This afternoon, author Jeff Grubb discussed his first Star Wars novel, Scourge, in a Facebook Q&A on Del Rey's Star Wars Books page. The book will be on sale next Tuesday, April 24th. (Stay tuned for my interview with Grubb, which will be posted on Tuesday.) Below is a transcript of readers' questions and Grubb's responses. For clarity purposes, questions have been edited for spelling.
Q: How did you get involved in the Star Wars EU? A: I was recommended for the opportunity by Troy Denning (Thanks, Troy!). I've had a lot of experience in shared worlds and have worked with the Star Wars universe before, so it was a great opportunity.
Q (from Del Rey’s Frank Parisi): How did the idea for Scourge come about? A: When this book was first being discussed, I pitched a number of ideas. One of them was based on an RPG adventure I had written for the Star Wars d20 Game from WotC. That project was called Tempest Feud, and forms the heart of the novel.
Q (from Del Rey’s Frank Parisi): Between Tempest Feud and Scourge, you’ve written quite a bit about Hutts and the underworld. What makes the Hutts such compelling subject matter for you? A: They are an extremely non-human race with a very human, if venal, outlook. They are powerful and dangerous and crafty. They are the dragons of the Star Wars universe.
Q: From where did you get your inspiration for the main character, Mander Zuma? A: The Jedi have a reputation as stalwart, fearless, capable heroes. We see it both in the heroes of the movies and the natives of the galaxy see that as well. I thought about a character who, though a Jedi, doesn't feel he lives up to dream. Up to the ideals. In short, he feels he's a fraud, despite the ability to use the Force.
Q: What is your favorite Star Wars novel? A: I am very, very old school. I loved the Han Solo at Star's End series by Bill Daley. I think that's where I get my interest in the Corporate sector as well.
Q: What other era of Star Wars would you like to write? A: I am very comfortable with the Rebellion era and the New Republic. I find the Rise of the Empire period to be exciting as well, as that's a time where everything is cracking up.
Q: When in the timeline does Scourge take place? A: The year is 19 ABY, before the YV show up and blow up big chunks of Hutt Space.
Q: Do you ever get annoyed with where George Lucas is taking Star Wars? A: No. It is his vision, at the base of it. We are all playing in his universe. Part of what I do when writing in a shared world is to bore down and try to find the core ethos, the basics truths, and develop them from there. A friend of mine puts it - "we can play with the toys, but if we leave our bike in the driveway and Uncle George backs over it, its not really his fault".
Q: Do you read any other Star Wars books? If so, what did you think of Fate of the Jedi? A: I have not read the Fate of the Jedi series (yeah, I'm behind the curve). The last one I've had a chance to read was Tatooine Ghost.
Q: Do you have a favorite Star Wars character(s)? A: Han, definitely. After the first movie, everyone liked Luke, but everyone wanted to BE Han. In particular I like the fact that Han is incredibly sure of himself, and then there is the moment when he realizes he is in over his head.
Q: I really enjoyed Scourge and especially Mander. Any chance we'll get to see more of him? A: I think we leave Mander in a good place at the end of the novel, but because of his experience in the book, he is an expert in this sector of space. I would love to see him dealing with the Hutts and Corporates again.
Q: How much research did you have to do for this novel? A: A lot. Armed with a holocron and Wookieepedia, I was chasing down all sorts of references from books, games, and comics. I was fortunate in that a lot of material in canon was based on stuff I wrote for the game product ten years ago. So I had to go back and check MY original notes.
Q (from Del Rey’s Frank Parisi): Jeff, what are a few rules to follow when writing about Star Wars A: I'd say the big rule to follow in writing Star Wars is to remain true to the ethos and reality of the world. It is epic, it is larger than life. It is heroic (despite Mander's nature, the book is not about his work in the Archives. Though a CSI-style short story would be kinda of cool, It would be difficult to make work against this background. There were a couple places in the book where I got too down in the weeds from a scientific standpoint, and I walked it back in later drafts.
Q: Mander Zuma is a different type of Jedi character than we usually see in STAR WARS. What thoughts went into his creation? A: While most of the Jedi seem to take their heroics in style, Mander finds it a bad fit. It is a Jedi, he has the training, but he pulled back, afraid that it would be obvious he didn't belong. He was comfortable within the Praxium and in the Archives. So the story becomes how he is pulled out of that world and how he grows. I like flawed characters, partricularly if they grow over time.
Q: How did you first get involved in writing? A: I've been writing since college (back in the 70s) - radio, short fiction and the like. I wrote adventures for TSR and went to work for them, and have been involved in creating both the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance settings. My first books were in FR, but I have done a wide variety of shared worlds since - both ones I have helped create and ones that I have come to. When I working for WotC, under Bill Slavicsek, I had the chance to write adventures and game material for Star Wars. I love being able to contribute to the larger universe.
Q: How does writing in the Star Wars world feel compared to all the other worlds you've touched upon in the past? A: Each universe has its own flavor and its own challenges. I like the idea that Star Wars is a big galaxy, and there is room for a lot of stories here using familiar pieces of the mythos. Also, Lightsabers? They're really cool.
Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to become a writer? A: I read a lot of SF and fantasy when I was a kid, and I really wanted Issac Asimov's job in his science columns - explaining stuff to people. When I started writing, I found that I could build worlds and make them function like coherent creative engines. That excited me, and one of the reasons that I like working in other shared worlds.
Q: What's the appeal of writing about the Star Wars underworld? Also, how did you like writing the Hutts? Is there another part of the Star Wars universe that you would like to explore? A: I am a fan of what I call "scum and Villainy" books. It is the underside of the universe, the fringe where the dangerous and the creative are pushed. The Empire is very humaniform, and the alien races seem to have been driven to that fringe. It gives me a creative variety in characters that is really neat. I like these enclaves, so the Corporate Sector is another place I would like to delve deeper into. They are the flip side of the Hutts.
Q: Who would win in a fight between Parella the Hunter and Ziro the Hutt? A: I like Ziro, but Parella would win in a walk. Make that "win in a slug-like crawl".
Q: Do you have plans for a Star Wars series featuring recurring characters? A: Currently nothing planned for a continuing series. I think there are a lot of stories to tell, here.
Q: Which author has inspired you the most? A: I have a lot of influences. Tolkien for his world-building, Twain for his language, Raymond Chandler for his dialogue. Let's go with Professor Tolkien, for today at least.
Q: How much latitude did you have to reference and integrate events in other novels with your own? A: I did not have a lot of trouble, since the Star Wars universe is pretty well-documented. And everything I write goes through LucasFilm for approval and continuity, so if I am off-base, they send me a note. One thing I do believe in is respecting the work of previous creators. If they state a particular fact, I treat that as a truth, or if I cannot, why the speaker would say what they said.
Q: Most, if not all, of the main characters in Scourge are new to the EU. What pre-existing characters would you love to write in the future? A: Mander, Reen, Eddey, the main characters are new, along with a slew of minor ones. The Anjiliacs showed up through game projects and have been waiting for me to get back to them. Of all the Jedi, I would like to write Obi-Wan. Han would be the biggest challenge, due to his long history. And I like minor characters, like Dexter Jettster.
Q (from Del Rey’s Frank Parisi): what are the challenges in writing in a shared universe, and when writing Star Wars in particular? A: One of the big ones [is] company. A lot of other people are writing at the same time you are, and while you don't have to keep all the streams straight (the noble editors do that (thanks!)), you have to be able and willing to make changes with an eye to the greater universe. Your project is the best one ever for this universe, but you have to be aware of what everyone else is doing. The working title for this book, for example, was "Tempest", after the hard spice, but that name was already used in another book. You are not writing alone. It is also one of the advantages.
Q: If you had to write the death of a major character like Luke, how would you have him die? A: I was going to say "Heroically" but really what I mean is "Resolved". His task is done, his quest is over. It doesn't matter if it is in battle or quietly at home surrounded by grandkids. Luke gets that happy ending.
Q: If you could write a war both in space and on the ground between any two EU armies from any time period, who would you choose and why? A: Any time period? I would take Kozzak the Hutt on one side with his Klatooinians, Niktos, and Vodrans, supplemented by the Droid Army. On the other - Mace Windu. And yeah, I would love to write Mace Windu as well.
Q (from Del Rey’s Frank Parisi): Scourge goes into more subversive territory than a lot of SW books and the nature of addiction is explored. How did you make this fit into Star Wars? A: Spice has been part of the Star Wars universe from the start, but has had a wide variety of treatments - from addictive substance to medicine to mild stimulant. This book gave me a chance to clarity that there are varieties of spice, and people have a variety of reactions to its use. Popara the Hutt, for example, puts himself above his comrades because he does not deal in hard spice or slaves. Reen, on the other hands, has smuggled, but has never dealt in something as insidious as Tempest, and I think her reaction and guilt towards that drives her in part.
Q: One of the SW characters who is particularly important, but who I don't think has seen much in the way of development, is Bail Organa. A: Bail's story would be cool - he's running a rear-guard action, trying to support the nascent rebellion and stop the emperor without losing everthing. On that last morning, he sees the Death Star in the sky, and probably thinks "So. It has come to this."