James S.A. Corey ‘Honor Among Thieves’ Interview
Authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck have joined forces under the pen name James S.A. Corey to write the second novel in the Empire and Rebellion series. Entitled Honor Among Thieves, the book focuses on Han Solo as he undertakes a mission for the Rebellion that leads him on a merry chase across space, being bossed around by a Rebel spy named Scarlet Hark, shot at by bounty hunters, and several close calls with the Empire.
You guys are no strangers to science fiction considering the epic series you’ve started called The Expanse. That said, how was tackling a Star Wars book different than the books you’ve done before? I know there of course is the approval process with LucasBooks and Del Rey, but did you approach the actual writing process of the book differently than you’ve done before?
James S.A. Corey: One of the things that’s structurally different for this book from the other ones we’ve done is the fairly tight focus on one character. We were really dialed in on Han, so one of us would be writing one chapter and then we’d switch out. We had to be very conscious of how we were using his voice so that the shift between authors wasn’t a shift within the character. And there are some places where our other books are a little more constrained than Star Wars is. I mean, it’s all implausible from an engineering point of view, but there’s a different aesthetic to Star Wars that we had to sit with for a while and sort of create our understanding of. And, yes, we’re not used to anyone else having any say in what our plots are about. So there’s that.
One of the elements that really stood out in Honor Among Thieves is the dialog. There are some really great moments in the book that made me smile or laugh, while others just naturally channeled the vibe of the movies without using the same lines. Did you guys split the task of nailing the dialog?
JSAC: We split all the writing, including the dialog, but it was really useful to have someone there to bounce lines off. There are times when something sounds pretty good in your head, but kind of falls flat when you deliver it. Having a team process to get that crap out before it sees print is a good thing. And we watched the first two films several times to get the cadence of the three main character’s speech down. Our mandate was to write the Han we see in those early films, not the Han that was expanded on in the later EU books. So re-watching the movies over and over was a big part of that.
At the center of this book is Han Solo, but alongside him are two very important characters: Scarlet Hark and Baasen Ray. Scarlet is a Rebel spy and field agent who ends up working with Han after a rescue mission. In some ways, her character is similar to Leia, and you can see that her and Han have some chemistry. Yet she is also different from Leia. I was curious of how you perceived her character and her differences from Leia?
JSAC: The thing that’s great about Leia is that – especially in the first movie – she’s the grown-up. Han and Luke come to save her, and she’s the one who takes charge. There’s actually a really interesting analysis that traces the shift within the movie that happens when we lose the father figure of Obi-Wan and pick up the authority/love interest of Leia.
Scarlet, on the other hand, is an agent of chaos who just happens to be on the side of angels. She’s another very powerful woman, but while Leia is a politician and a leader, Scarlet’s more at ease throwing herself into dangerous, awkward, and embarrassing situations. She’s an individual and an individualist, and doesn’t carry the same weight of responsibility that Leia does.
While Scarlet has some similarities to Leia, Baasen is more of a deviation on what Han could have been had he made different choices in life and been a lot less lucky. He’s a smuggler turned bounty hunter who was once friends with Han. He’s also a Mirialan. Can you share a little on how this character came about?
JSAC: You can’t have Han in this part of the timeline without also having Jabba the Hutt. And the tension that Han’s carrying with him in this part of the timeline is that he’s part hero and part criminal. We know he winds up a hero, and we wanted to have someone who showed the other direction that was available. Also, the book is about thieves and rogues. Scarlet is the honorable spy, Baasen is the dishonorable scoundrel. Han is the guy feeling the pull of those two possible directions, and weighing how he feels about those futures.
What can readers look forward to next from you guys?
JSAC: Well, we’ve got the fourth book of the Expanse – Cibola Burn – coming out in a couple months, and our newest Expanse-based novella The Churn will be out as an ebook before that. So that’ll be fun for us. We’re also going to be heading for the Phoenix Comicon in June and we’re the guests of honor at MileHiCon up in Denver this October.
If you haven’t picked up Honor Among Thieves yet, you can head on over to Random House’s official product page for retailer links for the hardcover, digital and audiobook versions of the book. They also have a 49 page preview you can check out.
To find out more about Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and their collaborative works as James S.A. Corey, you can visit Daniel Abraham’s official website which includes news updates, their list of works, and more. We want to thank both authors for taking the time to answers our questions, and we look forward to reading their next book, Cibola Burn.