Del Rey's Star Wars Books Facebook page hosted a chat with Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown author Joe Schreiber this afternoon. Schreiber answered fans' questions about researching and writing a book that gets inside Maul's head, his story's connections to the novel Darth Plagueis, how he got his start as a professional author, and more.
Below is a lightly-edited transcript of fans' questions and Schreiber's responses.
Q: Would you ever consider using Ahsoka in one of your Star Wars books? She is my favorite character, and I love your books, so I think it would be a great fit.
A: I like Ahsoka a lot too, and the good news about the EU is how much many opportunities there are to involve characters like hers in the larger story -- I'd love to use her somewhere...if the opportunity arose.
Q: Will you write a book or book series using bounty hunters?
A: Yeah, a bounty hunters novel would be awesome. I'd do it in a heartbeat -- and I'd read it if somebody else wrote it. Will it happen? You got me.
Q: I own the audio book version and I've listened to the book 4 times now since its release.
A: Totally agree, I love the audiobook work that Random House does on the SW books. The production is always excellent, love the music and sound that they do...the audiobook of DARTH PLAGUEIS is one that I listened to for weeks while prepping for Maul.
Q: We have a relatively clear view on how old Trig Longo is, but we can only guess the age of his older brother Kale. Did you leave it open on purpose or can you give a more definitive information there?
A: I tend to leave that sort of detail open to interpretation, but that's probably just my preference as a reader...
Q: What thought went into making Maul more in control and not a wild psychopathic killer to those he came in contact with?
A: The biggest challenge of getting into Maul's head was the question of how to make him more than just a predator, a weapon of the Sith...especially since he's not a talker, and so much of what we know about him comes from his simple physical presence. Ultimately it came down to showing how he's not a guy who makes idle threats, doesn't waste words, and basically just uses every aspect of his surroundings to his advantage. A guy who's committed to his assignment, and is simply unable to quit until he's either successful, or dead.
Q: Do you get to choose the eras and main characters that you write about or are they assigned to you?
A: The question of where in the time line the story is set is actually one that gets talked about a lot during the planning stages. Fortunately, when it comes that that, there are a lot of people who are much smarter than I am, and it's an ongoing conversation with Del Rey and Lucas, because there's so much going on the EU, and continuity is critical...I need all the air traffic control info that I can get.
Q: Do you think Maul could have usurped Palpatine to become a Sith Master if things had turned out differently in Episode I?
A: Man, that's a tough question. Maul develops into a fascinating character in the Clone Wars, with dimensions we never saw before, so I wouldn't dismiss the possibility out of hand.
Q: Do you think you will be writing any more books about Maul?
A: I'd love to do another Maul novel. He's one of my favorite characters to write -- there's just a lot going on inside his head, and he's an antihero, which just makes him that much more fun to follow around.
Q: How did you get started as a professional author?
A: It's a hard question because a lot's changing in the marketplace, and continues to change with e-publishing and self-publishing and everything else available...but I would say the constant is, whatever format you're working in (comics, fiction, whatever) you need to learn how to provide solid content, consistently. Learning the market. Writing every day. The 10,000 hour rule probably applies here. I once took a picture of all the stuff I've every written that was so awful that it never got published, and it was literally taller than my daughter was at the time.
Q: When and where do you prefer to write?
A: I write on a MacBook Pro, although I've used everything from a pen and paper to a manual typewriter. I've got a day job (I'm an MRI tech at a nearby hospital) and two kids, so my writing time tends to be where I can find it...typically in the mornings for a couple hours. My desk is the bed, the floor, anywhere I can set up shop for a while.
Q: Was the ending of the book given to you or did you decide it?
A: The ending of LOCKDOWN is mine. One of the coolest things about working with Del Rey and Lucas is the free hand you're given creatively, but how immediately accessible everyone is when you need a hand. The team of people that I worked with, especially Frank Parisi and Erich Schoeneweiss at Random, were always ready with super strong ideas of how to make the book better.
Q: What was your favorite part of planning out this book?
A: My favorite part of the whole process is probably the writing itself. I'm terrible at outlining things. I'm pretty much the worst example you could have, as far as an orderly approach. The moment where I get to dive into the story, make a playlist of songs for the chapters and just start writing...that's the best feeling in the world.
Q: Could you explain exactly what your intentions were for the wampa?
A: The idea with the wampa is (or was, in some version of the story) that it is, in fact, infected with something. I'm going to keep it vague in the interest of spoilers, but yeah...definitely not your average garden variety wampa.
Q: What are some of your other original books that I should start reading after having read your Star Wars ones?
A: I've written some horror novels for Del Rey/Random House -- CHASING THE DEAD, EAT THE DARK, NO DOORS NO WINDOWS -- along with some young adult and middle grade readers, that are just as action-y but not quite as dark. Depends on your taste.
Q: Do you think Darth Maul is more of a brutal beast like in Episode I or more of a cunning evil mastermind like in The Clone Wars?
A: My vision of Maul in this book is like a hybrid of the brutal predator we saw in Episode 1 and the scheming Tony Montana galactic crime lord whose rise we see in Clone Wars. It was cool to tackle him that way, because there was so much potential for developing his inner character and we'd seen a glimpse of where he was ultimately heading in CW.
Q: Is the darkness of your Star Wars novels your contribution, or did Del Rey come to you looking for a grittier, darker novel?
A: I'm not sure about where the darkness and grit originates from. I know that when Del Rey first started talking to me about a Maul prison book, I wanted it to be a more "realistic," down and dirty idea of what prison would look like, no holds barred, in the SW universe. They've always been very cool about letting me go dark with the material...and the first time I saw the cover for Death Troopers, I knew everything was gonna be exactly what I was hoping for, tone-wise.
Q: When does Maul: Lockdown take place in comparison to Episode I?
A: Lockdown takes place not too far before the action of Episode 1 -- it's a very fertile place to work, story-wise, because so much is coming together on the grand scheme of things...and I love that all-too-brief glimpse we get of Maul in that film...a caged animal, pensive, intense, a predator. I'd love to work more with him in that time frame.
Q: Do you know what is going on with canon?
A: No idea what Disney will consider canon or not...it's a haunting question, really, because they already seem to be taking the subject of what's canon (and what isn't) very seriously. My main hope of course is that I'm just writing what fans like myself like to read, and I'm grateful to have that chance.
Q: Have you always written science-fiction books or did you start elsewhere?
A: I've been writing since 5th grade, short stories and a novel back in high school (it was awful). I got involved in Star Wars when Del Rey published a horror novel of mine called CHASING THE DEAD, and later an opportunity came up for DEATH TROOPERS. I'm old enough to remember A New Hope when it first came on the big screen and it was amazing to get a chance to fuse what I loved about horror and SW.
Q: What kind of access to the Lucasfilm archives did you have while researching your book?
A: I did get a chance to go out and tour Lucasarts while researching the book -- it was phenomenal, a dream come true, really.
Q: Do you think there will be more gritty, horror-filled Star Wars books in the future?
A: Not sure if there will be more SW horror novels, but I'd love to get involved if there were!
Q: How did you choose the ideas for your Star Wars books?
A: The process for writing SW books, for me at least, has always started with a one-liner idea from Del Rey/Lucas, "how about a SW horror novel," "what do you think about a Maul in prison novel." That's as specific as it gets to begin with, and it's a long process of multiple outlines from there...culminating in what's hopefully a pretty detailed vision of the story, that everybody basically signs off on. Then the writing starts. I get notes along the way, and there are always some deviations from the outline, but it's a pretty structured process (by my standards, anyway).
Q: Will you be doing a book tour for Maul: Lockdown?
A: Unfortunately no current plans for a tour/signing, but we'll see what happens in the future.
Q: In light of the fact that within a democratic system the cumulative influence of a single voter is inversely proportional to population size, is it possible the Old Republic ceased millenniums ago to be democratic and is only nominally republican in the most abstract way, and as such the transition to a militarized oligarchy under Palpatine is a negligible political change in the galactic macrocosm?
A: An excellent question, which I believe is best answered with a Wilhelm scream.
Del Rey Hosting Joe Schreiber Facebook Q&A Next Week