The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Jenna Black

Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!

Today we’re joined by Jenna Black, author of the Faeriewalker series for teens as well as the Morgan Kingsley urban fantasy series. Replica, her YA SF romance series, continues with Resistance, available March 11th from Tor Teen. You can read an excerpt here on Tor.com, and catch Jenna on tour this March along with Mindee Arnett and Kristen Simmons!

Join us as we cover subjects ranging from elephants to robots, and more!

Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.

In my travels, I have ridden horses, mules, camels, and elephants. I can say definitively that elephants are the most uncomfortable riding animal I have ever experienced, especially as I was riding astride. Ouch!

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

Anything on a computer. I have a desktop computer that is devoted to writing—I do nothing else on that machine and have only the most minimal software installed. Then I have a laptop, which is what I use for email and promo and everything else under the sun. It’s amazing how many things I can find to do on that laptop when I don’t feel like writing.

The Internet is definitely one of my top time-wasters. I have a number of sites I check multiple times a day, looking for something to distract me. Twitter is one of the top culprits. Amazing how many times people tweet article links that I absolutely must click on. (And that I could probably scroll right past if it weren’t for the fact that I was supposed to be working.) I also love browsing for knitting patterns on Ravelry.com (no matter how many projects I already have on the needles) and playing games I download from BigFishGames.com.

Oh, and anytime I have a new release, much of that procrastination time is spent refreshing my Amazon.com listing so I can agonize over my ranking and reviews. Wish I could break myself of that one.

Resistance Jenna Black What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?

I read The Lord of the Rings when I was in high school, and that was when I fell in love with science fiction and fantasy. I had never experienced worldbuilding on that scale before, nor had a read a series that was so completely engrossing. I was almost obsessive in my love, and I had a notebook in which I wrote diary-like entries using Dwarvish and Elvish script because I thought they looked so cool. I imagine I would have been a super-nerdy fangirl of the movie if it had come out when I was growing up.

What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)

I’m a fan of many reality shows, although I have cut back recently and mostly only watch the talent show versions (like The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance). However, I still watch a lot of the cooking ones (Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef), even though I don’t like to cook. And I would hate to have to withstand the kind of criticism those poor contestants have to endure, especially on Hell’s Kitchen. I also watch The Amazing Race, which I don’t feel particularly guilty about. However, I used to watch Survivor every season, and I’m definitely guilty about having watched a season of The Bachelorette and part of the first season of Big Brother.

Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time.

I always tend to like villains who have redeeming qualities, or at least those who aren’t “typical” villains. I think one of my all time favorite villains has to be Boyd Crowder from Justified. He’s soft-spoken, surprisingly smart, and his sarcasm sometimes makes me laugh out loud. But he’s also got a heart, and he’s been through some terrible betrayals that make me feel sorry for him at times.

Another of my favorite atypical villains is the Mayor from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s not much on redeeming qualities, but his mannerisms are so very un-villain-like that I couldn’t help loving him. He’s always so chipper and pleasant, despite being seriously evil. I love the contrast between that cheerful demeanor and the evil within.

But my favorite villain of all has to be the Vicomte de Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons (the movie version particularly). He is such a wonderfully conscienceless, sly manipulator, and he makes no pretense of being a good guy. He knows who and what he is, and he doesn’t mind. What makes him especially interesting, though, is the complexity of his relationship with Madame de Tourvel, whom he has vowed to seduce as revenge against her husband, but whom he falls in love with. The incredibly self-destructive nature of his evil is fascinating to watch. And John Malkovich plays him to perfection.

Which language, real or fictional, would you like the ability to speak fluently? Who would you talk to?

I’d like to be able to speak Russian. I take ballroom dance lessons and have for many years. The vast majority of the teachers at my studio are from the Ukraine, and though they’re all fluent in English, some are more so than others—and most of them aren’t fluent when they first arrive. It would make some conversations a lot easier, especially with the newer teachers, if I could speak Russian.

What is your preferred robot noise? A) Beep, B) Boop.

Beep. All the way. Who’s ever heard of a robot saying “Boop”?

What’s your favorite fairy tale retelling?

My all-time favorite fairytale retelling is Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. It is so beautiful and heartbreaking—and incredibly clever. Becca’s beloved grandmother dies, and she finds herself delving into her grandmother’s mysterious past. No one knows what name her grandmother was born under, only that she emigrated to the US after WWII. And that she had an almost obsessive love of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.

Becca’s research leads her deep into the horrors of the Holocaust, and in slowly uncovering the truth, she discovers her grandmother lived a version of the fairytale in a gruesome and terrible way.

I’ve read the book I don’t know how many times, and I never get tired of seeing how the grandmother’s story is slowly revealed and how the parallels between her life and the fairytale unfold.

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