Welcome to another episode of our Pride Month feature. Today it gives me immense pleasure to interview our next #OwnVoice guest author Daryl Banner. After reading my first M/M romance book by him, 'Getting Lucky', and devouring his backlist thereafter, his audiobook Born Again Sinner introduced me to books performed by wonderful narrators. Daryl Banner remains one of my favorite #OwnVoice authors to seek out. Let's discover why as Daryl talks to us about himself, his work, and what it means to him being an #ownvoice author.
GIANNI: Hi Daryl,
Welcome to Writing with Pride. As an avid fan of your work, I’ve been looking forward to this interview. Thanks so much for giving me a bit of your time.
Let’s start with your pronouns. How do you prefer to be addressed?
GIANNI: Who is your favorite superhero of all time?
DARYL: Hmm… I’m not really sure if I have a favorite, to be honest? All of my heroes growing up were video game characters. Can I say Cloud Strife is my favorite superhero? :)
GIANNI: Definitely counts. Which animal would you consider to be your spirit animal and why?
DARYL: i love so many animals!
GIANNI: When did you know definitively that you wanted to be an author?
DARYL: I’ve been telling stories my whole life, from poetry to playwrighting (thanks to my Theatre degree) and composing music. It wasn’t until I was graduating college that I realized the power in writing books and found my sweet spot in telling stories. My mentor at the time (the late Pulitzer-prizewinning playwright Lanford Wilson) really pushed me through the writing of my first novel, and inspired me to keep going.
GIANNI: Fascinating that you have such a rich personal experience in the arts. What’s the title of the first M/M romance book you wrote, and how do you think you’ve grown as an author since then?
DARYL: My first full-length M/M romance was Football Sundae, which unintentionally sparked my best-selling Spruce Texas series :) I’ve grown a lot in terms of writing ethic, I think. I tend to use my time more efficiently and can predict where I might have trouble in my story, and work preventatively to sort out key details and make “the big decisions” early on.
GIANNI: We know that you write M/M romance, but what’s your favorite genre to read and who are your top 3 authors of all time?
DARYL: i love reading fantasy, but also enjoy a super dark or gritty book that has trouble fitting into any genre. I’m a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club), as well as Lloyd Alexander, Piers Anthony, and George R R Martin. (Sorry, I know that’s four, haha.)
GIANNI: What’s one of the biggest risks that you took as an author? Do you regret it?
DARYL: I took a big risk with a particular book of mine titled “Raising Hell”. It is considerably darker, grittier, and tackles a type of character not usually found in my sweeter romances. I definitely don’t regret it. That book quickly turned into a “you love it or hate it” type of book, and I found that those who loved it have become the “loyal for life” type of readers, who thanked me for “going there”, and for delving into deeper subject matters that took them by surprise. It really is a very rewarding thing sometimes to take that big risk.
GIANNI: Wich three words would you use to describe what a reader should expect when they pick up a Daryl Banner book?
DARYL: Sweet, humorous, engaging. That’s how I’d describe (most of) my romances. As for my dystopian and fantasy series, I’d rather say: Exciting, heartwarming, gutting.
GIANNI: I can definitely vouch for those qualities in your romance books. Which character from any of your books do you believe resemble you the most and in what way?
DARYL: There’s definitely a piece of me in all my characters - even the antagonists and “ones you love to hate”. But I wouldn’t say any one character resembles me the most.
GIANNI: Do you think that it is important for readers in the genre to actively seek out and read #OwnVoice authors?
DARYL: I think there is a benefit to #OwnVoice authors, as you get to experience something through the eyes of a person who lives and breathes the struggles of the character, but I wouldn’t let that deter a reader from reading something written by a non-Own Voice author. You should really read whomever moves you, “gets” you, and inspires you.
GIANNI: How does your personal experiences affect the choices you make as you write your books?
DARYL: I think it’s important to utilize as much of my own experience in my stories as I possibly can. Readers are very smart, and they can sense the authenticity of a scene or a character’s experience when it’s written in a certain way, or with an awareness of “what it’s really like”. Even if I’ve not personally experienced something that my character is going through, I try to find an emotional truth - something I can truly and personally relate to that is similar or lateral - and then use that to tell the story.
GIANNI: Oh yes, finding that emotional truth makes a lot of difference in relating to our characters. Many authors don’t like to play favorites, but do you have a favorite character that you’ve written?
DARYL: I tend to be most connected to the characters in my dystopian OUTLIER series, which features gay, bi, lesbian, queer, and gender-nonconforming characters among its cast, but that’s likely because I’ve been following and writing these characters the longest. Among the cast, I think I might closely identify with Athan Broadmore who, despite some seriously tragic circumstances he’s dealt with throughout the books so far, still manages to keep hope alive. I weirdly look to him as an example when I’m going through a tough time myself.
GIANNI: Briefly describe what your writing process is like?
DARYL: It depends on what I’m working on. With my romances, I tend to have a general idea of where the story will go, key points in the plot, a scene or two that I want to happen, and how it ends. I try to write every day, even if it’s a little bit. Before I sit down to write, I usually read the previous chapter so as to recapture my momentum. I get the most written during the day or very late at night when the world feels “away” or turned off and I can concentrate completely.
GIANNI: The first book of yours I read was Getting Lucky. Since then I’ve been hooked on your books. I noticed though that one of your latest releases 'Lover's Flood' is a little bit different. Can you tell us about it, giving the title, what the book is about and what inspired you to write it?
DARYL: One of my recent releases was titled Lover’s Flood, and it’s actually a reimagining of my very first novel published ten years ago, which I’ve since unpublished. Lover’s Flood is more of a contemporary coming-of-age story about a college student who struggles connecting with people. I wrote the original story during a tough time of my own in college, and was mentored by Lanford Wilson, a Pulitzer-prizewinning playwright who took the place of Edward Albee for a couple years at the University of Houston, heading the playwrighting program. I was very lucky to get to know Lanford personally and work with him on a couple of my original plays, and I learned a great deal about dramatic structure and writing from him. He gave me feedback as I wrote my first novel and encouraged me to “be daring” and to not cave to the pressures of “what I think people want to hear”. That boldness has really driven me over the past ten years to continue daring to be different. I owe a lot to that man, and am sad he isn’t around anymore to see how far I’ve come. I miss him greatly! So I felt I wanted to honor that first novel of mine by reimagining it (and practically rewriting it) and re-releasing it as Lover’s Flood.
GIANNI: Beautifully explained and so sorry for the loss of someone I can tell was very close to you. Your gratitude is truly humbling. Speaking of those who've played an impact in your life and writing, your mom puts a smile on my face every time I encounter her socially. I just have to mention her because that kind of support is amazing. Can she be my mom too? *I’m only half-joking*. So many authors have zero support system at home. When did your mother get involved in your writing and what role does she play in your life as an author?
DARYL: My mother is amazing! She was there for me ever since I came out at the age of 15. (Literally just turned 15 when a set of unfortunate circumstances at school forced my hand and made me have to come out to her.) She’s been supportive ever since and has always encouraged me to continue pursuing my dreams and especially my writing. Being an avid reader of romance herself, she is always the first to read my drafts and give her feedback on them. We brainstorm ideas all the time, and laughingly chat about hypothetical circumstances that could happen in my books. She’s truly the best. (And thank you for your kind words about her!)
GIANNI: She's just about one of the sweetest individuals I've met on social media. Which individuals would you thank for helping to shape your character today?
DARYL: My mom, Lanford Wilson, Chuck Palahniuk (who sent me a box of glitter in response to a letter I wrote him during the writing of my second novel, but that’s another story...) and my close friends throughout my college days, who stuck by my side.
GIANNI: Glitter did you say? Now we're all curious, lol. All the sparkles aside, what can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
DARYL: I’m releasing the Boys & Toys Season 2 over this summer. In the fall, you may see another installment of the Spruce series, and even possibly something else new. I’d also love to have my next OUTLIER novel out before the end of the year, if possible.
Thanks again for the interview, Daryl. Please let us know where readers can find you…
https://darylbanner.bandcamp.com/follow_me (my original music, featuring some soundtracks/scores inspired by my book series as well, as well as an award-winning soundtrack to an audio drama podcast I composed titled “Janus Descending”)