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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jake Black

Jake Black has written for several popular franchises and characters including Smallville, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Twilight, Star Trek, and many others.  He is also the author of Marvel Comics’ Ender-series comic books Gold Bug, War of Gifts, and Recruiting Valentine. He lives in a quiet Utah town with his wife and son.

In this exclusive interview, we talk with Jake Black regarding his latest book, The Authorized Ender Companion.



Hi Jake! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you become acquainted with Science Fiction?

I’m

glad to be here! I’ve always been interested in the more fantastic

genres. Some of my first memories include seeing the original STAR WARS

movies in theaters, watching the “Super Friends” cartoons, etc. When I

was 8, I became a big Star Trek fan. Through these more mainstream

sci-fi shows, I started down the path to more “pure” sci-fi, including

reading books by Orson Scott Card, Jane Yolen, and numerous others.

What was the appeal of the genre for you?

I think it was the intelligent escapism it represented. Sci-fi requires

a certain depth of understanding and higher level of intelligence, I

think, to really enjoy. It is also a wonderful escape from the harsh

realities in the world in which we live.

How were you first introduced to Ender’s Game, the novelette or the novel?

I

had a friend in school who read it, and its sequels Speaker for the

Dead and Xenocide, and because of my interest in sci-fi, he

introduced them to me. It was the novel that was first. I actually

didn’t even read the original story until 2006!

What was the appeal of the Ender series for you?

Ender is a very powerful character. His emotional journey through his

boyhood, up to his 3,000-year-long life, is very human. There’s a

connection to be made for every reader at some point in the story, and

“in.” I believe so strongly in the potential of humanity, and Ender

represents a lot of that potential. These connections and feelings drew

me to the series.

How did you get involved in writing The Authorized Ender Companion?

About

five or six years ago, I worked on a comic book adaptation of one of

Orson Scott Card’s other, non-Ender novels Wyrms which was published

by Marvel. I worked closely with Mr. Card, and it was a positive

experience. He was pleased with how Wyrms turned out, and asked me if

I’d be interested in writing the Ender Companion. Since my degree was

in history, I felt like I could bring some solid research skills,

treating like an historical research project, albeit fictional,

futuristic history!

What was the research process like?

I began by reading the entire series–all the novels, short stories,

and novellas–once through just to get an idea of the overall story.

From there I reread the series, and this time created a master list of

every entry to be included in the encyclopedia portion of the book.

Then, I sat down with each entry into the series and really read

closely, dissecting each chapter and writing up each entry as I went.

There was an extra challenge as several short stories and a couple of

books were added to the series in this period.

Wow. Was all that information stored in your computer? Or do you have notebooks and Post-It Notes scattered everywhere?

I used a lot of spreadsheets, and text documents. And the occasional Post-It!

What made you decide to go with encyclopedia-like entries?

That was what the project was designed to be. A reference to the entire

Ender’s series. When we discussed it, we referred to it as the

“Enderpedia.”

Did you get to collaborate with Orson Scott Card on any section of the book?

Orson Scott Card was involved

every step of the way. I double checked lists, asked a lot of

clarification questions about seemingly contradictory elements within

the series, etc. He also wrote the introduction to the book, and was

the one who chose the other essays and their authors. Like I said

before, he and I have a very good, very collaborative relationship.

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

That’s easy: the sheer vastness of the Ender’s Universe. There was so

much information spread over a dozen books and more short stories.

Collecting every piece and being as thorough and accurate as possible

was, at the outset, seemingly insurmountable.

The most rewarding?

Once it was done, and I looked at the aforementioned vastness as a

conquered mountain, the feeling of accomplishment I got from it was the

most rewarding part. Either that, or when my friend Jordan Hamessley

(who’s listed in the acknowledgements for her love of all things Ender)

called it “Epic.” That was pretty good, too.

As Card writes more stories and novels, will you be updating the book? (Or releasing a new version in the future?)

That’s the plan, I believe. There’s already info to input from the

Marvel comic book adaptations of the Ender’s series, including info

from an original comic story, Recruiting Valentine.

Are you planning to collaborate with Card in the future? More comics or novels perhaps?

I very much hope so. I’ve had a great time working with him. I have an

adaptation of Ender’s Game: War of Gifts coming from Marvel next

month. And I hope there will be more in the future. In the meantime,

I’m continuing to work as the “Story Consultant” on the Ender’s Game

comics, by virtue of my work on the Companion book.

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