Maya Banks, bestselling author of the Breathless trilogy, Forged in Steel, and the newly-released Theirs to Keep, among many others, hails from Texas and loves the colour orange. We caught up with her and got her take on everything from inspiration to writer’s block to what every self-published author should keep in mind.
When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?
I’ve written from a VERY early age and I wrote purely for my own enjoyment. I crafted stories I KNEW I’d love so I’d have something to read that appealed to me on every level. Often I’d read a story (I also started READING from a VERY early age and was reading “advanced” novels by the time I was ten.) and there would be certain aspects of the book that DIDN’T appeal to me and so I’d write my own story, making sure to incorporate the tropes and themes that were missing from the books I was reading.
There wasn’t a specific book that I read that made me say “I want to write” simply because I’ve been writing stories for as far back as I can remember. I would fill five subject notebooks front and back and write long hand. In fact, even today, I find I get fatigued with working on the computer all the time and it’s not uncommon for me to pull out a notebook and a pen (I LOVE paper!) and take a break from the laptop and write longhand. Then I just type it all into a Word document at a later date.
What’s your favorite book? What was your favorite book as a child?
Many authors won’t admit this, even if it’s true, but my favorite books are MY books. It’s quite simple. I only write stories that I myself love to read. So I derive a lot of enjoyment from my own books and I often go back and reread my books when I’m in the mood.
As for my favorite book as a child, I read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on. I was a voracious reader. My family didn’t own a television until I was in my junior year of high school so most of my time was spent reading.
Where do you get your story ideas?
This is a question I’m asked often and my answer is always the same. I don’t really KNOW. That sounds absurd but a storyline can come to me out of the blue. For instance, the Breathless trilogy came to me while I was on vacation with my family in the mountains of New Mexico and we were making the two day road trip back home and the idea just struck me out of the blue. I pulled out my laptop and typed furiously, taking notes, and by the time I got home, I had a fully formed trilogy outlined and I called my agent the next day. She loved the idea and immediately called my editor who also loved the idea and we had a deal in a few weeks.
Sometimes I get inspiration from the news or current events. Watching a movie or a television show. The oddest most obscure things can strike an idea with me because I say “what if” a LOT. And then my brain kicks into gear and a story is eventually born.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
I don’t recall a specific piece of advice I’ve received but there are certain mantras I live by. Writing isn’t art and shouldn’t be treated as such, sitting back and waiting for the muse or “inspiration.” It’s a JOB and it requires the same level of dedication and motivation that any other job involves. In order to be successful, you first have to get the book DONE. Nothing can happen for you if you sit staring at a blank story waiting for inspiration to strike. You have to MAKE it happen.
Where do you usually write?
I rotate spots because I get bored and burned out if I stay in one place too long. So it’s a steady rotation for me between my office, my bedroom, the living room, the kitchen bar. My latest “comfy spot” is outside on my deck where I have a huge fan to keep me cool AND to provide “background” noise. Complete silence bothers me a LOT.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
Nope. If I’m not writing or producing it’s because of one of two reasons. Either I’m being lazy and unmotivated OR something is wrong with the story. Once I go back and read through what I have written and figure out where I went wrong with it, once I get back on track and going back in the right direction, the story starts flowing again.
If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?
At one time I would have said Julie Garwood but I actually got to meet her this year at the RT convention and she signed a book for me. I went completely fan girl crazy when she said she’d heard of me and couldn’t wait to read one of MY books and then asked for one of my historicals. Very thrilling moment for me!
What’s your favorite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
Romance definitely. I’m a reverse literary snob. I have NO interest in other genres that don’t include romance. Period. I love and revere my happily ever afters and I have NO interest in reading anything that ISN’T romance. As for guilty pleasures, I don’t believe in that term because I darn sure don’t feel an ounce of guilt over what I enjoy reading and I don’t care who knows what I read and I definitely don’t care if they approve or not!
What made you decide to self-publish?
My roots are in digital publishing and I’ve already self-published another title before Theirs to Keep. For me it’s about keeping my fingers in as many aspects of publishing as possible. I like the variety. I like switching it up and keeping it fresh for me. I love new challenges. So it was a natural evolution of my career that I’d branch out into self publishing. I plan to continue self publishing along with maintaining my current publishers as well. It opens a lot more options for me and that’s always a good thing in this line of work.
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
Just to put your best foot forward. Don’t get so caught up in “I have to publish this book” and stop and think a moment if the book you’re publishing is the absolute best it can be. Because it’s not a matter of whether readers will buy your FIRST book. And you have to decide what your goals are. Are you satisfied with being a one hit wonder? Or do you want a career steeped in longevity. Because if it’s the latter then you always want to make sure you give readers your absolute best effort because you want them to remember your name and you want them to come BACK and buy your NEXT book. If you put out an inferior product, that’s not likely to happen.