Margaret Stohl talks BLACK WIDOW: FOREVER RED, plus an excerpt

Margaret Stohl talks BLACK WIDOW: FOREVER RED, plus an excerpt

Recently, Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover for Margaret Stohl‘s Black Widow: Forever Red, and there has been nothing but positive responses all around. I guess that shows how much Natasha Romanoff is love and how much she deserves her own story. Obviously, Stohl agrees, and we can’t wait to read the book!  In an interview with EW, Margaret Stohl talks Black Widow, both the character and her novel about the spy, which we’ve highlighted here.

EW: I’m familiar with your background, but I’d love to know more about how you became involved in the project and with Marvel—and what specifically drew you to it. Was it the character itself, or something bigger?
MARGARET STOHL: I worked in videogames for 16 years before writing my first book in 2009. From then on, the Beautiful Creaturesnovels have been published in fifty countries, and I’ve been able to meet thousands of fans of both the books and the movie, and see what we all have in common. We love what we love, and shared fandoms bring people of all ages and backgrounds into one great tribe.

Those are my people, and I find them at Comic Con, just as I do at one of my YA book festivals. To be able to work both in the YA space and the Marvel space is a chance to bring all the things I love together into one project—and what a gift that has been! I get to write about one of the most complicated and layered and, as I’ve said, kick-ass Marvel characters of all time, gender aside. It has been more than a thrill. It’s epic.

The privilege, and the challenges, of taking on Black Widow have never been lost on me. I worked on the first Spiderman game, as well as Fantastic Four, and I had always wanted to be able to tell more of a character driven comic book story than was possible to fit into a game narrative. So I felt very lucky to have that chance, especially with such a beloved character!

Margaret Stohl talks Black Widow

One of the things I love about this book is that it’s going to be a focus on Natasha and her life. While I love the relationships she’s had in the comics and movies, I’m so excited that we’re going to get to explore her in a way we haven’t really been able to see yet. Was that something you hoped to take advantage of when you were crafting this story?
Yes. Comic books are so character-driven that there is just a mountain of material, especially with any character who has been evolving for years. Black Widow is particularly fascinating to me. I’ve never thought that the most interesting things about Natasha were her romantic relationships. What is most compelling to me is her psyche, however messed up. Her iron will and her unrelenting strength. The price she’s had to pay in two countries. And of course, her backstory and her secrets. Getting inside her mind was a trip.

I was at the Women of Marvel NYCC panel in October when the book was announced and social media pretty much exploded. This character is beloved by so many fans (myself included), what was your first reaction when you found out you would be responsible for her story?
Oh my god, what a moment! It was so great to be able to share news of the book with Natasha’s fans. Getting to write the first Black Widow novel has probably been the greatest honor of my life, honestly. Just being on the Women of Marvel panel at New York Comic Con was the second greatest. Comic book fans everywhere understand that. I come from a serious #nerdfamily—my husband builds robots to chase our cats, and our family vacation is to the Pokemon trading card game world championships ever year. You get the picture.

I was in Italy when my agent, Sarah Burnes, got the call from Emily Meehan, the Editorial Director at Disney Publishing; I was so shocked I have this crystal-clear adrenaline photograph of that day in my mind. I can remember where I was standing on the patio, freaking out. And it’s basically felt like that for a year now. I’m lucky that Emily is a genius, as is Sana Amanat, our editor at Marvel. Natasha could not have asked for better allies.

Without giving too much away, what can you tease about the story you have to tell for Natasha in Forever Red?
Black Widow Forever Red tells the story of Natasha Romanoff and the two teens who find an unlikely way into her life—particularly Ana Orlova, a seventeen-year-old Russian girl now living in Brooklyn. The novel takes us from New York to Eastern Europe, and we get to see more of Natasha’s backstory than we ever have before.

You can read the full interview at

Here’s the excerpt:

Natasha Romanoff hated pierogies—but more than that, she hated lies.

Lying she was fine with. Lying was a necessity, a tool of her tradecraft. It was being lied to that she hated, even if it was how she had been raised.

Everything Ivan used to say was a lie.

Ivan Somodorov, Ivan the Strange. She hadn’t thought about him in a long time, not until tonight.


And right now, as Natasha clung to the side of a rusting Ukrainian warehouse on the edge of a waterlogged industrial dock, even the moon looked like just another one of Ivan’s lies.

Welcome home, Natashka.

It was the dumpling moon that brought it all back now.

She climbed higher as she remembered the words, but even Natasha Romanoff, newly minted agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., former daughter of Mother Russia, couldn’t escape Ivan Somodorov. Not any more than she could escape the snipers positioned on every neighboring rooftop or the barbed wire on the perimeter fence.

“See that moon?” Ivan had said when she was younger. “See that pale pierogi, hanging so low and heavy in the sky it wants to fall back into the boiling pot of salted water on your baba’s stove?” Natasha had nodded, though as an orphan of the war she remembered little about her baba—or for that matter, even her parents. “With a moon like that, your targets can see you as easily as you see them. Not a good night for hunting, or a clean kill. Not a good night for disappearing.”

It was Ivan she remembered.

Ivan who had taught her how to use a Russian sniper rifle and to never use anything but a German pistol, preferably an HK or a Glock—no matter how you felt about the Germans. How to change out the barrel and action of an assault weapon in seconds and to modify her trigger so it broke like glass. How to cover her tracks, how to hide from the SVR and the FSB and the FSO—all the legitimate organizations that the KGB had become when it was the KGB no more. Those were her bosses’ bosses, the groups they worked for but never with. The groups they vowed to follow, but who disavowed them. The groups with the names that could be mentioned in the headlines of the Gazeta, unlike her own.

Unlike the Red Room. Unlike Ivan’s crew and in particular, his favorites, Devushki Ivana. Ivan’s girls.

Natasha took a breath and swung, springing through the moonlit night from side to side, making her way farther up the corrugated wall of the decaying warehouse. The rough metal siding bit into her palms. It was a miracle that she was still hanging on.

A miracle and years of training.

Natasha closed her eyes and tightened her grip. Truthfully, she didn’t need her adhesive suit.

Even if I wanted to let go, I haven’t been trained for that.

“I will teach you more than how to kill,” Ivan had said. “I will make you into the weapon itself. You will become as automatic and unfeeling as a Kalashnikov, but twice as dangerous. Only then will I teach you how to take a life—how and when and where.”

“And why?” Natasha had asked.

She had been young, then, or she would have known better. Child Natasha had been all eyes and shadows and angles. Alone and defenseless, half the time she felt like a thrashing rabbit caught in a winter trap.

He had laughed outright. “Not why, my Natashka. Never why. Why is for guitar players and Americans.” Then he’d smiled. “We all have a time to die, and when it’s mine, when they send you to sink a round of bullets into my head, just make sure not to do it on a pierogi moon.” She’d nodded, but she couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. “That’s all I ask. A clean kill. A soldier’s death. Do not shame me.”

It was his favorite line. He’d said it maybe a thousand times.

And now, as Natasha stared up at the boiled-dumpling moon, she decided it was the one she’d repeat back to him tonight. When she finally killed him, just as he’d predicted she would.

He’s not a martyr, she reminded herself. We aren’t saints. When we die, nobody mourns. That’s the only way this ends, for all of us.

Even if there were a hundred fat moons in the sky tonight, Natasha refused to feel any shame or any sorrow for Ivan Somodorov. She didn’t want to feel anything at all, not for anyone, but least of all for him.

Because he felt nothing for you.


By Kait

Kait is a New Englander, a YA book and adaptation lover, and a Slythindor, as well as a red velvet and red wine enthusiast. She likes to like things. Catch her on Twitter: @kaitmary

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