My interview with Aaron Johnston

Text interviews with individuals of interest to the Ender's Game fan community.
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My interview with Aaron Johnston

Postby MavikVCT » Wed Aug 10, 2016 2:11 pm

I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Aaron Johnston, the writer of the First and Second Formic War Trilogies, over Twitter. (I've edited the conversation slightly.)

Minor spoilers for The Swarm ahead.

Q - Ender's Game Wiki (Me)
A - Aaron Johnston

Q: Hey there, Mr. Aaron Johnston. First off, thank you for following our Twitter! It's an honor to have one of the authors of the series interact with us.

In anticipation of the release of The Swarm, would you mind us conducting a brief interview with you over these direct messages about the Enderverse?

A: Sorry for the slow response on the interview request. I am currently in the Utah desert shooting a TV pilot. I am happy to answers questions if you are patient enough to tolerate my spotty cell reception.

Q: It's perfectly fine. I really appreciate you taking the time to interact! There's no rush, so you can answer any time you're available.

After the Second Formic War Trilogy is finished, do you plan to write or create other Enderverse-related content?

A: Yes. I've pitched an idea to Tor, our publisher, about a spin-off series that follows the adventures of one of the characters from the Second Formic War. Tor liked the concept and was interested. We'll see. Whether we pursue that depends largely on the success of this new trilogy, I'm sure. I won't say which character as that would reveal that he or she survives the war. And that would rob the reader of some of the suspense of this trilogy. But I'm excited about the prospect. When you spend so much time creating these characters, you can't help but develop a deep affection for them -- even the ones that frustrate you by the bad decisions they make. So I'm hopeful. I would love to see how this particular character's future unfolds.

Q: That sounds interesting! I'll be on the lookout as I read through the rest of The Swarm for new characters that show potential, as it could end up being the one you're mentioning here.

I know you were originally involved with Marvel before Orson Scott Card collaborated with you for the Formic Wars comic series and later the novels. What is different in making the comics and the books for the Enderverse, and what aspects of each medium did you enjoy the most?

A: Comics and novels are worlds apart. Comics are an exercise in brevity. There are only so many pages and so many panels allotted for each page. And the more dialogue you write, the more you annoy the artist because your dialogue will cover up more art. So you have to write concisely in comics. Scenes have be short, and the pacing is very fast. Also, comics today have mostly departed from the heavy narration you saw in the Golden Age. Comics now rely largely, if not exclusively, on dialogue. Novels are the opposite. A novelistic pace is obviously much slower. Scenes can be long. Mysteries unfold gradually. In third person limited point of view, we go inside a character's head and hear his thoughts and fears and impressions and plots. Thought balloons are almost nonexistent in comics today.

I enjoy both approaches, but for different reasons. It's thrilling to see an artist bring your story description and characters to life. And I enjoy the collaborative nature of comics. It's fun to work with talented people who are just as passionate about your story as you are. You really are creating it together. And I feed off that group dynamic. Novel writing, on the other hand, is a very solitary endeavor. You're all by your lonesome. But you also have the freedom to do whatever you want and deeply explore a character and her story.

Q: I enjoy both mediums as well. Books are always great, as reading and writing interests me greatly, but also the beautifully illustrated panels of comics supplies you with a far richer visual experience. If a certain story is represented in both novels and comics, like the Formic Wars, it's always intriguing to see how your imaginative perception of the novel's events compares to how the comic illustrator chose to visualize it.

I saw that in 2013, you and Orson Scott Card attended the LA Festival of Books and talked some about the Enderverse. From what I read, a Formic War TV series/movie was mentioned as a possibility. As that was quite awhile ago, what's the status on that project? As the First Formic War Trilogy is my favorite sub-series of the Enderverse, I'd love to see it represented on the big screen.

A: You're kind. I appreciate you being so supportive of the The Formic Wars. Sorry for my slow response. I've been on the road the past few days.
The Formic Wars TV show is not in development, sadly. It would have been a great run, I think, but Scott and I have focused our attentions elsewhere.
We just finished shooting a pilot for a different TV series, an original idea that Scott and I developed, one that I'm extremely excited about. I've been working on it for over a year now and being very tight-lipped.
We will know very soon if the network will pick up the series for a full season order. TV is such a volatile world, far more difficult than traditional publishing, so it may not happen. But I'm hopeful.
As soon as I can share the news, I will. Cross your fingers that it happens.

And I agree with your assessment on reading comics and reading books. Both offer unique perspectives and advantages. I enjoy both.

Q: I'm sorry to hear that - a Formic Wars TV series would have been great, especially because it would bring in a broader audience into the series.

However, I hope that this TV series you shot a pilot for goes well! With you and Orson Scott Card at the helm, it surely is bound to be something interesting.

Speaking of new projects, would you ever like to explore writing in another science fiction universe or create one of your own?

A: Yes. Definitely plan to write in another universe of my own creation. Absolutely. I'm so busy right now, and this is working so well for me that I'll continue to write in the Enderverse as long as fans and TOR and Scott allow. :)

Q: Sounds great! Your writing style always makes a great story, and I'll be looking forward to eventually seeing that universe come to life!

What is your favorite character from the Enderverse? For me, it has to be Lem Jukes - he has the most defined character arc that I have seen in the series.

A: Asking a writer to pick her favorite character is like asking a parent to pick her favorite child. I have affection for all of the characters. If I didn't I couldn't write them. But I'm glad you like Lem. I'm quite fond of him also. He keeps surprising me. I think that's why readers gravitate toward him. He's rather complex. Is he a good guy? A jerk? A manipulator? A softie? And the answer of course is yes.

Q: I see how it would be difficult to pick a favorite of your own created characters - I think that shows how much effort you put into your writing!

That's all the interview-like questions I and my community have come up with :)

However, there are a couple of minor topics that have cropped up over time in the community that I'm sure many would like to see addressed in some way. Since I have the opportunity, I'll give a few out here.

The biggest question fans have usually concerns Shadows Alive. With Orson Scott Card working on Fleet School, that project seems to have been pushed to the side. Is there anything new on the novel that can be said, if you are involved in any way?

A: I'm not involved with Shadows Alive or Fleet School, so I can't speak to that. Sorry.

Q: A little bit back, the "Ender's Game Revised Edition" was announced to fix some contradictions between that and newer novels. I've made the guess that that has been pushed back until the Second Formic War Trilogy has been completed, to have the Formic Wars's storyline set in stone before coming back to the original novel. Would that be a fair assumption?

A: That's probably correct. Once we finish the Second Formic Wars, I doubt any headway will be made on an Ender's Game revised edition.

Q: Finally, I noticed that near the end of *The Swarm*, Ketkar resigned as Polemarch and was replaced by Averbach. If I remember correctly, wasn't Averbach a MOP and died in *Earth Afire*? It may be a new character with the same name, but when I read that I was confused.

A: The original Averbach had brothers. The new Polemarch is one of them. Military family. Not uncommon. But very observant. Only the keenest of fans will catch that. Well done.
I was curious to see if anyone would see that. And you did.
There's another character in The Swarm that's related to someone else in Ender's Game. Mazer's attorney.

Q: Ah, I see. Thank you for the clarification!

You must be referring to Prem Chamrajnagar...I saw that she mentioned other "brothers and uncles" in the Fleet, and those must be the close relatives of the future Polemarch.

A: Yes. Prem. Mazer will remember that name.

I need to jump back to work. Script due in a few days for this TV project. Thank you so much for these questions and for supporting the series. Honestly. It's very rewarding to me as a writer to know that someone other than my wife and mother enjoy the series. :)

Q: Thank you for taking the time to have this interview! And good luck with the TV series!

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