Jesse Banner

YA, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Speculative Fiction, Mystery, Dystopia

Debut author of the YA Novel To Hover Over Waters, full of magical realism and mystery

Jesse Banner is the author of To Hover Over Waters, the first book in a series about children who have magically and mysteriously been made invisible to the world around them. Drawing inspiration from a variety of books and movies, he wrote the novel as an exploration of purpose, belief and culture from a kid’s point of view. Jesse hopes to share this and other novels, novellas and random stories. He is an avid reader, writer and storyteller. He enjoys writing for the ability it has to create worlds and open doors to new possibilities. When he is not writing or reading, he is hiking, camping or really doing anything outdoors. A movie fanatic, he uses any opportunity to recommend, discuss and randomly quote cinema in everyday life. He has worked for a variety of educational and trauma-centered youth organizations. After graduating from Truman State University with a degree in Psychology, he worked with The Covering House — an abolition nonprofit against human trafficking — for four years. Outside of publishing, he is currently moving to the west coast to begin working with Pali Institute, an outdoor education organization in the San Bernardino Forest.

Your biggest literary influences:

Cormac McCarthy, Gabriel García Márquez, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling.

Last book read:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

The book that changed your life:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I picked it up because the cover advertised the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. Reading it, I discovered a bleak plot which was not usually my kind of book. There was little backstory and less to hope for what lay ahead for the characters. And yet, I could not stop reading. It changed my life because it was the first book I read as art — a lesson in writing as a craft. I learned that an author can have a unique, recognizable style. I can spot McCarthy’s minimal punctuation and poetic prose the same way I could recognize Picasso by his painting or Roger Deakins by his cinematography.

Your favorite literary character: 

Lila Cerullo from the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. Across the quartet — My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child — readers live the full breadth of a lifelong friendship. Even though the stories are narrated by Elena, I found her friend Lila to be the more compelling character. We meet her as the naturally brilliant classmate with whom Elena must compete. Stifled by poverty, circumstance and pride, Lila must stay while Elena leaves their poor neighborhood and succeeds in the city. Elena goes away but Lila is always close in spirit as her competitor, partner, saboteur and savior. I always found myself waiting for her character to reappear. She is nuanced. She is loving. She is rash; I could never tell what she was going to do next, but it usually broke my heart. 

Currently working on:

A speculative fiction novel about a man’s alternative lives and realities. He lives the answers to the question “What If?” It is a story told through what did not happen.

Words to live by:

Make your own mantra.

Advice for aspiring authors:

Write every day. Just write.

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