Q: How did you determine how much space to give to each element and era of Star Wars history? A: Not an exact science. Mix of things designed to appeal to fans of the movies/TV show, hardcore EU fans and fun stuff I'd just always wanted to tackle.
Q: You've been posting "end notes" for the book the past two days. What gave you the idea to do this? They've been a blast to read. A: Dan Wallace and I did em for the Atlas and thought it was a lot of fun. As a reader, I always liked getting to peek behind the scenes and think along with the author(s).
Q: Was there a particular era or battle that you personally wanted to explore in more detail? A: I'm a huge fan of early galactic history and Xim, but that's a bit too esoteric for lots of fans, so we dialed that back. OTOH, I love the early days of the Empire, and we got to do tons of stuff there. That was really fun. Appearing as a fuzzy blue Ewok, Paul [R. Urquhart, Fry’s co-author,] chips in by saying that the things he had most fun getting his teeth into were Ruusan and the NJO.
Q: What is the likelihood that the fate of the Intimidator will be expanded upon at some point? A: We've steered clear of the Empire of the Hand in the Atlas and Warfare because I sense Zahn will have more tales to tell there and he should have a free hand.
Q: Can you describe the collaboration between you and the artists in this book? A: Art and text is an interesting collaboration. I gave Ian Fullwood and John VanFleet notes and some really bad sketches for the Xim ships, but mostly leaned on Erich Schoeneweiss to make all the trains run on time. You can see my Tionese sketches in Endnotes Pt. 1. I cannot draw.
A (from Del Rey’s Erich Schoeneweiss): Jason's sketches were a big help to the artists. Really made it clear what he was looking for in the final ships.
Q: What is it like researching and compiling all the information needed to write these 'guide' books? What is the pre-writing/composition process like? A: It's a ton of work and constant checking of book after book after book. The key is a good outline. My Warfare outline was way too long -- I got to Rise of the Empire and was 30% over my word count for the whole book. Budding writers, listen to a convert: Hard work on the outline will be hugely helpful in the writing. Plus you leanon LFL and smart fans for help with thorny issues.
Q: How did you come up with a first name for Ackbar? A: From Paul: Ackbar's first name is the name of Mon Cal Senator Gial Gahan in the Legacy comics. So he's named after a character who's named after him
Q: If you could only listen to one CD for the rest of your life, what would it be? No mix CDs. A: Favorite CD? Wow, random. But fun. "Sucking in Stereo" by The Figgs.
Q: On page 44, you reveal that the Old Republic era Jedi Valenthyne Farfalla is “Half-Bothan.” Before this, his species was never confirmed, although he was called an “Equine.” What was the thought process behind making him half-Bothan? Was this something of your creation or was it already established in the Holocron? Can we assume the other half is human? A: From Paul re Farfalla: "Half-Bothan" was because they're the most prominent near-human equine species. As to what his other half is, I wanted to leave it ambiguous: he might have some Sephi ancestry, or maybe his people were originally the products of Sith Alchemy.
Q: I was wondering if there was a specific intention behind calling Naga Sadow "Darth Naga Sadow," or if it was an error. A: From Paul re Sadow: Yes, there was a specific intention with using the name Darth Naga Sadow. It's meant to indicate Sadow's ambition, and his status as "supreme viceroy" (i.e. top Dark Lord). The context needed a title that wasn't Sith'ari. But it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a contemporary usage.
Q: Why did you choose Trench as Clone Wars veteran? A: Trench was an obvious choice for CW fans, plus I like the character and his species background, and wanted to do a little retcon involcing Yularen and how the two faced each other.
Q: Was the NJO strategy retrospective mostly Paul, or an even collaboration? A: Paul did the bulk of the NJO material, because he's a huge fan of the series. I think he did an awesome job.
Q: Are there any other Essential Guides that you’re dying to write? A: I'm up for most anything. Really looking fwd to the new EG to Characters. I love telling stys or explaining most anything about the galaxy far, far away.
Q: My only complaint was the Imperial rank system, but I guess I read too much of Curtis Saxton's website in the past. What made you go that route? A: Re ranks, from Paul: The primary motivation was the desire to be as faithful to the movies and Expanded Universe as possible. You never know when old WEG ranks might pop up in Zahn's next novel.
Q: How has your previous experience with journalism and writing for the Wall Street Journal Online prepared/help you for writing books about fictional universes such as Star Wars? A: My background prob gave me a leg up in terms of organization and being able to write clearly. Plus HIT YOUR DEADLINES and don't be a diva. As an editor myself, you have to know writers will do their jobs and solve problems rather than causing them. Reliable writers get more work. Unreliable ones never get called back.
Q: Is the name "Skere Kaan" a reference to the tiger Shere Khan in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book? A: Yep, Skere Kaan is a Jungle Book nod. That was Paul. Made me smile.
Q: How much did working on this book contributed to your knowledge of the Star Wars universe? I bet you’d be pretty formidable in a trivia contest. A: I'll destroy you if the trivia is geography. But with other stuff it might be a pretty fair fight. The EU is just so gigantic. I tip my cap to Leland Chee every day.
Q: Who is your favorite Light Side character? A: Um, I'm a Han Solo guy. Can't move anything with my mind, but like to drive fast and shoot my mouth off.
Q: There were some interesting things in the book about the Hutts and their move toward a more militaristic stance after the NJO. Where did that idea come from? A: I've always loved the Hutts, so anything I do with them is a ton of fun. Hutt Space was the first area I detailed for the Atlas. Love it and them.
More on the Hutts -- the new stuff came abt after their activist role in the Legacy of the Force series. Which surprised me a bit, but ran with it....
Q: I read in an interview with you that there was a lot more material that you wrote for the book, but it ended up having to be cut. Was most of this material EU-era, and are there any plans to release it in another format (online, perhaps)? A: Material was all over the place. Would love to find it a home, but have to see what the options are. Will try!
Q: Do authors currently writing get drafts of the new Essential Guides, and most recently published similar works for reference and research? A (From Del Rey’s Erich Schoeneweiss): We'll send copies of the Essential Guides to the authors writing novels and we send the novels to the authors writing Essential Guides. Jason actually stays up to date with all of the SW novels. He walked out of here with a copy of Scourge just last week. (ES)
Q: Did you use Wookieepedia during the writing, either as source or as help? A: Wookieepedia is a fabulous resource. Love it and use it a lot. But it's always a starting pt for further verification, not an endpoint.
Q: I was going to make some pithy remark about your likeness to Han Solo. You know, something about always referring to your better half as "Her Worshipfulness"… A: I look much more like Lobot than Han Solo. But heartfelt tip of the cap to Craig Carey, a superb architect of lots in the EU and the guy who gave me my start as a SW contributor. Nice to see you, pal.
Q: I would have loved to see an Alliance pilot roster for the Battle of Endor. Wasn't this part of the plan to include it? A: Had to cut back pretty drastically, and thought there were more interesting things to tackle than the Endor roster. But yeah, on further review it would have made sense to complete the trilogy. Did a Rogues roster for Brentaal, but it was lame and I cut it.
Q: The Rogues at Brentaal were lame? A: The Rogues at Brentaal were great. My writing abt them was lame. Out it went.
Q: In your Imperial military breakdown, you have each Sector Army being led by a Moff, but I had been under the impression that Jedi General Ry Gaul ran the Second Sector Army and Ki-Adi-Mundi ran the Fourth. Were the Moffs just liaisons between the Jedi, the Army, and the Senate? A: From Paul re Keith K's Q: The exact evolution of the Governors-General before they take full control in the last days of the Republic is deliberately left ambiguous, but most are Judicial officers (compare them to the Clone Marshal Commanders who also pair with the Jedi Generals). Black Sword is definitely intended as the original of the Black Fleet command - Moff Gann and Sector 5 are also referenced there.
Q: What is it like to be a part of Star Wars? A: It's an enormous honor. I pinch myself all the time. Also, it's AMAZING to know that kids like your books and those books have encouraged them to become avid readers and use their imagination. I get that with my DK books a lot, and feel very lucky to hear it.
Q: On page 125, you introduce the story of Isila Drutch, a female Stormtrooper. In the accompanying image, you can see two women, a black-haired one and a blond one. Is one of these women Isila, and if yes, which one? A: Don't think either of those is Drutch. She'd probably punch the photographer.
Q: Was it always planned to write the main part of the book along the chronology of the universe? A: I think it's a straightforward way to tackle such a huge subject: It's galactic history through the lens of war, if that makes sense. Did make it challenging to figure out just where to put the details abt technologies, etc.
Q: I’m now reading Apocalypse, and your book will be next. A: Apocalypse is a great book. You'll love it. Troy Denning is a great author -- I love Star by Star, and his old WEG solo adventure Scoundrel's Luck is the great long lost Han Solo novel. Hunt a copy down on eBay.
Q (from Del Rey’s Erich Schoeneweiss): Jason, CRAZY DUEL, who would win, Jar Jar Binks or Mr. Met tossing horse shoes at Citi Field? A: Mr. Met would win, but in losing Jar Jar would somehow turn the tables. Typical of Mets outcomes.
Q: This book revealed some new names. Do you think that this will open up the possibility of retconning some unnamed characters in the movies? A: There are some cool blanks filled in re movie characters in an upcoming Star Wars Insider Magazine. More would be cheating. Gonna be fun.
Q: When did you first decide you wanted to become a writer? A: I've written all my life. Started with blue exam books my mom would bring home for me from her job at a college. Was always writing short stories, poems, you name it.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in putting this book together? A: Biggest challenge was I felt far more confident in my geography knowledge for the Atlas than I did re military and Warfare. To address that I a) brought in Paul b) leaned on LFL for help c) crowdsourced stuff with fans on TheForce.Net and d) worked as hard as I could. I think/hope it worked out OK....
Q: What percentage of the guide would you say is new information versus information that you put together from an amalgam of other sources? A: Hmm. Hard to say because sometimes the info's established but the connecting framework that forms a new/never-before-explicated narrative is new. You try for a mix.
Q: You introduced the Z-95 Headhunter on p. 52, using an image from Season 4 of The Clone Wars. Is the TCW Headhunter actually the original Headhunter from the EU? As far as I know, the TCW version was supposed to be separate. A: Paul worked out a full development sequence for all the Z-95 variants, but then the Clone Wars version showed up. Best to leave it to one side and avoid snafus.
Q: You said Bothans are “equine”; I think they're more “feline.” But the problem with Farfalla is that just their lower halves look equine, but their facial structures are more clearly humanoid. It would be strange to think of cross-breeding here. A: From Paul re Farfalla again: Bothans are very confusing and inconsistent, which is part of the reason for choosing them! My favourite picture of Borsk is the kangaroo one on the front of "Specter of the Past". And Farfalla isn't a character whose appearance can be explained rationally outside Narnia - hence leaving the option open that his ancestors were warped by some Sith with a sick sense of humour.
If you'll forgive a personal note, I can't note enough that books like Warfare are a huge collaboration -- there are no empty gestures on that acknowledgments page. From Erich to the awesome artists to LFL to the test readers to the designer to the smart fans ... a lot of people worked super-hard to make the book what it is. Really grateful to all of them.
And equally grateful to everybody who reads it, asks Qs, raises pts, says hi at signings. Really appreciate it.
Q: No new Ben Skywalker or Cade Skywalker images. Any particular reason? A: Just finite space.
Q: Are there any new "Essential Guides" that you'd like to write? A: I'll leave that to Del Rey and LFL. I'd be thrilled to play any role where they think I make sense.
A (from Del Rey’s Erich Schoeneweiss): I can say this, as Jason's editor I'd love to work with him on another Essential Guide and we've had numerous conversations about what subject we could tackle next. As soon as we settle on something I'll let you all know.
Q (from Dark Horse writer John Jackson Miller): Congrats, Jason, on another great book! The EU writers use these all the time, as the spine on my Essential Atlas would show. :) A: Thanks JJM! Going out after this to buy the new KOTOR War!