Del Rey's Star Wars Books Facebook page hosted a chat with Star Wars: Kenobi author and Dark Horse Comics writer John Jackson Miller this afternoon. Miller discussed Kenobi -- the man and the book -- as well as his work on the Knights of the Old Republic and Lost Tribe of the Sith comic series, his thoughts on Episode VII, his future projects, and more.
Below is a lightly-edited transcript of fans' questions and Miller's responses.
Q: Are we ever going to see Zayne Carrick again?
A: It's a big galaxy, and he's still around, so anything's possible. It was many years between X-Wing novels and another one happened. So we'll see!
Q: The book was great. Any chance of a sequel or at least additional short stories?
A: I'd definitely be interested in writing more Kenobi. A lot of things are going on in the Star Wars universe right now, but hopefully there'll be an opportunity that makes sense for everyone involved.
Q: Can you tell us what inspired you to take on this missing chapter of Star Wars lore?
A: I had been interested in telling a different kind of story, really -- drawing on some of the tropes of westerns. It seemed to fit perfectly for this time in Obi-Wan's life, as he starts to transform into Old Ben.
Q: Given that you are a classic TV guy, were there any shows you pulled the ideas for the Oasis from? Or the culture of the Tusken Raiders?
A: Heh. The Oasis draws a bit on fish-out-of-water stories -- think NORTHERN EXPOSURE and BALLYKISSANGEL -- where the out-of-towner arrives in new and strange surroundings. There are certainly others. The Raider culture was more based on what we had already known about them, plus some new twists.
Q: What would you say were your influences while writing Kenobi?
A: I think a lot obviously comes from old westerns, like SHANE, and some newer ones, like Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE where we get to see a lot about the world the heroes live in.
Q: So did you pitch the idea for Kenobi to Del Rey, or did they come to you with an idea?
A: I brought them the idea. It had started as a notion for a possible original graphic novel at Dark Horse, but it became clear as I wrote it that it would work better as prose.
Q: How hard was it to write a story about such a pivotal character like Obi Wan Kenobi?
A: Obviously a lot of people have in mind what Obi-Wan should sound and act like, but fortunately we also had performances by the actors -- Guinness, McGregor, James Arnold Taylor -- to serve as guides in making sure he sounded right.
Q: What one aspect of Obi-Wan's personality or history do you wish you could have touched upon more, if given the chance?
A: Well, we were restricted in some degree by what he knew about at the time, so there are facts he doesn't have about what the Empire has been doing. Certainly as you get into the storyline later on, we'd see him dealing with what he knows about Vader's survival.
Q: Can we expect a Kenobi sequel? If you were to write one, what could we expect next?
A: As noted above, I'd be glad to -- just a matter of timing and having it make sense for everyone involved. As to the topic, there are a lot of different ways to do it. Many points on the compass left unexplored on Tatooine!
Q: If there were to be a sequel to the novel in the future, would there be a possibility of Obi-Wan investigating what Anakin did to the Tuskens years earlier, or even dealing with the realization that Darth Vader survived?
A: Well, we know those events do come up a little later -- LIFE AND LEGEND OF OBI-WAN KENOBI tells us that -- so yes, they'd certainly be available for exploration should we choose, I would think.
Q: Do any of the Tusken Raiders in the story (or any characters) show up in Episode IV?
A: Good question. No, I didn't look for any Tuskens in A NEW HOPE -- I created all of the ones I used for this book (not counting some characters that had appeared in earlier stories).
Q: You definitely managed to stay true to Obi-Wan's roots. It didn’t matter what situation he found himself in, he was always the same pure-hearted Jedi we know and love. Even his "negotiator" skills shined through during the story.
A: Thanks. I figured this kind of story would really force him to rely upon his softer skills. He can't solve everything with a lightsaber and not get seen!
Q: I was intrigued by that Rodian who's silently sitting in the bar and just staring into his cup. I feel there's a story behind this. Am I wrong?
A: Maybe. Maybe not. I wanted to leave that open to your interpretation.
Q: Is there another classic Star Wars character that you would love to approach similarly with a novel (if you could)?
A: Hmm... big question. I think there's a number of characters that'd fit that description. I also think Lando would be a blast to write -- my first Star Wars pitch was a Lando story, eons ago!
Q: Is there any chance we can expect a return to the Old Republic era from you?
A: No KOTOR anytime soon, but Brian Ching and I are always talking about various projects to work on together. We'll see!
Q: Knight Errant was one of my favorite Star Wars novels. Any chance of a sequel?
A: Thanks! Like KOTOR and Lost Tribe, Knight Errant is one of those things that remains out there for possibly returning to someday, once we know more about what the future looks like (literally!). So we'll see. Kerra isn't going anywhere!
Q: How do you feel about Episode VII?
A: I think it's really done a lot to spark interest in the franchise. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they have planned!
Q: Was there any Lucasfilm ban on the background of the Sith Triumvirate in Knights of the Old Republic?
A: I was never told of anything like that. I touched on KOTOR game elements where it made sense in my own story, but really, it was Zayne's saga, and we couldn't expect him to meet everyone.
Q: Is there a character you really wanted to include who just didn’t work out?
A: No, not really. I was thrilled that we got to use a certain henchman of Jabba's -- that was a blast for me. If you've read the book and are familiar with the character's history, you'll know what I mean.
Q: Do you think we might learn in a book, movie, or TV show what Obi-wan went through to become a ghost after his complete surrender to the Force?
A: I imagine anything's possible. The future is always in motion!
Q: Is there any chance that you'll write another Kerra Holt novel?
A: I'd be happy to return to her world at some point should it work out as possible. There are certainly more worlds left to free.
Q: Do you prefer graphic novels, where the story is told mostly through pictures, or do you prose novels, where you can tell the story through words and let the readers create their own images?
A: I still do both, but I admit that lately I have mostly been doing prose. It's a little different in that I get to see a final product a lot faster. I expect to keep doing both -- comics are a huge part of my life.
Q: What work can we expect from you in the future?
A: I have a Conan story coming up in November's ROBERT E. HOWARD'S SAVAGE SWORD #6 from Dark Horse Comics (http://bit.ly/SavageS6). The audiobook is due out soon for my OVERDRAFT series (http://bit.ly/overdraft1)... and I have a Star Trek: Titan novella which has just been slated for February (http://bit.ly/JJMTrek1). I have some other projects unannounced yet... stay tuned!
Q: What is it like to write in someone else's universe? Do you feel constricted?
A: Not really -- everything you write about has rules, even if they're your own rules in your own universe. I see continuity issues as opportunities, really... possible springboards.
Q: How did you get into the business of writing a Star Wars novel?
A: I had written comics for many years, and got the chance to write short stories for the Star Wars website and later for Lost Tribe of the Sith.
Q: If you could write an EU story about any Star Wars character or event, what would it be?
A: Gryph wants me to write MARN HIEROGRYPH'S GUIDE TO HIGH FINANCE AND EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT.
Q: Is there a chance we will ever see a Qui-Gon adventure where he encounters the Whills?
A: Not something I'd thought of, but it does sound interesting.
Q: Will we ever see a Lost Tribe of the Sith prequel that tells the story of the Omen and Naga Sadow?
A: Well, we know some of what happened in that early time from the start of Crosscurrent. As to something more detailed, anything's possible.
Q: Who are your writing inspirations? Did you feel yourself channeling those writers at any point during this project?
A: There are so many. There's all the people I read in comics and prose... and then on the writing side, I got career help from Harlan Ellison, Maggie Thompson, and Michael Stackpole and more. (Mike's really been my guru over the years.) I really appreciate all the advice I've gotten over the years.
Q: If you could change anything about the book, what would you have changed?
A: We really did nail the book down almost exactly as I had wanted. It's rare when that happens, but there's very little I would consider changing. Maybe a word here and there?
Q: Who is you favorite Star Wars character?
A: Wow, that's a tough one... a lot of choices there! In the EU I always really wanted a Valance the Hunter action figure!
As noted above, really too tough a call. Lots of ones to choose from, especially in the EU.
Q: Did you watch all the movies or read any novels before you began writing this book?
A: I read up on everything that had been written about Ben's time on Tatooine, about the planet, about the Tuskens. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.
Q: How do we talk Dark Horse or Del Rey into letting you do a rewrite of the classic Tales of the Jedi series?
A: A lot of stuff happens in those stories, to be sure! But I'd probably enjoy working on new material more.
Q: How did you approach the task of showing Obi-Wan through other characters’ perceptions of him? And what was the biggest challenge of getting into the mindset of a Tusken?
A: Well, it's very much like life, isn't it? No two people see someone else the same way. I wanted to play on that. And yes, the Tuskens were about the most coldhearted characters I've ever written, even worse than the Sith in some ways -- the Sith are at least logical. There's a lot about the Tusken way of life that seems deranged to us, but somehow they accept it. Challenging, indeed!
Q: Do you know if the new movies will coincide with the books?
A: I know as much as you do.
Q: About how many weeks or months does it take you to write a book? What about Kenobi specifically?
A: The drafts of the plot were written over several weeks seven years ago. The actual writing of the novel took about three months. That seems to be standard for me. It's exhausting going any faster.
Q: Why is Obi-Wan’s home planet, Stewjon (as confirmed by George Lucas at Celebration V), not yet established in the Expanded Universe?
A: Heh! Licensing problems with the Daily Show? I'm not sure. But I'm sure Stephen Colbert is their emperor.
Q: Since we don't know the ultimate fate of Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars –– and assuming that she survived Order 66 –– is there any chance she could show up in a sequel or is she an off-limits topic?
A: I haven't asked, really. I wrote the plot for this story in 2006, so a lot of stuff hadn't happened yet.
Q: What do you plan to write next for Star Wars?
A: I always have ideas -- it's just a matter of what direction they want to go in with the sequels coming out. I would be glad to pitch in in some way.
Q: I think Disney would be smart to ask for your assistance on Episode VII and more. All your work is fantastic.
A: Thanks! As noted above, I'd be happy to help on the prose or comics side if I'm asked.
Q: Any chance of seeing you back writing novels in the Old Republic era?
A: Anything's possible -- just a matter of seeing what the future holds once we know more about the sequel movies.
Q: I love when Ben spills his guts and lets his pain show but isn't overwhelmed by it. True Jedi there! Stays true to McGregor's performance in Episode III when he's talking to Anakin on Mustafar.
A: Thanks. Yeah, Ben really is resilient -- he wasn't going to wallow. That's one reason I wanted to do the story as I did -- if we were inside his mind all the time, there would be too much angst over what had happened, and it might not feel like how Obi-Wan would react.
Q: Jedi have been described as boring protagonists by some, because they're essentially indestructible heroes. What's your view on that?
A: I think they're as interesting as we try to make them. And yes, I fully agree on the Back to the Future 1955 analogy -- was making that comparison just the other day.
Q: Would you say trouble finds Obi-Wan or Obi-Wan finds trouble? The book is really a classic.
A: Thanks! And I think the Force moves him where he needs to go.
Q: What's the best source for researching Dewback harnesses?
A: Hah! I asked Beth Kinnane, a college friend who's worked for several breeders and other equestrian firms over the years. We sat online one evening and figured out what all the parts of the harness were called. We go the extra mile at Star Wars Books!
Q: Was it your plan to make Qui-Gon a more relevant (or present) character in the novel, or did Lucasfilm limit the use of that character?
A: No, that was already established elsewhere. I explain that situation here.
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