Jenna Black who is a writer in the field of Urban Fantasy, has currently released REPLICA, her first book in a new dystopian Young Adult series. Despite a busy schedule she takes the time for an e-mail interview with SF-Fan.de.
Black, who originally studied Physical Anthropology, always wanted to be the next Jane Goodall until she did actual field studies and made the shocking discovery that primates spend 80% of their time doing such thrilling things like eating and sleeping. Disenchanted by this experience she started writing technical documentaries, grooming dogs or travelling all continents while working on her career as a professional writer. She is now a fulltime-writer and lives with her husband in North Carolina.
This Interview has also been translated into german.
Max Krausmann: When and why did you decide to become a professional writer and who has influenced you the most?
Jenna Black: I wrote my first „book“ when I was ten, so I’ve pretty much been a professional writer all my life. When I was in college, I planned to get my PhD in the field of physical anthropology and was sure I was going to become a researcher. Eventually, I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my life, so
I had to rethink things. The one constant in my life had been a love for reading and writing, so becoming a professional writer seemed like the right choice.
It took me a long time to make that dream come true. The „first“ novel I published was actually the 18th I’d written over the course of about 16 years of seriously trying to get published. I owe a lot of my eventual success to Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who led a great workshop that helped me expand my horizons and really take control of my career.
Before REPLICA you’ve quickly gained reputation among Young Adult Readers and Urban Fantasy Fans. When did you decide to give Science-Fiction a try and how did you come up with the story?
I’ve always written both science fiction and fantasy. It’s just that none of my previous science fiction novels were published. So it’s not really a change for me, nor was there a specific decision to change genres. REPLICA is actually based on one of my earlier science fiction novels, which used the same concepts – the ability to produce human replicas and corporations run like hereditary monarchies – but had a very different plot and (mostly) very different characters.
Is there a difference in writing SF and (Urban) Fantasy?
Not for me. It’s all about writing in a world where impossible things happen. The only real difference is that in fantasy, the impossible happens because of magic, and in science fiction it happens because of science.
REPLICA introduces a gay leading part, luckily without meeting the prevalent clichés. Even though target groups are changing, Science Fiction traditionally still aims at a straight male readership.
Did you plan to incorporate a gay character from the very beginning and what was your intention? Have you gotten any bad comments from either parents or religious groups?
I didn’t go into writing REPLICA with any particular agenda, nor was I specifically planning to write about a gay protagonist. However, I did know I was going to have a setup for an arranged marriage, and when I started thinking about how I wanted the relationship between the two parties to work, I thought of making the hero gay. The complications that would introduce into the relationship were too much fun to resist, so that’s why I went with it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that (so far), I haven’t seen any negative reaction to Nate’s sexual orientation. A public high school in my state even decided to teach the book in their advanced English class, which was a big surprise to me considering I live in the South, which is notoriously conservative.
That said, I don’t go looking for reviews or comments, so there may well be negative ones out there I don’t know about. I’m perfectly happy not to know about them.
Screen adaptions of Young Adult books taking place in a fantasy or SF environments like TWILIGHT, THE HUNGER GAMES or recently DIVERGENT to name but a few, have become extremely successful the last years. Are there any plans to make REPLICA into a film?
Not at this time. My film agent is trying find a home for it, but so far no nibbles.
What book/film/writer did you find most fascinating when YOU were a Young Adult? Has it always been SF/Fantasy or did you enjoy other genres as well?
I „discovered“ SF/Fantasy when I was in high school. I read and fell in love with Lord of the Rings, and I’ve been reading SF/Fantasy ever since. However, I have always been a multi-genre reader. As a young adult, I was actually quite fond of classics, perhaps only because I had so much exposure to them through school.
I read popular fiction, too, but whenever I’d get a school reading list full of classics, I’d read more of them than were assigned to me just because I loved books in general.
What’s your favorite book/film/writer in general (both SF and Non-SF)? What are you currently reading?
I always have trouble answering favorite book/author questions (and my answer is different every time), so I’ll talk about favorite films instead. My all-time favorite is probably The Princess Bride. There is something so sweet and charming about it, and it can put a smile on my face even when I’m in a bad mood. My favorite non-SF is Dangerous Liaisons. The dialog is just so brilliant, so full of double-entendres and hidden meaning. Plus the main characters are so deliciously evil–in ways that still make them at least sometimes sympathetic. The book I finished most recently is Cruel Beauty by debut author Rosamund Hodge. It’s a beautiful version of the Beauty and the Beast story with a wonderfully flawed heroine.
Do you personally prefer printed books or E-Books?
I have a pretty strong preference for printed books. I love having something to hold in my hand and to display on my bookshelves when I’m finished. I also find I remember books I’ve read in print better than books I’ve read in e-book format. That said, I do love the instant gratification of e-books, and my bookshelves are so overstuffed that practicality insists I not buy everything in print.
Currently REPLICA is only available in English. Are there any plans for a translation into German or any
The translation rights for REPLICA are held by my publisher, and so far they have not made any foreign rights sales. It’s always possible that will change, but it’s something over which I have no control.
Thank you very much for this interview and we are looking forward to reading REVOLUTION this fall.
© Max Krausmann