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Unless noted otherwise, each answer in this Q&A interview is a combined response from both John and Maria Jose Tenuto.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing authors John Tenuto and Maria Jose Tenuto about their reference book Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film. The Tenutos are sociology professors, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. How did they go about writing the book, and how do they relate to Star Trek in general?

What are your earliest memories of Star Trek?

John: Watching The Animated Series during its original run and collecting the MEGO figures and playsets.

Maria Jose: My brother would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, which started my awareness of Trek.

How did the writing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film come about and how long did it take?

We are grateful to have been asked by Titan Books, the publisher, to write the book because of our previous research and writing about “Space Seed” and The Wrath of Khan. Because of the pandemic, the process was slower than usual. It took about three years from the very start of the project to the premiere of the book.

Each chapter in the book begins with a quote from the film

How did you do research for your Wrath of Khan book?

As Clint Eastwood might say, “Any Which Way But Loose!” We used archival materials, conducted new interviews, and photographs were part of the process.

How did you manage to obtain the images in the book and are there any you wish you could have included but ultimately couldn’t?

The photographs that appear are almost all from either Nicholas Meyer’s collection at the University of Iowa or from Paramount and Lucasfilm. There are hundreds of photos we wish we could have included! Each is a treasure! However, our editor Jo Boylett and designer William Robinson did a fantastic job of getting as much of our hoped-for images and text featured.

Two pages discussing a written but ultimately removed moment in which Doctor McCoy explained eye glasses

Do you have a regular writing process and, if so, what does it entail?

Each project is different. For example, the Wrath of Khan book relied heavily on photograph interpretation and using photographs during interviews, although there was also years of research at various archives. Our new book out this June, The Star Wars Radio Dramas: Brian Daley and the Serialization That Saved NPR, was more dependent on interviews, some lasting four or five hours, and archival materials only, without really a photographic element. Our rule, though, to writing any ‘making of’ book is that everything needs to have a source of some kind, preferably written.

When writing a book, how important would you say an outline is?

John: I have never been a fan of detailed outlines. A general outline is good enough because you do not want to have such a detailed outline that there is no room for inspiration.

Was the Allan Asherman reference book The Making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan influential to your book about the film?

The cover of Allan Asherman’s Wrath of Khan book

Every one of Allan’s books has been a big part of our lives as fans, from the compendiums of the original show to the making of The Wrath of Khan. He was a pioneer in Star Trek ‘making of’ materials. His interview book is especially a favorite.

What other authors have been inspirational to you and why?

John: My favorite author is Charles Schulz, who wrote and drew every one of the more than 17,000 Peanuts comics during fifty amazing years. His commentary about society is priceless. On the ‘making of’ side of the equation, you could not get much better than the amazing JW Rinzler. Fiction-wise, I love Brian Daley.

Maria Jose: My favorite author is George Ritzer, who wrote The McDonaldization of Society. It was the first book I read as a student that demonstrated that writing could be academic, yet also accessible, that sociology could study the ordinary and communicate that information using language and ideas everyone can understand, rather than like most academics who try, almost deliberately, to make their work inaccessible.

The book discusses Spock’s death in detail

What is your biggest regret from the writing of your Wrath of Khan book?

We wish that we had been able to interview those many wonderful artists who passed away. Too many of the crew and actors have been lost. Unfortunately, we could not interview the late William Dornisch, the amazing editor of the film, as he passed away during 1997, although there is a great archival interview by Dan Madsen in the fan club magazine that was a great help to us.

One element of The Wrath of Khan that your book carefully examines is the hairstyling. Which is your favourite hairstyle in the movie?

Khan’s wig, hands down. It is like a lion’s mane. The book shares what other Nicholas Meyer film features that same exact wig!

Two pages detailing Khan’s hair and make-up

Your Wrath of Khan book has a foreword by Julie Nimoy. How did she submit that section?

We asked both Julie Nimoy and Anita Montalban to provide memories of their fathers for the book, both of which helped make the book special. We asked Julie to contribute the foreword because she was with Leonard every day of the filming and on set, and had such a unique and amazing perspective because of that. Both Julie and her husband David Knight, and the Montalban family, especially Anita — who sadly passed away very shortly after sharing her memories with us — and her husband Gil Smith and daughter Lydia were fantastic. They are all working to further the good works and legacies of Leonard and Ricardo.

What was your editorial process for your Wrath of Khan book? Did you have beta readers and/or did you submit the draft of your book to an editor at your publisher?

Titan has great editors and designers who took the manuscript and made the book beautiful. We did ask those we interviewed to read the book to see if anything needed to be added, and Nicholas Meyer was a great help during editing.

Is there any advice you’d give to new writers?

Say “yes” to opportunities to write. You never know what will occur if you write one piece which someone else may read. Because of our writings, for example, we were asked to consult on the Star Wars United States Postal Service stamps. That was a tremendous thrill!

Which is your favourite Star Trek series, character and starship?

John: Favorite show: TOS; Favorite character: Kirk; Favorite ship: USS Enterprise 1701-A. I love the reveal of the A at the end of IV.

Maria Jose: Favorite show: DS9; Favorite character: Troi; Favorite ship: USS Enterprise 1701-D.

The Tenutos’ Wrath of Khan book details the visual effects for the film’s space battle in the Mutara Nebula

What is your opinion of each of the Star Trek movies other than Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?

There is no such thing as a bad Star Trek movie to us. The Star Trek films are like pizza; we never met a pizza we didn’t like, although some pizza may be better made or more enjoyable than others. Star Trek: The Motion Picture successfully created a universe of wonder and exploration and had the Herculean task of reconfiguring Star Trek for movies. The Search for Spock showed how the characters really loved each other. The Voyage Home made a social commentary using humor and really gave every character a chance to do something of value. The Final Frontier has perhaps our favorite Kirk, Spock, McCoy scene when they are camping. That film really focused on the trio in a way that is very appreciated now that Leonard and DeForest are no longer with us. The Undiscovered Country was a fantastic spy film with a lovely bowing out of the characters. Every one of these films we watch constantly and each is wonderful.

Having written Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film, are you interested in writing more books about Star Trek and, if so, which subject or subjects interest you to write about?

We are sitting here hoping to get to give Star Trek III, IV, V, and VI the same treatment!

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The Making of the Classic Film is available now from all good bookstores.

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