Daniel Banner is the author and collaborator on bestselling firefighter and Navy SEAL series. He writes clean romance with a good dose of suspense and action. He is also my amazing editor, who has worked with several bestselling authors.
He is an 18-year fireman and paramedic, collects experiences by day and makes up stories by nights, and sometimes vice versa. For Daniel, writing is an escape from the traumatic days, and a celebration of the triumphant days.
Q. I am intrigued by how you described your morning so far. Fixing breakfast for your daughter who turned 18. Can you expand on that? As in, what is your job / writing / family routine?
A. My oldest turned 18 today (so exciting!) and she requested omelets. And I don’t mind saying, I can cook a delicious omelet.
Q. Aww. Nice. Happy birthday to her!
A. Thanks! Two days a week I am at the fire station and doing my routine there. When I’m home, I get up early to play basketball, and get home to high five the kids and my wife on their way out the door, then I settle in and write until they get home.
Q. Let’s start at the beginning… how did you get started writing?
A. I didn’t even know I could be a writer until I was 30. The first year I started writing fiction was in 2007. I had done all sorts of side jobs in addition to being a firefighter/paramedic including construction, teaching CPR classes, and owning a mortgage company. But once I realized writing was an actual job that people actually did, I was hooked. It’s been my passion since the first day I sat down and wrote my first word.
Q. So bring us back to that year you turned 30. What happened that got you writing?
A. A friend of mine entered a short story contest and I remember thinking, “You’re not a writer, you can’t just … write. Oh wait. I guess you can. Hey, if you can write, I can write.” It was a switch in my head from one second to the next.
I spent the next two years studying writing, listening to podcasts, collecting ideas, but it wasn’t until I went to a writing convention that I guess I overcame my fear, because I came home that night, sat in front of my laptop, and took off writing. Haven’t stopped since!
Q. What was your first story?
A. I started in Fantasy, because that’s what I read growing up. After a few years, I got involved as an editor for a group of clean romance authors and they invited me to write a firefighter series with them, so I jumped in.
Q. When did you start writing in that series?
A. The first book in the Park City Firefighter Romance Series came out in early 2017. Over the last two years I have published about 10 books in the genre.
Q. You chose to write as a man (sorry, I know that sounds odd as I phrased that), but I know of other male authors who use a female pen name. Can you explain your decision to write as a man? For romance.
A. Great question. I had some authors recommend that I use a female, or an ambiguous pen name, but I did choose to use a male pen name. I know I bring a different perspective to romance, and I hope it’s something my readers realize and appreciate. Five of my books are firefighter books, and since I’ve been a firefighter for 18 years, my experience and perspective definitely shines through in those series.
Looking back, I think I could have been slightly more successful if I had used a female name, but I don’t have any regrets. I’ve built up a bit of a following with people who seem to enjoy reading romance written by a man. I do use female editors, and they always help me get the romance right from a woman’s perspective. And I edit about 50 romance books a year, all written by women, so I’m able to lend a man’s perspective.
Q.Let’s talk about firefighters for a minute.
A. I love talking firefighting! You sure you want to get me started???
Q. Ha ha, just for a bit because I want to get to swoony romance advice. I went to a community emergency training one day recently, and a bunch of ambulance personnel were training. They streamed into the hallway, and I swear, they looked like cover models for firefighter romances. For an aspiring author of these romances, not having your background, how do you recommend to start research? Can we just go to the station and find firefighters hanging out, or…?
A. I say find someone and pick their brain. Like I said above, I love talking firefighting. Buy a firefighter dinner, or a drink if that’s your thing, and just ask questions. I’ve done a few sessions like that with my fellow Park City Firefighter Romance authors, and they always come up with great questions. Everything from: What’s your daily routine? What’s the best thing about being a firefighter? What’s the worst thing about being a firefighter? I think that goes for just about any profession. Tell people you’re an author and they’ll open right up.
If you don’t know any firefighters, I’d say ask around. And if you absolutely strike out, it wouldn’t hurt to drop by your local fire station and ask if there is a time any of them would be willing to be interviewed for a book series. Chances are you’ll find a few guys who are willing.
Q. Great! You mentioned about editing. I have always appreciated the work you’ve done for me and my romances. As you have edited for others, what are some recurring things that you wish authors could incorporate in their stories from the get-go? I am thinking specifically for romance.
A. Thanks, Jewel! Two things come to mind right off. The first one is a problem that I personally have–Don’t be afraid to make your characters suffer. We NEED conflict in the story, or else it just coasts along, and eventually sputters and dies. Get the characters close to each other, then put something in their way. It’s that constant ‘almost there’ that keeps a story going. Like many authors, I love my characters and it’s hard to hurt them sometimes, but they need that suffering and that struggle or their story isn’t worth telling. Jewel, I’m sure you can attest that as an editor I cheer when the characters hopes are dashed, or when their life dream crashes and burns, because I know the redemption is going to be oh so sweet.
Q. Yes, you are a meanie that way.
A. The second thing to think about is “What do these characters NEED from each other? What lack do they have that the other one fills?” (And to be honest, it’s more important in romance that the woman finds the key to whatever is missing in her life, more than that the man gets what he deeply needs, but that’s a separate issue.)
Look at your character’s biggest flaw/weakeness/insecurity, and build their partner so that he/she fills that gap as if hand-carved to go there. I could give examples from some great love stories of characters that do this for each other, but the best illustration is the line from Jerry Maguire: “You .. complete me.” It’s SO trite, but it’s so true. Find out what completes your character and give them that person in their relationship (AFTER you make them work really really hard for it.)
Another thing I harp on all the time is Insurmountable Obstacles. This ties in with conflict, but the reader should know what this giant, Insurmountable Obstacle is between the characters. In almost all successful romance I’ve read, the characters want to be together (maybe not at the beginning, but eventually) but there is this super giant thing between them. And the climax of the book, the most satisfying moment, is when one of them learns how to overcome it, or bashes the obstacle away, or somehow finds the courage to get past it. And it’s a huge sweet payoff because we’ve been struggling right along with the characters for so long.
Q. Yes on the IO. I love ending the romance on that amazing note. You always advise me to ratchet up the swoon in my romances. What are some ways to add that to stories?
A. Yeah, that’s another thing that I have to work on, including plenty of romance. There is the physical, of course — the two character noticing each other’s physique, touching hands, kissing, being near each other, etc, and that’s important. I think a huge part of it is remember what the A plot of the story is. (Hint: it’s the romance.) If you have them stranded on a desert island, or trying to get past an ex-fiance who showed up suddenly, or trying to find gold in the mountains of 1800s California, remember that all of the plots that aren’t romance are B and C plots, and the only reason they are there is to support the A plot. So it’s not a survival story, or a mining story, or even an ex-girlfriend story. It’s a love story with other elements that work to simultaneously drive the character apart AND drive them together.
So when the love interest walks into the room, he doesn’t notice the gold dust in her hand, or the giant fish she just caught, he notices things about how she looks at him, how she looks in general, how she makes him feel. Then they can move on to the B and C details.
(That isn’t a 100% rule, but romance should always be on the forefront of an author’s mind, and therefore on the characters’ minds.)
Q. My husband was floored that a male editor notices these things. And pushes for swoon. Is it Valentine’s day in your house all the time? Flowers and all?
A. Bahahaha! Do I have to answer this one?? Nah, I’ve been reading and editing romance for a long time (even before I did it professionally, I was in writing groups with romance authors.) I know what works in the genre, I know what is expected. Romance isn’t my preferred genre to read, though I do appreciate a good love story in other fiction that I read, but like I said, I know what the genre demands.
And I’ve been married for 21 years (which is pretty good for a job with such a high divorce rate) so I think my wife and I are both doing something right. More her than me, I’d say 🙂
Q. Ah, okay! Do you plan on watching “Isn’t it Romantic?”
A. Yes, I will see Isn’t it Romantic. My wife isn’t really into movies so we don’t see a ton, but I love movies and she loves Rebel Wilson, so that one’s on the list.
Q.21 years…that is awesome! As an aside, why is there such a high divorce rate in your field of work?
A. Firefighting is a great job, but it isn’t an easy job. Studies show that women struggle when they are away from their spouse for 24 hours, and it takes a solid 24 hours to reconnect once you are back together. Add to that all the emotional baggage we firefighters bring home and it can make us hard to live with I think. That’s the answer according to Daniel, but there are probably a hundred additional reasons.
Q. Let’s talk collaboration…
A. Ok, collaboration! Another great topic.
Q. What are the pros and cons of collaborating? Any advice for those considering this?
A. For me it’s been pro, pro, pro. I was lucky enough to be friends (and an editor) for three amazing, established authors: Cami Checketts, Christine Kersey, and Taylor Hart. So when they invited me to be part of their firefighter series, it was like an instant audience for me with my first romance book. I am and always will be grateful to them. (Of course, I had worked my butt off for a decade learning everything I could about writing, being part of writing groups, actually writing and publishing books, so I had put the work in to get the skills.)
But it’s not necessary to jump in with established authors. You can join collaborations with all levels of authors and grow together. Some of the cons can be working with people who don’t have the same goals/investment in the project as you do. But in general, shared worlds are an excellent way to grow your list and share readers with similar writers.
Q.Any additional advice navigating collaborations?
A. Be as clear as possible up front before you even start discussing any details of the world. It’s better to step on some toes and realize you aren’t perfect for each other before you get too deep into a project.
Q. Do you use a specific type of structure for your suspense books? (question from my authors group)
A. I know a lot of authors use Save the Cat. I have my own type of outline that highlights (surprise:) the things I mentioned above–what do my characters need from each other on a soul-deep level, and what is the giant Insurmountable Obstacle between them. If I can get those in place, the action / suspense / tension comes naturally for me, since I have my roots in Fantasy. Sorry, not super helpful for someone looking for a system. Go with Save the Cat if you want better advice 🙂
Q. Sounds good. What is your biggest advice to romance authors writing a male POV?
A. Oooh, good question. My answer may surprise you. Remember your audience. Give women what they want, not necessarily what real life is. The guys are (hopefully) going to be more “perfect” than anyone we will ever meet, and that’s okay. As long as the female protagonist gets what she needs.
Here’s another tip about writing men: after your first draft, go through his dialogue and cut 25-50% of what he says. That’s one big problem I see is that the men talk like women. One easy way to remedy that is just cut any parts of his speech that aren’t totally necessary. It may end up feeling like caveman speech, but it will make him stronger and more authentic.
Q. LOL! I love that! Tell me a bit about a book you most recently launched or are planning to launch and why you are excited about it.
A. My Park City Firefighter Romance Collection is out, and it’s available (or will be soon) on all platforms: Kindle, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and even from libraries in the near future. It’s 5 Firefighter Romance books, written by a guy who’s been there. (In the fires, not the romances, lol.) I do address issues that firefighters face in love, like how to deal with a relationship when you are apart for days at a time, and how the stress and emotional trauma we face can affect a relationship.
Q. Nice! And my final question/s . Do you still write fantasy? Why or why not?
A. Yes I do! This year I’m launching a series of 10 Urban Fantasy books, starting around May 1. I love magic and the stories you can tell about the human condition with the parameters a world of magic allows.
Q. Wow! That’s great. Best of luck with that! Thank you so much Daniel. I really appreciate your time and great advice.
A. Thanks, Jewel. And can I give your books a quick shout out? I’ve never been to Europe, but the last couple of your books I’ve read have made me feel like I’m in Italy and Spain. And I love the characters you build and the needs/history they bring into a relationship. They feel so real!
Q. Thank you so much.
A. It was fun! I love chatting with other authors. Thanks for making me feel important.
Q. Have a fantastic day with your adult * gulp * daughter!
A. Lol, I’m super excited for her.
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