A Q&A with Jon Land, author of
Black Scorpion: The Tyrant Reborn
1. Can you tell us a bit about Black Scorpion: The Tyrant Reborn? I think it’s the most ambitious book I’ve ever done in terms of character, emotion and story. I say that not only because of its epic-like structure, but mostly because I’ve never written a book before that challenges its characters in so many ways. It challenges them with truth and the reality of their own natures contrasted against their fates, testing especially Michael Tiranno’s capacity to exceed his own limitations. He has become a classical, almost mythic hero in terms of the losses he suffers and stunning revelations about his own fate he must accept. All the while confronting a villain just as powerful as he is with whom he unknowingly shares an indelible bond. Great villains, they say, make great heroes and that’s truly the case here as Michael confronts an all-powerful criminal organization with a plot to do incredible harm to the country and world in the offing. To stop them, Michael must become a different man than he is when the book starts out, he must evolve, literally, into something more and accepting that fate comes to define both him as a hero and the story as a whole.
2. This book takes place 5 years after Book One. As a writer, what was it like to make that time jump? It wasn’t as hard as it seems because I started with the premise that in those five years, Michael hasn’t changed very much. He’s still pretty much the same man we left at the end of The Seven Sins, a tyrant consumed by his desire to expand his empire and holdings. The whole essence of Black Scorpion is watching him evolve into something entirely different—still a tyrant, yes, but a tyrant for good. A superhero without a mask or cape. We watch his view of his entire place in the world change, forced upon him by the shattering truths and tragedy he encounters along the way. And in that respect his quest changes from the pursuit of riches and power to self-fulfillment and self-actualization.
3. What is your favorite character trait about Michael Tiranno? That’s the perfect follow-up to the last question, because the answer lies in the essence of his character in both books as defined by witnessing the murder of his parents as a young boy. He knows what it’s like to feel weak, powerless and vulnerable. And now, above everything else, Michael Tiranno’s character is defined by his obsession for standing up for those who can’ t stand up for themselves. Bullies aren’t confined to the schoolyard and he won’t tolerate them under any circumstances. He’s spent his life trying to find the security he lost that day his parents were murdered and once there he uses the power that comes with it to defend those who need him the most.
4. I’ve read that Tiranno is based on the character’s owner, Fabrizio Boccardi. How do you work with him to develop each story? It’s an extremely close relationship since we basically sweat every single plot development, every single scene—hell, every single line! It can be extremely frustrating at times because I’m used to working alone in a box without interference or micromanaging. Quite frankly, I don’t enjoy the process at all, but have to admit twice now it’s resulted in far better books than I could have written on my own. Fabrizio isn’t a writer or a storyteller and he doesn’t grasp all the intricacies of structure. But he has wonderful instincts that are right more often than not and form the perfect complement to my experience and talents. Look, Michael Tiranno is his baby. He turned him over to me to build but he could never be expected to let him go altogether. Ultimately, I think we work so well together because our passion is balanced by our willingness to compromise toward telling the best story we possibly can. It may drive me crazy at times, but the ends justify the means.
5. Without giving too much away—what was your favorite scene or chapter to write in Black Scorpion? Oh, wow, what a great question! And the answer occurred to me immediately: the scene on the farm where Michael was born where he meets the book’s villain Vladirmir Dracu, head of the sinister organization Black Scorpion, for the first time. It’s a turning point not only in this book, but in Michael’s entire life—his journey, his quest. A shattering revelation that comes on the heels of an equally shattering discovery about his own past. What this book does more than any other I’ve ever written is challenge its hero by taking him to the absolute brink. Force him to rethink everything there is so he has to evolve in order to deal with all he’s being confronted by. The only way he can survive is to remake himself into something entirely different than how he started out.
6. Did you have to do any special research to write this book? Yes, a ton. It’s always that way with thrillers that involve as much cutting edge technology as this one does. But so much of it is speculative, based not on what exists now but will eventually, that I’m essentially forced to go back to school on subjects I had very little knowledge of to start out. And not just pertaining to the villain’s world-threatening plot either. I had to figure out how to construct Black Scorpion’s lair inside a mountain, needed to concoct a away for a commando team to access from beneath a manmade lake in the climax. It’s all very James Bond-like and, as with Bond, with every challenge comes up a wonderful opportunity to do something no one’s ever done before.
7. What do you hope fans take away from or feel when reading this book? Oh man, that’s another great question! Wow, it was easy in the first book, The Seven Sins, because that one mostly followed the ultimate rags-to-riches story, so I wanted people to come away believing anything was possible. In Black Scorpion, the moral dilemmas and the morality itself is more complicated. Of course, first and foremost I want them to come away feeling they weren’t just entertained, but spirited away into the fabric of the story. But I want them to take away from that what makes a man a hero. That a man’s fate isn’t always his to define, as personified in Michael’s case by the mystical relic medallion that’s the one possession he has left from his family. It’s both his talisman and his curse, as it has been for other men of great power who’ve possessed it through history. And while that medallion might fuel Michael’s quest, ultimately that quest is about saving a woman he loves and preserving the world he has built he now wants to share with her. So as broad and ambitious as this book is, like all great stories, it’s ultimately very simple.
8. What is your favorite piece of feedback you have gotten about Michael Tiranno? (Laughs) That’s an easy one: “He’s an asshole, but I like him!” Of course, that’s from the first book. The feedback on the Michael Tiranno of Black Scorpion so far is that he represents the light confronting the ultimate forces of darkness. That’s exactly what I was striving for, in both cases, so I couldn’t be more happy.
9. Can you tell us if there is a Book Three in the works? Hey, here’s a short answer for a change: No, not yet. But there’s a whole bunch of happening in film and comic books. Stay tuned, as they say!
10. Tell us where we can find your book and more information about you. To use the cliché, accurate in this case, wherever books are sold or is most convenient for you. As for me, you can find me on the Web at jonlandbooks.com or follow me on Twitter @jondland. I promise to keep you entertained there too!
Northern Israel, 950 BC
“They come, oh great King.”
Solomon, weary and weak from going so long without rest, leaned heavily on the shoulder of his son as he emerged from inside his goat- hair tent. Already he and his private guard had fought off two ambushes. Bandits appeared to be to blame, but Solomon sus-
pected otherwise given their weaponry, skill, and the fact that they hadn’t fl ed when confronted.
Now his heart pounded with anticipation, but also with fear, in the night’s heat. He was so close now, so close to fulfilling the destiny shaped by his father, the great King David. And that reality filled him with the awesome scope of the responsibility before him, along with the price of failure.
He could not fail. The fate of his kingdom was at stake.
Solomon cast his gaze down the road to see a single wagon kicking up a dust cloud in its wake. Traveling under cover of darkness greatly lessened the threat of a raid by bandits and, in any event, at first sight the wagon seemed to be carrying nothing more than a farmer’s crops being taken to the open market in Jerusalem.
Solomon peeled back his beggar’s hood to reveal long locks of shiny brown hair and finely etched features that looked chiseled onto his face. He’d just nodded off, dreaming of Jerusalem, imagining the lanterns lighting the city twinkling in the night, when the captain of his private guard alerted him to the wagon’s coming.
Solomon eased his hand from the shoulder of his fifteen-year-old son Rehoboam as the wagon drew closer, so the boy wouldn’t feel him stiffen. “Keep a keen eye, my son, for our enemies are everywhere.”
“Father?” the boy said, sliding a hand to the knife Solomon had presented him on the occasion of his bar mitzvah. He was small for his age and a bit frail. But, as heir to the kingdom of Israel, he needed to be part of such a vital mission, no matter how perilous.
“They would seek to destroy this symbol of our people and the foundation of our future. With our temple complete, we have safe refuge for it at last.”
The Temple of Solomon had taken nearly eight years to build, requiring men and materials the likes of which had never been seen before in the known world. A staggering two hundred thousand workers had ultimately played a part in its construction, milled from vast quantities of local stone and imported cedar wood. It was a sprawling, palatial structure, perhaps the greatest ever erected— and with good reason, since it would be housing the vast stores of priceless treasures amassed by the Jewish people through time. What Solomon had kept secret from all but his most trusted cadre was the construction of a special chamber within the temple called Kodesh Hakodashim, or Holy of Holies. This would house the ark of the covenant, containing the remains of the stone tablets that held the actual Ten Commandments, along with the contents carried in the rear of the simple farmer’s wagon approaching now.
It drew close enough to reveal the snorting of the horses and pounding of their hooves atop the roadbed that was dry and cracking from the long drought Solomon took for God’s impatience. And, as if to reinforce that belief, he felt the first trickle of raindrops and took this as a good omen, until thunder rumbled in the distance and it became something much different.
This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.