I appreciate the chance to visit. Thanks for having me here.
We can be nosy sometimes and would love to know who is Dakota Banks? Tell us five interesting things about yourself that readers would not know.
1. I published six books under my real name prior to the Mortal Path series, all of them suspense novels, most of them police procedurals incorporating virtual reality simulation of crime scenes. They were ahead of their time when published, and still are.
2. I have a thing for clocks. Every room in my home has several redundant clocks because I like different types. Cuckoo!
3. I have floated on the Amazon (in a boat, silly) and eaten freshly caught agouti for breakfast. Those are two foot long rodents, with no tails or they’d look like giant rats. I slept in a thatch-roofed hut that had a ceiling infested with tarantulas. I was given one candle to last the night. It didn’t. I know, because I was awake when the flame sputtered out.
4. I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy at least a dozen times, but somehow I never got around to the Twilight books or movies. Have I missed anything?
5. I can pass up chocolate without the teeniest pang, but wave a jellybean at me and you have my full attention.
6. Bonus: For what it’s worth, I can use a slide rule and an abacus.
I hope they get an emotional blast as well as plenty of action and some twists and surprises. One of Maliha’s close circle of friends has been kidnapped to force her to go back to work as an assassin. If she refuses to kill innocents on demand, her friend will die a horrible death. Deliverance will take you on a roller-coaster ride as Maliha faces one moral dilemma after another, with no way out. The problem is highly personal and the situation is intense. My hope is that Deliverance wraps itself around you and won’t let go.
What inspired you to write this series, have any books or authors had an impact on what you like to write?
I was inspired in general by my love of mythology and archaeology, especially of the Middle Eastern area where the Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations were. If you remember back to your fifth grade social studies, you were probably taught about this area (modern Iraq) as a Cradle of Civilization, Fertile Crescent, or the Land Between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Nowadays, there is considered to be more than one Cradle of Civilization, including ones in Africa, Greece, India, South America, and China. Specifically, when the Iraqi National Museum was looted during the U.S. occupation of Baghdad in 2003, there were photos of smashed artifacts—items that had survived 6,000+ years to be broken in a day of looting. It started me thinking about what else could have survived from the Sumerian period that couldn’t be destroyed underfoot—something malevolent. The collection of Sumerian gods, goddesses, and demons is like a cornucopia of ideas for a writer. All I had to do was study the myths and come up with a point where I could depart from them—the fictional twist to bring Sumerian demons into our current time. I’ve been interested in how Jennifer Estep deals with a lead character who is an assassin in her Elemental Assassins series, because my character Maliha was a demon’s assassin for a few hundred years—not easy to portray as a sympathetic character! Other than that, other writers have given me insight into character development, plotting, and action. A few of those are Kim Harrison, Vicki Pettersson, Kelley Armstrong, James Rollins, and Orson Scott Card.
What would you say is Maliha Crayne's greatest strength? What is her greatest weakness?
I think Maliha’s greatest strength is her willingness to strive toward her goal when the odds are so stacked against her. She had the courage to break her contract with a demon, setting a goal to win back her soul by saving a life for every one she’d taken under the demon’s orders. She literally has to balance a scale carved into her body by the demon’s claw. The problems are that the number of people she’s killed is huge; she ages a little with every life saved; and her reward for saving lives isn’t one-to-one. She could save a thousand lives and be rewarded on her scale as though she’d saved a hundred, meanwhile aging several months. The chief Sumerian god, Anu, determines from afar how her rewards and aging will be dispensed, so it’s out of her control. If he’s displeased with her, he can take back a reward he’s already granted. She can only do the best she can under very tough circumstances.
Her weaknesses relate to the fact that she lived an unchallenged, decadent life among humans while serving the demon. She was immortal, remained young and beautiful, and everything she did was on her terms. She didn’t have to consider the feelings of humans, any one of whom she might be ordered to kill someday. Now, as a rogue after breaking her contract, things are quite a bit different. She has to bring her humanity to the surface after locking it away for 300 years. Relationships, both love and friendship, give her a lot of trouble. Sometimes her assassin’s attitudes leak out; why not, after living that way for so long? She makes mistakes, alienates people, and thinks that life was much simpler as a demon’s assassin—because it was.
Maliha began as a wife and soon-to-be mother in colonial times. She wanted nothing more than to love her husband, care for her family, and practice her herbal healing arts. After being wrongly accused of being a witch and other crimes, she was burned at the stake. In her agony, a Sumerian demon offered her immortality as long as she served him, in exchange for her soul. Anything sounded good with her body on fire, so she accepted and turned to evil. She lived a long time, reveling in the powers and advantages the demon gave her. Then she began to sicken of what she was doing, a never-ending life of dealing death. She rebelled, and as a rogue is trying to earn back her soul from the demon. So she was a good person, then evil, now on the mortal path to becoming good again. When she first became a rogue, Maliha was confused and awkward tossed back into the role of human, and she has had to grow into opening her heart to friendship and love. The newest book, Deliverance, shows the depths of feelings she has attained.
There are lots of mythology in your books. What is the most interesting thing you have found in your research?
I was fascinated with the idea that the Sumerians believed that their gods, the Anunnaki, were extraterrestrials. Supposedly they came to Earth looking for gold (needed for a chemical reaction to repair their atmosphere) and stayed around for hundreds of thousands of years, mingling their DNA with that of early man in glass test tubes. Whoa! Seriously. I mean, those are the myths.
If you could spend the day with Maliha, where would you go and what would you do?
I would visit her home in Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan. Not the public one that her friends drop by when they are in town, but her private haven, where she keeps a personal museum of items she has collected over the course of her long life. Priceless, one-of-a-kind things like gems and carvings, all of which have a story and a personal meaning for her. I want the tour! I’d stare at her fabulous wall of weapons and ask for a demonstration of her signature weapon, the whip sword. Then I’d like to enjoy her fabulous shower that massages, squirts soap and shampoo, and dries you off. She’d get out a spare futon and we’d lie on the floor looking up at the lights suspended from the ceiling that look like stars. We’d talk about her friends and her travels until I fell asleep, leaving her meditating.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I wake up at around 1pm, usually eat out with my husband so we can connect, then spend the afternoon on “the business of writing” projects. At about 6pm, I take a nap (!), then have some family time until about 10-11pm. I’m finally ready to write, and I write while the house is quiet, usually until dawn. My cats Marble and Snickers love this schedule and usually spend the whole night with me in my office, playing or sleeping. They’re great company, except when they do that sudden stare-at-the-ceiling thing at about 3am.
If you could collaborate with another author, who would you pick and why?
Tough question. I don’t think I’m cut out to collaborate with anyone. I’d have a hard time letting the other author’s sections of writing alone. If I had to answer, it would have to be someone strong-willed enough to enforce cooperation, like Laurell K. Hamilton or Patricia Cornwell.
What's next for you?
I’m working on the continuing adventures of Maliha. I’m also trying to get a middle grades series started based somewhat on mythology, but mostly on history. Think school library books.
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