CVI Interview with James LucenoSeptember 7, 2012 at 7:00 am | Posted in Celebration, Interview, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
Tags: darth plagueis, hunt for the mayan looking-glass, james luceno
It’s Friday, how about another Star Wars author interview? You know him from his work on Darth Plagueis, The Unifying Force, Millennium Falcon, and many other novels. We present our Star Wars Celebration VI interview with James Luceno. We covered Plagueis, Sith, writing, and the possibility of future novels. Enjoy!
At what point did you decide in Plagueis’ story that it would lead into The Phantom Menace, that he would still be alive at that time?
JL: It was early on in the process. After I was sort of asked if I was interested in doing a Plagueis novel, and I thought to myself I would definitely like to do it, but I was worried that we know how this ends. We’ve already heard the Plagueis is killed by Sidious. How do we create a surprise, something new in the novel? So I asked Lucasfilm, you know basically the top people over there, “Is it possible that Plagueis was alive in The Phantom Menace?” And they said they were okay with it. So once they did that I was totally on board because I figured that at least I had that element of surprise that would keep everybody reading.
Which Star Wars character would you say intrigues you the most?
JL: I do have a fascination with the darker characters like Sidious even Dooku and Plagueis. I guess the ones that are right in the middle. The ones that are transitioning either from dark to light or light to dark because I think there’s a lot of movement in the character and you can play around with a lot of moral issues.
Would you ever consider giving Count Dooku the Plagueis treatment; a full length novel?
JL: I thought about it for a while, but then the more I investigated the amount of continuity that’s already there, the more I started to worry about doing that. I think what worries me more is I don’t know where he’s going in The Clone Wars. I think The Clone Wars could overwrite a lot of the existing continuity and that could just be a real nightmare at the end.
You’ve said you keep up to date with the Star Wars novels. Which writer makes you laugh the most?
JL: I guess I get the most laughs out of Aaron’s books [Aaron Allston]. I mean there’s always a little bit of humor, sometimes even Matt Stover makes me laugh even though he’s usually dead serious. There’s some elements to his novels that crack me up, so I enjoy those immensely also.
What’s your primary motivation in your storytelling?
JL: I would like to readers engaged in characterization and character arc, transitions in characters. I know a lot of my books are heavy on plot, but I really try to have the plot spring from characters.
If you could try telling a different type of Star Wars story, like a comedy or detective story, or even a romance, what would you like to try?
JL: Oh I love that idea. I won’t do the mystery because Michael Reaves is already on top of that noir, mystery thing. You know a Star Wars comedy, if I could take some of that away from Seth Green, I would love to try that. I think that would be great.
Are you working on anything right now? Any upcoming books whether Star Wars or not?
JL: I am but I can’t divulge anything that’s going on in the Star Wars world. I do have a novel that I just recently put as an ePublication but it’s about the ancient Maya. It’s very different than Star Wars.
Is it fiction or non-fiction?
JL: It’s fiction.
Is it modern times?
JL: No it’s set during the time of the classic Maya and it’s kind of an action adventure story.
What sort of writing method do you use when you write a book? Like Troy Denning says he does a very structured plot when he writes. Paul Kemp for example says he likes to write out of order.
JL: I went through this a little bit on this panel I gave, this writer’s workshop. I spend a lot of time telling myself the story and I don’t put anything down on paper until I could sit down with you and tell you the entire story. I might not be able to give you all the dialog and I don’t not know certain twists that I might not have worked out, but I spend a lot of time planning the story in my head and then finally it’s almost like I can’t wait any longer, the dam bursts, and I have to start working on the mechanics of actually getting it down on paper.
Do you still do an outline?
JL: I do an outline at that point. Just to kind of guide myself through the story I’m going to take. That outline I can work with it, expand it, constrict it as necessary.
If you could have every Star Wars reader read one of your non-Star Wars books, which one would you want it be?
JL: It would definitely be this Maya novel [Hunt for the Mayan Looking-Glass]. The ancient Maya are very close to my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time in Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras hiking to the most remote Mayan sites, Mayan sites that haven’t even been excavated. I have always been, for forty years, I’ve been drawn to the Maya and have had a great time grafting this novel.
That’s actually a great lead in to my next question. You’ve traveled a lot. Alan Dean Foster travels a lot and he’s spoke about writing a non-fiction book just on his travels. Have you ever considered writing a book on your own experiences?
JL: I actually did and it was kind of bitter sweet because years ago my best friend and frequent collaborator Brian Daley, whose contributed some great novels to the Star Wars universe, died. We traveled a lot together and there was one Mayan site we always wanted to get to, very, very remote site. Brian died before we could go there so I decided I wold take some of his ashes, his cremation ashes, to that site. And I did actually write a kind of a memoir about my relationship with Brian and our long friendship and our travels and told the story of my efforts to reach this archaeological site.
Was it published?
JL: No, in the end it never found a home and I may make it available as an eBook at some point.
Now on your Wikipedia page, so I don’t know if it’s right or not, it says you do wood working. What type of wood working do you do?
JL: Well I was a carpenter for years and years. I’ve done everything from framing houses to building furniture. Karen Ann and I live in a log cabin in Annapolis that was built in 1938, which I’ve spent a lot of years restoring and doing a lot of wood working on.
Is that a hobby you still do?
JL: Yeah, for a long time I was a professional. Now it’s kind of a hobby. Anything to get me away from the keyboard, you know.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen at Celebration VI so far?
JL: I saw a really good Sidious. I was really impressed. I saw a really cool Aura Sing. I just love the costumes. I’ve just been running around with my cell phone like capturing…actually one of my favorite moments was standing between two slave girls. Two very willowy slave girls [laughs].
Where would you like to see the future of Star Wars storytelling go?
JL: Very good question. You know for a number of years Brian and I collaborated in adapting a series called Robotech, which came from Japanese anime. It was really a space opera. It was very character driven with a lot of really cool relationships that were going on in the midsts of these galactic events and I would love for Star Wars to return more to that kind of romance. That sort of classic space opera.
In your opinion, what would be Luke Skywalker’s worst mistake?
JL: Probably thinking that he knew it all.
And what would you say Palpatine’s best decision was?
JL: It wasn’t killing Plagueis because he probably killed Plagueis too soon. His best decision…I may have to save that for a future novel.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JL: No, that’s it.
Alright, thank you.
JL: Yeah, sure, that was a great interview.
Once again we’d like to thank James Luceno for taking the time to answer our questions. You can check out James’ latest Star Wars novel Darth Plagueis which is currently out in hardcover, digital, and audiobook formats. The mass market paperback version will be out on October 30th. You can also check out James’ latest non-Star Wars book Hunt for the Mayan Looking-Glass which is currently available as an eBook. We certainly look forward to his future books and hopefully some more great Star Wars stories.