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!
Okay, thank you!