Kuo-Yu Liang

The Del Rey site also has a transcribed interview with Kuo-Yu Liang, the Associate Publisher of Del Rey Books. One topic covered was the NJO:

Q: What is the publishing timeline of the new Star Wars series and how do books in the series fit into the timeline of the Star Wars universe?

A: The Phantom Menace--Terry Brooks's adaptation of the screenplay of the new Star Wars movie--is being published in May. Events depicted in this book take place a generation before the events depicted in the first Star Wars movie. In November we will be publishing Vector Prime by R. A. Salvatore, the first novel in our new Star Wars fiction program not directly related to The Phantom Menace. That will be followed in January 2000 by Onslaught, a paperback written by Michael Stackpole.

Q: What will the new series of Star Wars books be called?

A: The blanket name we have chosen for the new series--which will be included in all the series' titles--is The New Jedi Order. Books in The New Jedi Order will all be part of one big chronological story line covering a five year span of galactic history which begins twenty-five years after the events depicted in the first Star Wars movie. The series, which will chronicle a time when the Republic faces a new threat, will include many of the characters people love from the original Star Wars stories--Luke Skywalker (who will be attempting to reestablish the Jedi council), Han Solo, Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, and others--as well as intriguing new additions.

The New Jedi Order will include one major event each year which will be released as a hardcover. Then throughout the year we will publish six to ten mass market paperbacks which will add to the existing story line, explore areas that are untouched, and fill in story-line gaps.

Q: What can readers expect from this series?

A: They can expect writing of the highest order, exciting new stories, surprising plot lines, and intriguing new characters--in other words, the essential qualities that Star Wars fans have come to expect.

Click here to read the entire interview.

Mike Stackpole

Michael A. Stackpole participated in a chat hosted by on Saturday evening. I was present for the entire thing, and the NJO was mentioned several times, mainly by me. =) Here are a few NJO-related tidbits I saved:

<Stackpole> The first is a Star Wars book, the second in the New Jedi Order series. Its title is ONSLAUGHT. It will be out in January from Del Rey.

<Stackpole> I'm also writing my second Del Rey Sw novel: RUIN. Because of some changes in the story arc, this will be my final book right now.

<ravskel> he asked " I hear you're doing a trilogy for the upcoming New Jedi Order series. What can you tell us about it, and about the NJO in general (that we haven't already heard, that is)?

<Stackpole> Actually, Lucasfilm prohibits me from commenting about ongoing work in any specifics.

<Stackpole> As I noted above, my trilogy has become a duology (with a draft choice to be named later...) because of changes we're making in the storyline, fine tuning it, etc.

<Stackpole> But, it's a big epic and, given what I know about the writers involved and the plots unfolding, I think you'll find it it very exciting and fun.

<Stackpole> But there is something very cool about lightsabers and TPM's fight was very inspiring for scenes in Onslaught.

<ravskel> TheRiddler asks: Are you being considered for any more NJO novels (did we answer this already?)

<Stackpole> Riddler: I'm doing two NJO books now and I've talked with Del Rey editors about others in the future of the line, but nothing is solid at this point.

<ravskel> Mik wants to know: will your NJO books be "mainstream" novels or similar to the X-wing Series

<ravskel> no clue what he means by mainstream....

<Stackpole> The NJO order books will be mainstream, since we have no sidelines going on with Del Rey. That being said, though, you'll see plenty of the characters that I've used from the past showing up.

<ravskel> TheRiddler asks: Will NJO Duology still keep the dark tide series title?

<Stackpole> according to the cover sample I have, yes, but that's mutable right up to the last moment.

<Urza> <Slayer> corran wants to know : is there going to be more of corran horn!?

<Stackpole> From the back cover copy of Onslaught I quote, "...and Jedi Knight Corran Horn...". I'd say that's a yes.

<Urza> <Slayer> ask him is he going to proceed on with more books like I,jedi where they feature a jedi in training and development

<Stackpole> There are no plans, to my knowledge, for that sort of book per se in the NJO line. That said, though, lots of Jedi get training and insidght in the course ofthe saga.

Aaron Allston

Bits and pieces from two IRC chats Mr. Allston attended in August:

<Mavrick> Was the idea of getting Iella and Wedge together at the end of SoA a move sanctioned by Lucasfilm, or your idea? Does this tie into Wedge's love life in the NJO series?

<Allston> Mavrick Well, Wedge+Iella was set up in one of Tim Zahn's novels. All I had to do was point and say, "There, it's done. I want to show how they get there." And I don't know much about Wedge in the NJO. (GA)

<Kir_Kanos_> Would you like to (if approached) right any books for NJO?

<Allston> Kir_Kanos I'd be happy to contribute to the New Jedi Order series, sure. Of course, I don't know much about it now -- they're being pretty close-mouthed about it.

<Jade> Is there a chance that you will work on some of the NJO books, as Mike Stackpole and others have done?

<Allston> Jade There's always a chance. There are no plans for it currently, but Del Rey is aware of me -- in fact, their editors keep getting pestered about me by fans whenever they attend conventions. (GA)

<Kali> Will there be any more books involving the Wraiths?

<Allston> Kali No telling. Del Rey has to decide whether or not they'll expand beyond NJO before they decide that.

<Chrono> <Kriel> Do you think Tyria will ever become a Jedi Knight?

<Allston> Kriel: Yes, I do. She began to have breakthroughs with her perception of the Force, as shown in SOLO COMMAND. My sense is that she'll stay with the Wraiths only a short time longer before setting out on Jedi training. (GA)

<GhentZ> Perhaps we can convince some of the NJO authors to write her in. :)

<Allston> GhentZ: If any of the NJO writers decide to include Wraith cameos, I'd be happy to work up a set of recommendations on what they've been doing in intervening years.

R. A. Salvatore

In Reply to: Star Wars: Vector Prime posted by Tbone1212 on October 07, 1999 at 07:33:20:

To Tony,

I feel for your loss, I really do. And I understand your points more specifically and painfully than you realize -- my Star Wars tour just got cancelled for a very personal reason.


When I agreed to do Vector Prime, I was told to bring a certain tone and character to the novel that would be different from the swarm of novels that had preceded it. I had to come up with a story to get from point A to point B, with Mike Stackpole following up from point B to point C, then point C to point D. I had to bring some honest fear and sense of vulnerability to the untouchable characters While putting together the outline, I was also instructed that a certain, painful event involving a certain heroic character HAD TO BE INCLUDED. I balked at the bet I did. It wasn't until I was told HOW it was supposed to happen that I realized I should do it, mostly because, in my opinion, they got it all wrong. So I agreed and did it my way, the appropriate way, with a very visual and dramatic last vision, I believe.

Does it hurt? Did DemonWars hurt? It's supposed to...drama and tragedy make for good storytelling, add power and foreshadowing, and bring levels of introspection to works that cannot otherwise be reached. Imagine taking a beloved character and killing him...why that's just not Star Wars! What's next? Will someone have the audacity to kill another beloved character, like Obiwan Kenobi? HOW DARE....oops, oh, yeah. Well, at least Lucas repented, because in TPM, none of the major characters die...oops, wait a minute. As to the subsequent post calling it a temporary thing and a publicity stunt, your cynicism is simply amazing. New Jedi Order is a decidedly different turn in a galaxy that seriously suffers from Fonzie-itis and from fanfic on steroids. What I mean by the first is that the characters have become untouchable...does anyone really worry when the Solo kids are kidnapped for the 32nd time? What I mean by the second is that Star Wars has run into the same "I own this place and if it takes any turns away from my desired course, then I'll be pissed off" attitude that I run into with my continuing Drizzt series.

I fear that we've reached a very bad place as a society concerning our "pop" art. Call it soap opera or continuing series phenomena...this idea that deeper emotions, if they're troubling, just shouldn't be touched upon.

I think that you, and many others are looking at books in absolutely the wrong manner. Many of you younger readers simply didn't grow up with tragedy weaving in and among your "pop" art, whereas it used to be very common, an instruction to people to learn to come to terms with the darker and more mysterious aspects of the life experience. As with any early Disney film (sorry, CattiDrizzt), as with "Old Yeller." Think of the impact of "Where the Red Fern Grows." I've been going through a very trying time in my life, and the one thing that's kept me sane is my writing, is pouring out the pain on the page and examining my own beliefs andspirituality along with it.

If you cannot follow or deal with such a course, Tony, then of course you are correct to stop reading such works. You're going to have a very hard time finding quality works to read to your kids, my friend, because by your own definition, you've just eliminated wonderful, evocative novels

like "Watership Down", "Where the Red Fern Grows", "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", The Dragonlance Saga, anything by Joseph Campbell, almost anything by William Shakespeare, "The Diary of Anne Frank", "Slaughterhouse Five", "Of Mice and Men," "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", "The Mysterious Stranger", "Go Ask Alice"...does this list end?

And as for movies, well, scratch, "Old Yeller" (all the Disney films), "The Land Before Time," "The Deerhunter", "Saving Private Ryan" (BIG scratch!), "Schindler's List", "The Longest Day", "The Sixth Sense", "The Godfather" et al, "Jaws", and don't forget that first Star Wars' movie, Episode IV, because it's got that Ben Kenobi thing going on...

Here's a HUGE tip: Don't read "MORTALIS"!


In Reply to: Re: Star Wars: Vector Prime***SPOILERS!!!!!**** posted by Sue on October 08, 1999 at 17:57:58:

Anytime a character is killed in a novel, it is a device. Plain and simple, because the author has control over that event. If I gave you the impression that DelRey or LFL decided to do this thing just to make it more real, then you're not looking deeply enough into the consequences of this event. because ofthis, we're going to (hopefully) see some tremendous growth in Han (good and bad) and some pretty serious baggage tagged onto poor Anakin.

Even more importantly, because of this, every time you read a Star Wars novel in the future, you'll actually have to worry about how the thing will wind up.

DelRey and LFL decided to do things a bit differently now, I think, out of respect for the fact that much of the audience has grown up. To call it merely a publicity stunt, or the like is demeaning to everyone involved in such a difficult decision -- an event that hurt to write every bit as much as it hurt to read.

It's not a gimmick...a device, sure, but every major event in every novel is a device.


Why did Spielberg kill Tom Hanks at the end of this movie? Didn't have to. Could've written it differently. Why didn't he?


Force of publishing kills 'Star Wars' hero

By Mike Snider, USA TODAY

Despite all the dangers, the original corps of beloved Star Wars good guys - Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2 - have cheated death in their adventures.

OK, some fatalities occurred. Obi-Wan Kenobi buys it midway through the original film. In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader dies, and some Ewoks get blasted. Liam Neeson's character, Qui-Gon Jinn, succumbs to The Phantom Menace, too.

Getting a bad feeling about this? There's good reason. Death comes calling about two-thirds of the way into Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore. The book, released last week, is No. 36 on the USA TODAY Best-Selling Books list.

Note: Those who don't want to know the loser in the George Lucas-approved death pool should stop reading now.

Del Rey and Lucasfilm wanted to "crank up the heat" with this first book in The New Jedi Order series, set 25 years after Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope.

"It seemed that after all the characters had been through, there was nothing left to scare anyone or get (readers) worried. You knew they were going to be fine," Del Rey editorial director Shelly Shapiro says.

With Luke & Co. facing a threat from outside the known galaxy, a sacrifice would be "a clear signal of the gravity of the situation," Lucasfilm's Howard Roffman says.

The loser: Chewbacca.

He dies a hero's death, as did Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon before him. Also, Shapiro says, "it has a nice side effect. It will be good for Han's character. This will jump-start his rejuvenation."

When author Salvatore was told he would be asked to kill off Chewie, he "was very nervous," Shapiro says.

"I said, 'Forget it. I'll give back the money,' " says Salvatore, who eventually "thought about it and understood the reason for it."

Salvatore is forgoing a book tour to remain home and care for his brother, Gary, diagnosed 1½ years ago with pancreatic cancer. Recent events also include the death of his mother-in-law.

His state of mind helped him deal with a sense of loss and transfer that to the book's characters. "Where I am emotionally and what I needed to accomplish with this book, I think it was a good fit."

R.A. Salvatore - Del Rey

DR: To say that your recent Star Wars novel, Vector Prime, met with a controversial reception would be something of an understatement. I understand you have even received death threats from fans outraged at the death of Han Solo's sidekick, the Wookiee Chewbacca. Were you prepared for this degree of hostility?

RAS: I have been surprised by the level of anger in some of the people. I haven't received any of the death threats personally, but they've been made, so I've been told. I have received many angry e-mails, and I've noticed a few curious things about the progression of that anger--it's like watching people going through a grieving process. One person, for example, wrote to me immediately, outraged and in complete shock. The guy was on the edge of absolute despair, it seemed to me. Then he wrote back a couple of weeks later, saying, basically, "Okay, I'm over it. I really liked the book."

DR: What, if anything, would you like to say to these people?

RAS: What can I say? It's a fictional character, and the people working for the creator of that character made a decision that it was time for him to go. That's the prerogative of the creator of the work--it has to be the decision of the creator, whether an author, as I've done in some of my own worlds, or, in this case, George Lucas. It is the province and the responsibility of the writer to play god in his work. Even something as popular as Star Wars has to answer to George Lucas alone, and not to a million fans.

DR: Should a writer be guided by the integrity of his or her vision and not consider the expectations and sensitivities of the audience?

RAS: Absolutely. You have to be aware of your audience--is this appropriate for a 12-year-old, for example--but a writer has a style that is his own, and a vision that must be followed. You cannot cater to a dozen, let alone a hundred, let alone a hundred-thousand, readers, each of whom bring their own expectations and demands. Doesn't work.

DR: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing Vector Prime? How did you become involved? Whose decision was it to feature the death of a major character . . . and how was Chewie chosen? What part did George Lucas play?

RAS: I was asked to write Vector Prime in August of last year. I initially balked at the idea, because, though I loved the movies, I hadn't been reading the novels. The publisher assured me not to worry about that, as they were looking for a fresh voice, a new beginning for the series rather than a mere continuation of what had gone before. They weren't planning to ignore much of what had gone before, but they had a bevy of editors ready to make sure that whatever I did fit in with previous works.

After I agreed to do the book, I was given a general outline of the story arc for the 20+ books of The New Jedi Order, along with a general idea of what they wanted the new threat to the galaxy to look like, and was instructed to take the information and put together an outline for a book that would set up the series. There were a few necessities, such as which characters had to be included (mostly those from the movies), the basics of the alien threat, and, oh yeah, the death of Chewbacca. Who made that last call? It came out of a meeting at Skywalker Ranch, I'm told, between the folks at the book publisher, Del Rey, the folks at Lucasfilm, and a couple of the previous Star WarsΠauthors.

I have no idea how involved George Lucas was in that decision. I doubt that it was his explicit decision to kill a character, but I'm pretty certain he gave his approval for the act and the particular character. Certainly my instructions on the issue were clear, coming from both Del Rey and Lucasfilm.

DR: You're known for best-selling fantasies like the Dark Elf novels featuring Drizzt do Urden and the Demon Wars series currently being published by Del Rey. What were some of the challenges you faced in switching from fantasy to science fiction?

RAS: I didn't see many challenges, because I still do not think of Star Wars as science fiction. To me, it's the classic heroic epic adventure, and that rings more of fantasy than of science fiction. Hence the swords--lightsabers--and the magic--the Force. If it was hard science fiction, I would have stayed away, because while I have a cursory knowledge of science (I studied physics a bit in college), I'm certainly not up to date on specifics in that area.

But Star Wars isn't, and never has been, about hard science. It's about lightsabers and making the jump to light speed, and the magic of the Force. It's about characters and character and hard choices, and making the right choice, despite the seemingly more difficult road ahead.

DR: I imagine it must have been frustrating at times to write within the constraints of a universe and characters not your own. What--aside from the money!--made it worthwhile? Would you do it again?

RAS: First of all, writing Star Wars was NEVER about the money. It was about stepping into what many consider the great American Myth and making a contribution to that wonderful story. Also, it was an opportunity to get my style and work in front of many readers who didn't know about R.A. Salvatore, and, since I'm hoping to keep my career going for many more years, that's a door I wanted to open wide.

Was it worthwhile? From a career point of view, I'd have to say yes, and working with Lucasfilm was a wonderful experience. The people out at the Ranch are professional and care very deeply about the integrity of Star Wars. Also, writing Vector Prime allowed me to work with Shelly Shapiro of Del Rey, one of the most respected (with good reason!) editors in the field, and a truly wonderful person. I knew that I could grow as a writer with Shelly, and I believe that I did. I'd work with her again any time.

But on Star Wars? I don't know. My biggest complaint about the publishing business at this time is that, since everything seems to have gone over to the publication of series instead of stand-alones, too many readers begin to proprietize the works. Star Wars has this problem--on steroids. It's almost impossible to please everyone in that audience, because many have their own opinion not only about how things should go, but how they HAVE TO go. If I had included everyone's favorite Star Wars character in the novel, the book would have read like an encyclopedia.

My first editor, Mary Kirchoff, and I were talking about this problem recently. It has become all-too-common in my Dark Elf series, which is now 12 books along. Her very wise advice was, "What the fans really want is their Drizzt-virginity back, and you can't give it to them." I see the same thing with Star Wars. Wouldn't it be wonderful if authors or directors could re-create that special moment of first exposure to this wonderful story? George Lucas gave them that with the original movies. Tim Zahn gave many of them that with his excellent first novel series, picking up where the movies left off.

It's very hard to get a handle on the feelings out there at this time. How does an author take the criticism, or the praise, seriously when someone yells about how horribly some characters were handled, and the very next letter/review squeals about how wonderfully those same characters were handled? Star Wars, because of its popularity and the love so many people have for it, has created a tough audience--and I don't mean that critically, but rather, emotionally.

DR: Star Wars is practically a religion for some people, and writing fiction about people¹s religion can be dangerous--as Salman Rushdie discovered!

RAS: Interesting comparison, and absolutely frightening. Not because of any implications to me, not any fatwah or all of that nonsense. But I find it frightening that an enjoyable work of fiction could become so elevated in the minds of some.

DR: Did you always know you were going to be a writer? What writers and books influenced you? Tolkien, obviously. And the Dark Elf series seems to pay homage to Michael Moorcock's Elric saga. . . .

RAS: I never even suspected that I would be a professional writer until my freshman year of college. I didn't read very much, which I now regret, and only wrote when I had to for a class assignment, until my sister gave my a copy of Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for Christmas. Those books changed my life. I'd name my other influences as James Joyce, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, with a little Mark Twain and Terry Brooks thrown in. And yes, I do love Moorcock's Elric saga, but I don't think that had anything to do with the creation and development of Dark Elf.

DR: Your first published novel was The Crystal Shard. Did you publish short fiction prior to that, or have you always written novels?

RAS: The first thing I ever wrote was Echoes of the Fourth Magic. That novel got me an audition to do the second Forgotten Realms novel at TSR. I won the audition and wrote The Crystal Shard. Before that, and other than Echoes, the only things I wrote were newspaper articles and school papers.

DR: Tell us about Drizzt do Urden. What made him such a popular character?

RAS: I wish I knew--I'd bottle it and make my living selling the formula to other authors. He is the classic romantic hero: misunderstood, stoic, a bit of a philosopher, intelligent and purely deadly with the blade, but I really don't know why he has climbed so far above so many other characters. There's something intangible there, something I've come to recognize that I can't copy. I wish I knew.

DR: Do you plan to write more books in the Dark Elf series?

RAS: Absolutely, though Drizzt might not be in all of them. (He wasn't in the most recent, The Spine of the World.) I see the series as a challenge: how long can I keep it vibrant? When I went back to TSR, I agreed to start writing Dark Elf books again, but I demanded more creative control. I have to be free to take the series and the characters where I want, and right now, that means fleshing out those characters around the dark elf, his friends and his enemies.

DR: What sets the DemonWars series apart from the Dark Elf books? I don't mean merely in terms of setting and characters, but also in your aims and intentions as a writer?

RAS: DemonWars has a much bigger scope than Dark Elf. While Dark Elf is really a series of personal tales and trials, DemonWars is that, plus a more epic story that shapes the very world. I could never do that in the Realms because it is shared world. But I own Corona, and can grow it or trash it as I see fit. In terms of writing style and emotional impact, I think DemonWars was much more mature than Dark Elf, but I'm working hard to bring Dark Elf up to that emotional level. I think of DemonWars as my new home, but Dark Elf as my family that I can go and visit over and over again.

DR: Do you plot out exactly what's going to happen in your books, or do your characters surprise you?

RAS: I outline every book before writing it, from beginning to end. Nothing too detailed, just a general idea of where I think these characters would go through the story. I'm never bound by that outline, though, and inevitably the book takes on a life of its own. I am surprised as I write nearly as much as the reader will be. That's what makes it fun.

Obviously, I had less creative control in Vector Prime, because there were certain things that had to be set up for future books in The New Jedi Order series. I never felt manipulated or constrained though, as Del Rey and Lucasfilm allowed me to work the story around the events.

DR: Like Vector Prime, the most recent book in the DemonWars saga, The Demon Apostle, featured the death of a major character. Coincidence?

RAS: Actually, yes. I knew the ending of Demon Apostle long before I began to write it; I had the general story complete in my head for all three books of the first DemonWar. With Star Wars, though, the death was not in my plans. I never thought when I signed on to do a Star Wars book that they'd have me kill off a major character, mostly because I never believed that the publisher and Lucasfilm would have the courage to do it. As you can see, I support their decision wholeheartedly.

DR: Many people read fantasy in order to escape from the grim realities of life ‹ death being foremost among them. By bringing death so centrally into your fantasies, are you robbing readers of a harmless escape? Or do you feel it's important to bring a certain harsh realism into fantasy ‹ maybe especially into fantasy?

RAS: "Escapist" fantasy never meant escaping from the harsh realities of the world, but rather, inferred escaping to a time and place where an individual didn't necessarily feel powerless against some bureaucratic or institutional monstrosity. Most fantasy novels, and certainly mine, empower the individual, show clear choices between right and wrong, and make characters pay for wrong choices. Good almost always wins (always in mine), but that victory should not come without a cost. Because there really is a cost--the choice cannot be an easy one.

The first popular escapist fantasy in this current round of literature was, obviously, Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Death visits those stories--indeed it does. Remember Boromir? Theoden? Heck, even at the end, Bilbo "goes away" to the west with the elves. Fantasy novels, I hope, will not become bland vanilla and utterly predictable happy happy tales. They can be much more than that; they can deal with real issues and real emotions--and death is the ultimate human drama. I'm well aware of the fact that many young people read my books. I don't want to preach to them, but neither will I be dishonest with them.

DR: How does magic work in your books? What are some of the things that aspiring fantasy writers should consider in building their worlds and magical systems?

RAS: Magic works in different ways in different series. For example, when writing a Forgotten Realms novel, which is set in a world belonging to TSR--a world designed for both games and novels--my use of magic has to conform, somewhat, to the rules of the AD&D game. That's one of the reasons I don't normally use a powerful wizard as a protagonist in that world. It's tough to write in accordance with game rules.

In DemonWars, magic is based on certain gemstones, collected by the monks and treated to retain their magical properties. Thus, in that world, magic has become the basis for the religious structure, as well. The monks call the gemstones the gifts of God. This is really just a continuation of what I've always thought was one of the major appeals of fantasy. Magic is, in many ways, akin to spirituality and mysticism and faith. We live in a world that's struggling with those questions now, a world where science claims the answers, and many of those answers could easily be (mis)interpreted as conclusive proof against the concept of God and an afterlife. Fantasy often involves things that cannot be explained, and people, I think, need a little of that in their lives. I know I do.

DR: Yet fantasies are frequently branded, especially here in the United States, as "unchristian" and "irreligious"--if not downright demonic--because of their use of magic. J.K. Rowlings¹ Harry Potter books are only the most recent example.

RAS: That's the purest form of silliness I've ever seen--and, working with the Dungeons & Dragons company for so many years, I've seen a lot of it. The reality of it, in my opinion, is that fantasy is among the purest of genres concerning good vs. evil and particularly concerning faith. What is magic, if not faith? I firmly believe that many people are drawn to fantasy, and to Star Wars, for that matter, because they don't want to live in a world where science can "explain" everything. There's beauty in mystery, and more importantly, there's hope.

DR: Del Rey is in the process of releasing a revised version of your early fantasy series, Echoes of the Fourth Magic. What was it like to return to a project that you began when you were a much less experienced writer?

RAS: Echoes of the Fourth Magic wasn't really revised, just cleaned up a little bit. The sequel, The Witch's Daughter, which was just re-released this fall, had very, very little revision. What Del Rey is doing, however, is releasing the third book in the series, Bastion of Darkness, which I wrote a few years ago, but never published.

Incidentally, Echoes of the Fourth Magic was the first novel I ever wrote, back in September, 1982 through March, 1983. I wrote it in the wee hours of the morning, long hand, by candlelight, to Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" album. Some great memories there! I'm thrilled that the book is back on the shelves. Returning to the series now brings me back nearly two decades. It's amazing how the years get away from you. My Dad was alive back then, and rooting me on--one of my biggest disappointments was that he didn't live long enough to see me published. Oh well, the books are very important to me.

DR: Do you still write long hand while listening to music?

RAS: Thanks for the laugh. I write on WordPerfect 7.0, on a very fast keyboard.

DR: In what ways are you a better writer today than when you were starting out?

RAS: Am I better writer today? I like to think so, but in truth, everything is a trade-off. I think that I was writing more definitive characters and situations back in the beginning. I was in my twenties and knew everything, after all. Now, so much has become more ambiguous in the writing--heroes have more flaws and villains have more redeeming qualities. I believe that makes the books stronger and more mature. I only hope that none of the sheer rollicking action has been lost.

Having said that, I will insist that The Demon Apostle, a recent book, is the best novel I've ever written (Homeland is a close second)--except that my editor and publisher will insist that it's the book coming out in June, 2000, the fourth DemonWar novel, Mortalis. I'm not sure about Mortalis. I wrote the book in a fog, in tremendous pain. I let that pain out onto the page. When I handed it in, I told my editor, "This is incredibly good or incredibly self-indulgent, and I'm too close to it to tell which." Given that the book went through with hardly a change, I think she felt it was the former. I hope the readers agree. Heck, I hope I agree when I re-read it, because, honestly, I remember next to nothing about it.

DR: Yet you kept writing despite all that.

RAS: Writing Mortalis was therapeutic. Publishing it will be painful, because it's a bit too personal. A writer gives a little bit of himself/herself away with each work. With Mortalis, I gave a lot.

DR: Are there plans to bring Drizzt do Urden or any of your other characters to the big screen or to television? If nothing else, the success of shows like Hercules and Xena has demonstrated that fantasies can thrive on TV . . . even though (remember Kull the Conqueror?) they seem to be almost invariably box office poison.

RAS: Fantasy movies have been box office poison because few of them have been written by fantasy authors who take the genre seriously. A fantasy movie has to be done more like Braveheart or The Messenger if it is a heavy morality tale, and more like The Princess Bride, my personal favorite, if it's meant to be lighthearted.

There are no plans for any Drizzt movie or DemonWar movie or TV series at this time. I know that Wizards of the Coast has done an excellent treatment of the Icewind Dale novels for screen adaptation, but I don't know where in the process we might be. I'd love to see it, though.

DR: The author photograph at the back of your books is rather unusual. You are holding a sword in front of your face, the edge of the blade not only dividing your face in two but casting one side in shadow while the other remains in light. First of all, is there a story behind that sword? And second, why that particular pose?

RAS: That picture was chosen among many for the book Faces of Fantasy, and Del Rey liked it a lot and started using it. The pose comes straight from a Jeff Easley (I think) painting, one of the best works I've ever seen. I wanted it so badly for one of my book covers, but alas, TSR used it for another book. I think it was called The Mask. The sword just allows the artist, in this case, the photographer, to do some great work with shadow. My only complaint is that the picture doesn't look right when shrunk down for a book jacket. That, and I don't have that hair anymore.

DR: Yes, I have that "complaint" myself . . .

Greg Bear

As I was walking into my local Barnes & Noble for the upcoming Greg Bear book signing I had one objective in mind. To get some exclusive questions to Greg Bear about the his new Star Wars novel, Rogue Planet, and about the many NJO [New Jedi Order] tie ins and Episode 2 foreshadowing that was inside it. And not only did I get that, but I also got plenty of info on how he got into SW, and how he was offered to write a SW novel. I walked up to the top floor where he would be meeting with me and other SW fans, and sat down to wait for him.

After what seemed like a while, Greg Bear got there. He went up to the stand where he would be talking to the fans and started talking.

First thing he talked about was how he first saw Star Wars. 23 years ago he was working for the Los Angeles Time. One of the advantages of this was that he got to see new movies early. One of those movies just happened to be Star Wars. 2 weeks before the opening of Star Wars, he was given tickets to an advanced screening. So he got to see it 2 weeks earlier than other. He went in the packed theater where everyone was expecting a cheesy Star Trek rip off. Then the words "A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...." appears on the screen followed by the opening scroll. Then came the one shot that first hooked him, the Corellian Fighter being followed by an Imperial Star Destroyer. Within 2 1/2 minutes of the beginning of the movie, every person in the theater burst into cheers and Greg Bear has been hooked ever since.

Then he got to how he was asked to write an EU [Expanded Universe] novel. He explained that he didn't want to be one of those authors known just for Star Wars. So he decided to make a name for himself before he even considered writing a SW novel. After writing over 20 novels he was offered the chance to write a Star Wars novel. At first he was not sure until he realized that he would have a chance to write about something no one has ever written about before. He would be able to write about a "Teenage Darth Vader." Shortly after he realized that he accepted the chance. It was a joy for him to make. He loved that he would write how Obi-Wan and Anakin reacted to certain things and what they were like, because he believed this wasn't used enough in Episode 1, and he was also excited to be the first to write about a teenage Anakin's first dabbles in the dark side and his subtle fall to the dark side.

One of the things he was able to do during this discussion was clear up a common mistake. That is the thought that he knows what happens in Episode 2. He has no idea at all on what happens in Episode 2. The rumor that he was given an outline on Episode 2 was completely false. He just looked at what we already know from Episode 1 and the other movies and did foreshadowing to the obvious events that will obviously happen in Episode 2 & 3 (i e. Anakin's fall to the dark side, Kenobi moving to Tattoine, etc.).

Eventually he got onto the subject that a lot of ppl are wondering. That is if he was given the chance to write another Star Wars novel would he. Well unfortunately his answer is no. While he had a LOT of fun writing Rogue Planet, at this point in time he would not want to write another SW novel.

Now he got to advice for other writers who may want to write in the SW universe in the future. He gave one simple piece of advice on this subject. That was that he suggests that ppl write in their own universe with their own freedom before they think of writing for SW.

Now we get to the part I have been waiting for. The Q & A [Questions & Answers] segment. I see my opportunity and search through my list of Questions for a good one for my first Question. Meanwhile, next to me someone asks if there was anything he was not aloud to write in Rogue Planet. Greg says that he was pretty much given freedom. The only things he was told not to write about were Amidala, R2D2, C3PO, and Jedi Training.

Now I have found the first question on my list to ask Greg Bear. And it's a good one. I raise my hand and am called on and I say "There were a lot of New Jedi Order tie ins in Rogue Planet. How did LFL [Lucasfilm] tell you to include them?" Greg laughs and Greg replies "How many novels has Vergere been in so far?" "Well none except Rogue Planet so far," I tell him, "But it has been highly rumored that Vergere will appear in the NJO. Can you verify that for me?" "Heh, I see we have our resident SW genius here," Greg says, "Where exactly has it been highly rumored as you said?" "Well a lot of places but mostly by GhentZ of JediNet and my various sources," I say. "You know to much and will have to be offed," Greg jokingly tells me, "But yes I was told by LFL to include Vergere and the Far Outsiders [Vong to those of you who have yet to read Rogue Planet] in Rogue Planet because the Vong have already appeared in the NJO and and Vergere will appear in the NJO in the future!"

Now I start to look down my list for another question. Near me someone asks Greg if there will be any other Prequel Bridge Novels or any tie ins to Rogue Planet? Greg replies to this person, "Well LFL has approached me asking if it was ok with me if Zonama Sekot would be in the NJO and I said I would love it." "Yes," I think. The official conformation that the planet Zonama Sekot will appear in the NJO was just said here! Greg continues talking, "But as far as I know there will not be any more bridge novels!" Right away I see this inaccuracy. I thought that it was known to everyone that there will be future Bridge Novels but apparently Greg hadn't be told yet. I raise my hand to point out this inaccuracy. "Actually Greg, it has been reported by many sites that there will be future Bridge Novels unless their has been a change of plans that the fans haven't been told yet," I say. "Ah," Greg says, "The SW genius strikes again. Well I was not informed of any Bridge Novels unless they are planning them and just haven't told me or were planning them and canceled them without telling anybody."

Now as looking down my list I find another question to ask Greg. I raise my hand for the 3rd time and ask, "Were there any scenes cut out of Rogue Planet that you would have liked to have seen included?" "Well," Greg starts to reply, "There weren't any full scenes but a lot of religious terms were cut out. In Chapter 67 I used the word "shrive" to describe Thracia Cho Leem's interaction with Anakin, following his ordeal on Zonama Sekot. Shrive is defined as: to grant absolution, or, to go to or make confession. The word was deemed too religious and I had to change it to Jedi Counseling. Personally I believe shrive was more powerful but the only thing even close to religious we are aloud to include in The Force."

Now I see that this Q & A session is gonna end soon so I get one more question ready and raise my hand once again. "First of all," I say, "Sorry for bothering you so much, I am just into Sci-Fi and SW. But now to the actual question. Of all the characters in Rogue Planet, which one did you most enjoy writing?" Greg replies, "Well I'll have to say Anakin. I really enjoyed writing a young Darth Vader and his subtle falls and relationship to Obi-Wan."

As he ends the Q & A session he says on thing, "I saw my job of writing Rogue Planet as giving the fans what they wanted but perhaps not exactly how they expected it. I wanted to surprise them with something they didn't even know they wanted."

Now we go to the actual book signing. I get in line and after a while I get to the front. "Oh, it's the SW genius," Greg says. "Yes it's me," I tell him, "Sorry for asking you so many questions, I am just really into SW and Sci-fi in general." "No problem," Greg replies, "I am just happy to know someone is so into Sci-Fi. Well your so into SW, so what you favorite SW author?" "Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole," I start but Greg stops me by saying "Good taste." I decide to finish my sentence and say, "But now that I have read Rogue Planet you have become one of my favorite SW authors. I think you really caught the characterizations of Anakin and Obi-Wan and I hope you do write another SW novel in the future." "Well," Greg says, "Coming from the sw genius that's a huge complement! What's you name?" "Joseph," I reply. Greg signs the novel and it reads:

For Joseph!

Sit Potentia Tecum!

Greg Bear

And for those of you readers who don't know, Sit Potentia Tecum is Latin for May The Force Be With You! Now thinking back to my meeting with Greg Bear I realize how nice a guy and how down to earth he is. He gave me a whole new perspective on Rogue Planet and I enjoyed my meeting with him. I hope you enjoyed reading my article!

Point of No Return

-Jason Fry (Star Wars Insider #52 - Pgs 62/63)

Kathy Tyers knows a thing or two about alien invasions. Six years ago, in The Truce at Bakura, Tyers chronicled an invasion of the Star Wars galaxy by the Ssi-ruuk, strange aliens that seemingly lacked all regard for life. Now, in her latest novel: The New Jedi Order: Balance Point (Del Rey, $26), Tyers picks up the story of another set of extragalactic villains - the Yuuzhan Vong - where James Luceno left off in The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos: Jedi Eclipse. (Luceno was also a collaborator of the late Brian Daley, the seminal Star Wars author, and wrote a tribute to Daley in Insider #29.)

Two books, two invasions. Yet the similarities between The Truce at Bakura and Balance Point end there. In the time line of the Star Wars saga, Balance Point comes some two decades after Truce, at a time when Han and Leia have three Jedi children, Luke Skywalker has married Mara Jade, and the Empire is barely a memory. And this time, as readers of The New Jedi Order know all too well, the invaders aren’t going to be pushed back without a terrible cost.

Indeed, in Balance Point, the relentless Vong are tightening their grip, threatening desperate bands of refugees stranded on the polluted planet of Duro - and watched over by an estranged Han Solo and Princess Leia.

Given the length and complexity of The New Jedi Order saga, Tyers had a rather different assignment than she’d drawn with Bakura - telling just a small piece of the story instead of the entire one. Tyers told the Insider that she was asked to construct her book around three characters: the young Jedi Jacen Solo would play the lead, with either Han or Leia as the second main character, and someone from the Jedi circle as the third major player. Tyers chose Mara Jade, eager for a chance to explore the relationship between her and Luke. However, as readers will soon discover, she crafted a decidedly sharp turn in the life of the Emperor’s-Hand-turned-Jedi Knight - one that Tyers admitted she “lobbied good and hard for.”

Explained the author, “I’m a character writer - to me, good fiction is character-driven.” Stepping into the story during one of the early chapters of The New Jedi Order meant Tyers had to follow the dictates of the saga’s plot, but Tyers noted, “I did all that I could to make sure the story in Balance Point revolves around those characters and their response to the situations - which include this invasion and their relationships.”

As a result, Balance Point may feel a bit “quieter” that its predecessors in The New Jedi Order, with the action limited largely to Duro, and the interstellar warfare often taking a back seat to the interplay between the main characters. That’s just fine with Tyers.

“It works better for me, from a storytelling standpoint, to keep thematic material as tight as possible so you’re showing different aspects of the same situation through different points of view,” she said. “Although the main characters start out separately, by the end it’s our heroes shoulder-to-shoulder against the enemy - which I think is part of what makes Star Wars great.”

Tyers is proudest of her work in the scenes between Luke and Mara - an assignment she had coveted since Bakura. While Bakura took place immediately after Return of the Jedi, Mara Jade had already been introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, set five years later. “I already had Mara pegged as the future Mrs. Skywalker in my heart and mind,” said Tyers. Still, she wanted to give Luke a Bakuran love interest (it would turn out to be Gaeriel Captison) - but she knew that with Mara still in Luke’s future, his relationship with Gaeriel was doomed from the start.

Fast-forward six years on Earth and 21 years in a galaxy far, far away, and Tyers had another chance to write about Luke in love - and she took full advantage of it. “To actually write Luke as a happily married man was a delight,” she said.

Thanks to Tyers, readers of Balance Point will get to go inside the mind of the rapidly maturing Jacen Solo, whose struggles with the nature of the Force lie at the heart of the book, and will explore the loving but often difficult relationship between Jacen’s twin sister Jaina and their mother, Princess Leia.

Tyers has also written a number of smaller but equally affecting scenes featuring Duro’s refugees. Jacen’s discovery of one family’s desperate attempt to hang onto a pet whisperkit during an evacuation has a quiet power that will stick in the reader’s mind amid the lightsaber battles and X-Wing dogfights.

“Some of the most poignant scenes I’ve seen of any refugee group show someone trying to hold onto some little furry animal,” Tyers said of that scene. “That spoke to me. I hope it speaks to other people, too.”

November is a busy month for Tyers, as it also marks the appearance of Crown of Fire, the final novel in her Firebird trilogy. The trilogy has been close to Tyers’ heart for some time - Firebird, the first book in the series, was her first published novel, released by Bantam in 1987. But if you’ve only read the Bantam edition, you’re in for a surprise: In the last couple of years Tyers has rewritten Firebird and its sequel, Fusion Fire, for the Christian publisher Bethany House.

While Tyers is open about her faith - she’s an evangelical Christian - and hasn’t hesitated to explore it in the Firebird trilogy, she sees no reason that those novels shouldn’t be as accessible to a secular audience as her other work, “I’m not a street-corner preacher type of person,” she said. “My first task as a writer is not to try and sell anything to anybody. It’s just to tell a ripping good story.”

The New Jedi Order: Balance Point is scheduled for release in November.


'J. Gregory Keyes Does His Homework' by Jason Fry

What are the essential ingredients of a good story? Any avid reader can rattle off a few: interesting characters, exciting plot twists, a sense of wonder.

Allow J. Gregory Keyes to add something else: research.

In writing the Age of Unreason series and the Chosen of the Changeling saga, Keyes constructed two fictional worlds of breathtaking detail. The Age of Unreason series takes place in an alternate 18th century in which Sir Isaac Newton discovered not the basics of physics, but the basics of alchemy. That discovery blurs the lines between science and magic, leaving historical characters such as Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and Blackbeard enmeshed in a war fought with fantastic weaponry wielded by European armies, secret societies, and an alien race. Meanwhile, the Chosen of the Changeling saga details two societies based around very different religions: an animist society in which trees, streams, and boulders all have their own gods, and one based around the worship of The River, which is at once a mighty body of water and a living god.

That both these worlds feel so great is a tribute not only to Keyes’ gifts as a writer, but also to the fact that he did his homework. For the Age of Unreason, Keyes researched everything from pre-Revolutionary Boston to the fashions and favorite dishes of the time. For Chosen of the Changeling, he drew on mountains of reading, his childhood on a Navajo reservation and his anthropological work with the Choctaw of his native Mississippi.

That willingness to hit the books, he says, helped him feel at ease in the Star Wars universe, in which he makes his debut with this month’s Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Edge of Victory Book 1---Conquest (Del Rey, $6.99).

In writing Conquest, Keyes used a shelf-full of works that have detailed the histories, people, and places of the Star Wars galaxy, from Del Rey’s own series of Essential Guides to the books in the New Jedi Order series, which he’s been reading as they appear. He also went back to other Star Wars tales to ensure he had the right feel for the diverse cast of characters in his own chapter of the saga, from young Anakin Solo to the Jedi Kam Solusar and Tionne to Anakin’s childhood friend, the Tatooine-born, Tusken-raised Tahiri. (Fans who remember Tahiri get extra credit: She made her debut back in 1995, in Boulevard’s six-book Junior Jedi Knight series.)

Keyes admits that with Star Wars, “It’s a little daunting to know how many fans there are out there and how many probably know more about it than I do.” In writing the Age of Unreason books, he recalls that he could feel imaginary people looking over his shoulder---historians and others who knew about the 18th-century world. “That’s a very small number of people,” he says, adding that “with the Star Wars books I’ve got lots of people looking over my shoulder waiting for me to make a mistake or play somebody wrong.”

Make no mistakes, though: Keyes is up to the challenge.

Conquest picks up immediately after Kathy Tyers’ Balance Point, as paranoia grips the galaxy and frightened citizens begin informing on the Jedi in hopes of winning mercy from the Yuuzhan Vong. Luke Skywalker realizes that his students at the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 are in danger, but with a war raging he finds himself powerless to intervene. Eventually, it’s Anakin Solo (who’s had a premonition that things are going wrong) who defies orders and heads for Yavin 4 in his X-wing---only to find the evil collaborators of the Peace Brigade already there looking for Jedi.

Conquest marks something of a change of emphasis for the New Jedi Order, stepping back from the grand sweep of galactic warfare to focus on Anakin. (Never fear, Jacen Solo and others will be focused on later in the saga.) Keyes also enjoyed the chance to stretch his creative muscles with his portrayal of the Yuuzhan Vong’s caste of Shapers, whose attempts to breed a Jedi play a major role in the book.

It’s a busy year for Keyes---besides Conquest and its sequel Rebirth (more about that in a bit), the Age of Unreason series wraps up in July with the Del Rey release of The Shadows of God. (Completists will want to track down “An Air of Deception,” a short story written for Amazing Stories #596 that’s set between the first and second books of the series.)

It’s a series Star Wars fans will enjoy, sharing with George Lucas’ saga a complex tension between science and what might be thought of as magic---a dynamic that one could argue makes both series fantasies, despite their scientific trappings.

“Star Wars is fantasy---especially the movies,” says Keyes. “It’s been interesting to see what people have done with the books. Some people have leaned much more toward reinforcing the science---and that’s not bad---but I think when you come back to it there’s always a certain fantasy element...the hyperdrive just works ‘cause it works.”

With Conquest under his belt, Keyes is hard at work on Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Edge of Victory Book 2---Rebirth (Del Rey $6.99). Rebirth, the concluding book of the duology, will feature a momentous event of its own with the birth of Luke and Mara’s child.

That latest stitch in the Star Wars tapestry will have to wait for Rebirth’s release in July; for Keyes, it’ll complete (at least for now) a story that dates back, of course, to 1977, when he saw Star Wars as a sophomore in high school. As a fan who’d suffered through the drought of science-fiction movies in the 1970s, he recalls, George Lucas’ space fantasy was “the sort of movie I’d been waiting to see my whole life.”

It was opening night---or close to it---and it only took a moment for Keyes to become a fan. When Darth Vader’s Imperial Star Destroyer came thundering across the screen, he says, “like everyone else…I was just grinning from ear to ear. I was instantly hooked.”

Serving Darth Sidious

-by Jason Fry

Author James Luceno Delves into Dark Minds

James Luceno may be a new name on the roster of Star Wars authors, but he served his apprenticeship in that universe nearly 25 years ago, acting as a sounding boad and brainstorming partner for his good friend Brian Daley as Daley worked on Han Solo at Star’s End, Han Solo’s Revenge and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy—a trilogy that stands as one of Star Wars fans’ favorites.

Given that background, it was only fitting that Luceno’s Star Wars debut—last summer’s Star Wars: Agents of Chaos Book 1—Hero’s Trial (Del Rey, $6.99)—would star none other than Han Solo. But this Han was a Corellian of a rather different stripe than the young rogue of the Daley books. Luceno’s Han was more than a quarter-century older, a battle-scarred war hero who’d become a husband and a father and seen his best friend slain in the fight against the Yuuzhan Vong.

“I was challenged to show him not only older but in a situation in which he’s somewhat grief-stricken and isolated from Leia and his family,” Luceno says.

If Han was different, so was the saga: In the 21 years since the release of Daley’s final Han Solo volume, the Star Wars universe has grown immensely, embracing not only two more movies but also hundreds of novels, comic books and roleplaying game books. And with the release of Episode 1, authors like Luceno have a whole new era in which to play.

Luceno’s latest Star Wars novel, Cloak of Deception (Del Rey $26), is set before Han Solo was even born, about a year before The Phantom Menace. Cloak of Deception finds Supreme Chancellor Valorum battling allegations of corruptions—and threats on his life—engineered by the scheming Senator Palpatine, while Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi struggle to untangle a sinisiter plan reaching throughout the Republic.

For Luceno, the seeds of Cloak of Deception were planted in the first minute of The Phantom Menace, as the crawl that opened the movie told the audience of the Trade Federation’s machinations, Valorum’s trouble with the Senate and the Jedi Knights dispatched on a secret mission. “I thought, ‘Wow, there is a fantastic backstory there—I home somebody will write a prequel novel.”

That somebody would turn out to be Luceno. In writing his story, he got to flesh out Valorum from the character who makes a brief appearance in The Phantom Menace and delve into Palpatine’s thoughts—though Star Wars fans won’t be surprised to hear that not all of that dark mind’s secrets will be revealed. He was also pleased to get the chance to tell a story starring Qui-Gon, a character who intrigued him and whom he was sad to see meet an untimely end in The Phantom Menace.

“I enjoyed being able to tie events that are really a part of the cinematic history” of Star Wars, Luceno says, adding that he tried to give Cloak “the feel of a novelization, almost as if the movie had been made.” (Luceno knows that feeling—he’s written several novelizations, including The Shadow and The Mask of Zorro.)

The pre-Phantom Menace era wasn’t wholly uncharted ground for Luceno, though—in February he became the first Star Wars author to have a book released in wholly electronic form, penning the e-book Dark Maul: Saboteur (Del Rey, $1.99), which fans can download from online booksellers such as and

Saboteur takes Darth Sidious’ apprentice to the mining colony of Dorvalla, where he plays two rival mining companies against each other in a complex dejarik game designed to deliver an entire system into the hands of the Trade Federation—and the grasp of Darth Sidious. In Saboteur, fans used to seeing Maul as a cold-blooded killer get to see him as a trickster and puppeteer, dispatching his master’s enemies with cunning rather than a lightsaber blade (though there’s some of that too, of course).

One of the toughest parts of Saboteur, Luceno says, was trying to get inside Maul’s head. With the Sith warrior’s backgroud so mysterious, Luceno studied Return of the Jedi and the relationship between Darth Vader and the Emperor for inspiration. In the end, he says, “I just portrayed [Maul] completely introspectively—I was trying to imagine what it’s like serving someone like Sidious.”

Writing Han Solo didn’t require such an introspective approach—Luceno had an avalanche of established stories to work with. In Hero’s Trial and its sequel, Jedi Eclipse (Del Rey, $6.99), Han runs across a number of characters first encountered in Daley’s books. There’s the former smuggler Roa, the crimelord Big Bunji and even a devious labor droid who may or may not be the venerable Bollux. Hero’s Trial feels, as Luceno puts it, like a “Han Solo, this is your life” novel. “Han Solo, this is your life” novel.

It also feels like a salute to Daley, who died in February 1996. That was exactly what Luceno had in mind. He and Daley were not only good friends but also longtime writing partners: They wrote more than two dozen books together under the pen name Jack McKinney, most of them set in the Robotech universe. In writing about Han Solo, a character Daley probably captured better than almost any other Star Wars writer except George Lucas himself, Luceno was able to offer his friend a salute.

“I really felt like Brian was sitting on my shoulder and helping me along there,” he says, adding that “Brian was in many ways a mentor for me…I was really glad for the opportunity to pay him a tribute like that.”

Han Solo ranges the galaxy in the Agents of Chaos duology, and while Luceno’s not **that** well traveled, he’s hardly a stay-at-home writer. He traveled the world in his twenties, and has a decades-long fascination with “everything about Latin America, from the landscape to the political situation to the indigenous cultures.” (Fans can see the influence in his books, from the young-adult-oriented Rio Pasion to his award-winning Fearful Symmetry to the Yuuzhan Vong, whose notions of bloodletting and pain as religious expression have their roots in Aztec practices.)

“Travel is what got me writing,” Luceno says. “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer—in fact, I failed English in high school. But when I started traveling, I found I was just so overwhelmed by all my experiences that I started to keep journals.”

With one of his current projects, Luceno has come full circle: He’s working on a memoir of his experiences in Mexico and Guatemala, including a trip he made to scatter some of Daley’s ashes at a remote site in Guatemala that the two friends had planned to visit. The memoir is his first formal stab at non-fiction, and judging from Luceno’s comments, it’s not likely to be his last.

“I would love to be able to switch over” between non-fiction and fiction, he says: “It’s not that I feel non-fiction has more relevance or anything, but I feel there are a lot of interesting things in the real world that I’d like to write about.”

Star Wars Insider #56

Troy Denning Interview

The saga that is Star Wars: The New Jedi Order is made for the collaborative writer. The series has demanded that each writer work closely not only with Del Rey and Lucasfilm, but also with the other writers crafting their pieces of the larger story.

Not to worry, though: Troy Denning loves working in such a collaborative environment. The author of the latest book in the series, the sprawling Star Wars: The New Jedi Order – Star by Star (Del Rey, $26), Denning says that “one of the things that has made this whole project just a dream is there are so many creative and talented people involved.”

Take the meeting at Skywalker Ranch where Denning and his fellow authors James Luceno and Matt Stover sat down with Rel Rey editorial director Shelly Shapiro and Lucasfilm’s editor, Sue Rostoni to kick around ideas for where the saga should go next – a productive day that Denning calls “the rare case where design by committee really works.” Then there were the calls and e-mails exchanged by Denning and Grey Keyes – whose books Conquest and Rebirth preceded Star by Star – as they worked to hammer out the character of Anakin Solo. “I would be hard-pressed to say, ‘This is Greg’s part of Anakin and this is my part,’ “ Denning says. And there’s the way Denning was able to rely on authors who came before – such as Balance Point’s Kathy Tyers and the Young Jedi Knights creators Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta – to get a better understanding of Star by Star’s lengthy cast of characters.

Those characters certainly have plenty to do in Denning’s hands. New parents Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade Skywalker take up arms against the Yuuzhan Vong, and Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo are entangled in galactic politics as the Senate quarrels over how to answer the extragalactic threat. But the heart of Star by Star involves a dangerous mission behind enemy lines to find the origin of the voxyn, a ferocious species of clones bred by the Vong to hunt down and destroy users of the Force. Young Anakin Solo leads that mission, joined by his sister and brother and a group of Jedi Knights that includes such familiar names as Tenel Ka, Raynar Thul and Zekk.

Using the characters from the Young Jedi Knights series, Denning says, came at the suggestion of Shelly Shapiro. Denning hit the books and quickly became a fan: “One of the really pleasant surprises I had was to find out how interesting these characters really were.”

Denning offers a tip of the hat to the work of Anderson and Moesta, noting that “by the end of the series I really thought I knew these kids.” He also found he liked them – to the extent that he invented some characters of his own to join the strike team. If that seems like an odd way to pay tribute, allow Denning to explain: From his first days working on Star by Star, he says, he knew that the storyline was “going to be pretty darn bloody one…[with] people going out of the story forever.” (And to avoid giving away too much, that’s all that can be said.)

Denning’s background made him a logical choice for the New Jedi Order: He’s written a number of books, many of them for TSR Hobbies, in which he started with an outline of the action and made the book his own by filling in the blanks. The key to such stories, he says, is the characters. Once Denning has read up on the story’s important characters, he sits down and asks himself a series of questions about each person: What do they want? Why do they want it? What are they willing to do to get it? What won’t they do?

Once the parameters of the story are set, Denning says, the characters really drive the action – which advances in part because he can “let them do what they would do.” For instance, Denning says he never planned any of the light moments in Star by Star: “I’d just be writing along and [the characters would] be on the page and I’d be laughing. That’s why you write in the first place.”

Denning has been writing since his youth; TSR published his first book, the Forgotten Realms novel Waterdeep, in 1989. (It’s credited to Richard Awlinson.) That experience wasn’t unlike the New Jedi Order, he notes: The storyline was carefully choreographed, and each book in the trilogy was assigned to a different writer. Dungeons & Dragons lies in Denning’s future as well: He’s in the middle of a new trilogy, The Return of the Arch-Wizards, with the second book set for release a couple of months after Star by Star.

As for returning to the Star Wars universe with a future novel, Denning says he’d be thrilled. He’s been a fan since 1977 – and vividly recalls the day George Lucas’s saga became part of his life.

Denning had just graduated from high school in his home town of Idaho Springs, Colo., when Star Wars hit the screen. Because Idaho Sprints was a little town far from most theaters, Denning and some of his friends made the long trip to Denver one day to see Star Wars – only to find many, many other people had had the same idea. “I’m not kidding you, there were more people in line than lived in our whole town,” he recalls. The friends waited in line for the earliest tickets they could get and didn’t make it home until midnight – which left them trying to explain to the suspicious parents that, yes, they really had spent 12 hours going to see a movie.

“It was jaw-dropping,” Denning says. “It was like, ‘When are we going to see it again?’ “