Roqoo Depot Interview with Drew Karpyshyn

November 9, 2012 at 8:35 am | Posted in Celebration, Interview, Star Wars Books, Star Wars: The Old Republic | 3 Comments
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drewkarpyshynNext Tuesday Drew Karpyshyn’s The Old Republic: Annihilation will be out and to help get fans in the mood, we’ve created a transcript of our interview with Drew from Star Wars Celebration VI. The interview covers Annihilation, Theron Shan, Darth Karrid, as well as some of Drew’s other work including his upcoming series Children of Fire. We’ll also have a new interview next week with some spoiler questions. For now, you can enjoy our spoiler free interview with Drew Karpyshyn below.

The Old Republic: Annihilation stars Theron Shan, who is not a Sith or a Jedi, but a spy.  Was that a decision on your part to do something different?

Drew Karpyshyn: Yeah, you know, having worked with Darth Bane and Revan, I’ve kinda covered the super powerful Force users. I wanted to take a look at what it was like to write a character who didn’t have those Force abilities. There’s a lot of cool characters in Star Wars who aren’t Jedi, who aren’t powerful Force users. Of course Han Solo is a lot people’s favorite character, he’s actually one of my own personal favorites. And I wanted to see what it would be like to write a tale of someone who’s a hero, who’s definitely not your run of the mill average person but doesn’t have these incredible Force abilities. So it was a conscious decision on my part.

One of the primary antagonists is Darth Karrid, a female Sith. How will she be different from other Sith that we’ve seen?

DK: Well one of the interesting things about Karrid is she’s coming into the Sith at a time when they’re just sort of opening the doors to non-Sith and non-human species. So she’s Falleen and, bringing her in, she’s kind of got to fight against that prejudice. As bad as it is for any Sith, watching the backstabbing, the treachery, and the double-crossing, it’s even worse for her.

The other interesting thing about her is she is a disciple of Darth Mekhis from The Lost Suns comics. A lot of what she does is integrating the organic abilities with the technology of the ship. She has a very interesting relationship with the ship she controls. It’s almost like they’re two parts of the same whole, so you’ll see some interesting sort of cybernetic stuff going on there which I think is kind of a unique take.

When you wrote the dialog for Gnost-Dural, did you have Lance Henrikson’s voice in your head?

DK: Yeah, because Lance Henrikson did some of the voice work for The Old Republic MMO, you kind of have to have his voice in your head. It’s such a great voice, he has such a great ability as a voice actor, that it makes it very easy for me to imagine how he speaks and how he says things. And as a writer, that’s great because you can get into the characters so much easier when you’ve got something like that to draw on.

Can we expect to see any HK droids in the story?

DK: You know, HK-47 is a character a lot of people want to know what happened to him and I think if we do get into that story, it’s going to be his own book. We’re going to focus on the wild adventures of HK-47 because I don’t want to just sort of pop him in as a cameo. He is an interesting personality because he can take over a story very easily, so we have to be careful with him. You won’t see anything like that in this novel.

So you’d actually think about doing a novel starring a droid?

DK: You know what, I think it would be a lot of fun. There’s no official plans right now, but the fans seem to want it. It would be interesting because I don’t know if we’ve ever really gotten a glimpse into the inner workings of how droids think. All you ever see is their output, how they process and spit it out, so I don’t know if it would be possible to write it from his perspective or if he would just be sort of the main focus. It would be an interesting challenge.

Working in The Old Republic period, what was one of the more interesting things about their Sith?

DK: Well The Old Republic era Sith, as they are in the game and in the books, they’re more than just a religious following, a philosophical following, it’s a whole culture. It’s a mixture of the human and the pureblood Sith. They have a very interesting society. It’s very different from what you see in the movies. They’re much more of an almost militaristic society. They’ve got a very strict hierarchy. Everybody has been kind of indoctrinated into believing that you have to do your duty, and you have to sacrifice for the greater good. So it’s sort of this, I don’t want to say exactly communist mentality, but it’s a dictatorship where they definitely got the people believing that the Emperor’s word is law. People are willing to sacrifice themselves for the Emperor in theory. Of course in practice people tend not to fall in line with things like that, so it made it very interesting to work with.

I thought one of the interesting things with The Old Republic: Revan was that the ending wasn’t a happy ending. We don’t normally see that in Star Wars. Why did you go that route with it?

DK: I’ve had a lot of people comment on that. Obviously a lot of people were shocked by the ending, I don’t want to spoil too much just in case, but the thing about Revan is I’ve always thought his story was kind of a tragic story. That was sort of established when Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords came out because Revan had disappeared into the Unknown Regions and no one had heard from him, so obviously something had gone wrong. If things were fine, people would have heard from him. He wouldn’t have abandoned his friends, left them behind, and not told them. So I think right from that people should’ve known this is not a happy “he’s going to come back and everything will be fine” type of story. That wasn’t the tone they set and I didn’t think that was the tone we wanted for that.

The other thing is it did allow me to have that Empire Strikes Back kind of an ending. There are some victories in there, it’s not a complete defeat, but it’s also not a complete victory and it kind of lets you know there’s more to come. Some of his tale was continued in The Old Republic MMO and even there they’ve left some doors opened. They haven’t completely closed them. So Revan is a tale that may continue on, it just happens we’re in a very dark chapter.

That was the other part of my question: do you think we’ll ever get a happy ending for him?

DK: It’s hard to say. It’s possible. I know a lot of fans kind of want to see that. Anyone who has played the MMO knows he’s kind of taken a strange journey since the novel. In the game, certain things have happen. I don’t know what the ultimate plans are for that. It’s one of those things that I think has to be approached very carefully. I think some fans want it but I also think it’s kind of thing you can’t just slap a happy ending on just because you want to. It would feel awkward. It’s something we’re just going to have to wait and see how that plays out.

With The Old Republic: Annihilation you’re going to write a spy. You’ve already done Revan, that’s a Jedi, and you’ve done Bane, that’s a Sith. How would you challenge yourself next?

DK: That’s an interesting question. I think as we touched on earlier an HK-47 droid would be a really interesting challenge. It’s hard to say because there is still stories to be told with Jedi and Sith and people with Force powers. I even think a character like Theron Shan is a very interesting character and there’s more that can be done with him, too. At the moment I’m not kind of looking around for what’s the next challenge. I don’t have a checklist. I’m not checking off bounty hunter, check, smuggler, check, I’m not going through the class list and checking them off. I think for now, if Annihilation is well received, which I think it will be, I think fans are really going to enjoy it. We just have a nice variety of types of characters that I can explore if the opportunity comes up.

Now outside of Star Wars you’re working on a new original fantasy series Children of Fire. I’m a huge fan of different types of races and monsters. Will we see anything like that in the series?

DK: In Children of Fire there’s a little bit of that. Basically you have two sort of cultures: the human culture and the danem. They’re slightly different but they have similar origins. They’re almost a spinoff of the human species. I think a closer example would be something like George Martin’s work where it’s not exactly about the different species, it’s about the different factions within the kingdom, within the realm, within the world fighting for control. For me I kind of wanted to take it in that direction and that’s just the type of story that it felt like to me. So I didn’t necessarily go the Tolkienesque way of, you’ve got the elves, the dwarves, the orcs, the humans and each one represents their own thing. I have different regions of the world where different cultures are prominent and different values and different characters represent them to give you a feel of what the world is. So I kind of took it in that direction.

Will it be a more realistic type of fantasy then? Will there be less magical/mystical type elements?

DK: The magic is an important part of it but magic is pretty rare in the world. It’s something that’s consider quite dangerous by the Order which is the group that controls and sort of the religious orthodoxy of the predominant culture. They’re constantly going on, for want of a better term, witch hunts to find these people that have these powers and sort of suppress it. So magic is important but a lot of it is also about the gritty realism of people struggling to get through these difficult times and these challenges. But magic definitely plays a very important role in the novel.

What would you say the overall theme, the message you would like readers to take away from it would be?

DK: I don’t like to try and put messages in my books because I think there’s a lot of value in just reading for entertainment. But there are themes I return to quite a bit in my writing. I like exploring the nature and allure of evil and how it can tempt you and how it can turn a good person down a dark path. I like to look at redemption. That’s another theme that I’m big on. And I definitely like to find characters that people maybe have mixed feelings toward. You like some of the things they do. Some of the things you think are outside the bounds of what is acceptable or maybe they aren’t quite as heroic as they need to be. They have their flaws. They’re real characters. So those are some of the themes and style I tend to return to in my writing. You’ll see a lot of that in Children of Fire.

Would you say it’s more of a light hearted or a darker type of story?

DK: It’s a bit dark. There’s definitely a lot of, again a theme I like, sacrifice. Self-sacrifice. Sacrificing people who maybe don’t deserve it. But it’s a pretty dark series in some ways. Anyone who’s read my Bane stuff for example or Revan stuff has gotten a glimpse of…I don’t necessarily do the happy ending. Even with some of my Mass Effect stuff. But I also don’t believe in completely hopeless, bleak despair. I think it’s okay to have some grim darkness but you’ve got to have some hope and some victory in there, too. Otherwise it’s just depressing.

Going back to Star Wars, with the Sith Emperor, he’s pretty powerful. You’ve got somebody who as a teenager is conquering a world, wiping out the Dark Council, almost achieving immortality. Going forward with Star Wars villains, would you want to see them being more powerful, not being as powerful as that?

DK: I always kind of like to look at the progression of villains as not necessarily an increase in power but as an increase in subtlety, effectiveness, and methods. I think there’s only a certain level of power, you can’t get above it. The Sith Emperor in The Old Republic series, it’s hard to imagine someone who gets more powerful than that. The Emperor in the movies, the classic trilogy, is pretty powerful too. It’s more hinted at than explicitly shown.

He’s more of a schemer.

DK: Yeah, I think that’s it. People don’t appreciate how powerful he is because the real trick is to not have to constantly use your full power. You need to scheme and plot and manipulate people so you’re not constantly throwing around the world destroying abilities. And I think that’s sort of the progression you see. It’s not that they necessarily get stronger or have to top the previous villains in sheer power. I think what you want to see is their methods get more refined and more effective and they do different things. They approach things in different ways.

When writing so many different Sith characters, how do you keep them fresh or unique? How do you make them stand out from each other?

DK: For me, with the Sith characters or any characters, I think the key is in the details. If you look at things in broad strokes, most characters will share a lot of archetypal traits. Not just in Star Wars but everywhere. So where you find this sort of subtle difference is when you start to dig into them. Whether they’ve got certain doubts, or what’s driving them, or what got them into joining the Sith in the first place. What was their sort of expectations. And I think that’s really the  thing you need to do as a writer is just find those little details because when you describe something in vague terms, everything can sound similar. Which is a little bit not fair to an artist because it really is the details that make things interesting, memorable, and fun.

When writing, what would you say comes easiest for you when doing the story? Is it the story, developing characters…

DK: For me I think with writing there are two things that I find very easy. One of them is just with sort of the overall plot. I work with pretty detailed outlines. I like to really plan things out so the pieces fit together. I think people can kind of see that with my Bane series. I bring characters back. I kind of lay the groundwork. So that sort of overall plotting is a big focus of mine. And I also enjoy writing the action scenes.

Where I struggle is, and I’m sure people who read it will comment on this, but I struggle on things like description. Describing sort of locations or characters. That kind of thing is tough for me. In my mind I have a very clear picture but I don’t want to bog the reader down so I struggle to give them enough detail so they can form a clear picture without dragging the pace of the story down. I spend a lot of time on those. Those are the things that I spend the most time writing. It’s just a slower process for me and I have to redo it more often. For some reason it just doesn’t come as naturally as some of the other stuff.

If George Lucas were to turn one of your books into a movie or tv show, which one would you want it to be?

DK: Wow. You know, honestly any of them would make me just ecstatic but I think just because it was my first one I’d love to take the first Bane novel. I think it’s a good type of story for a film. It’s epic, it’s got a good character arc. If you’re listening Mr. Lucas, I think it would work really well on the screen. But yeah, I think if I had one choice I’d go with that one. It’s my first novel so it’s going to hold a special place in my heart.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

DK: I think people are really going to enjoy The Old Republic: Annihilation and anyone who has read any of my Mass Effect stuff has seen a glimpse of how I handle characters who don’t have the sort of special powers. So I think you’re going to find Theron Shan a very interesting character and I hope people really enjoy Annihilation.

The Old Republic: Annihilation will be out in hardcover, audio, and digital formats on November 13th. You can also check out Drew Karpyshyn’s recently released Darth Bane Series eBundle. Drew’s upcoming series Children of Fire will be out in 2014. For more information on Drew Karpyshyn, you can check out his official website.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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  2. […] hit the web recently: Linda over at Fan Girl Blog chats with me about a variety of topics, and Roqoo Depot has posted a transcript of a podcast interview they did with me at Celebration back in […]

  3. […] was awesome to get to talk with author Drew Karpyshyn at Star Wars Celebration VI, but once I was able to read The Old Republic: Annihilation, I had a few more questions just […]


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