March 21, 2012

Blog Tour Interview with Dakota Banks

Interview with Dakota Banks
March 21, 2012

Dakota Banks is the author of the Urban Fantasy series The Mortal Path published by Harper Collins

Find Dakota  Website | Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads |

The Mortal Path is an Urban Fantasy series deeply rooted in Sumerian mythology, a unique plot and story world, teeming with riveting suspense and conflict, and complete with compelling and believable characters.  The heroine makes a hard choice to take a different path in life and this series is about her struggles to stay on the mortal path.  

Our heroine Maliha was falsely accused of witchcraft in the 17th century.  She was abandoned by her husband and friends and sentenced to burning at the stake.  As she was burning, she was approached by an evil demon offering her a chance to avenge the injustice.  She accepts the demon’s proposal and without knowing how to read or write or knowledge of the full details, she signs a contract in her blood.  For 300 years she is his assassin and kills, sometimes reluctantly, anyone he says she has to – evil and innocent alike.

After doing his bidding for so long, Maliha finds she doesn’t have the heart for it any longer and persistently requests release from her contract.  As punishment for her requests, the demon gives her an unspeakable assignment to kill an innocent.  She cannot carry out the assignment and decides then and there that she will do whatever it takes to get free of him.

After digging into the details of her contract, she discovers two ways that could lead to her release. Based on Sumerian legend, a Tablet exists that depicts the weakness of each of the 7 Utukki demons.  If she were to obtain the Tablet of the Overlord and the lens to read it, she can negotiate her freedom.   Secondly, it’s possible for her to earn freedom by giving up her immortality (i.e. going rogue) and saving a life for every one she’s taken as an assassin.  Anu (the king of the gods in Sumerian mythology), decides whether her actions have saved lives or not.  A weighing scale was etched on her body that will painfully update based on what Anu decides.  When it’s evenly balanced, redemption is hers.  She chooses to go rogue and pursue the hard road to redemption - the mortal path!

Each novel in the series outlines Maliha’s attempts at saving lives and her internal struggle on this new path.  Being mortal now is not easy for Maliha.  Her cause has led to recruiting a circle of followers that has become close friends.  It’s inevitable that as a human, she will start to feel emotions and feelings for others that she never experienced in her old life.  To her dismay, joining her has put them in danger.  A danger she does not want for them.  She constantly worries and at times the temptation to revert back to old ways to protect them is overwhelming.  Given Maliha’s internal struggles, we are always wondering what she will choose?  Nothing is certain.

Dakota is kind enough to join us today to talk about The Mortal Path series specifically her new release next week of Book #3 Deliverance and answer some questions.  She also has some goodies to share with a very lucky winner!!! 

Welcome Dakota!  I’m so happy to have you here on the blog today. I am a huge fan of this series and its now in my Top Ten.  I love the kick-ass character you’ve created in Maliha.  Even though the story is fantasy, her character is realistic because of her imperfections.  Actually, I think that’s why I’m such a big fan. Thank you so much for finding time for us. 

First, I’d like to thank Kat for the opportunity to visit her wonderful blog, and to chat with you, her followers. That summary of the Mortal Path series Kat wrote was incredible, and I’m thinking of inviting her to be my co-author! It’s so good I may have to steal it. J

No stealing necessary luv!  It’s yours. Glad you like it. 

Questions about The Mortal Path series

So, about your choice of Sumerian mythology…I’m unfamiliar with Sumerian myths and legends and I’m wondering:
·      Why you chose this one, and
·      How close to the actual myths is your story? I could be wrong but I suspect the idea of the Ageless is adapted for your purposes, but what about the Utukki demons and is there a Tablet of the Overlord that can destroy them
a) I’m very interested in archaeology, and particularly of the Sumerian period, beginning about 8,000 years ago. Valley between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Cradle of Civilization stuff; ancient Sumeria is modern Iraq. The Sumerians had a particularly wonderful mythology, since they believed their gods were extraterrestrial and created humans by using their own “essence,” meaning DNA. We’re all star babies, baby! Their gods, goddesses, and demons had many characteristics of humans and were constantly getting into trouble over jealousy, betrayal, and lying, and of course there were great love stories. These weren’t gods who sat around in judgment on Mount Olympus. In fact, they sort of colonized Earth and did all the work themselves before they got the idea of creating humans for the drudgery. As a basis for stories, a writer couldn’t ask for more.

b) The entire background of the Sumerian gods in the Mortal Path books is consistent with their mythology. It’s true, I did invent the Ageless humans and the Tablet of the Overlord. (I have to catch myself from writing that as Tablet of the Overload.) The Utukki demons are also part of the mythology, but not that they remained on Earth when the Anunnaki (Sumerian gods) left to return to their home planet of Nibiru. (Interesting planet, that—check it out on Google.) Leaving them here was my doing, so I could have the demons around in our current time causing war, chaos, and destruction (the big three).   

The plot for The Mortal Path is remarkable.  An accused witch turned assassin, mythology, desire to be mortal again instead of hanging on to immortality like in most stories, saving lives after taking them for so long.  What inspired you to create such a wonderful story line?
I wanted to work with a character that had been through a period of all-encompassing evil in her life and see if there were any qualities left in her that readers could admire or even like. It seemed like a challenge, and I was up for it. During the period that Maliha spent as a demon’s assassin, she really wasn’t a nice person. She lived a decadent life, remaining  young and beautiful, accumulating wealth, and enjoying men on her terms. When the demon gave her a target to assassinate, she didn’t question her orders, she just killed on demand. Other people paid a price in blood so she could remain immortal and beautiful. Definitely a woman on the Dark Side. The challenge came in showing the small bit of humanity that remained in her, that grew like blowing on a tiny flame until she couldn’t tolerate her life anymore, and was willing to give up immortality. It isn’t a character transformation that’s easy to make in any believable manner, so I’ve really had to work at it. That’s where the fun comes in! And of course you can’t expect a woman with that background to be perfect and make no mistakes. She’s had to feel her way back to being (mostly) human again.

The plots in Books 1 and 2 are influenced by science. (i.e. nanites and computers software).  Do you have a scientific background or was this all researched?
Both. I have an engineering degree (applied math and computer science, and I can hear the groans out there) and had a profoundly technical career before I turned to writing. I’m fascinated with the sciences, and keep up in several different fields as well as I can. Still, I had to do research to make sure I had current trends down accurately. Ah, research! Sigh of contentment...

Do you have a plan for how the rest of the series will go?  How many more novels do you anticipate?
Maliha has more to do in order to balance her scale of lives saved versus lives taken, and then there’s the matter of retrieving all of the shards of the giant diamond lens that will allow her to read the Tablet of the Overload, er, Overlord and destroy all the demons left on Earth. Maliha could be in line for a HEA, too, after all I’ve put the poor woman through. The series would need a minimum of two more books the close out the story lines (oh, that sounds so clinical), but would support three or four more. It’s not going to be one of those 20+ book series. There are goals to attain (or not), and then it’s time to stop. Maliha’s not one to overstay her welcome.

Do you mind if I ask you about the Book Trailer for Deliverance?  I read a blog post a little while ago that you made the trailer yourself.  That trailer is seriously incredible and one of the best I’ve seen so far.  Was it difficult to make or do you have experience?
I had experience, but it was experience in making bad trailers, such as this Sacrifice trailer.  Among other problems with that trailer, there is no way I really sound like that. Having learned how not to do a trailer, it took me a while to undo that valuable knowledge. The key was figuring out that I didn’t have to film the video portion myself, but could buy stock video clips, still photos, and music and string them together to tell a story. Even better, I didn’t have to narrate the thing, although I still needed a script. I struggled with a script that was too wordy and didn’t convey the bones of the ideas clearly and quickly. Finally I trashed the script I’d been rewriting and wrote a new one in about three minutes. Crisp, easy to grasp, emotional. I’m glad you like the trailer. It was a rewarding project, and on top of that, it saved me about $3,000.

Have a look at one of the best book trailers I've seen...

Questions about Writing in General

How and why did you first get started as a writer?

I wrote short stories starting at about the age of eight, and continued through high school and college, but never had anything published. I knew from that time, though, that I was going to be a writer. I couldn’t NOT be a writer. Then life got in the way as I pursued my career, got married, and raised a family. I kept waiting for the “perfect” time to write, until I realized that I’d have to make the time by rearranging my priorities. My urge to write was never completely dormant during that time; I’d start novels and set them aside. Moral of that story: don’t wait, make it happen.

What surprises you most about being an author?

I love this question! I get to talk about what is normally a Private Experience, shared with no one. Oh, hush up out there. It’s not that type of experience. It’s being in the writing zone. There are times when my love of language, my depth of engagement with my characters, my excitement about the scene, all come together in a euphoric feeling that sends my fingers flying across the keyboard, trying to keep up with my mind. For a writer, this is as good as it gets, a runner’s high that can go on for hours. Better than research, better than ... almost anything.

Do you usually base your characters off people you know, yourself or do you let your imagination run wild?

For me, it’s inevitable that some of my characteristics are going to creep into the protagonist. It’s probably where Maliha’s deep desire to regain her humanity and have a normal life with a family came from. In other cases, the characters are composites of people I have known and those I have observed. I’m a keen observer and when I’m out (you may be comforted to know) I’m probably studying your facial expressions, body language, personality, appearance, and the way you talk, storing all that info in the “character bin” that I can draw upon. Someone who looks like you plus someone else’s manner of worrying about inconsequential things plus someone else’s way of talking—poof! A new character. What that character needs is a background to become real, and that’s where imagination takes hold. 

When you start a series, do you plan out the entire thing and know the ending or does it come to you as the series progresses?

For a series, I don’t know the ending except in the most general way, a direction to head, and that direction could change. It’s mostly just keeping track of the open threads weaving in and out of the books and making sure they’re all tied up in some fashion by the time I get to the end. That’s unlike each book in the series, in which I start out with a fairly good idea of where I’m going and for the most part, stick to it.

What is your best advice for aspiring authors?

I used to have a critiquing service and I have seen a lot of manuscripts from new writers.

      ·      The first point I want to make is that I saw full manuscripts. If you don’t finish, you’ll never publish—it’s that simple.  
      ·      Set aside writing time on a regular basis and move heaven and earth to stick to it.

Beyond that, I saw three general problems in those manuscripts:
1.     Telling, not showing. Oh, I know you’ve heard this one before! Showing takes the reader through a scene minute-by-minute as it happens, so the reader is fully engaged and hoping for a certain outcome. It’s full of dialogue, external or internal or preferably both. Showing an angry confrontation in the kitchen might take 4 or 5 pages. Telling is spoon-feeding a condensed version of an experience, leading to no engagement with the reader and no real concern for the outcome. Telling about that same confrontation might take one paragraph, with all the fun stuff stripped out.
2.    Rotten dialogue. With dialogue making up 30% or sometimes significantly more of your word count, you can’t afford to let bad dialogue drive your reader crazy. Read your dialogue aloud (better yet, have a friend read with you) and find out if it sounds stiff. Forget about those tags that will wear on the reader and contribute nothing. Example: “Let’s go!” she said excitedly. Your character’s words and the context should be enough to convey that she’s excited. If you have to tell the reader that, you haven’t done your job. I have seen manuscripts with a tag like this attached to each scrap of dialogue. Ouch!
3.    Cardboard characters. Some characters float through the book as talking heads, and we never learn anything about them that would turn them into real humans in our minds. Others are pawns for the plot, and there’s no reason for them to be there otherwise. The villain does bad things but seems to have no motivation. These are fatal flaws; readers have to care about someone in your book, preferably a small group of people. Don’t overpopulate your book with unnecessary characters. The more you can have the protagonist do directly, the better. Don’t be in such a rush with your great plot that you forget to flesh out the characters.

Just something for the curious minds, if you weren’t an author, what would you be doing instead?
I have strong interests in several things, and need more lifetimes to pursue them all. Archaeology, physics, medicine, and bioengineering. I’d like to be a forensics expert, too. These are the roads not taken. Darn. But writing is plenty for one lifetime!

So, are there any appearances, conferences or tours planned that you’d like your readers to know about?
I’ll be at ThrillerFest in New York in July. That’s the conference put on by International Thriller Writers, of which I’m a former board member. Other than that, I think all my appearances will be online this year due to concentration on my writing. My agent is shopping a Middle Grades historical fiction series for me, and if (no, when) that sells, I’m going to be mega-busy. The MG series is called Living Then, and it doesn’t have continuing characters. What makes it a series is the concept of having a boy and a girl at different points in time around the world, so that readers are immersed in their cultures and mythologies. A sociology library kind of thing, only really fun and full of adventure. I’m excited about it; it’s mythology on a kids’ level.

Thank you Dakota for being so generous with your time!  I loved having you here and really look forward to future novels in the series.  I’m dying to know if the mortal path gets any easier for Maliha and who her HEA will be too!!  Best of luck on Release Day for Deliverance March 27th!!

I had a great time with this interview! Thanks, Kat, for the wonderful questions.

Dakota’s Swag Bag Giveaway

I created some stuff (i.e., swag) to give away with the release of Deliverance, the third book in the Mortal Path series. All my giveaways are international.

The Swag Bag consists of:
A zippered tote bag
Signed copy of Dark Time, book 1
Signed copy of Sacrifice, book 2
Signed copy of Deliverance, book 3
Pens for each
Bookmarks for each
Some magnets I have lying around
A bright yellow calculator

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form and we’ll draw for the winner on March 27th.  Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Buy Amazon…


  1. I've declared 2012 my year to read more paranormals and these books look like a great choice.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

  2. VERY generous swagbag...thx for the AWESOME giveaway opportunity! :)

  3. Awesome interview Kat!
    Looking forward to reading this series.
    Thanks for recommending these books.

  4. This sounds like a great book!! I am looking forward to reading it. TY!!

    1. Betty it truly is one of my new favourites. Maliha is a very cool chicky...

  5. Thanks for the opportunity to visit your blog, Kat. I had a terrific time!

    1. My pleasure Dakota! I love your answers and was really excited to share with everyone!

  6. I confess, I haven't yet read Dakota Banks, but this sounds like a really good series!

    1. and a great opportunity to read them. Good luck in the contest!

  7. Great Job.... you did an awesome interview and I agree that your summary of her book sound great! I had never heard about this series but will add it to my ever expanding list.

    1. Thanks Glenda! I appreciate it! You won't be disappointed with the add. Best of luck in the giveaway!

  8. Just what I need! Another great series to follow. I love paranormal, and find that series allow for a much more in-depth experience into the writers world that stand alone books do.
    Please enter me to win the books and swag


    1. I find that too. I just love series reading. the plot can go anywhere and we are always kept guessing. good luck!!

  9. thanks for the giveaway and hope i'll win it this time so i can catch up on the series :)

  10. Amazing interview and giveaway guys! I am saving this link, Banks put some pretty informative stuff in there. Man, I am jealous you are so good at math. Wish I was good at it, but every time I see it, I want to cry LOL! But I love all the research and work that has gone into this series. I love the general problems you went over, they are so true. I have read a few of those myself LOL! Thank you soooo much. This is awesome!

    1. I am so jealous of her computer skills. i want to make book trailers now.. lol! she makes it look so easy. she's my hero!! Good luck Diana!