Goddess of Fantastical Young Adult Series Entertains with Romance and Wit as Underwater Worlds Turn Against Each Other
Like Poseidon, Anna Banks Rules the Sea
In high school, she stood out as the English teacher’s pet. She also scribed as a hired gun. “I wrote term papers for prom money. Fifty-bucks a pop and I’ll make it look like you wrote it,” said Anna Banks. “If you don’t get a B then I don’t get paid.”
Fourteen years later, Banks, 32, achieved the envy of every author. Her second young adult novel, “Of Triton,” became a New York Times best seller in June of 2013, and global giant MacMillan Publishers will release her third Syrena Legacy series title, “Of Neptune,” in 2014. Banks, a mother of a middle school daughter, targets a teenage audience and anyone fascinated by the idea of merfolk living in a fantastical world beneath the sea.
Anna Banks has fearlessly jumped right into the deep sea of young adult fiction. She is pictured here seated in her English class at Niceville High School, where she first tested the waters of writing fiction … and perhaps a few term papers, too. JACQUELINE WARD IMAGES
Banks’ writing career kick-started when she had too much time on her hands. After graduating and marrying her Niceville High School sweetheart, Jason Banks, the former Anna Powers worked full time at a bank. In the evenings, she continued her high school position waitressing at PoFolks. “They raised me. It felt like a second family there,” she said.
Working two jobs and craving more time with her child, Maia, was not how she wanted to live. She quit waitressing a couple of years ago.
With the extra time, an old habit returned — reading. She picked up one of the Twilight Saga books by Stephanie Meyer. The story ignited her dream to be an author. Banks said, “This sounds horrible, I thought, ‘If she can write a book then I can write a book and get published.’ This makes me sound like a jerk — I don’t have that feeling towards her. One day she’s going to punch me in the face for that, and I’m going to let her because it makes it sound like, obviously, anyone can be published.”
To get to the author’s stage, she learned from rejection. Agents turned down her debut attempt, a story for adults. Unable to get her foot in the door, she decided to find the right formula, because she believed in her writing style. “I guess I’m a really good liar, because I can put it down on paper that way,” Banks said. “I can not only tell you a lie, I can show you a lie and really elaborate — something you need to be able to do as a writer.”
Relentless, she switched gears and submitted a manuscript for young adults to 30 literary agents. The mermaid tale, “Of Poseidon,” starts in Destin. One of the characters works at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. “I knew I had something — wasn’t sure if I had thesomething,” said Banks.
About to board a cruise ship with her four sisters, a call from New York literary agent Lucy Carson launched Banks’ career. “Anna’s writing stood out immediately because she has that incredibly rare combination: narrative voice infused with humor and warmth, but it never compromises the weight and emotional heft of poignant moments,” said Carson. “She doesn’t worry about trend — her books have real heart.”When Banks stopped working as a banker in March, many of her days were spent writing. Yet, she says of her 3,000 words a day goal, “Sometimes it’s like squeezing blood from a tree.”
The Air Force brat and youngest of six siblings was born in Marion, Virginia, and moved to the area when she was a tot. She attended Valparaiso Elementary School and Lewis Middle School. “Ms. Nancy Huerkamp, my eighth grade teacher, taught me so much about writing and sentence structure,” she said. “Ms. Sharon Johnson, my high school teacher, is the one that taught me you could have a voice in writing, not just sentence structure.”
Achieving her dream was only a matter of when she decided to make the effort. “I never took steps to do it, nor did I believe in myself enough to see what could happen,” she said. “Just don’t give up on your dream no matter how unlikely it seems — don’t give up.” Her first adult submission, “Degrees of Wrong,” has since been published under the pseudonym Anna Scarlett, and Banks plans for more, much more.
The following is an excerpt from “Of Triton,” Anna Banks’ first novel.
I used to love this about my parents. I’d come home from school and the car would already be packed. We’d take off without a destination, me and Mom and Dad and sometimes my best friend Chloe. Just driving and seeing and stopping when we wanted to see more. Museums and national parks and little specialty stores that sold things like plaster castings of Sasquatch footprints. We fell victim to Dad’s hobby as an amateur photographer, forced to hold touristy poses for the camera and the sake of memories. To this day, our house is practically wallpapered with past road trips — pictures of us giving one another bunny ears or crossing our eyes and sticking out our tongues like asylum patients.
The car jolts, sending my thoughts chasing after each other in a hazy race. Memories churn in a kind of mental whirlwind, and a few clear images pause and magnify themselves, like still life photos of a normal day. Mom, doing dishes. Chloe, smiling at me. Dad, sitting at the kitchen table. Galen, leaving through the back door.
Wait. Galen …
All the images line up, filing themselves in order, speeding up, animating the still shots into a movie of my life. A movie that shows how I came to be buckled in Mom’s car, groggy and confused. That’s when I realize that this is not a McIntosh family road trip. It couldn’t be.”