The Gulf Coast novelist known by the pen name Maya Banks keeps her real identity secret. In fact, while we know she lives in a small town somewhere in East Texas, during our conversation, she deftly avoids mentioning the town's name or giving us any hint as to its precise location. Given that Banks writes novels with lots of steamy, graphic sex scenes and that she has school age children, her quest for anonymity is understandable.
Not that what Banks writes would be considered pornographic by most people. Banks is clear: "I write erotic romance." That's not to be confused with "mommy porn," a term Banks dislikes. "Most readers and authors I know are actually quite insulted by the term 'mommy porn.' It trivializes what women are reading."
And what many women are reading, according to Banks, is a wide variety of sexy romantic fiction that runs from the PG-rated sort (think "his manhood swelled" moments between a couple in love) to the XXX-rated type (think bondage, S&M and threesomes among strangers)
A New York Times bestselling author, Banks has been writing erotic and historic romance novels for the last 11 years. Her newest book, Fever, being released this month, is the second in her popular Breathless trilogy which follows a group of men who, as best friends and business partners, share everything, including women. Like many of Banks' books, Fever includes scenes of group sex, bondage and S&M.
"Erotica is not necessarily romance, it's not necessarily a happy-ever-after," Banks tells us. "In erotica, the sex is mostly for titillation but erotic romance is going to be focused on a relationship and not just sex. There's going to be a happily ever after, even if it's not a traditional happily ever after. In a menage book, that happily-ever-after may involve three people, but it still has an emotionally satisfying resolution."
Banks began writing menage books because she found what was on the market to be unsatisfying. "I was reading some of those books and while there were certainly some menage stories out there, they were all pretty much following the same pattern. The second guy would get kicked out and the relationship would continue between the hero and heroine. It seemed the menage was used just for titillation. I found those books to be emotionally unsatisfying because I wanted them all to end up together. I figured that if I felt this way, surely there were other readers who felt the same way."
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It turned out that Banks was right. Lots of people, like her, wanted to read a menage a' trois love story where all three of the partners stayed together at the end. Banks wrote Colter's Woman and the book launched her career. Just over a decade later, she has some 20 titles to her credit, several of which have become bestsellers.
While Banks has become very successful (her books sell in the hundreds of thousands and are available in 14 countries), she hasn't become very famous - at least not in the tiny Texas town where she lives with her husband and three children. "Because I live in Small Town, Texas, I used a pen name for Colter's Woman. I always intended to go back to using my real name but it turned out that Maya Banks became so popular, my publishers wanted me to keep writing under that name." Consequently, her real name has never been associated with any of her steamy novels, letting her remain in almost complete anonymity. That's something Banks has come to appreciate.
Banks and her family are moving to an even smaller town in Texas as soon as construction on their new home is complete. Her children already attend school and play sports in the new district and Banks says that while her soon-to-be neighbors know what she does for a living, her current neighbors don't. "In the town that we're moving to, people know [about me]. I'm sure there are mixed feelings, from horror to acceptance," she laughs. "I actually feel uncomfortable if I'm at my daughter's softball game and somebody brings it up. Not because I don't appreciate it, but because at that moment, I'm just her mom, not Maya Banks. I don't want those two lives coming together."
For signed copies of Fever, contact Murder by the Book.