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MY First Sale by LA Banks

LA Banks is the New York Times Bestselling author the very popular Vampire Huntress series. She was awarded the Essence inaugural Storyteller of the Year award in 2007. Banks started writing urban fantasy featuring a kick ass female long before it was the popular sub genre du jour. She’s now only a few books away from completing the Damali Richards’ series and this month is launching a new werewolf series called Crimson Moon novels. I didn’t get to be part of the Vampire Huntress series because I was late to the game, but I will be picking up a copy of Bad Blood soon.

***

My start in the world of publishing was more akin to the Robin Williams movie, Jumanji than the simple “road less traveled.” If I turn back the clock to the early 90’s, my daughter, who was six months old at the time, had just suffered a severe burn at the hands of a careless daycare center worker. After 17 surgeries, the loss of three of her precious little fingers, and no settlement case to be had (of course this person has no Book Coverbusiness insurance-sigh), and a pending divorce, I found myself wading through a stack household bills becoming desperate… did I mention the job laid me off then too for too much hospital time. Ah, yes, the good old nineties, well before the crush of political correctness.

But I digress, as authors often do. Anyway, I’m sitting home alone with only my sleeping child and a short story contest comes in the door in a popular women’s magazine (Essence Magazine.) For 10 pages of story, if I won, twenty-five hundred dollars could be mine. Images of the Lottery danced in my head and I immediately got to work. Was I a writer? No. Had I done this before? No. But I was a mom on a mission. Baby, literally, needed a new pair of shoes.

So I followed the contest instructions to the letter, setting up my word processing margins exactly as specified. Little did I realize at the time I was being instructed on how to render a manuscript page. Long story short, I sat down and began to write. Something weird happened-this is the Jumanji part-I got lost in another world, the world I was creating. (South American jungles) It was thrilling, fun, crazy, torturous. The next thing I knew, I had been trapped in a time warp and when I came out of it, three days had passed and I owned seventy-five pages of sheer madness.

Freaked out, I gave this stack of ramblings to a close girlfriend to help me edit down to the contest-specified ten pages. However, she in turn gave it to a couple of ex-coworkers, who wanted to read more. Very, very long story short, I wound up abandoning the idea of submitting my work to a magazine. I just bumped off a chapter a day to share with girlfriends for the laugh. Six hundred and eighty pages later in six weeks, I typed the end. To my way of thinking, it was cheap psychotherapy. My medical and dental had lapsed, so go figure.

But these virulent friends (LOL), well they saw a book. I threw the pages in the closet; they began a mailing campaign to publishers. Then one particularly aggressive girlfriend dragged me to a Romance Writer’s of American conference in New York – a mere hour and a half train ride from home. (My child was recovering well and months and months had passed, so I agreed.) There we met a renegade faction of authors who had set up a private publisher’s meeting to discuss their concerns with the industry… of course we’d find the renegades (big smile!)

At a small luncheon, to my surprise, I got a chance to pitch to the brand new editor of Kensington/Arabesque. She had a vague memory of the book and asked me to resend it to her, which I did. Then I got that Cinderella call out of the blue-a two book deal offer for the crazy title I’d penned plus a next book.

It was one of those surreal moments where you realize dreams can come true. Years later, BET purchased that imprint, and the next thing I knew I was writing for an even larger house. Thirty-five books later, who knew? So this is my advice to all new writers and budding authors:

  • Never listen to any negative feedback from people telling you it can’t be done-it can.
  • Just because your family thinks you’re crazy, doesn’t mean you are.
  • Write the story that bursting inside you first, get it out. That’s the one that you’ll write with passion. Do that first before you simply try to write to “the market” trends.
  • Go to conferences, mix with people, and continue to hone your craft.
  • Believe!

Good luck to you and may the Muse sprinkle a little fairy dust in your shoes.

–L.A. Banks, NYT Best-selling author and winner of the 2008 Essence Magazine Storyteller of the Year Award www.LeslieEsdaileBanks.com

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

9 Comments

  1. Jia
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 05:45:03

    Great story! I’m really late to the Vampire Huntress series too. I just picked up the first book a couple weeks ago, but I am greatly looking forward to the Crimson Moon novels.

  2. Jennifer McKenzie
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 08:22:58

    What an awesome story!!!

  3. Walt
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:18:50

    Leslie’s fans are rabid. She has to keep a tight reign on her author copies, because the spoilers in each are sought after as doggedly as clues to the next LOST episode. EVERYTHING is scrutinized. When the cover art for a recent Vampire Huntress book was released and the artistic depiction of the heroine on the cover didn’t include a ring, people went _nuts_ — months before the release of the book. Now _that’s_ a fan base.

  4. L.A. Banks on Dear Author « Urban Fantasy Land
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:44:30

    […] L.A. Banks on Dear Author L.A. Banks talks about her first sale over at Dear Author. […]

  5. Angela James
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 10:59:34

    I met Ms. Banks a few years ago at the RT convention in St. Louis, at the booksigning. I was schlepping around a 6 month old baby, was a little exhausted and overwhelmed by the whole scope of the booksigning, but of the blur, one of the things that stands out vividly for me even three years later, is stopping by her table. She was an author I’d never heard of before, but her books caught my eye. The reason I remember her is because she was positively giddy and excited to be there, and her love for her books seriously radiated from her. In a crowded room of several hundred authors, she was handselling her books, chatting up fans with genuine enthusiasm and generally doing everything I think an author who’s passionate about their work should do.

    I didn’t realize she was starting a new series but I’ll be picking up a copy of Bad Blood!

  6. (Jān)
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 13:45:34

    Ms Banks, I’m glad your daughter came through that OK. What a horrible thing for a child to deal with. And a parent.

    Your story is an encouraging one though. Thanks for sharing it.

    (By the way, nice pic! Are authors allowed to look like movie stars? Talented *and* gorgeous? No fair!)

  7. tyler shrofe
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 14:45:13

    im 16 i first read the minion a year ago and i finished “The Darkness the othe day so im waiting for the new one and the newest one about werewolves

  8. Maya
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 17:47:37

    ‘writing as therapy’ – I hear you. Sometimes I feel exactly the same, even though I haven’t had even close to the gutwrenchingness of your experience. Your daughter is very fortunate in the mental strength of her mom.

  9. Crystal
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 16:17:19

    For an aspiring author like myself, this was truly an inspiring story!
    God bless you, Ms. Banks! Thanks so much for telling your story. I won’t give up now.

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