You guys are in for a treat today! We’re welcoming urban fantasy author Dakota Banks, whose third Mortal Path novel, Deliverance, comes out on March 27. But you don’t have to wait. The winner of today’s giveaway will win a Mortal Path Swag Bag (see photo next to the contest entry info), which is a great tote bag containing signed editions of all three Mortal Path books, as well as pens, bookmarks, magnets, even a calculator. And this is an international giveaway. Sound good?
ABOUT DELIVERANCE: A demon's assassin for centuries, Maliha Crayne has gone rogue, determined to save a life for every one she's destroyed in order to free herself from an eternity of enslavement, damnation, and excruciating torment. But as the powers that sustained her in the past fade, she is wary of trusting those closest to her-especially her lover, Jake. Should Maliha listen to her heart or the alarms going off in her head? Then her closest friends begin to disappear, one by one. Amid her anger, suspicion, and sorrow, she feels her life spiraling out of control. Worse still, a beautiful, Renaissance murderess is recruiting Maliha as her new assassin. Maliha is turning into a lethal puppet with an evil Immortal pulling the strings, forced to kill innocents or see her missing friends die horribly. Suddenly trapped in a moral no-man's land, Maliha is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't…and time is rapidly running out. (You can see the book trailer HERE.)
Now, let’s hear from Dakota!
Give us the “elevator pitch” for the Mortal Path series, and for Deliverance, Book Three in the series.
What if a woman sold her soul to a demon and then wants it back 300 years later? The Mortal Path series tracks the amazing journey of Maliha Crayne, who starts as a colonial-era wife and healer. As she is wrongfully executed as a witch, she accepts an offer of immortality from one of seven ancient Sumerian demons, who uses her as a brutally efficient assassin. Finally, she rebels against the evil she is forced to commit, and begins the arduous and uncertain process of redeeming her soul by saving as many lives as she’s taken. She’s got it in for the demons, too, and is collecting artifacts that will allow her to rid Earth of the wars, chaos, and destruction they cause. In Deliverance, someone learns of Maliha’s extraordinary abilities and kidnaps one of her inner circle of friends to force her into becoming a kill-on-demand puppet.
You got started writing thrillers…what turned you toward the paranormal?
I needed more room to run. I wanted to tell larger stories than the natural world could accommodate, so I developed a character with paranormal abilities and put her in a world where mythology blends with reality. It’s been terrific, such an expansion of possibilities. I haven’t left thrillers behind, though. Each Mortal Path book has thriller underpinnings and plenty of action. I call them parathrillers.
Describe your favorite scene from the new book--and why is it your favorite?
One of my favorite scenes concerns the ongoing relationship between Maliha and her martial arts teacher, Master Liu, who is a 5,000-year-old Sumerian priest. When they first met, he grumbled about being given a young, opinionated, and disobedient woman to train. Gradually Maliha has grown into a comfortable, but respectful, relationship moderated by the fact that he could kill her at any time, and would if ordered by his controlling demon. Here’s a scene that shows their unique way of getting along:
Maliha saw a figure standing up ahead, obscured by the snowfall. The mark on her left arm, the Chinese character shou, meaning long life, began to heat up and glow, just as it had on the day it was branded into her skin. It was the mark of her martial arts school, and it had never healed like other wounds to her Ageless body. She stopped a few feet from Master Liu. She could see him clearly now, a young bare-chested man wearing white pants as she did, in prime condition. He had a bucket in one hand. He’d been picking berries from bushes where only a few remained this late into winter.
Maliha dropped to her knees and bowed her head.
“Grandfather,” she said.
When she looked up, Master Liu was clothed in heavy robes. His face was wrinkled and wisps of white hair stood up from his head. His white, rheumy eyes fixed her with a blind stare. One of Master Liu’s abilities as an Ageless was to change his appearance. She believed she was looking at the true version now.
“Master, I seek your wisdom,” she said.
“Come in out of the wind,” he said. “It’s good to see you.” He held out his arm to her and she took him by the elbow as if she were supporting a frail old man.
She flashed back to Hound’s description of Master Liu: He’s some ascetic hermit who counts snowflakes on a mountain in China and dips his balls in ice water for the hell of it. She almost giggled. Almost.
He took her inside the school, where a student maintained a small fire. It didn’t do much to warm the large room. Master Liu taught tolerance to the elements and humility in the face of nature, which is why Maliha had worn only thin clothing.
“Student, bring a warm robe for my guest. She is a disciple of this school.”
Maliha raised her eyebrows in surprise.
Master Liu shrugged. “I’m mellowing in my old age,” he said.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Deliverance could be subtitled “The Book of Many Losses.” There are characters I loved who made it in the front door of this book but didn’t make it out the back. Scenes like that are wrenching to write.
What’s on your nightstand or top of your TBR pile?
My TBR pile is scattered all over the house, since no one place can hold all the books. Yes, physical books. I haven’t made it into the age of the e-reader. (I’ll get there, really.) I’m currently reading Angels’ Blood (Guild Hunter #1) by Nalini Singh, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, and Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong. All at the same time, in different parts of the house. Kitchen, Singh. Office, Haldeman, Bedroom, Armstrong.
Favorite book when you were a child.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I cried my heart out when Charlotte died. Some pig, indeed.
Book you've faked reading (Moby Dick is leading the votes on this question!):
Um, I’ve never faked reading a book. I liked Moby Dick, sort of.
Book that changed your life:
That would be Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. World-building, characterization, action—taught me everything. I’ve read the trilogy at least a dozen times, probably more.
Favorite line from a book:
My favorite line from a book is one that I keep pinned to the bulletin board where I can see it from my desk as I write. It’s this:
“All this happened, more or less.” - Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
It reminds me that writing is a way of convincing readers that everything you’re about to tell them really did happen, or is happening, in the world you’ve created—the world you’re going to suck them into, starting from the first line, as Vonnegut did.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I love the six books of The Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card (who also wrote Ender’s Game), and wish I could dive into the simple, compelling beauty of these books again, discovering the characters and ideas for the first time. Described on his web site, the series is “an alternate frontier America; a world where a particular kind of magic really works and where that magic has colored the entire history of the colonies.” Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son (while all his brothers were alive) with tremendous natural magic; “Maker” means wizard. The birth is so rare in colonial America that there is no living Maker to teach Alvin. His life is one of discovery, promise, and fear, since there are forces arrayed against a Maker. Wonderful stuff. I might go dig out those books from wherever they’re hiding in the house and put them on my TBR stack!
Favorite book about books or writing:
I love Stephen King’s On Writing. There was a lot in it that spoke to me personally, that made sense and helped me align my writing to better convey the vision in my mind with what I was putting on the page. The book’s divided into two parts, a King memoir and wonderful nothing-held-back writing instruction. Both are equally enjoyable to read, and the points made about writing will keep you thinking long after you finish the book. Isn’t that the whole idea?
Thanks, Dakota! You can learn more about Dakota and her books at her website, her blog, by following her on Facebook, or on Twitter @dakotabanks.
Want to win this terrific international giveaway? Just leave a comment. You know the rest of the drill. One entry for comment, another for blog follow, a third for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a Tweet or Retweet. Now...Go forth and comment!