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 rea
lity 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 vill
ain 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 crimina
l 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
2. What drew you to write thriller and mystery novels?
Well, as the great Robert Louis Stevenson
once said, You can only write what you would read if so
meone else had written it. So when I chose
to be a writer, or should I say when writing chose me, I gravitated to what came most naturally to me.
I’d grown up reading all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond
novels while away at camp for the summer, this
after falling in love with the early films starring
Sean Connery as Bond. The structure of those films
has been more influential in my writing than any oth
er individual factor. As I got older while in college,
I began devouring the books of Stephen King, Robert
Ludum, Clive Cussler and David Morrell—all
great storytellers above everything else, and I realized that’s what I wanted to be too.
3. When did you first start writing?
This is kind of interesting, because not until college at Brown
University. And even then I never took a writing class. I majored in English and American Literature
and fell under the influence of some incredible professors who introduced me to the novel, the whole
concept of structure. Around the same time, I realized
how much I actually loved the process of
writing. I did a term paper on
that the professor liked so much he recommended I try
publishing it. A light bulb went off in my head and
from that day I’ve been obsessed with seeing my
name in print, especially in big bold letters on my book covers! I actually wrote my first novel as a
senior thesis. It wasn’t very good, but I proved to
myself I could do it and was able to work out all he
kinks while receiving course credit for it. The best of
both worlds, you might say and I remain
eternally indebted to Brown for providing the libera
l educational experience that allowed to be what
I’ve become. It was always about the process and I fell in love with starting with the a blank page of
paper and watching what happens from there.
What are your other interests besides writing?
I’m a gym rat, especially when it comes to
weightlifting. Healthy mind, healthy body as the saying goes. I also remain very active at Brown
volunteering in any number of capacities that allow me to remain close to the undergraduate
community. I’m Alumni President of my own fraternity,
Delta Phi, and serve as Alumni Advisor to
Brown’s entire Greek System. I’m also Vice President
of the Brown Football Association and sit on
the board of the Friends of the Library. Libraries
are another passion of mine, as they should be for
all writers. Libraries are ambassadors of the writ
ten word and its sustenance and at Brown I organize
big events around name authors like George R.R. Mart
in to share my love for books and the place of
books within pop culture as a whole. I also serve on
the board of the International Thriller Writers
organization, ITW, because another passion of mine is
helping to promote our genre in general and
ITW member authors in particular. ITW’s mission sta
tement is all about the haves helping the not-
yet-haves in a very difficult profession and I remain
very passionate about that as well.
When do you find the time to write?
Well, it’s my job. When does a doctor find the time, a
lawyer or a teacher? Just because I love what I do doe
sn’t make it any less of a job, any less of a
profession. I can’t see my name in those big bold le
tters if I don’t write the book. I’m very disciplined
about my work but, fortunately, I also write very fast
to the point where I can finish a first draft in 7-8
weeks. Of course, great books are made in the rewrit
e process and that’s where I truly excel. To me
the first draft is about getting it down and the re
st of the process is about getting it right. And that’s
the thing about a career as a writer. It’s not just
the writing, but also the promoting, the conferences
the book festivals, the signings, Twitter, interview
s, Q & As. But here’s the thing about me: I enjoy
of that, every part of it, especially any opportunity
I have to interact directly with my readers.
Where is your favorite place to write?
The second bedroom in my townhouse is my office and
it’s pretty much where I do all my writing. The key in this business, any business to some extent, is to
find your comfort zone—where, how and when you best excel.
I know where all the bodies are buried
in my office and it’s very easy for me to bounce around between different things demanding my
attention because I’ve laid all the clutter out in a
way that facilitates that. I’ve got everything placed
just where I want it and where it needs to be. If
only life could be that simple!
You have written a number of series; is this one of
your favorite to write?
Frankly, no, that
would be my Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series. I’m not saying the books in that series are better than
because I think in many ways
is the most ambitious and best
realized book in terms of vision I’ve ever written.
I’m talking about the process.
work for hire and I have an obligation to serve the
needs of the Tyrant character’s creator, Fabrizio
Boccardi. That robs this series, and me, of the spontaneity that defines me as a writer, since I don’t
outline. Writing with someone looking over your shoulder isn’t nearly as fun or gratifying. But, that
said, the end result of both this book and its prequel,
The Seven Sins, proves I’m capable of adapting.
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 com
promise toward telling the best story we
possibly can. It may drive me crazy at times, but the ends justify the means.
How do you approach writing a book like
It all starts with the hero, Michael
Tiranno. I started
with the premise that in the five years since the events depicted in
The Seven Sins, Michael hasn’t changed very much. He’s still pretty
much the same man we left at
the end of the first book, a tyrant consumed by his desire to expand his empire and holdings. The
whole essence of
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 t
he 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. So 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 hi
m the most. My point is your hero defines the
very nature of a book with the sprawl and ambition of
Black Scorpion. The book will rise or fall based
on how the audience responds to him and you have to approach a book like this with that in mind.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you, because
without you I’m nothing. I can only be a writer if
you’re reading what I’ve written. And I remain
extremely humbled by the whole nature of the relationship between the writer. It’s a sacred pact, not
much different than reading or telling a child a bedtime story. It comes with an intimacy that defies
explanation. That a reader is wiling to bring me,
through my work, into their lives by letting me
entertain them, sweep them away from the mundane world into one of my own creation, brings with it
an awesome responsibility and the very worst thing I
can do as a writer is disappoint my audience—
the moral equivalency of breaking that sacred pact.
Tell us where we can find your book and more inform
ation 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
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 f
act 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 b
y his father, the great King David. And
that reality filled him with the awesome scope of the r
esponsibility 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 wa
gon 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 carr
ying 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 l
ocks of shiny brown hair and
finely etched features that looked chiseled onto his f
ace. He’d just nodded off, dreaming of
Jerusalem, imagining the lanterns lighting the city twin
kling 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 fiftee
n-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 S
olomon 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
The Temple of Solomon had taken nearly eight years to b
uild, 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 reaso
n, since it would be housing the vast
stores of priceless treasures amassed by the Jewish people t
hrough time. What Solomon had
kept secret from all but his most trusted cadre was the con
struction of a special chamber within
the temple called Kodesh Hakodashim, or Holy of Holie
s. This would house the ark of the
covenant, containing the remains of the stone tablets t
hat held the actual Ten Commandments,
along with the contents carried in the rear of the sim
ple farmer’s wagon approaching now.
It drew close enough to reveal the snorting of the hor
ses and pounding of their hooves
atop the roadbed that was dry and cracking from the long
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