By Laura Grisham
HOLLY SPRINGS – Author Jesse Holland, a Holly Springs native, came back to visit his hometown recently and made a special stop at Holy Family School. An uncle to three of Holy Family School’s students, Holland was excited to make an appearance and encourage the children on their future paths.
The author was tapped by Marvel to write the novel for the new blockbuster movie “Black Panther.” The film has shattered box office records and has taken in more than $1.3 billion dollars worldwide to date.
Holland has been an avid comic book fan since childhood. When Marvel called him about the Black Panther project in 2016, he jumped at the opportunity.
“Being a Black Panther fan, I didn’t have to do much research,” he said. “I just had to re-read the stuff I already had.”
Holland confessed that he had a stash of original comic books in the basement of his home, which he had since childhood. “I had to do more research on real African traditions and real African words,” he explained.
Holland told students that his manuscript, which took six months to complete, was 90,000 words.
Holland, employing his nieces and nephew to assist with microphone duties, fielded questions from the children. He took the opportunity to share tips on completing school assignments and setting goals. He also emphasized the importance of education, looking at it as a bridge to future opportunities.
Before his Black Panther fame, Holland also penned several other novels, including “Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C.” and “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African-American Slavery Inside The White House.”
Jesse confessed that “The Invisibles” was his favorite writing to date. And it was “The Invisibles” that opened the door to an exciting new project, a book in the Star Wars franchise.
Holland explained how a member of Disney Lucas Films reached out to him after reading “The Invisibles.” There was a new character in a ‘Star Wars’ movie called Finn, and the character needed a history. Holland was commissioned to write a book called “Star Wars: A Force Awakens, Finn’s Story,” and it paved the way to his Marvel success.
Although both parents were teachers, it was his mother’s profession as an English teacher at H.W. Byers that inspired his career path.
“I think I got the writing bug from her. I started working at my town newspaper, ‘The South Reporter’ in Holly Springs, Mississippi,” he shared. “When I went to school at the University of Mississippi, I majored in journalism and English, and I’ve been working as a journalist ever since.”
Holland, in addition to his novel endeavors, is a race and ethnicity writer for the Associated Press and teaches creative nonfiction at Goucher College in Maryland.
Graciously staying well beyond his allotted time at the school, he answered every question that the children could craft. Before saying his goodbyes to the staff and student body, Jesse took the time to sign autographs for everyone at the school and make pictures with a host of fans, both young and old.
(This story is reprinted with permission from the Sacred Heart Southern Missions newsletter.)
By Laura Grisham