Tuesday, August 9, 2011

R.A. Salvatore Interview

During a book signing in Bountiful, Utah, Jade Crusades’ Mazzic was able to interview Star Wars author R.A. Salvatore. Salvatore wrote the first novel to the New Jedi Order series, Vector Prime. His latest Star Wars novel was the Episode II: Attack of the Clones adaptation.

We're here with Star Wars author RA Salvatore. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.

My pleasure.

As you know, Jade Crusades is a fan website devoted to the red-headed amazon, Mara Jade Skywalker. As someone who has used Mara Jade in your fiction, what are your impressions about her?

Well, when I was going to write the book, of course, I didn't know who Mara Jade was. So I got the crash course on her. The things that came across the most to me were that she's independent, and she doesn't need anyone. But she doesn't mind sharing as well. I mean, she doesn't mind being a part of the team. But she's independent, she's strong, and she's very capable at everything she does.

How did Mara's character evolve in your mind, before she was embodied in Vector Prime?

Well, at first I didn't want to put her in the book. Mainly because I had twelve protagonists, and she wasn't a character I had known. And I wasn't comfortable with that. She's Tim Zahn's character, and you know I didn't have time to do all the research I wanted to do. And I wasn't able to spend as much time with Tim as I would have needed to. So I was a little uncomfortable with that, and I figured this would be one way to have one less character. But I took her characteristics, and I put them along with someone who was very near and dear to me who shared those characteristics. That's my brother. My brother at the time was battling cancer, and he was about the bravest person I ever saw as he was going through that. He wasn't asking for help, he wasn't running away from anyone. But he understood this was his fight.

Did you have Timothy Zahn's help?

No, I talked to Mike Stackpole. I was leaning on Mike Stackpole and two groups of editors. Really after the outline was excepted, I only had about seven or eight weeks to write the first draft. So it wasn't going to be a matter of calling a whole bunch of people. I talked to Mike Stackpole, and he was really my "go to" guy.

In your novel, Mara has been infected by a deadly disease. Can you describe how you anticipated this would influence the plot of subsequent novels in the New Jedi Order series?

I was hoping that other authors would follow what happened to her the same way. They would develop her character as my brother’s had grown. As he grew as a person through it. And I think we got some of that. But I think a lot of the authors, quite honestly, shied away from it because there was such an outcry from fans, to tell you the truth. I think a lot of authors got a little scared. I know that one author kind of went out of his way to reverse it without curing it. Which saddened me, because the way you make characters grow is you put them through the ringer. And she was being put through the ringer. I had hoped that it would go much deeper. Looking back on it now, I probably would have not done that knowing where it went. Even though I think it had a pretty good resolution.

At the time, did you know the plan for her to be cured?

No, I didn't. I mean, one thing about the New Jedi Order is anytime someone is in danger, be afraid. Because they're not pulling any punches. If they decide a character's going to go, a character's going to go. I didn't know whether she was going to make it or not.

In the New Jedi Order, Jedi are being trained in the traditional way of Master and Apprentice. What prompted you to place Jaina Solo under the tutelage of Mara?

I wanted to develop the relationship between Leia and Mara. That gave me the opportunity to see Mara through Leia's eyes. I know Leia, and having Mara training her daughter really made it easier for me. There is one scene that opens Vector Prime where Leia is actually jealous because Mara and Jaina are almost like mother and daughter as they're copiloting the ship. I just liked that interaction.

In Vector Prime, you foreshadowed Mara's motherhood. However, in chapter six, Princess Leia and Mara come to the realization that Mara may not be able to have children. How do you feel things have evolved since your book, and what do you think about the new addition to the Skywalker family?

When I was beginning the series, they wanted me to start with Luke and Mara having a baby already. That was one of the suggestions. I argued against that, along with several other people. I know that one of the authors wanted it to happen, and so it happened. What do I think about it? I think you should be very careful for what you wish for. There are eight or nine books to go, and it's going to be very hard to give a brand-new mom screen time without making her look like a lousy brand-new mom. I honestly wish they had waited until the end of the series to do that. But I understand why they did it. The New Jedi Order had gotten so dark, the fans needed that lift of Ben. They needed that lift, and I think that's why they made the decision to do it early. Personally, I would have waited until the end. I would have made that one of the ending scenes of the series. When I watch a television show and the main character gets pregnant, you know it's in its last season. Usually.

What was one of the most enjoyable aspects about writing Vector Prime?

Well, just coming into the Star Wars galaxy. I had thought, "Oh, this is just another job. No problem, I'll get going." And then I actually started writing the book. In the first scene I'm doing dialogue for Princess Leia. It just about blew me out of my chair. I was like, "How cool is this?!" That was quite enjoyable.

Your newest Star Wars novel, Attack of the Clones, takes place nearly fifty years prior to Vector Prime. What were some of the techniques, if any, you used to bridge the two together?

Well, I really didn't. The movies are George Lucas's vision, and I'm not going to worry about anything else than those movies. When I write a book like Attack of the Clones, the only person I'm trying to please, other than myself, is George Lucas. I'm following his vision. Now, I know that one thing that they are doing in a lot of the Prequel books is tying them back to the New Jedi Order. They're trying to establish all that continuity. But I didn't feel that was my place to do in a novelization which George Lucas takes very seriously. It's his vision, and I didn't want to do anything that would contradict something he might try to do in the next movie.

What was one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing Attack of the Clones?

It was a blast from beginning to end. I got to go up to Skywalker Ranch and sit down with George Lucas and pick his brain. It doesn't get better than that. He was great to work with. The only down side of it, the movie was spoiled completely for me. But watching the process of first script to movie was great.

Given the opportunity to write a Star Wars short story, or another novel, what era would you chose to write in, and what stories would you like cover?

I hate short stories. I write them because I have to, because the contract says "You will have a short story in this book." They won't give me the contract for a novel unless I do that. But I wouldn't do a short story. I was thinking about NJO #5 for a while there, but only fleetingly. I'm very busy. I've got Demon Wars, I've got my Dark Elf. Two books a year is a lot of books. If I could go back to Star Wars, it would be Episode III if they offered it. Other than that, I don't know. I don't know that I'm the guy to do it, other than that.

Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?

The sixth Demon book, Transcendence, came out right after Attack of the Clones. This series is near and dear to me. It's the world I've always wanted to write. I'm working on the seventh and last book, Immortalis, right now. That will be out next year. In the fall, I have my fifteenth Dark Elf novel coming out. It's funny because the Dark Elf fans prepared me for the Star Wars fans. The Dark Elf fans are really into the Dark Elf series, and they know everything that's going on. They know the books better than I do, and I wrote them. It's pretty amazing. And that series keeps rolling along. That book, The Thousand Orcs, will be out in September or October.

Has Del Rey or Wizards of the Coast talked to you about writing any other Star Wars?

Del Rey and I have discussed it off and on for a long time, but you know, they really want me to get Demon Wars done the way I want it to be done. They know I'm pretty busy.

Any post-New Jedi Order?

I have no idea what they're going to do Post-New Jedi Order. I don't think they know what they're going to do post-New Jedi Order yet. I don't think they've thought that far ahead. I mean, they've got to wrap up this series, and they've got a huge task ahead of them to get it done right.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors who wish to do what you do?

If you can quit, quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer. You don't do this because you're looking to be a published author. Now, practical advice: don't write a Star Wars book. Do not write Star Wars fan fic and try to submit it. They won't look at it. You'll get a standard letter back. Reason being, they only commission the books that are pre-approved by Lucasfilm. They've talked with them, and decided these are books they want to do. Then they go find the author for the book. Doesn't work the other way. If I wrote a Star Wars book off the top of my head…I said, "I've got a great idea for a Star Wars book." I've sold a lot of books. I've been in the business for a long time. I've been on the Times list a bunch of times. I've got all the credentials. If I wrote a Star Wars book and I sent it to Lucasfilm, I'd get a horror filled phone call from them and then I'd get my manuscript back with a letter on top saying "Do not try to sell this anywhere else, and do not do ever do this again." It's not the way it works. If you want to write a book, you go write your own world. If you really want to break into Star Wars, you try to do it first through one of the game products, or magazines, and get your name on the radar screen. That's the only way you're going to do it.

All right, thank you for very much for participating in this interview.

My pleasure.

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