Star Wars Reads Panel discussion

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Ask Our Featured Authors! > Star Wars Featured Discussion - 2012

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message 1: by Margo (last edited Oct 05, 2012 08:57AM) (new)

Margo (maothrockmorton) | 2 comments Mod
Welcome to the group! Our featured authors will be answering questions on Friday, October 5, 2012. In the meantime if you have a question for the authors about their writing process, love of Star Wars or any other question feel free to do so in this thread.

The participating authors are:
Jason Fry
Ryder Windham
Randy Stradley
Tom Angleberger
Chris Alexander
Matthew Reinhart
Jeffrey Brown
Timothy Zahn


message 2: by Mindy (new)

Mindy Fichter Hey guys, I'm interested to know how you all got started writing Star Wars books? Were you fans of the movies from the beginning?


Crystal Starr Light (crystalstarrlight) What do you like best about writing in the Star Wars galaxy? Is it the characters, the stories, the adventures, the fact you can battle Good and Evil?


message 4: by Petter (new)

Petter Avén | 96 comments What inspired you to write a Star Wars novel? Did your love for Star Wars make you want to partake in that universe? Or did you have a story/characters/message that you wanted to express and found that Star Wars was a good setting for them? I know this is a chicken or egg first kind of question, but I like to hear where people's stories originate!


message 5: by Jason, Author of Star Wars: The Secret Life of Droids (new)

Jason Fry | 14 comments Mod
Hey folks, good questions. I saw the original Star Wars when I was eight years old and have been a fan ever since. I got my start writing for the Star Wars Insider in the late 1990s, and that led to Star Wars writing jobs for DK, Penguin, Scholastic and Del Rey. All of which have been enormous fun.

I love a couple of things most of all about writing Star Wars:

1) It's always been a "lived-in" universe. The spaceships are dirty, the droids are dented, the characters obviously have pasts. That feeling makes you always wonder what's around the corner, so to speak, and writing Star Wars "non-fiction" such as the Essential Atlas and the Essential Guide to Warfare has given me a chance to peek around those corners.

2) Star Wars is fun. Yes, it deals with questions of good and evil, family legacies and destiny, and other deep questions. But it's also outer-space car chases, gunfights at corrals featuring blaster-toting space cowboys, monsters and much more. Who can resist any of that?


message 6: by Petter (new)

Petter Avén | 96 comments Jason, thank you so much for your work on the fantastic Essential Atlas. It is not only a beautiful book in itself, with its very interesting overview of galactic history, culture and geography, but it can also provide valuable inspiration for other authors and, not to be forgotten, RPG gamemasters! I can't wait to see what Warfare has to offer.

I have a question regarding technological advancement that I thought you might be qualified to answer, if indeed there be an answer!

Galactic civilization is tens of thousands of years old. The human dominated Republic eventually overcame contending Rakata and other factions. Early spread to new worlds was done using comparatively slow "sleeper ships" and later accelerated to allow settlement far from the Core. Yet even in these pioneering millennia the level of technology must have been very high by our Earthly standards.

Why does technological levels seem to fluctuate so much during the course of Galactic history? Here are some examples. The Golden Age of the Sith, 5000 BBY, envisions an older but still high tech level of advancement. By 4000 BBY, the time of Knights of the Old Republic, tech levels have advanced at what I deem a well measured pace. The Old Republic (MMO) is set about 350 years after that, and technology of that time seems the same as that of original and prequel movie Star Wars. Then something, or nothing, happens during the next 3600 years. The Jedi vs Sith comics set in 1000 BBY envisions war fought with medieval weapons, armor and transportation, mixed with some more advanced gear. While I appreciate the post apocalyptic feel, it doesn't sit right with me that a modern army corps from Earth could wipe out the main powers of the Star Wars Galaxy. 1000 years later, we arrive at the time of the movies when technology is back to the level it was by 3650 BBY, as if no innovation has taken place during this long time.

Now, I know that these inconsistencies are owed foremost to authors and game designers having different visions for their Star Wars contributions. But could there be any believable reasons to be found within the Star Wars universe itself? Have you figured out any believable historical explanations?


message 7: by Jeffrey, Author of Darth Vader & Son (new)

Jeffrey (jeffreybrownrq) | 15 comments Mod
I first saw Star Wars when I was 3, not that I remember much - but growing up with two older brothers, I was immediately pulled in with a collection of toys, cards, books and seeing the movies more times than I can count. I drew lots of Star Wars pictures growing up, but didn't ever imagine I would ever work on an actual Star Wars project (especially after the Star Wars Tales comic book series ended).

For me, the best parts about working on Star Wars is getting to draw incredibly fun characters and scenes, and getting to find humor in playing around with the iconic scenes and dialogue.


message 8: by Ryder, Author of Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide (new)

Ryder Windham (ryderwindham) | 32 comments Mod
Mindy wrote: "Hey guys, I'm interested to know how you all got started writing Star Wars books? Were you fans of the movies from the beginning?"

My introduction to Star Wars was by way of the sixth issue of Starlog magazine, which came out months before the movie's release in 1977, and featured an article illustrated with two concept paintings by Ralph McQuarrie. I was twelve years old. I also read the novelization and the first three issues of the Marvel Comics adaptation before I saw the movie.

I loved Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, but was very disappointed by Return of the Jedi. Part of the problem was that Empire is a great, great movie, and had set the bar very high for a sequel. Also, I was more cynical at age nineteen, when Jedi was released, so no one could blame me for seeing Jedi as little more than an expensive advertisement for Ewok plush toys.

After college, I worked as a graphic designer and freelance cartoonist. In 1992, I landed a job as an editor at Dark Horse Comics, which had only recently acquired the publishing rights for Star Wars and Indiana Jones comics. One of my first assignments was adaptations of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. That led to an assignment to co-develop a new Droids series with editor/writer Dan Thorsland. I worked on other licensed titles, including Aliens and Predator, but eventually, I was focused entirely on Star Wars.

During my time at Dark Horse, I wound up writing a few scripts for Star Wars comics. Dan Thorsland and I had put a lot of time into developing outlines for the Droids comics, and it was easier for us to write them than to hire another writer. Other projects fell my way because the story and art needed to be done very fast, and I could write a script complete with thumbnail layouts faster than it would take me to explain the project to a freelance writer. That might sound self-serving, but I really wasn't trying to create more work for myself, just trying to prevent wasted time, so I wouldn't have to make corrections if the artist didn't leave enough space for speech balloons. Writing the scripts and drawing the layouts was just an expedient solution to get the job done.

I left Dark Horse in 1995 to be with my fiancée, who'd moved to New York City. I didn't have any plans for a new job, but I had some savings, and I spent several months honing my drawing skills. I thought I might write and draw my own comic book or children's picture book. But then my main editorial contact at Lucasfilm, Allan Kaush, asked if I'd be interested in writing Star Wars books, and he began recommending me to editors. I've been working on Star Wars books ever since.


message 9: by Mark (new)

Mark (keklar) | 2 comments My question is for Timothy Zahn - Thrawn became one of my most favorite characters in the Star Wars universe as soon as I read Heir to the Empire. How much creativity were you allowed to develop such a strong and intriguing character? I've always been curious what sort of prompting the authors of all of these Star Wars books may have gotten from George Lucas and others in charge. :)


message 10: by Spocking (last edited Oct 02, 2012 09:15PM) (new)

Spocking | 1 comments Hello. I am so happy to be among fellow Star Wars fans celebrating Star Wars Reads. They are the best in the world.

I have a general question about creative license. Since the Star Wars universe is essentially from the mind of George Lucas, is there anything you absolutely cannot write about? Does George Lucas have to approve your book (sounds silly, I know) before it goes out to publish? How exactly does that work?

Thank you so much! And May the Force be with you ALL!

P.S. And don't let the username scare you. I'm as much a Star Wars fan as I am a Trekkie. :)


message 11: by Gadadhar (new)

Gadadhar (samuraiweasel) | 1 comments Hey guys, as a person who loves the EU almost more than the movies, it seems that the smart characters and smarter villians are a dying breed, as all the interesting character stories are missing, are they off limits? (Quinlan vos? Thrawn's clones? Baron Fel?) where do you think the future of the EU is headed? Story and time period-wise?


message 12: by Christopher (new)

Christopher McCullah (cmccullah) | 1 comments I have a question for Timothy Zahn. We all owe a debt to you for kick-starting the EU in a big way for Star Wars novel writing. How has your immeasurable contributions to the EU changed the direction of your writing career, and where would you see yourself if you hadn't taken that first step with Heir to the Empire?


message 13: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (skitch41) | 2 comments My questions are for all the authors: I've found that some of my favorite Star Wars novels have been the ones that have few, if any, characters from the Star Wars movies as the main characters (New Jedi Order and Legacy era novels come to mind). Do you find creating new characters never seen before in the movies as exciting or challenging? How do you create new characters for this universe without creating carbon-copies of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, etc.? In your mind, what are the key ingredients to making believable & original characters for this vast universe?


message 14: by Lydia (last edited Oct 03, 2012 12:13PM) (new)

Lydia | 3 comments I have a question for all the authors. The Star Wars Universe is extensive and there are so many characters, worlds and details that all work together to create, well, the Star Wars Universe. I have noticed the consistency of character personalities across authors and am wondering how you prepare to write a story in this complex universe? Specifically, how do you organize all the information that is essential to the universe in order write a story without being out of step with the novels that come before or after the story you are writing?


message 15: by Alice (new)

Alice Hui (alysleaena) | 1 comments Are you ever scared of/worried about offending star-wars movie fans or more importantly, George Lucas? Do you study the movies extensively to look for plot hints or ideas?


message 16: by Jared (new)

Jared | 1 comments I have always wondered how much leeway you have when it comes to creating new characters that interact heavily with the core cannon characters from the movies. In particular how much input does lucasfilm have on characters that are distinctly your own? For instance when Mr. Zahn created Mara Jade was she a foil that grew into her now immense extended universe role or was she always earmarked for "greatness". Also, is it strange to have these figments of your imagination resonate so strongly with the Star Wars fans to the point where they actually try to embody them for Cons etc?


message 17: by Katie (new)

Katie (RhiannaHawk) | 1 comments To write a Star Wars extended universe story, do you have to get permission from someone first or do you just write it? Does this also apply to star wars references in non-star wars books?


message 18: by Kenneth (last edited Oct 02, 2012 09:51PM) (new)

Kenneth Kaizer | 2 comments Mornin'
I have some question for Timothy Zahn -
first of all, love the way you write!

Second, You seem to write most of your SW books around Luke and the gang close to and after the end of original triology. Is this because it's where you feel comfortable and the part of SW you like? or is it restrictions? It would be cool to see your kind of writing in the universe but with an "unknown character" (no beef, as said, love the books, just wondering:) )

third, are there strict guidlines when writing a pre-existing character? like f.ex Han Solo, when you write him, are there do's and dont's about the way he is written? and is it hard "getting into character"?
would you at any point go "oh Han would never do that" or does certain characters write easily?


also.
I've been "timeline-ing" my star wars books in my bookshelf, but cant find any indication of where Survivors Quest fits in the timeline, could you help a frantic nerd?

Thanks a bunch in advance
and you'll receive the rest when this question is answered (smuggler-style).


message 19: by Emily (new)

Emily | 1 comments My question is for Timothy Zahn: Where did you go for inspiration when creating Mara Jade? Was there any icons or other powerful females you thought of, or was she just an idea you had? Also, how do you feel about creating a fictional character that so many people admire or look up to?


message 20: by Brian (new)

Brian Reese | 1 comments My question is for Mr Zahn. Has there been any discussion of you writing an arc of Clone Wars centered around Thrawn? That would be awesome. If there isnt you should try to get it done.


message 21: by StarWarsFans (new)

StarWarsFans | 5 comments Timothy Zahn - Your books are my favorite! Were you disappointed that your character, Mara Jade, died in the New Jedi Order series?


message 22: by Donovan (new)

Donovan (dmon) | 1 comments A question to the SW novel writers...
How much flexibility and artistic freedom do you have in writing the novels? I am curious to know how much of the story you write must be approved by George Lucas or another authority? Are you allowed to put in a twist that would totally change the general understanding of the SW universe (so long as it retains continuity)?
For example, could you make Obi-Wan Luke's biological father because he had an affair with Amidala while Vader is just an evil fiend and lied to Luke about being his father.
***Would make a great twist to the story***
Just wondering


message 23: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Nieman (kcnieman) | 1 comments One question, and one request for all authors here:

1) How difficult is it to create your own stylistic vision within such an established universe as Star Wars?

2) Describe any frustrations or limitations you have overcome while working within the Star Wars universe.


message 24: by Dragon (new)

Dragon | 1 comments To Mr Timothy Zahn,

To be very frank, you have always been one of my favourite sci fi authors, not just within the Star Wars universe. Your creation of Grand Admiral Thrawn was brilliant to say the least. Can you tell us a little more about the background to the building of his character and the universe he eventually opens up?

To every author,
It is an honour to have you join us here! I love all your books and you are all responsible for helping turn Star Wars into something truly special, beyond what we love on the screen. This may seem like a trivial question, but I would really like to see how authors differ here - Who is your favourite character to write about, and why?

Thank you all for your time.


message 25: by Aaron (last edited Oct 02, 2012 10:56PM) (new)

Aaron Torres | 1 comments What I think many of us are asking is, how do so many authors share the Star Wars universe? It seems that with so many authors writing about one universe, there would be conflicting story lines, or characters with radically different personas. Maybe you can answer my questions and several others with one big explanation of what it it takes before you start writing and what limits are imposed on authors.

My question is how do authors settle disputes where story lines diverge, or plots put characters into conflicting roles. Are there disputes? Suppose an author wants to change a character's persona, say Luke Skywalker gets chronic depression, do other authors who have written about him before have any say? What if other authors don't think Luke should battle with depression?

Overall, I'm very impressed with all of the Star Wars authors for being consistent and, for the most part, writing complimentary story lines.


message 26: by Aaron (new)

Aaron | 1 comments Star Wars has built the groundwork for some amazing stories, a universe within each of you chose to build something new. There are very few pieces of art that are so powerful unto themselves that they can allow for and inspire other artists to create above and beyond the original material, within the bounds of the original creation.

Star Wars is obviously one of those pieces of work that has become a medium unto itself.

If you had to choose another universe in which to craft a story, which would you do. Do you see current works that you feel could rise to the same level as Star Wars? Do you see an expanded universe "option" for any other pieces of film or literature?


message 27: by Tori (new)

Tori (drakeobsessor) | 1 comments I am so honored just to be able to ask you questions! Oh my goodness!

Who is your favorite character and why? Who is your favorite character to write about and why?

Was it beneficial for George Lucas to have made the prequel trilogy, for history's sake? Or was it more difficult?

For the Pop-Up Star Wars book, how challenging was that to create? It is one of my favorite books of all time (especially the glowing lightsabers at the end.)

Thank you so much for being so incredible. You have made my life, and I'm sure many lives, better with your additions to this wonderful universe.


message 28: by Robb (new)

Robb | 2 comments Kenneth wrote: "Mornin'
I have some question for Timothy Zahn -
first of all, love the way you write!

Second, You seem to write most of your SW books around Luke and the gang close to and after the end of origin..."


Saw your time line question for survivors quest and thought I would help you out. A recent star wars book chronology places SQ after the Thrawn Duology (Specter of the Past, Vision of the Future) but before the New Jedi Order series. Hope that helps


message 29: by Dakota (new)

Dakota (seareader) It is truly a pleasure to be a part of this experience.
My question is: how is an author able to keep track of a story line as vast as the Star Wars books? It is such a large amount of information to keep up with. I suppose that the earliest authors had the luxury of creation, but it seems like today there would be a lot of limitations because of what others have written. Do you interface with other authors throughout the process or do you have your own organization system to keep it all together?

Thanks for your time, I have really enjoyed reading your work.


message 30: by S.L. (new)

S.L. Surovec (SLSurovec) | 1 comments Hello!

I was wondering what specific rules you must follow when writing in the Star Wars universe (for example, the well-known ban on killing off the main characters)? Are there many, or do you pretty much have free run of the universe?

Have you ever had story ideas that were completely shot down by Mr. Lucas, and if so, what were the criticisms he offered?

Thank you for your time!


message 31: by Robb (new)

Robb | 2 comments Thanks to all authors for contributing to the Star Wars universe. You all keep expanding a world I was amazed and awed by as a child. The themes and struggles covered are timeless, giving the reader of any age something to connect to. I still get a little thrill every time I see a new star wars novel and storyline. Special thanks to Timothy Zahn for setting the bar high with your characters and story telling. I have enjoyed your work over the years.

Can the authors tell us what they are working on next in the Star Wars Universe?


message 32: by Jonesmikey (last edited Oct 03, 2012 12:02AM) (new)

Jonesmikey | 34 comments I've loved Star Wars since I was a little kid. I love the fact that the saga continues forward and that different historical periods are covered now. Some things never change though. Stuff is always breaking down, speeders, droids, the Falcon... Are a lot of the authors tinkerers, too? Some of your descriptions of repairs are pretty detailed. Also, what about military strategy?


message 33: by Kenneth (last edited Oct 03, 2012 12:33AM) (new)

Kenneth Kaizer | 2 comments Robb wrote: "Saw your time line question for survivors quest and thought I would help you out. A recent star wars book chronology places SQ after the Thrawn Duology (Specter of the Past, Vision of the Future) but before the New Jedi Order series. Hope that helps "

i kinda love you


message 34: by Pickle (new)

Pickle | 7 comments What do the authors think of the 3 movies? (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith)

I feel there was the odd part borrowed from T Zahn's books (sorry cant comment on the others) but not carried out in a successful manner, unlike his books which are excellent. Were you pleased with the movies or do you feel they would have been far better if they had borrowed more from your books?


message 35: by Allen (new)

Allen | 2 comments Is there any challenge to converting a story that was originally intended to be a screenplay and adapting the flow and pacing of the Star Wars films into novel format?


message 36: by Marko (new)

Marko (msusimetsa) | 16 comments Question for @Timothy Zahn: I read that you were dismayed to learn that Mara Jade had been killed off in the (less than mediocre) New Jedi Order series. Have you come to terms with this decision or is there any chance for the event to be retconned in future novels - or will we see more Mara Jade in novels set before her death?


message 37: by Marko (new)

Marko (msusimetsa) | 16 comments Question for @Randy Stradley: You've been mentioned as one of the authors who came up with the Star Wars: Legacy comic book continuity. I became a real fan of Cade Skywalker (the most _alive_ Skywalker to date) - is there any chance to see him appear in future novels?


message 38: by Petter (new)

Petter Avén | 96 comments Mara Jade was killed later, in Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice. But the question is no less valid for that, Marko.


message 39: by Bewley (new)

Bewley Steve | 1 comments A question on writing. Do you script the stories before writing, or, like Ray Bradbury, start writing from a basic idea and see what develops?


message 40: by Marko (new)

Marko (msusimetsa) | 16 comments Petter wrote: "Mara Jade was killed later, in Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice. But the question is no less valid for that, Marko."
Right you are. I don't know where my mind was when I typed that! :)


message 41: by Patty (new)

Patty (pattybones) | 2 comments For any of the authors to answer: I am wondering how much work it takes to create a Star Wars related book. How much research do you have to do before you sit down and write? Is all this research done at The Ranch or do you send specific requests and wait for responses?


message 42: by Russ (new)

Russ | 1 comments This is for Mr. Zahn, which do you find harder to write for the SW univers or your own generated SCIFI?

This is for the group, i have to be greedy does anyone know when we will get any info about the next expanded universe series directly after fate of the jedi?


message 43: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Nelson-Foil (katgoddess) | 2 comments How hard is it to stay true to the Star Wars universe as dictated by Lucas? With so many different writers do you have to keep up with each others stories/work to keep the continuity?


message 44: by Jared (new)

Jared (pringles) | 3 comments @Ryder Windham - Me and my friend have been reading your books, well, since we started reading Star Wars books regularly. How many more books do you plan on writing?


message 45: by Joshua (new)

Joshua | 1 comments I would like to know if the Star Wars universe would have been better served had George Lucas made the next trilogy tarting with the first book after Jedi? Which is The Truce at Bakura if I am not mistaken. Also I would like to ask what is everyone's favorite star wars book?


message 46: by Ryder, Author of Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide (new)

Ryder Windham (ryderwindham) | 32 comments Mod
Jared wrote: "@Ryder Windham - Me and my friend have been reading your books, well, since we started reading Star Wars books regularly. How many more books do you plan on writing?"

Hi, Jared. I hope you and your friend have enjoyed the books. I can't say I have a set number of books that I plan on writing. I hope to continue writing for as long I can.


message 47: by Nick (last edited Oct 03, 2012 06:52AM) (new)

Nick | 1 comments To all of you, I'm very excited and thankful to have the privilege. What do you think of the Old Republic Era novels? Would you consider writing a book in that setting?


message 48: by Karyn (new)

Karyn (artemis8) | 3 comments Mr. Brown, my son would love to see more books from you, especially Star Wars related. Do you have any in the works? Thanks.


message 49: by Dan (new)

Dan Cuzzo (dancuzzo) | 8 comments Thank you in advance for this chance. Of all the questions I might ask this is the most important. Where do you think the future is for Star Wars media? Where would you like the future of Star Wars media to be?

I will give my answer to the questions. I think the future with some exceptions is plodding right on until Luke's inevitable death, then trickling off after that. I would like Star Wars to become more of a sub-genre like D & D. Just like traditional fantasy can contain: dragons, magic elves, dwarves etc. but still contain many unique stories within.


message 50: by Jeffrey, Author of Darth Vader & Son (new)

Jeffrey (jeffreybrownrq) | 15 comments Mod
Karyn wrote: "Mr. Brown, my son would love to see more books from you, especially Star Wars related. Do you have any in the works? Thanks."

Hi Karyn, thanks! Yes, I'm actually working on two Star Wars books right now. The first is Vader's little princess, the sequel to Darth Vader and son, which will be comics about Leia being four years old and then being a teenager. The second book I can't talk about much, except to say it's new fiction, a mix of comics and prose, aimed at younger readers and very different from anything I've done before. Vader's little princess should be out in the spring, and the second book will be out around September.


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