Christie Golden, who wrote the Fate of the Jedi novels Omen, Allies, and Ascension, participated in a live chat today on the Del Rey Star Wars Books Facebook page. Below is a transcript of readers' questions and her responses. For clarity purposes, questions have been edited for spelling.
Note: Beware of SPOILERS for Fate of the Jedi: Ascension.
Q: These Star Wars books come out pretty fast, and you've worked on media tie-ins before. What's your typical writing/development process? Do you outline/how many drafts do you usually do/how do you develop plot/etc.? A: It depends...sometimes I am given outlines, sometimes I work them up myself. Generally I do a first draft, go over it before I send it in, and then put in any changes the publisher or IP holder wants. Sometimes things are so tight my first draft is really what hits shelves...fortunately this year I celebrate 40 books and 20 years in the business!
Q: Is it hard writing in a series where you have to set up other writers for the next book? A: It really was a challenge "passing the baton," but fortunately Aaron and Troy are great writers and great people. The whole team including Shelly and Sue made it much easier.
Q: Have you ever finished writing a book, set it down, and thought, "Damn, that's good, I wrote that"? A: Hehe...usually I think it's terrible and I never want to see it again...then am happily surprised by the time galleys roll around.
Q: I was wondering about the confrontation between Ben and Vestara over her letters to her father - specifically about Ben's choice of a slap over a Force push or restraint. What was the thought process behind that specific action and fight choreography? A: I think it's important to remember that Ben and Vestara, despite their unusual upbringings, are also sixteen. Ben was very, very hurt by what he perceived as Vestara's betrayal, and well...acted like a sixteen year old boy. :) It's a mistake I don't think he'll ever make again...can't wait to see how Troy is going to handle things!
Q: Your book was really the first book that got into the head of Abeloth. What was it like writing her as a character, how did you go about approaching such a powerful and relatively unknown entity? A: Hmm....yeah, it was pretty tough to get into the head of such an alien alien! I wanted to keep her mysterious and yet accessible at least in some ways. there ARE reasons behind what she's doing.
Q: I just wanted to say that I really like how you write villains in general, within Star Wars and World of Warcraft also. I haven't read Ascension yet, but I'm really excited! A: I always think you should give villains some virtues and your heroes some flaws.
Q: Was the choice to keep Vestara a Sith yours alone, or one the group writing this series agreed upon? Was that the plan from the start? Thanks! A: This was something we had all planned from the get-go. We thought while it would be romantic to have her turn to the light side of the Force, in the end, it wasn't who she was. Believe me, that was a tough scene to write...the two really do love each other.
Q: Were the One Sith on Korriban in hiding? They exist, because that's where Lomi Plo was from. A: Oh, the One Sith know how to hide. :)
Q: Why did you do the scene of Vestara where she "kills" Natua? Why couldn't they fight it and she stay a Jedi? A: That was certainly an option. But that was not the one Vestara chose, because it wasn't who she is.
I'm a little puzzled by the concern people seem to be having with Ben and Vestara...I think I answered that a bit earlier. He isn't perfect. Being a Jedi isn't about being perfect and never doing something you might regret later.
Q: What's the Empire of the Hand been up to before their appearance in Ascension? It's been said that they were disbanded, destroyed, absorbed, etc. Also, when Luke visited Korriban, were you told to stay away from hinting at the One Sith from Star Wars: Legacy? They're supposed to be there at this time but the Tuk'ata didn't even seem to know they were there. A: We didn't want to reveal the One Sith just yet. Also, I don't want to spoil what Troy might have in store for you all re Empire of the Hand. :)
Q: The Squibs showed up in Ascension. How did that come about? A: Troy did create those three Squibs, and I made sure he had a chance to see the scenes with them. He liked it, so I guess I did all right! :) I sure loved writing them, they were fun!
Q: Did you realize you got the type of TIE Fighter wrong? You called it TIE Destroyer when it's TIE Defender. A: I try hard to make sure I get all the technology right, but I think you all may know the finer details of fighters better than I do. :D
Q: The battle between Daala and Jag was one of my favorite scenes in the book :) A: I'm glad you enjoyed that battle scene--space battles are tough for me, but I wanted to make sure this one hit the spot with readers!
Q: What are your favorite parts of the Star Wars universe? A: Loved loved getting to create Kesh, and the Sith love of glass.
Q: What are your favorite locations in the Star Wars universe? A: My favorite locations...wow, that's tough! I've gotten to get to know and like Coruscant, and of course I have a really soft spot in my heart for Dagobah. :)
Q: Now that you've written your third book in the FOTJ series, do you have a favorite of the three (and yes, I understand I'm asking you to pick a favorite child!)? A: My favorite of the three? Argh....I love something about each of them, but I do think Ascension just might edge the other two out. I think because it was so challenging to have so many threads, and I think I did a pretty good job with them. :D
Q: Which of the previously established characters was it easiest and hardest for you to write for? A: Easiest to write for? Ben, I think. Hardest? Maybe Jag, because he's such a complex and simple personality at once.
Q: Do you plan on writing other Star Wars books? A: I would love to write more Star Wars books! :D
Q: Christie, what will you be writing now that your SW gig is up? I want to read more of your books! A: I am working on some Warcraft novels now, but I have an idea for an original series that I hope to steal time to work on. :)
Q: What non-Star Wars sources have influenced your storytelling in FOTJ? Any drawing on real-world people or happenings? A: Non-Star Wars storytelling...well, a fun thing is that I took Korean swordfighting, Haedong Gumdo, for two years. It is a fighting form that emphasizes many enemies at once, and that came in handy for some of the lightsaber scenes!
Q: When did you first see Star Wars? A: I found Star wars in the movie theater in 1977. I've not been the same since.
Q: I was wondering if you were intimidated at all to be tossing back and forth with Troy Denning. A: I actually knew Troy slightly back when we were both writing for TSR. Troy is wonderful to work ideas back and forth with! And Aaron is so darn sweet and fun that it's hard to be intimidated. He makes it all seem so easy, doesn't he? :D
Q: How do you deal with Star Wars continuity issues in the story? A: Continuity is always tough, in shared worlds or in your own. I relied heavily on Sue, Shelly and Leland and the Holocron, as well as reading Legacy of the Force twice and pouring over the research books.
Q (from yours truly): How was writing Vestara, someone you introduced to the EU, different from writing other peoples' characters? A: I loved Vestara. I really don't treat "my" characters differently from the others--they are all players. I just got to "build" Vestara, whereas Luke et all were already well established. I don't want the established characters to feel more "real" than the newer characters or the other way around. And I apparently like quotation marks, LOL!
Q: What is your favorite Star Wars movie? A: I think "Empire," with "A New Hope" close behind. I've sadly not had a chance to watch Clone Wars. Luke is my favorite movie character, and Ben my favorite established EU character. Though 3PO is a hoot and a half to write.
Q: Christie, you have received lots of praise for your work in FOTJ, and rightly so. Are you happy that this multi-book story is at an end, thus freeing you up for more projects, or would you rather continue with this story, if you had a choice? A: Great question. I think I am glad that the enormity of the project is completed, but no question, I'd love to do more with these characters in other books. I really enjoyed getting to know them. Even the villains are good "traveling companions" to hang out with for so long.
Q: I realize that you got to build the foundation for the Lost Tribe. Was that your decision (as much as it could be in a group project) or did you just happen to get lucky? A: It was luck--the Lost Tribe got to be established in Omen, so while we all hammered out the details, I got to initiate a lot of ideas that shaped them and I was lucky enough to bring them to life. Also, I love Wynn Dorvan, and he is pretty much all my guy. :D And Pocket too!
Q: With your background in game tie-ins (and playing games), would you consider writing story content for SW games (either TOR MMO or for the upcoming SW RPG)? A: I am always happy to try new things, and wouldn't rule out writing gaming content at all!
Q: What's the hardest part of writing a book in such a complicate series with so many others already out? A: Bryan, coming in "late to the game" as it were, with so much established history to catch up on. I really want to get things write, no one is more peeved than I am when I don't. :/
Q: Is Dorvan now dead? It didn't seem that clear to me at the end of Ascension. A: It's not clear. You'll just have to wait. Muahahahaha!
Q: I would imagine it's also difficult to write around such popular characters who can't really be killed or majorly harmed as well. How do you approach such a challenge? A: It's never really bothered me, as I actually started out with tie-in work. It's just part of the whole picture. You can, however, make them suffer, have them have major setbacks, or lose something precious to them...which is sometimes harder for a person to bear.
Q (from yours truly): Were any references or elements from outside of FOTJ (Empire of the Hand, that thing Jaina mentions from Refugees, etc.) motivated by what you saw among fans online, or did it all come from personal interest among the creative team? A: I try hard to make things feel "bigger" than just the events of the series. There's 40 years of history here to mine. For instance, I needed a planet in a certain area...I researched it...Klatooine not only fit the bill but hat that amazing fountain of glass--how perfect! I think everyone feels that way--this is a big universe and there's a lot to play with.
Q: Did you and John Jackson Miller trade any ideas about the Lost Tribe? A: You know, we've spoken a bit, but not much. Since we work in different eras, there's not a lot of back and forth. If memory serves me right (good old Iron Chef) I do believe he came up with the names of the Sith ships, including Omen, which was just too perfect and a great title to boot.
(Sue Rostoni later corrected the part about Omen, saying that it was actually introduced in Paul S. Kemp's Crosscurrent.)
Q: Did you grow up a Star Wars fan? How thrilling is to have your name associated with such a wonderful franchise? A: A huge Star Wars fan. Saw the movie at 13 and it changed my life. There really aren't any words to describe how it feels to be helping create the official world of Luke, Leia and Han!
Q: How do you go about capturing the right feel? A: I've always had an "ear" for how characters sound and been able to recreate them true to form (at least I hope so, and 40 books means I'm doing something right!). I rewatched the movies (oh, twist my arm!) and really just tried to "sit" with the feel of it. Also tried to pay attention to what Troy, Karen and Aaron were doing with LOTF, so that it would feel a believable continuation from that as well.
Q: Do you get a say on who appears on the covers of the books? A: I actually get more of a say with the SW books than most writers get with any books! Authors very seldom have any input on cover, back cover, or the flap copy. That's for marketing to handle. So it's nice to even be asked for ideas. That being said, it is still the publisher's final decision.
Q: Who's your favorite character in the Star Wars universe? A: Gotta be Luke. Oh I had such a crush.
Q (from yours truly): Do any of the other EU eras strike you as particularly appealing if you were to pitch a future novel to Del Rey? A: Other than perhaps doing novels based on the upcoming MMO, I think I'd like to stick with what I know. :D I've learned so much about the "current era" that I'd love to continue with it.
Q: How did you guys select the order of authorship? A: The order was pretty much that of LOTF, I guess they figure "if it ain't broke don't fix it."
Q: Who do you think would win in a fight, Arthas' Scourge or the One Sith? A: Hm....well, the One Sith DOES have the Dark Side of the Force...