia561 - I think that some men authors like to use elements of horror in their books, too. I tried this out on a limited basis in Dark Time (in the interactions with and descriptions of the demon) and I think it fit it well. It would be hard for me to keep that up for a longer period of time, though!

As far as men writing from a woman's point of view, it can be done, but it's tough. When I taught writing online and at conferences, I'd encounter men who thought they were writing well from the female protagonist's POV, but weren't even close. I suggested that they have women read the book and advise them. The same goes for women writing from a man's POV. It's helpful to get men's reactions before thinking you've got it nailed. In other words, when you're in foreign territory, it doesn't hurt to ask a native.

Simcha said...

Great interview. I've actually never heard of this book before but it sounds really interesting. I think I'll add it to my "to read" pile. Or maybe I'll even win a copy...(yay to international contests!)
As for favorite mythological character, I'll go with Dionysus.

Simcha said...

I'm now following your blog...
And I realized that I forgot to include my email address, so here it is,


bookmagic said...

Great interview! This sounds like an awesome book. My favorite mythological characters are faeries, and lately vampires. I'm much more into paranormal than I used to be

bookmagic said...

I tweeted about the giveaway

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

A really wonderful interview! It was interesting to read. :)

Reading said...

Please count me in. Thanks for the giveaway. My fav mythological creature is a unicorn. I have a small stuffed one in my car.

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

Ryan said...

Dakota, Thank you so much for coming over and not only answering my questions but for answering some of those that have came up in comments. It means a lot that you are willing to take your time and respond back to your readers. I also want to thank for you your generous giveaway. I know it will make two people very, very happy.

Dawn M. said...

Dragons have always been a favorite - especially since the first time I read The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey as a teenager. :0)

librarygrinch at gmail dot com

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Hey Ryan, Great interview! I really like learning all the great things taken into consideration with the book. You know this book is on my list, so if I win it that will be all the better.

+1 I am following with goggle friend

+1 I am going to do the contest on my sidebar right now.


Unknown said...

Great interview Ryan and thanks for the international giveaway!

Already a follower of blog and twitter.

Mythological creature... Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot!

Thanks Ryan!

Dakota Banks said...

Ryan - I love talking with readers! Bring 'em on! I enjoy reading a book more when I know a bit about the author and the background that brought the book into existence. The questions you asked for the interview were spot on!

My favorite mythological creature has just been mentioned by Dawn--the dragon. I did read the Dragons of Pern, and have seen the movie Dragonheart several times. Always cry at the end.

Milka said...

My favorite mythological creatures are vampires.


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

My favorite mythological character (and I'm talking from Greek mythology) is the Goddess Athena. She was the goddess of wisdom and craft, reason in war and peace, and reason in arts and literature. I even dressed up as her for Halloween several years ago!

+1 I follow via Google Friend Connect

+1 posted on my right sidebar giveaway section


Well done on the interview and thanks for the giveaway!

Rebecca said...

This book looks really good.

My favourite mythological creature would be a vampire.

+1 Became a follower

Marie said...

I would choose Venus (Aphrodite) since I'm named after her :-)

I am a follower.

ninefly said...

+1 new follower
+1 post (

favourite mythological character: I've always loved the Monkey King from Chinese mythology as a child, he's mischievous and playful if at times impulsive and destructive

and thanks for having this giveaway!


Teddyree said...

Terrific interview, I'd love to read this one so please count me in! My favourite mythological creature at the moment is Bones (hot vamp) but I'm liking ghosts and necromancers at the moment too!

Totally agree with Dakota about escapism, hmm the washing or a hot read ... yeah no competition there LOL


Teddyree said...

Posted contest on the right sidebar of my blog The Eclectic Reader


Teddyree said...

I'm now a follower :-)


Tynga said...

I've been attracted to this book ever since I saw it. It seems really great!

My favorite creatues would be... I like Nephilims (half-angels). really kool!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

My favorite mythical creature are aliens.

Anonymous said...

+1 I am now a follower of your blog


Anonymous said...

I would love to be in this giveaway.. my favourite character would have to be medusa :) love her.

IceJewel said...

My fascination towards 'mermaids' began when I started watching the "The little mermaid" series, and so, mermaids are my favorites !

Please enter me, icejew at gmail dot com

I have posted the contest on my sidebar

I'm a follower now.

Thanks for the contest.

Stacey Brucale said...

My favorite mythological characters would have to be fairies!

+1 blog follower


SusanB said...

Will definitely have to put this on my TBR list. Would love to win it. My favorite mythological character would have to be a vampire.

SusanB said...

I'm a new follower.

Sheere said...

Great intervew!
I have always loved mythology, greek mythilogy is my favorite one and I like Basilisks and unicors. I like mythologu too much that is hard to choose!

Sheere said...

+1 Follower!

Sheere said...

+1 tweeted

Dakota Banks said...

Wow! I love seeing this outpouring of interest about favorite mythology characters. I had heard of angeltyuan's Monkey King in a general way but didn't know any details, so I began researching him tonight. The more you know of this character, the more there is to like, and I have plenty of learning left to do. Thanks, angeltyuan, for pointing me in that direction.

Kristen said...

Great interview. I've always been obsessed with the story behind Pandora's box. So I'm going to say Pandora really intrigues me.

dragonzgoil at gmail dot com

Kristen said...

I'm a follower!

dragonzgoil at gmail dot com

estereta said...

I would like to read this one.
+1 I'm a follower.


Aik said...

I like the story of the Monkey King, Sun Wu Kong. His journey to the west is really exciting!

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Aik said...

I tweeted.

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Strangelove said...

Love him since I first saw it's drawing on a Marvel comic and I have been getting more and more reading on him ever since!

carlos_durao AT hotmail DOT com

Dakota Banks said...

Ryan, thanks for having my interview on your blog and running the giveaway with the very interesting question about mythical characters. I loved spending some time here on the most excellent Wordsmithsonia!

Edu Chico said...

I love Achilles!
educhico AT gmail DOT com

Jafantunes said...

jafantunes [at] sapo [dot] pt

Aphrodite, Goddess of love, lust and beauty.
What is there not to like?

Cavalier said...

Can't really explain it, but I have always been a great fan of centaurs!

o_rei_de_havana AT hotmail DOT com

MariaD said...


I admire the fact that even Aristoteles believed the Manticore to be a true being!
That's why I like, such a fantastic creature and yet so many at a time believed in it!

Caty said...

How cool is a 3 headed dog guarding the gates of Hell?
Cerberus is a fetich of mine!


Susy said...

Even if this seems a bit sadistic, I love the myth of Prometheus.
My email is 39.5susy AT

Mil said...

I love the figure of the Satyr.
Sometimes I feel pity for them, others I envy them.
They are weird portrails of humanity!

Mil said...

Oh, and my email:

J Dias said...

I like the figure of Hades.
He is defeated the Titans along with Zeus and Poseidon and he got to rule the Underworld.
The other two got Air and Water and were glorified, but he became somewhat despised and mistaken for an "evil grim reaper"!
He is injusticed!

joanapatriciadias AT gmail DOT com

Tanita said...

I love to swim every morning - yes, even in winter - on the sea near my home, so Poseidon is my figure of election!

tanitalves {@} sapo {.} pt

Ryan said...

Dakota, Thank you once again for agreeing to the interview. Your answers were definetly enlightening and the sneek peek of the next book in the series was fantastic. You are more than welcome here anytime.