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Even though her books are works of fantasy, Banks says it’s impossible to separate her personal views from the writing process. “I’ve been on panels with other vampire writers and we all tend to write what our particular rant of the day is,” she says. “Even if you have the most ghoulish antihero, you’ll find that the justice you impose on that character will come from your belief system.”

Banks says she loosely modeled her books’ vampire council on corporations like Halliburton. “The vampires happen to be old white men in hell, pulling the strings globally for war, and they drink black blood, which models oil. And I have a problem with gangland violence, especially in Philadelphia. So I made the drug dealers vampires, too. My team of superheroes—the Guardians of the Light—at one point they look at each other and say we could do this all of our lives and we could blow away these vampires, but they’re going to keep coming back unless we find the systemic cause of where they’re coming from.”

Whatever her personal philosophy is, Banks’ community involvement likely contributed to her selection as one of Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in Business—an honor bestowed each year by the Department of Community and Economic Development. “I don’t just sit in my office as a hermit and send my books to the publisher,” Banks says. She’s spoken at prisons and other places to promote literacy in the community, and even helped create a curriculum for high-school students at the request of a couple of North Miami teachers who were struggling to get urban kids to read fantasy novels. They liked the books’ “anti-drug, responsible-sex” messages and the fact that the main character abstains from sex until she’s an adult. (As a Neteru, she must do so to allow her powers to fully ripen.) “I’m so sick of seeing these young girls running around here getting pregnant before they can finish college,” Banks says. “It ruins their superpowers.”

On the way to acquiring her own superpowers, Banks grew up at 48th and Osage—essentially in Penn’s backyard. Her father, who worked for the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, “used to fuss all the time about how it wasn’t fair how the students kind of took over the area and they didn’t have a sense of community and they got preferential treatment by the cops and everybody else,” she says. “Yet once I became a student down the street, he was so proud of [his] daughter going to Penn. It was totally a love-hate relationship.”

Her parents had saved $2,500 to send Banks to college, and now she was looking at a $25,000 student loan to pay back. As a marketing and management major, she chose the most lucrative path open to her and went to work for Xerox. Ultimately, it helped her lop off the loan debt, and more.

The Wharton and corporate training she received “kept me understanding that [writing] was a business and what I was creating was a product for a specific market,” Banks says.

FEATURE:
Marketing the Macabre By Susan Frith

 

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