Thursday, August 25, 2011

Timothy Zahn Interview

Timothy Zahn is a Hugo award winning author who introduced Mara Jade in his novel Heir to the Empire. Our guest reporter Erin Nance sat down with guest of honor Zahn at the TusCon in November 2002.

This is Erin Nance here at TusCon, interviewing Star Wars author Timothy Zahn for Jade Crusades. Thank you for allowing Jade Crusades to pick your brain a second time!

*laughter* All right, no problem.

It has recently been announced that you will be writing two novels: one set during the Prequel era, dealing with the Outbound Flight Project, and another novel featuring Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. What can you tell us about these two books?

Actually, it’s Mara Jade Skywalker at this point. That book, called Survivor's Quest, takes place about three years after the “Hand of Thrawn” duology. Which is about two years before New Jedi Order. The basic setup is that the Chiss have discovered the remains of Outbound Flight out in Chiss Space, and invite Luke and Mara to come out with them to examine the wreckage, and to make arrangements to get it back to New Republic Space. And there are of course, various problems along the way. We won't get in to that - that'll be for the book.

The other book will actually come out a year later, and is going to be the story of Outbound Flight, and its destruction by the young Thrawn at the edge of Chiss Space. In a sense I'm doing a book and a Prequel, similar to what Lucas himself is doing. We’ll see the results of a lot of the details of what happened to Outbound Flight in Survivor's Quest, but not exactly how it got there.

Will your Prequel novel expand on Mara's origins?

No, it will be before she's born. It will probably be between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Obi-Wan and Anakin will make an appearance, but it won't be the major thrust of the story.

Do you have any plans on revealing Mara's past? Specifically, how she was taken from her parents and trained by Palpatine?

No, no plans. There are two schools of thought on this. One group really wants to find out everything they can about Mara. The other group would rather leave her past shrouded in mystery. I haven't quite decided which way I want to go with that.

How do you think Mara has been sufficiently redeemed for what she did as the Emperor's Hand?

How has she been redeemed? She’s been a pretty good friend to the New Republic, I think. I went into that in the “Hand of Thrawn” with the fact that she wasn't really of the Dark Side because she was serving as best she knew. Many of the people she assassinated were corrupt, and were evil in their own way. Not just enemies Palpatine was trying to get out of the way, they were actually people who - I hate to say it - deserved to die. She was actually doing justice in many cases.

How will your Luke and Mara novel deal with Mara's development as a Jedi?

She’s going to be pretty well developed at that point, I think. Most of what this is going to be is just showing how she and Luke will work and operate together in situations of crisis and danger, and intrigue and all that. I think most of her development has been done, now it's just going to be turning her loose and seeing what she and Luke can do together.

Will the novel expand on her relationship as Jaina Solo's Jedi Instructor?

No, none of the other main characters make appearances. This whole thing takes place out beyond the edges of the New Republic. A couple of other minor characters come out and they are mentioned here and there, but nobody else really shows up.

In your novel, Dark Force Rising, Mara reflects on her tenure as a server girl, a mechanic, and a come-up flector for a swoop gang. We've seen stories in which Mara is depicted playing out the former jobs, but what exactly is a “come-up flector,” and what are the chances of us seeing you tell that story?

*laughter* I don't know what the chances are. A come-up flector is what would be called a "come on." She is a come up deflector. It's someone who will deflect or divert people's attention; a diversionary type of person. I just made up the term. A throwaway comment, but I actually went along and wrote some stories. I may do that one next - who knows?

Have any plans been made to expand on Mara's "missing" five years between the Emperor's death and the “Thrawn Trilogy,” either in comic, short story, or novel form?

I did the Mara Jade comic, which picks up right after the Emperor's death. I did a story for the Star Wars Tales anthology for Dark Horse. And I did the story for the Star Wars Gamer that fits in that gap. I'd be happy to do more. At the moment, the Insider is more interested in doing Clone Wars Era stories. I'm going to hopefully be doing a three-parter for them on that. I've been offered that. I've just finished the outline, and I need to send it in and get it approved.

What else was Mara doing during that time, besides hiding from Ysanne Isard?

I don't know. She was moving around, trying to make a new life for herself. Probably running into problems, executing justice as she's been taught to do, as she's done in a couple of the other stories. The details at the moment are shrouded in mystery. I haven't thought of them yet.

You've written two Mara Jade short stories in which Mara rescues a character that appears in your other novels as an employee of Talon Karrde. Given the opportunity to write another similar story, which other character would you like to cross paths with Mara?

I don't know if there are any other characters that I want her to specifically cross paths with - nothing comes to mind. There is one story involving Mara I would like to do some day, if the Insider is interested. There is a reference in Vision of the Future when Karrde and Shada D’ukal are searching for Jorj Car’das. They run into a crime lord, and mention offhandedly that a young lady and an elegant gentleman saved him from an assassination attempt. That was Lando and Mara, when they were doing their preliminary investigation. I'd like to do that story. Of how it was they came to save this crimelord, and why he was so deeply in dept to Karrde.

Are there any chances of seeing a reoccurrence of Shada D’ukal in future written works by you?

Nothing planned at the moment, but I'd like to. I think she and Karrde are an interesting team. Very different than Karrde and Mara were, but with some of the same potential for good stories. Again, there's not that much outlet for fiction except for the Insider, and they're mostly interested in Clone Wars Era material. It's a setup I'd like to come back to sometime, but no idea when.

There are many different versions of Mara Jade, from comic books, book covers, and reference books, action figures and live model. What is your preferred image of Mara Jade?

I have a very hard time with a real physical image of any of my characters. I tend to think of them more as their personality. Several of the Maras have been fine. Shannon Baksa is the “official” Mara Jade now. If it's got the correct Mara Jade attitude and expression, it's probably something I can live with.

Speaking of comic books, what is the current status of your and Michael Stackpole's Mara/Mirax and Luke/Corran series?

We don't even have a complete story worked out, let alone pitched it to Dark Horse. Actually, before that, Mike and I do have a complete story worked up that Dark Horse has never been interested in called The Reenlistment of Baron Fel. That shows how Fel went from the New Republic, as in Mike's “X-Wing” comics, to being out at the Hand of Thrawn with Admiral Parck. We have a six-part comic, or a four-part story. But so far, we haven't found anybody interested in taking it. If we do, we'll probably do that one. Then the Luke/Mara and Corran/Mirax is definitely a possibility. We would both very much like to do that one. There would be trouble for everybody around them.


Jade Crusades and many Mara Jade fans are pushing to see Mara appear in more Star Wars comics. It has been hinted that Dark Horse may be interested in creating an “all Mara Jade” issue of the Star Wars Tales comic book. What would it take to see you writing one of those Mara stories, and would you be interested?

It would take them asking me, and that's about it! I haven't even heard this was a possibility. Dark Horse and I have not talked for quite a while. I don't know what's happening over there. That would be something I'd very much like to do though. Probably another intermediate type of story, in Mara’s 5-year gap. Basically, all they have to do is say, "Would you like to do a story for us?" And I'll say, "When do you need it?"!

The following questions were submitted to Jade Crusades from other Mara Jade fans:

What were your impressions with Michael Stackpole's Star Wars: Union comic book?

We talked about it some. I'm not sure I actually ever got a final version of the whole thing. Again, that was the time when I was out of the loop with Dark Horse. It would have been nice if they had asked me to do it. Mike and I discussed the story, and it seemed reasonable. I'm not sure if I actually saw the entire thing.

Where did Luke and Mara spend their honeymoon?

*laughter* I have no idea.

If you had written about Luke and Mara having a child, would it have been a boy or girl, and what would he or she have been named?

I probably would have made it a boy. Not for any particular reason, but I probably would have. I have no idea what I would have named it - the question has never come up. Ben is a fine name. I like that reference to Ben Kenobi.

Were any of the character for the Thrawn Trilogy inspired by people you knew in real life?

There are several people that have sort of been tuckerized, I think the term is, when you put someone else's name into a book. There are something like eight references to a club and convention down in Tampa called Necronomicon in the first book. There are two people who got their way in a charity auction in that book as well. And there are a couple of people, again names only, in The Last Command. Not the people themselves, but names and maybe a little bit of description. I don't usually take people's characteristics. I wouldn't take my son’s personality, for example, and put him into a book. I might put his name in. I don't generally put real people into books.

Do you know if Mike Stackpole's short story for the Star Wars Insider will contain Mara Jade?

The upcoming one? No because again, they're wanting Clone Wars Era. That's before Mara is born.

Well, that's it. Thank you again for the opportunity to interview you.

Not a problem!

Thank you.

Okay, thank you!

Timothy Zahn & Michael Stackpole Interview

Jade Crusades’ very own Mazzic was fortunate enough to interview Star Wars authors Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole while at San Diego Comic-Con 2001. Zahn and Stackpole may well be the most formidable team of Star Wars writers, having scripted the entire Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand comic series for Dark Horse, as well as writing the short story Encounter at Darkknell. Zahn has been credited with originally continuing the Star Wars saga with his first "Thrawn Trilogy" books, as well as the "Hand of Thrawn Duology." Stackpole has written many of the "X-Wing" books, I, Jedi, and the "Dark Tide Duology" in the New Jedi Order Series. Both have written numerous short comic and fiction stories set within the Star Wars universe.

So, how are you enjoying San Diego Comic-Con, 2001?

TZ It’s been fun so far. I've heard the big crunch comes on Saturday.

MS That's right. No blood, no pain yet. So yeah, we're doing fine.

As you know, Jade Crusades is a fan created website, dedicated to Mara Jade. The following questions will involve her, in some way, shape, or form. So, Mr. Zahn, how did you come up with a character as Mara Jade in the first place?

TZ When I start a book, I work on the plot; organizing the story line, figuring out where all the plot threads are going to start and end up. And at that time, all the characters show up as sort of cardboard placeholders. I have a villain here; let's call him Grand Admiral Thrawn. I have somebody here; lets call him Garm Bel Iblis. And we have this character here who we'll call The Emperor's Hand, Mara Jade. Originally her role was, or where she showed up in the outline, was as a link between the first part of Return of the Jedi and the rest of the Star Wars saga. The rescue of Han always seemed sort of disconnected. So I decided there was an agent of the Emperor there, waiting to kill Luke. And that seemed to link it back to the main story line of the movies. Well, as the plot developed, so did the characters. So her original role was as a link, and then she grew as I worked her into the character she became.

Who did you model Mara's personality after?

TZ No one in particular. Every author has this grab bag of people, ideas, thoughts, phraseology and such that has gone in the back of our minds, and everything we have experienced. So we just reach in there and grab out pieces, mix and match. I wanted someone who could be a strong woman who could stand up to Luke. I've always liked the somewhat sarcastic voiced characters, especially when there is a reason for the sarcasm. They're not just a nasty person. But with Mara, it's a calculated technique. Basically just as a foil for Luke. Perhaps, in some ways, the same way Han had been a foil for Leia. But not in the same exact way.

What ideas from Lucasfilm did you receive when creating her character?

TZ None at all. Lucasfilm basically kept hands off of my project. They would tell me when there were things I couldn't do, and showed me the boundaries of the field, but there were no "you should do this, you should do that plot lines we'd like started in this book". Nothing like that. I had pretty much free rein within the boundaries they set. Great experience working for them, because of that. I felt a lot of freedom.

Are you amazed that a character you've created has become so popular with Star Wars fans?

TZ I'm always amazed that people like the books. You know, as a writer, I’m never sure, when I finish a book, whether anybody is going to like it.

MS *laughing*

TZ I don't know if there are any surprises, and it-

MS *laughing*

TZ Stop laughing, Mike.

MS *continues to laugh*

TZ I don't know if there are any surprises for the reader, because I know where everything is going. So it's impossible for me to anticipate what the reaction is going to be. So, starting with that, then the popularity of Mara Jade has been completely flabbergasting.

Obviously. How do you feel about the New Jedi Order, and how her character has developed?

TZ I haven't really been following New Jedi Order. Um...what I know about it, I know I trust Mike to handle Mara. I read Kathy Tyer's handling of her because Kathy asked me to. Aside from those two, I don't know where exactly it’s been going, or how they've been dealing with her.

How do you both feel about the new addition to the Skywalker family, as written in the latest books Balance Point, Conquest, and the upcoming Rebirth?

MS You know, I knew there was going to be an addition, and it'll be interesting to see how it develops. I mean, a baby...a baby is a baby.

TZ *laughing*

MS I suppose this one can elevate bottles to itself, and other annoying things. But what happens with that, it's a nice turn, it's a nice twist, and I think it's a good maturation point for Mara and for Luke. I think it will provide areas for growth for both of them as characters, but I also think, that given the story arc and the events that are going on, there is not going to be as much growth there as we might like to see.

TZ And always assuming that the writers know how to handle it. Writing for young children is very hard to do, and I think a lot of writers who are good at writing for adults or teenagers, may not be able to capture a two year old, or a five year old quite as well. We'll have to see what happens.

Do you have any hopes for the young Skywalker?

TZ I think it will be an interesting...very potentially interesting character, considering - is it a him or a her?

It's a him.

TZ Him. Considering his parentage. You've got a lot of interesting family dynamics you can play with there. The question will be what happens in future books, how the authors who deal with the growing up, or the raising of the child, see the relationship, see the dynamic and go on with it.

MS Writing is not like a math problem. You look at "what do you think is going to happen with the Skywalker child," or "what are your hopes for?" Well, this is not a math problem. For every writer that could possibly deal with it, there would be a different answer. I think that for us, as long as there is an exciting story that is told that keeps the characters within character – And yet, if you look at the saga, you know the way Tim and I view Mara is not necessarily the same way that other people view Mara. So it will be interesting to see the interpretations, and watch how things develop. And then we'll do it right.

*laughter around table*

TZ Of course.

Speaking of youth, what age was Mara taken from her parents?

TZ I have no idea. I'm not sure Mara does. I've been asked various times. There are two schools of thought on Mara's history. One school is, "Tell us everything about her." The other school says, "No, keep her mysterious." And I've dropped a few hints in the books, some of which may of may not be true. Because, as you know, with children you can implant memories just by telling them something that supposedly happened. So even Mara's recollections may not be accurate. Up to this point, I've deliberately avoided giving any real details. I haven't decided if I ever will.

So there is no back-story, because some of her memories may have been implanted by the Emperor?

TZ Until it’s actually written, hopefully or preferably by me, it doesn't exist.

MS It's one of those things, especially about developing characters and stuff, you can have general feels and you can guide things, but then when you're asked to do a story, or when that story occurs to you, and you're able to back fill things, you do that in accord to what you've already written. Trying to fill in too much means you kind of limit and trap yourself, whereas being able to do it later makes it far more dynamic and a lot more fun.

TZ It's very similar to doing a map of the story you're doing, and I never fill in areas I'm not going to be dealing with in a book, because I may want to go on with another book or story. I don't want something up here limiting me, even in my thought process, as to what is out in this area. And same with character development. If you put it down, even on paper just for yourself, as Mike said, you'll limit your own mental thought processes in going back.

What age was Mara given the title "The Emperor’s Hand?"

TZ Probably soon after her training, I'm guessing 12 or 13. But I don't know that for sure either.

MS I defer to Tim. I mean, everything I've done, I just pick up on the stuff that Tim has laid out there with a sense of the character. Now she's what, two years older than Luke? Something like that?

TZ I set her about the same age...I don't know what has been established. Neither younger or older.

MS Yeah, I think it's two years older, actually.

TZ Older? Okay, that'd make more sense otherwise she'd be 16 when the Death Star blew up. And that wouldn't work very well.

MS The important thing is, you've got this very dynamic, very strong character. And a character who's strength shields her, and yet is capable of great feeling, great loyalty, inside. It's a fascinating character to write.

TZ In many ways, she has a marshmallow center she doesn't want to have. She doesn't want to need people, doesn't want to rely on people. And at the same time, if she decides you are her friend, she will defend you to the death. In some ways, she wants to be able to give loyalty more than she is willing to except it. Plus it's very interesting, in a complex character.

MS That made her so much fun to use in I, Jedi. The first time that she and Corran meet, they are not getting along at all. It's sort of like, "Look, can we hit the reset button here?" Once there's sort of that de-escalation, they actually become friends. And Mara comes back and faces the ghost of a Dark Lord of the Sith to help him out. *laughter* I mean that's a lot of loyalty!

TZ She's really the kind of person you'd want on you side in a fight.

As the Emperor's Hand, how do you figure Mara would have viewed Darth Vader? Was she jealous?

TZ He was another associate of the Emperor. The Emperor says, "He is my apprentice, he is one of my tools, leave him be." And that would be it for Mara. The Emperor was basically the "be all" and "end all" of her life at that point.

And how do you figure Vader would have viewed Mara?

TZ I don't think he would have trusted her at all. I don't think that he would have particularly liked her. Simply because he was steeped in the Dark Side, and the Dark Side is ultimately one of selfishness. "Me first." Mara, for all of her service to the Emperor, was not in the Dark Side. And I think that would have bothered Vader. He would not have seen Palpatine as having the same hold over Mara as he did over Vader himself, and Vader would not have liked that.

MS I think ultimately, Vader would have seen the fact that she was never of the Dark Side as her naivety, and a weakness. Just as he did with Luke, and that would have been something he would have exploited if ever necessary.

Could you elaborate on some of the missions Mara would have gone through as the Emperor's Hand?

TZ I have a limit. I've done three or four of them in the Mara Jade comic books, and another short story comic in Star Wars Tales. I can't elaborate on anything that hasn't been written yet because I might want to write it some day! She would have been his "wild card." She would have been outside the Chain of Command. Anything he wanted done, without leaving any kind of – you can't say paper trail, there is no paper trail – electronic trail that might lead or point back to him, that's what she would be doing. She'd be investigating; she'd be doing assassinations; she'd be doing justice as the Emperor saw it, on traitors and people trying to feather out their own nest at the Empire's expense. Her loyalty would be to Palpatine and the Empire, and she would do whatever he told her to do, consistently close.

So how much training in the Force did she receive?

TZ A fair amount. But she had a lot of linkage to the Emperor that limited – that got her abilities fading after his death. It lasted for a while, but then it kind of faded away. So she wasn't as independent in the Force as Luke and Vader were. And possibly that was by design in case Palpatine would have had any questions about her and her loyalty, and what might happen in the future with her, and therefore built in a limiting factor to her. The guy was a conniver you've got to face that.

How much training in the field of dance did she receive?

TZ She probably picked it up on her own as part of the various disguises and covers she would use.

Did she actually enjoy dancing then, or did she just use it as a cover up?

TZ Just a tool. I'm not sure what she really enjoyed in that time of her life, except doing what Palpatine told her to do. Successfully completing a job in the professional way she wanted to do it, and hearing the Emperor's thanks when she came home.

MS There is a section in the Mara Jade comic where she literally comes back from that mission, is told to enjoy herself, and goes and does all the things people would do to enjoy themselves. But it's almost as if she's trying to try on the role of "who would I be if I were free to enjoy myself?" When, given her training, her enjoyment was hearing the Emperor say "good job." She didn't really have those distractions. Could she find pleasure in dancing? I have no doubt that if she and Luke danced, that she'd find it was absolutely wonderful. But –

TZ But dancing in front of Jabba is not the same thing at all.

Given the chance to write another Mara Jade story, what era would you chose? As the Emperor's Hand, top smuggler, or Jedi Master?

TZ Actually, I've probably got ideas in all three eras. I've got a story proposed that will take place after the comic, after the Emperor's death and she's on her own. And Mike and I have been kicking around a four-part story that picks up between Visions of the Future and the New Jedi Order. Luke, Mara, Corran, and Mirax go off on a little vacation together.

MS (laughing) Actually, Mara and Mirax go off on a vacation together and Luke and Corran have to pick up the pieces. (laughing) "They did what to a planet?!"
(laughter from table)

TZ We have some plotting ideas, and if we get to do this thing, it's going to be a lot of fun.

MS (uncontrollable laughter subsiding) Yeah.

TZ You may remember at one point, is it Corran? No, Luke...

MS No, it's Corran. Corran says to Luke, "We can never let them meet."

TZ "We can never let them meet."

What other Star Wars projects are you working on?

MS Well, we've done some outlines for possible projects for Dark Horse and are waiting to hear back on those, and we'll talk to other people. And of course, Tim and I appearing as Talon Karrde and Corran Horn in cards, it is one of those projects that is...

ANNA ZAHN (TZ's wife) Kicking off your acting careers?

MS Yeah, kicking off our acting careers!

TZ Our modeling careers.

MS We're "talent" now. We're models.


Can you expand on some of the other stories you've proposed to Dark Horse?

MS Actually, we can't. Lucasfilm does not like you to talk about possible future projects, as these things can be green lit at any point, so we really can't. It's one of those places that they're kind of...hazy.

TZ I'm also talking to Del Rey about a Prequel Era novel, that they've told me they want done. They've told me they want me to do it, but for certain technical reasons, it can't be published right yet. It is to wait until the release of Episode III. There is a lot of stuff in between now and then so Del Rey is not in any hurry to actually work out a contract. But it sounds like I'll probably be doing it. I've got the outline worked on.

You've reviewed the Star Wars Gamer, what do you think about the "Many Hands of Palpatine" article?

TZ I actually haven't read the article yet, but it is my opinion he had only one Hand, and anybody that says otherwise is lying, or conniving.

And why is that?

TZ She had a unique relationship with Palpatine. She was able to hear his voice anywhere in the Empire. When I did the story "Sleight of Hand," because Lucasfilm gawked at that communication, we had to establish that was absolutely unique. It was Mara and the Emperor who had that telepathic communication. He didn't have it with anybody else, and she didn't have it with anybody else. That is a unique position, and Palpatine obviously had other agents, but he only had one Hand.

Was there anything in Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand, the comic you both created, that was cut from your original vision? Were you allowed to do with Mara as you wished?

TZ I don't remember anything being touched.

MS No, we had to add stuff! (laughter) That's the great thing about working with Lucasfilm. They are remarkably open to creators adding their own material, and they trust people. And they especially trust Tim and I to get things right with characters that we've created or worked a lot with. It's a wonderful vote of confidence to be able to go in, and they say, "knock yourselves out."

Whatever happened to the comic you had apparently scripted that was supposed to go between the "Hand of Thrawn" duology?

MS I didn't script it. I'd done an outline. What had happened, was Tim's "Hand of Thrawn" novels were very, very broad in scope. Nobody had told Tim that there was going to be a comic that was going to deal with stuff in between those two novels. And Tim, being a very efficient writer, had not left loose ends or free times for any characters to be involved.

TZ There are 6 hours between those two books. Not enough for even Mike to work with.

MS That's right, yeah. What I had done, I had turned around and plotted an adventure that would take place on a world that would go into great depth over the background controversy that Tim was dealing with. In Tim's book, you get to see the interracial hatred and the speciesism tearing the thing apart. I was going to get to go in with far greater depth with that, as well a few other things, but in Lucasfilm's opinion it wasn't going to do the job, and got canned. As it worked out, because I'd already been contracted and they'd already contracted an artist, they had the space in there to turn around and do Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand.

TZ Part of the problem with Mike's interlude was because I'd written it so tightly, none of the major characters were available. They all had places to go, places to be, and things to do.

MS There was one intercept scene we were going to be able to do, and that was pretty much it.

TZ But mostly, it was going to be minor, walk-on type characters. For that reason, in addition, they decided it wasn't going to be strong enough. If someone would have told me, I could have left him left him space, but nobody mentioned it!

Whose idea was it for the showdown between Mara and Ysanne Isard in Mara Jade: by the Emperor's Hand?

MS I mean, it was a natural. It had to be a natural. The Emperor was dead, and somebody was exerting control. Mara was a "wild card," and Isard would have to gain control over her because she was powerful.

TZ And in fact, if and when I am allowed to continue more stories in that era, Isard is going to be either moving in or behind the scenes, full way. She's going to be the pursuit that keeps Mara moving. And we should probably run them into each other at some point...

MS Oh yeah, definitely.

Why didn't Isard ever mention Mara in any of the X-wing books or comics?

MS You have to remember that Mara and her escape would have been a failure, as far as Isard was concerned. And you bury your failures very deep. Nobody knows where they are, so that’s why.

TZ Besides, she's not really sure who Mara is. Mara has no identity. Remember, she was linked only to Palpatine. She has no identity. That alone makes Isard nervous and suspicious. But, because of that, you don't want to put out an all pointable agenda because we don't know who she is. We don't know who her friends are. It's both the failure that she's trying to find, and also, she doesn't want word of this getting out. There may be allies that don't know Mara is on the loose that might rally to her. A lot of good reasons for her to just ignore her, until she can just come up with her herself.

How much interaction do you figure Isard, Mara Jade, a well as State Pestage had in the Imperial Court?

MS Well, Mara certainly knew who Pestage was and probably, while not having direct contact with him in any real sense, may have watched him. May have supplied information that the Emperor used for, with, or against him. But the Emperor probably kept her away from Pestage, and visa-versa. Because Pestage was his creature as well. He could break him as necessary. And again, Isard had vague knowledge that there were agents like that out there, but the Emperor would have tried to keep them separated. You definitely see that in the Mara Jade comic, where Isard is going, "Okay. The insulation has been removed here, now I've got to deal with this." And attempts to break her, and fails utterly.

TZ Mara obviously knew who Pestage was. She would have known everybody in the top echelon. But as Mike said, she would have been kept isolated and insulated from everybody else. And she would have been known only as part of his entourage. Some of his eye candy.

Would you have ever have considered Corran Horn and Mara as an item?

MS There is that passage in I, Jedi. There certainly could have been sparks struck. I suspect, had they ever had gotten together, it would have been a 'brief, very hot, but very brief and very nasty breakup,' kind of relationship. I think they probably would have just torn at each other. They are enough alike that is it very easy for them to be allies, and there certainly would be an attraction there. But again, it is something that both of them were smart enough to look at, as Corran did right then, and say, "No. This is just not a good idea."

TZ I see both of them as being smart enough and understanding enough with human nature to realize it is not going to work. "Let's not even go down that path. We'll settle for a friendship, and both enjoy that."

In I, Jedi it is joked that Mara and Mirax never meet, but they are obviously friends by Union and the "Dark Tide" series. What exactly were you implying by "they should never meet"?

MS At the time when that comment is made, Mirax has just shown up and is full of vigor and wanting to take things on. Obviously Mara is like that, and the idea that the two of them would get together...(laughs) And in Union, we were actually allowed to do that; Having them all meet, and having all the women of Star Wars get together in that spa and kick the snot out of a bunch of fighter pilots. (laughter from table) Just imagine them all going off to some planet and creating havoc. When you look at Mirax, being a smuggler, and Mara, having that background, just the absolute havoc they would create in any situation is pretty close.

TZ It was not a matter that they will not get along. The problem is that they will get along far to well. Watch out anyone who gets in their way!

MS And for poor Luke and poor Corran, who’s going to bear the brunt of it? It's going to be like, "Oh my God."

Do you have any tips for young, aspiring writers?

TZ The way you learn how to write, is you write. That's basically it. The more writing you do, the better you get at it. Like playing tennis or anything else, you just have to write. And keep writing, get better at it, learn how your voice works, how to put words together, and then just start sending the stories out.

MS I agree with everything that Tim has said. I have some things on my website which are pretty much the same thing. Another thing I recommend a lot, is for people who want to write, read critically. Find good writers, find bad writers. Read the novel the way you normally would, but at the end of each chapter just jot down some notes. If there were characters introduced, if they provoked any particular feeling; at the end of the chapter you felt that you had to run on, just quickly jot down what your impression is and go back to reading the book. Afterward, with your notes, go back and figure out how the writer did everything that you liked, and figure out you can do it. Figure out what you hated, and figure out why you hated it, and how not to do it. A lot of what we do, we learn to write based on what we read and finding the techniques that other authors use. I'll give you an excellent example. In Wedge's Gamble, the three overlapping plotlines (the way one would come up to this point, and the next one picks up from there) is exactly how Edgar Burroughs used to plot many of the Tarzan novels. Which I loved, and I loved his plotting method because it makes the book just race. I used that plotting method very deliberately in Wedge’s Gamble. And it worked very, very effectively. But a lot of readers don't read critically. They don't think about that sort of stuff. And if you think about it, you'll learn a whole bunch. And it makes it a lot easier.

TZ Actually, I would go so far as to say, if you start writing and trying to put words together, you'll automatically go into this mode. That's what happened to me. I started writing, and then I started noticing how other people were doing it. They're both partial, but almost actually bootstrap each other.

Any other comments you would like to make about Mara Jade?

MS I just want to say that Tim has been incredibly generous to me, intrusting me to be able to use Mara and stuff like that. A great character to use, and I've had an absolute blast. When I was doing I, Jedi, we were shooting stuff back and forth. The chapter where she comes in and helps Corran deal with Exar Kun, was one I never got a chance to shoot to Tim to vet, before the book came out. And we'd gotten copies, and I handed him a copy and he flipped through it, and I said, "Oh yeah, this chapter you didn't get to read." He flipped it over, read it through and said, "Okay." (laughter) I mean, that was like, "Okay, whew!"

TZ But though I hadn't read it, we had discussed it. We had discussed the point that she is going in and she is being sarcastic. She is goading him, for the express purpose of trying to get him to make a mistake. She's stalling him, waiting for Corran to recover. She's trying to get him mad enough to be stupid. We had discussed the whole thing, Mike already had most of that. We bounced that back and forth, even though I didn't see the final version, we were both on the same page as to what she is doing, and why. At that point, you can just turn Mike loose on the character and he just does great with her.

Well thank you very much for letting me conduct this interview.

MS You're welcome.

TZ You're quite welcome.

Thank you.

TZ & MS Thank you.

Andi Ficara Interview

Before Shannon McRandle was the official model, Andi Ficara posed for images of Mara produced by Matt Busch. She recently completed an online interview for us.

We’re interviewing Andi Ficara, the woman who modeled as Mara Jade for artist Matt Busch’s illustrations of Jade Solitaire. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm not sure where to start from for this question. I guess you could say I'm a 'Jack of all Trades' in terms of activities I enjoy doing. I love to be outdoors enjoying things like swimming, horseback riding, camping, hiking, fishing (a little grandpa taught all the grandkids how.)and lots of other activities like those. I also do enjoy getting my fill of creativity and culture. I love going to art galleries and museums, listening music (no, I don't play an instrument but I enjoy singing and my CD collection), concerts, reading, movies, dancing (clubs, ballroom, swing),etc. I'm currently looking to finish my art degree sometime in the near future. Until then, I'm busy being a new mom to my 7 month old daughter.

What other projects have you modeled for?

I've had a few tiny things over the years but mostly I've worked with Matt on a few of his projects. The biggest one being a supporting character in his graphic novel/comic book Alizarin's Journal. I get to play German parapsychologist, Dr. Andrea Schwiegen. My guinea pig is in there, too! I'm really more excited about my guinea pig than my stuff. It's just all really fun.

Are you a Star Wars fan?

Yea, but not as much as my sister! I do enjoy Star Wars/Sci-Fi but I almost always end up watching it by accident! Don't worry all you Star Wars fans! I am not an imposter in the Star Wars realm. I know my stuff; I keep up on the trivia.

In Busch's interview, he said that he had you read Timothy Zahn's first novel to get to know the character. Did you like the character?

I love the character of Mara Jade. I related to her much more than any of the other characters. She's so wonderfully feisty.

What parts of her character intrigued you?

As I mentioned before, I really related to her. What really intrigued me was how much I understood her thought processes (after her stint with the Emperor). Her loyalty to herself, her crew members, and Luke. Also the way, she protected her softer side with wit and sarcasm. It was kinda crazy to read something like that!

What was Busch’s process of turning you into Mara?

Matt did have me read her story but I also did some research on my own to understand her on a more 'personal' level. After that, we raided my closet for the costume of what we thought she would wear. I then did my hair and make-up. Matt set up some lighting, handed me a sword (to use for a light-saber reference), set the pose, and *poof* Mara Jade incarnate. With Matt's artwork 'what you see is what you get', meaning he presents his models with incredible accuracy in a very readable layout/format.

What was it was like portraying Mara Jade for Busch’s illustrations?

Are you kidding?! I get to be a Star Wars character! How COOL is that?! It was a lot of fun to do.

Were you able to see any of the finished illustrations, before they were sent to West End Games?

Yes. That was a hoot to see how he set up the scenes and stuff. Also, even though he was already going to send in his work he wanted to see how I liked them just for fun.

Are you still keeping tabs on Mara Jade and Star Wars?

Of course! Now, even more just because of my additional research into Mara Jade and Star Wars. Hey, "May the Force Be With You!" I always wanted to do that. Thanks!

Thank you for participating in this interview.

You are very welcome!

Chuck Kallenbach Interview

Jade Crusades was fortunate enough to contact Chuck Kallenbach II, a senior game designer with Decipher, who helped create the Mara Jade cards from Decipher's Star Wars Customizable Card Game. He very kindly agreed to fill out this great email interview for us.

We are here with Chuck Kallenbach who helped create the Mara Jade cards from Decipher's Star Wars Customizable Card Game. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.

No problem! I'm always happy to talk with other Mara Jade fans.

When did you first become interested in Star Wars?

Christmas 1976. I was in a theater with some friends and saw an exciting teaser trailer for a new movie called Star Wars. We were depressed when it ended with "Coming This Summer," but it was worth the wait!

How familiar are you with Mara Jade's character?

When I designed the cards, I had read Timothy Zahn's ground-breaking Heir to the Empire trilogy and a couple of short stories with Mara.

What exactly was your role in creating the Mara Jade cards for the Star Wars?

As a designer for the Decipher CCG studio, I come up with the lore, title, game text, and help to select the image. All of these aspects are subject to change due to playtesting, editing, marketing, and licensing concerns.

What was it like working on such powerful cards in the series?

It's always exciting to work on the "mains," as we call them. They're the main characters from the story . . . Luke, Leia, Vader . . .you know which ones. We absolutely put Mara in the same class right away.

What kind of research was involved before creating the Mara Jade cards? (What kind of sources did you use, etc)

I read everything there was to read. That includes novels, short stories, and comics from Dark Horse.

Can you tell us the process of creating a card? (For example, the Mara Jade, the Emperor's Hand card.)

With a multifaceted character like Mara Jade, we have to decide what to emphasize on this particular card. Is she a dancer? A spy? An assassin? Do we concentrate on the early part of her career when she hunts Luke or later when they become friends?

You can see from the lore and the game text on the card which way we decided to go. It's interesting that we mention Arica in the lore of this card, since that would be better suited to her later version.

She's a spy, of course, which has gameplay advantages. She can show up anywhere, even to places the Dark Side is not currently strong. She can use undercover cards to make it hard for other characters to battle her.

Mara is a pilot, that was a certainty. She gets a power boost when the Emperor is in play. We hadn't done his card yet, but we knew he was on the way. Emperor Palpatine eventually showed.

She had to be able to handle a lightsaber. Mara was one of the few characters in the Star Wars universe that wasn't really a Jedi (or Sith Lord) but still was trained in lightsaber dueling. So she can use the two most powerful dueling cards in the game.

Because we treated Mara Jade like another main character, she gets the awesome game text that lets her get a weapon right out of your deck so she can use it. This is a terrific "quick draw" ability that immediately put her into tournament decks everywhere.

For the image, we decided to find a model to portray Mara. Our art director, Dan Burns, contacted modeling agencies with all the appropriate description: tall, fit, attractive, red hair, you know the rest. He included depictions of Mara from Dark Horse comics as well. This was just like any other model search for a particular look.

The first time I saw these images was some contact sheets with pictures of Shannon Baksa, the local model who would become Mara Jade. I saw she has a terrific look and presence that made her a perfect fit.

We contacted theatrical costumers to make her weapons and outfit, again based on literary descriptions and comic images. The results, as you can see, are fantastic.

As a tremendous bonus, Shannon became a representative for Decipher at convention appearances, once again wearing the costume and wielding the lightsaber. The prop weapon was enhanced by a long neon tube which actually lit up! Awesome.

What were some of the difficulties creating the cards?

Obviously, a major character card like Mara Jade goes through a lot of playtesting to make sure it's just perfect. This process went smoothly with Mara's card. The only real problems we had were deciding how the Alien/Imperial dual icon gameplay worked, and which of the dozens of pictures we had to use!

How many Mara Jade related cards were you involved with? (Mara Jade's Lightsaber, Arica, Mara Jade the Emperor's Hand, Watch Your Step/This Place Might Be a Little Rough.)

Even though I was working on other projects and in and out of Star Wars CCG at that time, it seemed whenever I came back, there more Mara Jade cards to do. Which is just fine with me!

For the Reflections II Expanded Universe project, I even got to go to the photo shoot and meet all the models for those cards. Unfortunately, I got there late and missed the shoot for the Arica card. That image was based largely on the Dark Horse comic illustration for that scene.

I'd met and talked with Shannon at a lot of conventions before, and she was there all day long doing makeup for the other models. I got to meet all of them, including Mike Stackpole and Tim Zahn. In fact, I drove the two famous writers to a local military supply store to buy some last-minute items for their uniforms for the shoot. That was a real blast!

Did you happen to work on any never-produced cards, like the Light Side Mara card? (Can you expand on what we would have seen had this card been produced?)

I can tell you that a lot of extra shots of Shannon were taken during that original photo shoot, and some of them featured her in a green military jumpsuit like the one that Mara wore in some of the Dark Horse comics. I'm pretty sure the plan for that was to be her Light Side version.

Did you ever get the chance to meet Mara Jade model Shannon Baksa?

Sure! I've spent a lot of time with Shannon at conventions and other appearances. She's been a terrific representative for our company and our game. Shannon is very gracious with all questions and comments. She loves to give autographs and talk about her baby girl.

What other Expanded Universe character cards did you work on?

I worked on all the Reflections II cards. This required a lot more research, but it is fun to get paid to read Star Wars novels.

What are you working on currently?

Now I spend most of my time working on Decipher's Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game and other projects I can't describe right now. I love my job!

How did you land a position at Decipher creating game text for the Star Wars card game?

You have to be lucky. I got to playtest the Star Trek Customizable Card Game before it came out, and that led into playtesting for Star Wars too. Eventually, Decipher offered me a job and I jumped at the chance.

Thank you for participating in this interview for Jade Crusades.

You're welcome! It's great to reminisce about working on Star Wars and Mara Jade cards in particular.

Mike Vilardi Interview

Jade Crusades has been lucky enough to correspond with one of the earliest Mara Jade artists, Mike Vilardi. Vilardi has done many pieces of art for the old Star Wars Roleplaying Game by West End Games, and is now currently creating more original Star Wars art for Wizards of the Coast. You may recognize Mike Vilardi’s art from the Star Wars Gamer, or the fan-favorite WEG book, Scouts, to name a few sources. Vilardi kindly agreed to participate in this Online Interview, exclusively for Jade Crusades!

Are you a Star Wars fan?

Are you kiddin'? I'm one of the original "jaw-slackers." You know, one of the first crowds of young kids to sit in a dark theatre, bug-eyed and slack-jawed as that incredible battlecruiser rumbled by overhead...for what seemed like an eternity! That kind of event always leaves a mark. It was an internalized dream that became an imagination-generated reality. And it was (and is) so much fun to believe that George Lucas' playground is as real as the plane of existence we actually live in.

Which of the four Star Wars movies is your favorite?

Star Wars: A New Hope stands alone in my psyche as the strongest of the movies to date. Excellent storyline, vibrant characters that pull you into the action, and a great villain! It really had it all in one package. Mix that in with the startling impact and the groundbreaking special effects, and that movie is tough to beat. I do, however, have favorite elements from all the movies. I loved everything to do with Hoth in Empire, and who can forget the ride we took on those speederbikes! SCOUTS RULE!!

Are you a Mara Jade fan? we're getting to the real point, aren't we? I've been drawn (pun intended) to the character of Mara Jade from the first time I read about her in the pages of Heir to the Empire. Very strong, independent, self-driven female character.

How familiar are you with Mara Jade's character?

As far as my familiarity with the character of Mara Jade - I'd have to admit that I lost touch with her "life" outside of the Zahn novels. Shameful perhaps...but nothing that can't be remedied, I'm sure.

What preparations did you go through before producing the images for the West End Games Star Wars Roleplaying books?

My preparations are always the same: Carefully read up on the character(s) to be depicted; Gather all necessary reference materials (for example, find (if any) past depictions of the character); and study relevant SW Universe guides to make sure that the Star Wars "look" is consistently maintained. Then I visualize the scene in my head, trying to choose the best action and "camera angle" to use in the construction of the illustration. Next...draw, draw, draw!

You were one of the first artists to illustrate Mara Jade. Did you model her appearances after anyone?

I don't mean to disappoint everyone here, but my depictions of Mara were based solely on the sketchy illustrations done of her in the West End Games Heir to the Empire Sourcebook. I found that Allen Nunis’ depictions of Mara were loose enough to allow me room to somewhat re-define her look. But to answer your question, there was no model involved. Let me add here that I've never seen Shannon Baksa (although, as of this reading...I'm sure I've remedied that as well), so I didn't have access at that time to someone who embodied Mara's physical characteristics. I did do some sketches to help me develop Jade's look, which I felt should reflect her strength while still allowing for vulnerability and a touch of weariness/inner conflict.

What was it like getting to depict one of the most popular Expanded Universe characters for West End Games?

Simply put, it was an honor to have a hand in the development of Mara's look, adding to her personality and "fleshing-her-out," so to speak. It’s truly awesome to be an adult and be able to play in a universe that held me spellbound as a kid. Very cool!

What other art assignments are you currently working on?

My latest assignment was for Wizards of the Coast. I did a series of "Undead" PC portraits for Dragon Magazine #288. There are only 13 portraits there, even though I originally drew 14. At the last minute the editors opted to pull one of the characters - a succubus - because they were uncomfortable with her complete lack of clothing. Coupled with the fact that the pieces were slated to go into their website...well, they decided for a more discretionary approach.

What is your favorite art medium?

I love oil paint, but seldom get to use it in my work. I generally use watercolors and color pencils because of the versatility and quickness they offer. My work, however, is predominantly black and white...which is a medium I feel gets much less respect than the color world.

What kind of tools do you use?

Tools? Since most of my work is B&W, I use a brush to apply 98% of the ink you see, with the remainder (small details) put in with technical pen. The paper I use is uni-shade or duo-tone, which is a paper that has a shading pattern imbedded in the surface of the paper. I use a developing liquid, applied with a brush, to burn-in the desired shades specifically where I want them. Its expensive paper, but it saves time and allows me to easily control the mood and tone of each illustration.

Who are some of your artistic influences?

I have to give credit to my parents for their positive influence as I was growing as an artist. Their contribution was to nurture my creativity.

Artistically speaking, my greatest influence had to be Alphonse Mucha. His sense of style was incredible, and his figures absolutely oooozed sensuality.

In a literary sense, no writer had a greater influence on me than Ray Bradbury. His style is so rich that it seemed I was experiencing a taste-sensation as I read his stories. He knows how to fire the imagination!

What would you recommend to aspiring artists hoping to do what you do?

My recommendations are simple. Work to develop your’s your edge in this world against mediocrity. Practice, practice, practice! That is how you discover your artistic weaknesses, and then correct them. Lastly, do not succumb to discouragement. That's the easy way out. I have known several talented people who failed to become artists because they just couldn't handle the struggle of the learning process.

Dan Veesenmeyer Interview

Jade Crusades was fortunate enough to procure this interview with Star Wars artist Dan Veesenmeyer. Veesenmeyer has worked on several Star Wars projects, but currently, his most recognizable SW art is his black and white character sketches for the Star Wars Insider #57’s "Who’s who in the New Jedi Order" article.

How long have you been a Star Wars fan?

Since A New Hope came out in '77.

Which of the four Star Wars movies is your favorite?

The Empire Strikes Back, of course.

Are you a Mara Jade fan?

Sure. I think she was a fine addition to the roster. But like most SW characters in the books, she can be written really well or poorly. So it's all relative.

How familiar are you with Mara Jade's character?

Pretty much so. I can't claim to know everything that has happened to her, but I know about the big story lines or major character development points she's been involved in.

Have you been keeping up with the New Jedi Order series?

Mostly. I'm pretty busy so I can't read all the novels but I do listen to almost all of them in the books on tape form.

What preparations did you go through before producing the image of Mara Jade for the Star Wars Insider #57's "Who's who in the New Jedi Order" article?

I have a lot of reference that I would go through. Covers of the novels and comics, a few photos of Shannon Baksa as Mara from her Decipher card shoot. I tried to come up with a Mara that has one key element; Easily recognizable by fans, even if her name were not attached below the image. I've found that at this point, many artists are using Baksa as the primary look for Mara in their work. Therefore, it's kind of what the fans expect. I used Baksa as the basis for my Mara but then altered it just enough to not let it be a literal translation of Shannon's face. To be honest, I just sexed up her look a bit more. Fuller hair, more defined features. Shannon doesn't quite pull off a smoldering look that Mara should have. This is something that I think I added.

What other art assignments are you currently working on?

I have really been at the call of Wizards of the Coast for the last year and a half as I write this. I plan to do more SW game related projects for them in the future here and there. I've worked on a lot of SW stuff for various companies at this point over the years, including Lucasfilm directly, so I've learned that one assignment eventually leads to another new one.

What is your favorite art medium?

For me to work in, pencil. I hate inking. Wish I could color with the computer better but have little time to practice.

What kind of tools do you use for inking/coloring?

I leave that stuff to the pros. If I have to ink my own stuff, I use Mirco pens because they are easy and quick to work with.

Who are some of your artistic influences?

Too many to list. But Adam Hughes is probably the most influential. He's also a good friend.

What would you recommend to aspiring artists hoping to do what you do?

Get a real job! Just kidding. It's hard to give advice like this because each individual has strengths or weaknesses that can't be addressed in a paragraph. But briefly; As much as constantly working the drawing skills, you need to network - knock on doors, make calls, send letters, learn how to present your portfolio properly, follow up and learn from mistakes others show you.

Thank you for participating in this interview for Jade Crusades.

No problem!

Terese Nielsen Interview

Mazzic had the honor of meeting Fantasy artist Terese Nielsen while at San Diego Comic-Con 2001. You may recognize Terese Nielsen's art as it has graced a few of Dark Horse Comic's trade paperbacks, as well as some of the first New Jedi Order book covers. Nielsen graciously agreed to fill out this Online interview, exclusively for Jade Crusades!

How long have you been a Star Wars fan?

I have always enjoyed the Star Wars saga. I respect the impact it has made in the movie and fantasy art industry. I know many artists that decided they wanted to do Fantasy/Sci-Fi art when they saw those movies as a child.

Which of the four Star Wars movies is your favorite?

I think it would have to be The Empire Strikes Back. I love the process of the young arrogant Luke being humbled by the unassuming Yoda, and the process of Luke finding his inner power through focusing his mind to find the connection to the Force.

Are you a Mara Jade fan?

I can't say that I was simply because I don't follow the current literature that's out there. From what I have learned about her recently, she seems to be a strong female character that I would enjoy.

How familiar are you with Mara Jade's character?

Not a fraction as much as I would've liked to have been. I was wishing I could have picked the brains of some hard core Mara fans when I was illustrating her.

What preparations did you go through before producing Dark Horse Comic's Union trade paperback comic cover?

I searched out several Mara websites, Jade Crusades being one of them, and read up on whatever I could find. Dark Horse also sent along the previously published comics that detailed the story I was illustrating. They also sent along the magazine that featured four or five photos of her. The selection of images was extremely limiting.

What preparations did you go through before producing Del Rey's Edge of Victory II: Rebirth book cover?

Del Rey provided me with a basic idea of what the book was going to be about and they had a pretty clear idea of the direction they were looking for on the cover. I provided a few different compositions which included the elements they wanted to see and then I hopped on the painting. The deadline was very tight on this piece, so it didn't allow me the time to research anything too much or experiment with lots of different ideas.

You have depicted some of the most important times of Mara Jade's life - her marriage to Luke Skywalker, and her pregnancy. What was it like working on such significant pieces?

It was odd creating images for these momentous occasions of this very significant character which was never a part of the SW's movies. I'm sure if I had been reading all the books which added her into the SW's world it wouldn't have been as jarring. I thought it was very cool to be asked to portray these intimate periods in Luke and Mara's history.

What other art assignments are you currently working on?

I just finished up a seven month non-stop run of work/conventions and am happy to say I'm taking a little bit of time this next month to work on some personal pieces. I enjoy studying various Gnostic and mystical texts and plan on producing some work in this vein. As far as what I've been working's been everything from book and magazine covers to computer games, personal commissioned pieces, and last but not least even more "product" for Harry Potter.

What is your favorite art medium?

My favorite medium is "mixed" which means using everything. I almost never do a piece with only one medium. Experimenting is how I stay interested in each painting.

What kind of tools do you use for inking/coloring?

I don't do traditional comic book art that utilizes an inker or a colorist. I'm a painter so you'll find acrylic, gouache, oil, colored pencil, gold leaf, digital, and sometimes collage in my pieces, whatever works for what I need.

Who are some of your artistic influences?

I am inspired by many artists and illustrators, especially those in the early 1900's during the golden years of illustration. Gustav Klimpt is at the top of my list, Alphonse Mucha, Alma Tadema, The Pre-Raphealites, Waterhouse, Dean Cornwell, JC Leyendecker, NC Wyeth, Pyle, etc. etc. I have many influences.

What would you recommend to aspiring artists hoping to do what you do?

I thought art school was very important. It taught me many skills, techniques and also how to paint even when I wasn't in the "mood", something that's crucial when art becomes your job. Lastly, draw, draw, draw. You can never be too good at drawing.

If you'd like to see more of my process for creating the Star Wars pieces feel free to visit I always include preliminary sketches, art directors’ comments and my personal thoughts on the illustrations.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your questions.

If you are interested in seeing more of Terese Nielsen’s art head on over to her website at!

Carlos Ezquerra Interview

Jade Crusades was fortunate enough to track down Star Wars comic book artist Carlos Ezquerra and ask him a few questions. Ezquerra illustrated a Dark Horse Comics Boba Fett one-shot, as well as the Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand mini-series.

When did you become a Star Wars fan?

Ever since A New Hope. It was the first time you could see a Sci-Fi film that actually looked like a comic.

Which of the four Star Wars movies is your favorite and why?

At the moment, still A New Hope. Mainly for the impact it had on me. The Prequel Trilogy looks very promising, but as they are unfinished, I can’t say very much about them.

How familiar are you with Mara's character?

I wasn't until I was offered the series. Then, the more I read about her, the more I loved the character. She has many points in common with characters that I usually draw. I love characters where you can't tell exactly if they’re the hero or the antihero – good or bad. A bit like life itself...

You drew Mara for the Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand comic book. Can you tell us what it was like illustrating such a popular character?

It was very exciting. She is such a strong character! I had to show her strength graphically, and at the same time she had to have continuity with all the work other artists had done with her previously. It was quite a challenge.

What preparations did you go through before illustrating Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand?

I started out by reading all the other episodes she had appeared in. As I said before, she had to have continuity with earlier comics. Plus all the usual documentation about the Star Wars machinery, aliens, and locations.

How did you create Mara's image for Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand?

Mara came to my mind in a very clear way. I had in mind how she had to look from my first reading of the scripts. My only hope was that it would coincide with the image fans had of her.

What was it like working with writers Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole?

It was fun and a nice experience.

What other assignments are you currently working on?

I just finished the last episode of Just a Pilgrim for Black Bull Comics. I am now working on a Strontium Dog story for 2000AD, in England, and a Garth Ennis War Story for DC Comics.

Does it look like the future will hold any other any Star Wars projects?

No, I haven't had any more offers after the Mara Jade miniseries.

When did you realize you wanted to become a professional artist?

A long time ago, when I was doing service for the military. I met another artist who convinced me to become a comic book artist. Before that time, I had never thought about it even though I always loved reading comics.

Who are some of your artistic influences?

My biggest influences as artist were Italian Hugo Pratt and Latin-American Alberto Breccia. Also very important influences to me were filmmakers Eisenstein, John Ford, Sergio Leone, Kurosava, and many others.

What would you recommend to other aspiring artists wishing to do what you do?

Take an interest in films. How you tell a story is more important than how you draw it. And be a fighter. Never consider yourself finished, even when everybody else thinks so.

Thank you for taking part in this interview!

Thank you.

Tommy Lee Edwards Interview

Tommy Lee Edward's work has been featured in many roleplaying games and books. Mara fans know him from the cover of the Revised Core Rulebook and from his picture of Mara and family in the New Jedi Order Sourcebook. This interview was conducted in August 2003 via email.

Which of the five Star Wars films is your favorite, and why?

My favorite is definitely The Empire Strikes Back. The main reason I love that Star Wars chapter so much is because I feel that it's the best directed and is so well written. It also has the best photography with the use of such aggressive lighting, color, and composition. I love the melodrama of Leone's westerns and Kurasawa's samurai films. Empire is closest to that genre for me.

Who is your favorite Star Wars character?

Luke. You can't not love and identify Luke when he's starring off into the Tatooine sunset (with John Williams' score).

What do you think of Mara Jade?

Man- I was just sounding like an authentic Star Wars nerd, and now I must admit that I don't know much about the expanded universe.

You've illustrated Mara Jade twice. Once in the New Jedi Order Sourcebook and another on the cover of the Revised Core Rulebook. Can you tell us about the Solo/Skywalker clan image from the New Jedi Order Sourcebook? Tell us about some of the models you used for the different characters.

The New Jedi Order piece I did was a faster and simpler illustration than most. I still had to maintain the same sense of realism that most of my other SW pieces have, so I tried to base all the characters on real people. For example, I used a photo of Shannon from Jade I usually go on-line looking for reference, and by coincidence- your shot really helped a lot.

What is your artistic process when creating a cover like the Revised Core Rulebook?

Half of the process is artistic, and the other seems to be in sales. What I mean is- I go through a lot of thought on how to make a good composition that applies to my own will to please myself along with pleasing the client by fitting in what Lucasfilm wants, nailing the actors' likenesses, and helping the book sell. There are several sketches to get to the point where I can 'move on' to the finish. I typically use acrylics, gouache, watercolor, prismacolor pencil, and inks for the Star Wars paintings.

Who did you model Mara Jade after for the cover of the Revised Core Rulebook?

I think it was a cross between some shots I had of Shannon, and stuff I made up. Her head is from some other scrap I had.

Was it your choice to include her on the cover of the book?

That choice was Lucasfilm. They wanted an aspect of the Expanded Universe on there somewhere.

Her outfit looks a little different that we've previously seen. Why the change?

All of the characters on the cover are so established. I took some liberties with Mara because I could. She's the only thing on that packed painting that I could inject my own design into.

What other projects are you working on?

Right now I'm doing four Star Wars paintings for packaging on a new line of Star Wars mini-statues. I've also got a couple more RPG covers coming up. Hasbro brought me on the illustrate boxes for the new Axis and Allies games, and my new the Question series for DC Comics comes out next spring.

Rumor has it you have a book out. That's pretty exciting! Can you tell us about it?

The book is called Art of Tommy Lee Edwards, and it comes out the first week of September. It's published by IDW, and has 96 pages of full-color reproductions of all facets of my work. There's a ton of Star Wars art from the RPG stuff, children's books, magazines, etc. On top of that, the book is organized like my website. We have advertising stuff, book work, comics, and film and concept designs. There's a lot of stuff in there that I've done for licensed projects like MIB II, Dinotopia, He-Man, Hot Wheels, Star Trek, etc.

What kind of advice do you have for aspiring artists who wish to do what you do?

If one wants to do what I do, I guess the main advice would be to get as much good-old-fashioned drawing and painting experience as possible. People should really try to maintain classical skills, while trying to adopt new tools and digital technologies into their pallet.

Thank you for your time!

Any time! See you next Comic-Con!

Be sure to visit Tommy's website at!

Joe Corroney Interview

While at the Star Wars Celebration II, Jade Crusades representative Regina interviewed Star Wars artist Joe Corroney. Corroney’s art can be found in such places as West End Game’s Adventure Journal, and Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars Gamer magazine and other roleplaying books. His latest work was featured on the Attack of the Clones website, The artwork created for that website will be featured on the Episode II DVD.

This is Regina, I'm here at Celebration II with Joe Corroney. So, jumping right in. What was it like illustrating Mara in the Star Wars Gamer?

I did that piece for issue #5, I believe. Well, that was a dream come true!

So you're a Mara fan?

Yeah, I'm a Mara fan. She was one of the few characters I had yet to illustrate at that point. There's actually a funny story about that illustration. The article was about the Emperor's Pawns. All the other Emperor's Pawns were featured in the article except Mara Jade, because she was being featured in other Star Wars game books at the same time. They didn't want to make a special section in the magazine for her. I was bummed out because I thought I'd get to draw her, and I thought, "How am I going to work her into this article?" I talked my art director into the idea of having one of the other Emperor's Pawns featured in the article battling Mara in an action scene in the beginning. Just so I could draw her, basically. So the writer and I came up with the idea of having these characters as the opening part of the article. Having Mara and Lumiya as an Expanded Universe back story meet and encounter each other on this planet and go at it because they're at odds. So that was how I was able to illustrate Mara. I talked my art director into saying "What if this character met Mara, and we made that part of the back story of the article." So I talked him into letting me draw Mara, even though she wasn't supposed to be in the article at all.

That's cool.

Yeah, it was way fun. I got my wish! *laughter*

What other Star Wars illustrations have you worked on?

I did a lot of stuff for the Star Wars Gamer magazine. A lot of stuff for the roleplaying game. I've been doing Star Wars art for Lucasfilm on game books and magazines since 1996 when I started working for West End Games. And then, West End Games lost the license in ‘98, and about a year later, Wizards of the Coast got the license for Star Wars roleplaying games, and I just showed them my work. I got approved pretty quickly, and I've been doing stuff for them since. Right now, I'm doing, which is the Episode II website. Have you seen it?

*Laughter* Yeah.

Oh, great! Actually, I have some of the work with me here. I brought some of the originals to show people, and I have some printouts of the artwork from the site. That's been a dream project. Lucasfilm was aware of all the work I'd been doing for them through books and magazines and stuff, and they called me and asked me if I wanted to be the artist for their new Episode II website, and I was like, "Uh...okay!" It’s been really fun, I've gotten to do a lot of Episode II related characters and stories, stuff like that.

So what is your favorite piece that you've done so far?

Just one, huh? My favorite? I have so many techniques I work in. I'm a comic book artist, so I'm trained that way. I started out doing independent comics for various companies, so I work in a comic book technique with really graphic pen and ink with digital color. I really like working with that. I might have a favorite piece in that technique. I also do traditional painting. Like these paintings back here...

*gestures toward display*

Like the big framed ones. I like doing Drew Struzan/Dave Dorman type work, so I like real traditional rendered. If I had to pick a favorite painting, I'd probably say my Phantom Menace one. Just because I'm one of the few Star Wars fans that really loved the movie!


I mean, a lot of people like it, a lot of people don't. Star Wars fans. I really loved it, so I was really inspired. I started the painting before the movie came out, and finished it right after the movie came out. After I saw it, and I was just inspired to finish it. There's a lot of hard work in that painting and it came out pretty well. That's my favorite painting. My favorite Star Wars illustration...well, I don't even know. I might not have it in my portfolio. I don't know. Some of my favorite ones right now are probably the Wraith portraits I did for Star Wars Gamer #9. Those were probably some of my favorites. But that will change. I'll do some newer stuff, and that will be old stuff. My other favorite illustration right now is one I did for HoloNet with Mace Windu and Yoda stopping a terrorist. That was one of the stories on HoloNet, and it's actually this illustration right here.

*lifts drawing out of portfolio*

I did that one a few weeks ago. I'd just never gotten to do Mace and Yoda together in the same illustration. Mace has got his purple lightsaber out, and it was really fun doing that one! That's probably my most recent favorite one.

Have you always been a Star Wars fan?

As long as I can remember. I don't really remember anything else. I saw Star Wars when I was barely four years old. It was the first movie I can remember seeing in the theater, and I think it was the first movie my folks took me to see. I remember being scared of the Jawas, and I remember being excited about Chewie. I was like, "Oh my God, that's so cool!" I was like four years old! So those memories are still burned in my head. I think I've been a Star Wars fan my whole life. I used to do Star Wars art as a kid with crayons and stuff. And now I get paid to do it! It's like a dream come true, really. It really is. I'm really lucky, and I'm really fortunate. It's a lot of hard work, and just a lot of luck too, to get this far I think. A lot of support. Family and friends.

Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?

Yeah, draw all the time! If there is something you really want to do, don't get discouraged. When you're younger and still an amateur, and you're trying to get art director or editor's attention, there is still so much to learn. Often times you'll show your work when you may not be quite ready, but it doesn't matter. Always show your work anyway. Even though you may not get anything. Any kind of feedback is good, positive or negative. If you want to do Star Wars art, take your portfolio around to shows like this, other comic book shows, show it to Dark Horse, show it to the other companies that make Star Wars games and books, and just listen to what they have to say and don't get discouraged. Go back, and work harder. Eventually, if you keep doing that over and over, you'll eventually get there. That's what I did.

All right, well, I think that's about it. Thank you very much. It was a pleasure talking with you.

All right! Well, thank you!

Make sure to check out Joe's website!

Storn Cook Interview

Jade Crusades was fortunate enough to correspond with Star Wars artist Storn Cook via email. Cook has worked on several Star Wars roleplaying projects, including The Jedi Academy Sourcebook and Cracken's Threat Dossier.

Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions.

No problem.

When did you become a Star Wars fan?

I saw the first Star Wars in 1977 only twice. I loved it. But I wouldn't call myself a fan. I'm too internal for that. When I first started working on the WEG Star Wars books, I was a student at Columbus College of Art and Design. There were some very jealous students who were much bigger 'fans' than myself. I thought it ironic at the time that I was the one getting the chance to work in this vast universe.

Of the current four Star Wars movies, which is your favorite and why?

Empire Strikes Back. It is the most technically, story solid. I feel the direction was better, the story was dark... and I can't stand the Ewoks or Jar Jar. I'm not much for funny, cutesy stuff. I do feel that Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi are visually stunning at times.

Are you a Mara Jade fan?

Yes. I think she is a wonderful character that has grown out of the license Star Wars fiction.

How familiar are you with Mara's character?

Pretty familiar. When I was a broke student, I perused the library a lot for books. I'm a voracious reader, I can read a paperback in a couple of hours. So I got into the Star Wars line of fiction, there were a lot of them at the library. I actually had read all the books to be expanded upon in Cracken's Threat Dossier before I got the project.

Your illustration of Mara Jade for Cracken's Threat Dossier is among one of the first depictions of our favorite redheaded smuggler. What preparations did you go through before creating the image?

Well, I always thought it was more interesting that she was Palpatine's assassin than smuggler. But she had this sorta "light" side. She was funny & sad. Bitter sometimes, but funny. I remember going back and looking at some text on the description of Mara. I winged it from there. I don't remember modeling her on anyone particular.

You have produced the only illustration of Mara's ship, the Jade's Fire to date. How did you come up with its appearance?

Heh. Gundam's War in the Pocket? I have an old cell book from that anime movie with prelim starship designs. I borrowed some design elements off some of the starships in there. And combined it with the pleasure barge thingee in Return of the Jedi. I'm not sure what I read in the text to combine those elements. But I'm pretty happy with Jade's Fire.

What was it like creating so many illustrations from different Star Wars books - The Courtship of Princess Leia, "The Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy," and "The Corellian Trilogy."

A blur. I just met my girlfriend, I was working on these illustrations 12 hours a day. Since she was an interior design student and had passing knowledge with art, I pressed her into service (thanks Susanne) doing black backgrounds for space and dotting it with stars. But I remember feeling that it was a turning point in my career. That my work was kicked up a notch. For so many illustrations in three weeks, I look back on it and I'm fairly happy with the "fairly" consistent quality. I was less happy with the printing, which came out a bit dark.

What other assignments are you currently working on?

Right now I'm working on artwork (cover and interiors) for a re-release of Ultimate Martial Artist by DOJ (formerly Hero Games). And I'm working on two projects for AEG. One is Mercs, a d20 game about fantasy genre mercenaries - interiors for that. Then I have 4 paintings to do for AEG's Warlords CCG, I must admit that I don't have the expansion title memorized. I just finished interiors for Hero Games 5th Edition Rules (also for DOJ).

What would you recommend to other aspiring artists hoping to do what you do?

Seriously consider a good art school. I got a book of every single art program in the USA, I looked at 7, applied to 5, picked one. CCAD was an amazing experience. Boot camp for artists. It isn't the only route, but what I was learning in the classroom, I was using as a freelancer that week.

Work on anatomy, perspective and telling a whole story in one picture. Many artists can do a single pose. Not so many can tell a story with multiple figures, all with a background, middle ground and foreground. Learn design, type design, color theory and the ins and outs of printing.

No knowledge is bad knowledge. My career was helped by moving furniture. Why? Because when the boss learned I can type, I was put into the office.... I WAS the office. I was on the phone the entire day, giving directions, scaring up new jobs, handling customers...along with complaints. Why did this help me? I have a comfort level on the phone that I have had many art directors comment on how easy it is to talk to me on the phone. Having relationships with people you have never met, which is common in this industry, is a wonderful, fulfilling thing and will get you more work.

Read about other artists. Learn about the History of Art, it will show you SO much. Get excited.

Lastly, my sensei asked me this in the middle of some difficult maneuver....

"Storn, are you frustrated?" he asked.

"Yes!" was my grunted reply.

"Good! You are learning now!"

Learn to look forward to the frustration of being an artist. When you are at the table or canvas and things are NOT going smoothly, learn to recognize THAT as the time you will make the greatest strides forward. I've done this long enough to recognize that feeling... and I don't give up when I'm frustrated.... I keep pushing through and when that break through comes...damn, it feels good.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for Jade Crusades.

My pleasure!

You can check out Storn's website at

Matt Busch Interview

While at San Diego Comic-Con 2001, Jade Crusade’s very own Mazzic had the privilege to interview Star Wars artist Matt Busch. Busch's artwork has been seen in such publications as Star Wars Insider and West End Games' Adventure Journal.

So, are you a Mara Jade fan?

Absolutely, absolutely.

Jumping right to the point; are the images on your website from the short story Jade Solitaire the only illustrations of the Emperor's Hand you have created?

No. There are, to my recollection, about twelve. One color, and about twelve black and white pieces. Not all of them are on my website. If I can dig them up, I'll be sending them to you for exclusives.

Thank you very much! But the only Mara illustrations are from Jade Solitaire?

They're from Jade Solitaire. There was also a Talon Karrde story that I illustrated, that had a few cameos of Mara Jade as well.

You don't happen to know who wrote that story, or what it was called?

I don't, but I think it was a story that was either written by Mike Stackpole or he and Timothy Zahn. I can't really remember. It was for an issue of the Star Wars Adventure Journal that never came out. So, yeah, it's a shame.

Are you familiar with Mara's character?

Absolutely I am. I was a really big Star Wars fan before I - I still am - but before I started doing official work in ‘94, I was a huge Star Wars buff. In fact, I've got a Darth Vader tattoo—

*Lifts up sleeve to show Vader's mask inked onto his arm*

But before I was doing official work, I had time to read all the books, so obviously I read Timothy Zahn's trilogy and all the way up past the Jedi Academy series.

Have you been keeping up with the New Jedi Order series?

No. I've read almost all the books that Bantam used to do, and also illustrated the Tales from the Empire novel. But I haven't had a chance to read anything from Del Rey. I did read one chapter from Vector Prime because I had to illustrate Chewbacca when he dies, for the Star Wars Insider.

Great piece, by the way.

Thank you.

What preparations did you go through before producing the Jade Solitaire pictures?

Well, at that time, there wasn't an official Mara Jade model. So I had a friend who is a model in mind. Her name is Andi Ficara, and she really had this unique look. At least, what I had read from novels and stuff, I thought she was the perfect character. So I took all the photographs, and did some preliminary sketches first just to send to West End Games. They sent it to Lucasfilm to make sure she was, you know, a good-looking Mara. They loved the preliminary sketches, and she worked out great. She really got into character. I actually had her read the first Timothy Zahn novel, just to kind of get it. I filled her in with all the future, and she was really into it and did a really good job.

Do you plan on producing other Mara images in the future?

I would like to. Usually for the Star Wars stuff, if I get hooked up with a job that involves Mara, I'm into it. It's not really a situation where I can just propose, "Hey, I want to do a Mara Jade comic book." If they ask me to do it, I say "yes," basically.

So no Mara Wizards of the Coast material yet?

No, not that I know of yet. I wish though. I think she's fascinating.

What is your favorite art medium to use?

My favorite to do my paintings in is acrylic with colored pencil. I use a little bit of airbrush in my work, just for highlights and filling in large areas of colors, but it's actually mostly hand painted.

How long have you been a Star Wars fan?

Since the first day I saw the movies. Actually, it's funny. When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to see Star Wars. My parents saw it first and they thought it was too violent for me. You know, cause Luke's parents get slaughtered, Obi Wan Kenobi dies, and I was 4 years old when it first came out. So I actually tricked my grandparents into taking me.


So I saw it for the first time with my grandparents, and it was really cool. I've been hooked ever since.

Well, thank you very much for letting me conduct this interview with you.

You're very welcome.

If you are interested in seeing more of Matt Busch’s art, check out his section at Jade Crusades' Art of Mara Jade, or to see more of his Star Wars art (as well as others) head on over to his website at!