Award-winning journalist Jesse J. Holland, 46, has made the most of his opportunities, putting down toys in Holly Springs and graduating from his home state’s premier college, the University of Mississippi, then later receiving his Master of Fine Arts from Goucher College in 2012.
The author of several books, a professor of creative nonfiction, a former White House, Supreme Court and Congressional reporter, and a race and ethnicity writer for The Associated Press, he recently completed his commissioning by Marvel books to update the tale of T’Challa, the original Black Panther in “Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?” The novel gives both new fans and longtime, die-hard aficionados inside information for the upcoming “Black Panther” film which Marvel Studios will release nationwide in February 2018.
And while he says he always dreamed about becoming a professional writer and has been a comic book fan since the age of 5, he never imagined that he’d one day be writing a novel about one of his favorite fictional characters.
“I remember my dad buying one of my first comic books, The Avengers, and becoming hooked ever since,” said the Bowie, Maryland, resident.
“I even wrote a comic strip for my college newspaper and would eventually serve as the paper’s editor too. But when Marvel called and asked me if I was interested in adding to the Black Panther story, I remember asking them if they were going to pay me or vice versa.”
“Which version would I write about, I recall thinking. I mean, I already had the materials I needed in my house, but since this would be the first updated version of his story since the creator Stan Lee presented him to the public, my job was to make the Black Panther’s tale a bit more modern.”
Holland said he felt particularly honored to recently debut his novel at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and to achieve something that, in some ways, he’d been working toward for his entire life.
“I think you have to always be prepared to run through the door when given the chance. It feels like I’ve been moving toward this moment for my entire life. I’ve always been a writer, but I also wanted to see how successful I could be as a novelist,” said Holland, whose has already published “Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Finn’s Story” and “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slavery in The White House,” for which he earned both the 2017 silver medal in U.S. History in the Independent Publisher Book Awards and the distinction of his nonfiction work being named one of the top history books of 2016 by Smithsonian.com.
So, how has life changed for this in-demand journalist?
“It’s reminded me that anything is possible, and you have to be confident enough to tackle things may be unfamiliar to you,” he said. “I never admitted, when asked to write the Star Wars novel, that I’d never written fiction before. I had been doing nonfiction and working as a journalist. I could have fallen flat on my face with that project or with the Black Panther book. But like anything I’ve ever done, I gave it my utmost attention.
“If you give your best and pray, anything can happen,” he said.