I recently spoke to author Kevin J. Anderson about some of his work with regards to Star Wars. Kevin’s catalogue of Star Wars books is huge and contains some of my all-time favourite stories, so I decided to ask him a few questions about them.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, even before I could write. I would draw pictures and tell stories out loud. It’s in my blood.
How did you get involved with Star Wars novels?
I had published about seven novels from Signet Books and Bantam Books. One day my Bantam editor called and asked “Do you like Star Wars? Do you want to write three sequels?” It was a complete surprise, but I was already a huge fanboy. I had never considered it before, but it sure didn’t take long to say yes!
Your back catalogue of Star Wars books is huge, what are some of your favourites you have worked on and why?
A few different choices. DARKSABER is my favourite of the novels. When I wrote it, I thought this was going to be the last one, that I wouldn’t likely be doing more Star Wars (I had already done a lot of SW titles, and they wanted to bring in a lot more authors). I put EVERYTHING into that book and I really loved how it turned out. So did Lucasfilm, so they offered me a lot more work!
I think my favourite of all is LIGHTSABERS, Young Jedi Knights #4, a seminal book for Tenel Ka, which works on so many levels. It shows the consequences of sloppy phone-it-in work (she loses her arm), it shows that you don’t goof around with dangerous weapons like lightsabers (she loses her arm), and it shows that even if someone is handicapped, she can still kick ass more than anybody else. We got so much fan mail on that book.
And on a personal level, nothing can match the experience of doing THE ILLUSTRATED STAR WARS UNIVERSE. Month after month, I got to sit for hours beside the great Ralph McQuarrie in his studio, brainstorming with him, watching him sketch out the crazy ideas we came up with together. I miss him. And I also spent dozens of days in the Skywalker Ranch art archives, and you simply can’t match that experience.
You worked on ‘Tales of the Bounty Hunters’ primarily on the IG-88 story, were you provided with any information on the character before you started writing, or were you left to find out stuff by yourself and build a story from what you had found?
I edited the anthology, so I got all the other authors and shepherded their stories, but I chose IG-88 for my own. All I had to work with was the brief description in the West End Games material. The rest of the story I created.
What is your writing process?
I plot and research everything beforehand, and I write detailed outlines. I have talked a lot about how I do all my original writing by dictation, as I walk the trails around my house, or go to more rugged hikes in the Colorado mountains. Then my typist transcribes it all, and I edit and polish it until it’s done. I usually work on several projects at once.
With regards to the ‘Jedi Academy Trilogy’ how did it feel expanding on the Stories of such beloved Characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in a time where the original trilogy was blooming?
Timothy Zahn wrote the first trilogy in the expanded universe, and I wrote the second one (remember, there was NO other Star Wars material coming out; we were at the beginning). This was in the early 1990s, and there was no talk whatsoever of new films, so our books were going to be “it.” It was a great burden for us, but also really exhilarating. We were doing what we loved.
Does writing for Star Wars bring any added pressure considering how big the franchise is and how passionate the fans are?
See above. When I started, the fandom was certainly out there, but there wasn’t any expanded universe. I have since seen the impact of those books. I do many comic cons during the year, and I constantly have fans come up to me to explain how my Star Wars novels got them into reading, and especially many who claim that our Young Jedi Knights series got them through tough times in high school. I am so proud of the work I’ve done.
What do you think makes your stories stand out?
This wasn’t just a writing job for me, but a fanboy’s dream come true. I learned so much to improve my own writing by working on Star Wars.
What sort of stories do you read?
I like big epic fantasy, thrillers, historicals…but really, I am so busy writing, editing, and proofreading, I don’t have a lot of time for discretionary reading.
When it comes to writing about Star Wars where do you draw your inspiration from?
Remember, I haven’t worked in that universe for a dozen years or more. When I was involved with it, I would constantly watch the movies, read the comics, the other novels, and basically commute to work in the Star Wars universe.
What are some of your thoughts on the Star Wars films?
I loved FORCE AWAKENS — when I sat in the theater and started watching, I suddenly felt that this was Star Wars again. It was a thrill. No, I am not going to quibble about plot holes and things I found problematic (and, like any fanboy, I found plenty of things). But it was real Star Wars again! I felt I had come home.
And then ROGUE ONE…wow! Best Star Wars film in ages. Again, forget about the fanboy quibbles—I loved this movie, and I can’t wait for THE LAST JEDI.
Do you have any favourite characters from the franchise, if so, who are they why?
I really liked the Young Jedi Knights, especially Tenel Ka. Some of those characters continued in the Expanded Universe, while others were forgotten. I have a soft spot for Admiral Daala, and there’s the one-offs, like IG-88 and the Rancor Keeper.
Are there any restrictions when it comes to writing, in terms of character development and plot lines, or do you have a lot of creative freedom?
I had a lot of freedom, but remember I was writing at the very beginning. I can’t speak to the experience for current writers.
With regards to the ‘Tales of’ series, you were the editor, what did that entail?
Everything! I came up with the concepts for the three anthologies, I found the writers, I directed their stories and juggled who did what, and (especially in JABBA) I created the uber storyline that everyone had to hang their stories on. I received the manuscripts, read them, edited them, asked for rewrites if necessary, and finally got it ready to send in to the publisher.
When writing Star Wars books, did you have to look into what other authors were also doing? For example, Mara Jade (Created by Timothy Zahn) was in the ‘Jedi Academy Trilogy’.
Yes, I was in touch with Tim Zahn as he was finishing his trilogy when I was starting mine; we did a few crossovers. And Dave Wolverton (Courtship of Princess Leia) also influenced a lot of the Jedi Academy trilogy, as well as the Young Jedi.
Kevin was one of the first people to write novels for Star Wars, so we all owe him a lot of credit. A lot of his storied paved the way for others to be developed and for that I am truly grateful to have had the chance to speak to him about his work.
Stay tuned for more articles to come in the near future and may the force be with you all!