Shelly Shapiro, Del Rey's editor-at-large, answered questions from Star Wars book fans on Facebook today. The Q&A was held on the official Facebook page of Del Rey's Star Wars team. Shapiro answered questions about Dark Horse/Del Rey collaboration, the switch from longer series to shorter ones, killing major characters, and much more.
Here is a transcript of the Facebook Q&A. For the sake of conciseness, the phrasing of some questions has been edited. Shapiro's answers have not been edited. Comments and answers from Del Rey's Erich Schoeneweiss are included in italics.
Q: Will the Del Rey Star Wars novels timeline ever meet up to the events depicted in Dark Horse's Star Wars: Legacy comics? A: I have no doubt that it will, eventually, as we continue to fill in the future history of the Skywalker/Solo clan.
Q: Will there be any more Tales collections for all the NJO, Clone Wars, and other stories that haven't been collected yet? A: We don't have plans for those right now, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. For the moment, though, the only collection we're planning is a Lost Tribe of the Sith collection.
Q: Any thoughts on a novel that would bring in some smuggler fun, in the form of Han, Chewie, Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and others? A: I like them, so yes, I think we'll consider smuggler-type adventures in the future. nd don't miss The Old Republic: Deceived, as it has a great smuggler-type character!
Q: How about making some new Clone Wars novels and also some new original story's maybe even a GL signature series down the road? A: New Clone Wars novels: Possibly. A GL signature series: That could be very cool, but I don't see it happening any time in the near future.
Q: With the Star Wars saga coming out on Blu-Ray, how does Del Rey plan to commemorate that? A: We have marketing plans tied in to the blu-ray release.
Q: Can we anticipate a 20th anniversary edition of Dark Force Rising and The Last Command to compliment the forthcoming Heir to the Empire release? A: I'd love to do them, but I think we will likely let the market guide us on that decision.
Q: Is there a possibility of additional Rogue and Wraith squadron books after Allston's 2012 novel? A: Absolutely possible.
Q: Can you give us any info on the next book series after FOTJ? A: No idea yet! We have a lot of ideas to hammer out first.
Q: Will we see more novels featuring Kerra Holt? Or more books by John Jackson Miller (apart from his upcoming Lost Tribe of the Sith anthology)? A: Definitely possible. Nothing in the works at this moment, though.
Q: Any thought to having only three-novel story arcs with one author as opposed to the nine novel approach with three authors that has been the recent trend? A: We are backing off the multi-book, multi-author series for a little while, I think, if only to give us all some breathing room. We are talking about sticking to standalones, duologies, and trilogies for a bit in the near future.
Q: Any chance of more video game novelizations? A: If the right game presents itself.
Q: What's the working release date for Fate of the Jedi #9: Apocalypse? A: FOTJ: APOCALYPSE is scheduled for April 3, 2012.
Note from Shelly: "I have to say that right now we have a lot of ideas--a LOT of ideas, let me stress--and they're mostly in the early-seed stages. So all these questions about "any plans for..." are hard to answer definitively, and easy to answer with a "Possible.""
Q: What comes next after Fate of the Jedi? A: I can tell you that there are definitely plans for post-FotJ stories. Just not sure yet what form and exactly what the stories will be.
Q: When FoTJ started it was said a major character will die. Has that been decided, and was it a collective choice, or the choice of one? A: Actually, what I recall promising was that in this series, NO major character would die. Believe it or not, we don't kill major characters lightly, and we don't enjoy inflicting grief on our surviving characters.
Q: What's the policy for deciding if new books are hardcover vs. trade paperback size? A: Most new novels are being done in hardcover these days, because that seems to be what the market is asking for. Our one foray into trade paperback for novels wasn't terribly successful, so unless we see a major change in the marketplace, I suspect we'll be sticking to hardcovers, mass-market paperbacks, and now--yay!--e-books.
Q: Someone asked about picking up after the Bane trilogy, any info on that? A: We absolutely want Drew to explore the future with Zannah. Nothing definite yet, though.
Q: Is there still a possibility of getting a Boba Fett novel? A: We had to cancel that book because of changes to continuity and new material being planned on the tv end of things.
Q: Any news on the upcoming Alex Irvine novel? A: It's set in the distant past and stars Nomi and Vima Sunrider. I think it's really cool to explore some of these older legends and time periods that haven't been touched by novels yet. And Alex is a terrific writer, so I'm hoping for an epic legend!
Q: In Fate of the Jedi, it seems like you are setting up Ben to take up his father's mantle as head of the Jedi order. Will this be addressed in a future novel or series? A: I hope to address Ben's future in the Jedi Order at some time--I like Ben, and I think he has amazing potential as a really cool adult characters. And then, of course, there's his cousin Allana, whom I can't wait to help develop further.
Q: Will there ever be any novelizations of the legacy comics featuring Cade Skywalker? A: Cade Skywalker is a really neat character--but right now I feel that things are so rich, we'd be limiting ourselves by simply novelizing Dark Horse's material. I'm much more excited by collaborating more closely with Dark Horse, the way we did with Knight Errant--where each of us develops part of a greater whole and we work together to make that greater whole something really rich and exciting.
Note from Shelly: "Wow, it's so great to see all this enthusiasm! The best thing (and sometimes the hardest!) about working in Star Wars fiction is the incredible wealth of ideas open to us to explore. It's like being the proverbial kid in a candy store."
Q: What factors went into eBook pricing? They seem a bit over-priced considering the lack of costs normally associated with physical books. Paper, binding, transportation, storage, etc. A: I wish I understood that stuff, but I don't. I do understand, however, that we live in a relatively free-market capitalist economy...
Q: Shelly, how are you handling continuity issues with The Clone Wars TV series, and the problems with Clone Wars books as Jedi Trial? A: Continuity: This is one of the biggest challenges for us. Thank goodness for Leland Chee at Lucasfilm, Keeper of the Holocron and grand master of retconning. Some things, though, just have to remain as they are. I prefer that to going back and revising already published novels to reflect recent changes. Look at Splinter of the Mind's Eye--never revised, it just lives as an entity of its own, and that's how it should be. Imho.
Q: Do you think the whole “death of Luke Skywalker” thing was overblown by EU fanatics? A: To be honest, I don't even recall that brouhaha. Most so-called fanatics are wonderful in their love of the material, and getting excited--even negatively--is just a sign of that love.
Q: How do you determine which authors to ask to pen Star Wars novels? A: I get approached by a lot of authors who want to write Star Wars. I read samples of their published work, and when I find someone I feel will be able to live up to our SW expectations, I pass those samples on to Lucasfilm for approval.
Q: Can you tell us why editors don't do their jobs these days? Too many spelling errors in novels. But not only spelling errors, other issues slip past editors … it looks as if it is no longer important so long [as] fans buy the product still. A: Why don't editors do their jobs? Well, I suppose I should be a little insulted by that question. I know I do my job. But I can tell you that these books go through a lot of iterations, and are read and reread by numerous people, but that sometimes, even with all that, errors slip through the cracks. Rest assured that every error we do catch gets corrected, but if we catch it too late... We're also on a very tight production schedule, which can introduce errors, as well. We do our best to not let these things happen, and I, for one, hate when I find out that a major error has made it through into a finished book.
Q: Does George Lucas have the final say as to when and how Luke Skywalker dies and when the novel will be out? A: Of course GL has the final say as to when and how Luke dies! No current plans to even touch that.
Q: Will the SW saga ever end, or will it just keep on going past the Legacy comics? A: I hope not! We have millennia of past and future history yet to explore!
Q: How will the novels deal with the unnatural deaths of the younger characters in the current novels? Barring unnatural circumstances, they’d theoretically be alive in the Legacy comics, given the long life spans of GFFA characters. A: Most SW characters don't live THAT much longer than contemporary humans. 120 would probably be pretty impressive. What has changed is that they age better, and remain vital much longer than most of us do on 21st-century Earth.
Q: When we asked about the “end,” we meant an end point in the future of the timeline. A: As for an end point in the future, honestly, I don't see that happening. There can always be new events in a galaxy that large. Though when, and if, we eventually put an end to Luke, Han, and Leia's active careers, that'd probably feel like a major ending point, at least to one part of the saga.
Q: Who is your favorite character, author, novel, and movie? Are you Sith, Jedi, Mandalorian, etc.? And what is the meaning/message of Star Wars for you? A: Hard questions! I confess to being very fond of Han; I like Jaina, Ben, and Allana a lot, too. And I loved Qui-Gon Jinn. I can't have a favorite novel, because it'd be too much like a parent choosing favorites among his or her children. My favorite movie is ESB. Meaning/message? Good question. I think it's that events--no matter how small or large in scale--revolve ultimately around human beings (including sapient aliens, of course!) and their feelings and their relationships with one anther. Also, that no matter how strong the lure of evil, which we are all susceptible to, there is always the possibility of redemption. Which probably makes me a Jedi. Though my colleagues at RH probably would say I'm naturally more of a Sith!
Q: Do you know when we might see the cover for Revan revealed? A: The cover for Revan will be revealed when it is finished--right now we're just at the sketch stage. But I know it's going to be awesome. I love our Old Republic covers!
The REVAN cover should be revealed sometime mid-summer.
Q: Are there plans for an updated third edition Essential Chronology? A: No current plans for a third Chronology book, but I can see the need for one in the future.
Q: Will we see any more “making of” books? A: As for MAKING OF BOOKS, J. W. Rinzler is currently writing the MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Q: Can you give us any hints as to where Aaron Allston's upcoming Wraith Squadron falls into the timeline? A: Aaron's Wraith Squadron novel takes place around the end of the FotJ. I can't wait to read it!
Q: Have there ever been any discussions about a Palpatine-centered book that takes place throughout the prequels? Perhaps a continuation of the Plageuis novel (however that turns out) that details how he implemented his plan to take over? The reasons behind the decisions he made, and how he dealt with unexpected surprises along the way? A: I think once you've read Darth Plagueis, every one of Palpatine's later decisions will be very clear. It will make watching the prequels much more interesting, I think.
Q: Will Del Rey get back to the single book story arcs? A: Yes, of course! Alex Irvine's novel will stand alone, as will Jeff Grubb's. We will be planning others, as well.
Q: I'm a long time reader of Star Wars books but I am also greatly disappointed by the lack of diversity in the Star Wars EU. A: I feel we've had quite a bit of diversity, especially when you take into consideration the growing number of prominent characters that aren't human. Saba Sebatyne, for example: An awesome female Jedi who is barely even humanoid. (I like her a lot!)
Q: When is Del Rey's contract up? A: I can't tell you when the contract is up, but I can tell you that we have books planned through 2014 at the moment. :-)
Q: Could you discuss how the role of editor is different in the Star Wars publishing shared universe, versus if you were editing an author's own individual work in their own universe? Could you also describe how your role is either similar or different from Sue Rostoni at Lucasfilm? A: My role as editor is much more complicated in the Star Wars universe. When I work with an author on a non-tie-in novel, the entire job is between the author and me, and the author has a lot more leeway in terms of what happens on the pages. Those novels don't have to have approved outlines, for example: I'll just make suggestions to the author as to how I feel he or she can improve the story and/or characters. With Star Wars, every aspect has to be approved by the licensor--LFL. So part of my job is to help the author make the work the best novel they can write, and part is as liaison between the author and LFL. Sue and I do very similar work, though it's more her job to make sure the story and characters conform to SW continuity and LFL expectations, while it's more mine to make sure the writing flows well, the story evolves smoothly, etc. I hope that answers the question--it's a small space and time in which to answer something not that simple!
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