Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Aaron Allston Interview

Jade Crusades is here with Aaron Allston, the author of the New Jedi Order novels Rebel Stand and Rebel Dream, as well as the author of the Wraith Squadron novels.


How did you prepare to write the character of Mara Jade (ie. reading other books, talking to other authors)?

I chiefly read the other works in which she'd appeared. I prefer the "total immersion" method of research.

What were some of the difficulties you encountered in writing Mara Jade?

The main difficulty is that, since the start of the New Jedi Order, she's been in a state of transition. In terms of characterization, this sort of makes her a moving target. Between the spore infection that endangered her health, her pregnancy, the disruption of her life caused by the Vong invasion, the losses her family has sustained, and so forth, she's all over the map, emotionally speaking. I had to figure out where she was going to be, in terms of her intellect, emotions, and personal development, during the events of the Enemy Lines duology, and this was pretty tricky.

I decided that I needed to focus on the biggest recent change for Mara. This wasn't the loss of Coruscant; as the Emperor's Hand, she'd had to live life on the run before. It was becoming a parent, and the hard part of this for me was figuring out how to portray a Mara who both acted realistically
like a parent and yet whose personality was still familiar and comfortable to her fans -- and, as you know, Mara's fans tend to be quite exacting in what they expect.

I ended up envisioning her as having the parenting instincts of a bird of prey -- violently protective, brooding -- and putting those instincts in conflict with her intellect. This gave her some internal conflicts and family dynamics, especially with Luke, that were a lot of fun to play with.

What were some of your favorite moments/scenes from your books that involved Mara Jade?

My favorite scene with her, bar none, is her line of dialogue on page 297 of REBEL STAND. I won't repeat it here, since that might act as a spoiler for those who haven't read it. But it's a moment that seemed so very, cold-bloodedly HER that I enjoy it a lot. The other Mara scenes I most enjoy are situations where she's bantering with Luke. You might guess that I like banter.

How do you feel you advanced Mara's character development?

I've had the feeling for some time that the emotional and intellectual sides of Mara's personality are not particularly well integrated, and part of the fun of her role as a new mother is that it puts her into the deep end of the pool of her emotional side -- where she's largely out of her depth. I think that the events of the Enemy Lines duology put her a step or two toward integrating those two sides a little better, but that's something only time will tell.

What advice can you give to aspiring writers who wish to do what you do?

That sort of depends on what direction they seem to be coming from. In my experience, two types of aspiring writers tend to ask me advice: those who want to be writers, and those who want only to be Star Wars writers.

To the first type I give pretty much the same advice they're likely to hear anywhere, the same advice they'll get from writing courses and books on writing. There is no magic trick to becoming a published writer -- outside of becoming famous in some other field and then having someone ghost-write a book that exploits your famous name. For those of us who aren't famous, it's a combination of work ethic, talent, luck, timing, imagination, and so on, which we all have in greater or lesser amounts.

To the second type, I give this advice: Become the first type, or give up on writing Star Wars for the professional market. If the last decade's publishing history has shown us anything, it's that the publishers gravitate to writers who are writers first and fans second.

Think about it -- let's say you'd never hear of Star Wars before, and then saw one of the movies and became an addict to the universe. Assuming an unlimited budget to buy books and movies, how long would it take you to learn enough to become an expert on the universe. A few months? A year?

Now, imagine that you saw one of the movies, became an addict to the universe, and set out to become a proficient writer of fiction. How long would THAT take? In my experience, depending on individual characteristics of the person in question, it takes many years or decades.

Obviously, it's in the publishers' best interest to gravitate to writers who already have their tools in order. So my advice, ultimately, is get your tools in order. Become a writer first and a fan second. And that means creating original works, set in universes of your own creation.

Thank you so much for doing this interview for us.

Happy to oblige.

If you'd like to check out some of Aaron Allston's other works and learn more about him, visit his website at http://www.aaronallston.com

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