Our Celebration Anaheim Interview with John Jackson MillerMay 5, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in Books, Celebration, Conventions, Events, Interview, Sci-Fi, Star Trek, Star Wars, Star Wars Books, Star Wars Rebels, Television | Leave a comment
Tags: a new dawn, apollo's daughters, john jackson miller, knights of the old republic, overdraft, takedown
While at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, we had the chance to interview Star Wars author John Jackson Miller. We talked about not just Star Wars, but also his recent work with Star Trek and his work in his original sci-fi setting Overdraft.
This may be taboo but I’d like to ask you first about your latest novel Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown. What kind of prep work did you have to do for this novel?
Well I certainly needed to be aware of where the characters were relative to the other novels that Pocket Books had out. I also needed to get some sense of the specs of Enterprise relative to Aventine, which is the ship that they’re chasing throughout the book. I also got out my copy of Star Trek Star Charts and got a good idea of where all of the locations were in my story. So basically ever place that they go is some place they could reasonably get to.
Character voices can be hard to capture, but Senator Bretorious really leaps off of the page. How did he come about?
Well I think the notion was that I wanted to show that for a Romulan it was…it’s common for Romulans to have to try to claw over each other to become at the top level of their society. With Bretorious I wanted to show someone who had very limited prospects who had advanced as far as he was going to go and was on the way down. I wanted to show particularly, as the events of the story unfold, what happens when somebody of his limited abilities is put into the position that the opportunities of the book provide him. It’s difficult to get too much into this book without revealing some of the secrets, but certainly pitting Riker against Picard, they’re certain friends, but they’re on opposite sides of the situation. Riker, now being an admiral in the book chronology, provides some interesting story opportunities. Then of course pitting Riker against Bretorious, we got to see their two different personalities clashing there, too. I had a lot of fun with the book and it was very well received.
What inspired you to include Medici quotes for the section breaks?
I always try to look for something interesting to tie together the different sections of the books. So in Kenobi, all the section headers are related to physical places or metaphysical places on Tatooine. In A New Dawn the section titles all related to the various stages of explosive detonation. Whereas in Takedown, it’s very common for the Trek novels to have quotes from real history or imagined history and I wanted to have the political game that’s going on in this book—things not quite being what they seem—tied into the Medici history and of course Machiavelli who aspired to be one of the Medici’s advisers. That was his whole reason in writing The Prince, the great book of political advice that he came up with. It just struck me as I was reading through that there was several quotes that very well related to what was going on in the story at the time.
Did you use any books or online sources for all the alien species you utilized?
One of the best sources—of course the TV shows are a very important source—they have a wiki for the TV series and movies which is Memory Alpha, and then also for species did not appear on the TV series or were only mentioned, then we go to Memory Beta. Those are very helpful.
What kind of advice did you get for writing a Star Trek novel?
I think the key advice was I wanted to include the major characters but also give some time to some of the secondary characters that had been developed in the Star Trek literary canon. So that’s one of the things I tried to do. Also I think if there was ever a general direction of suggestions as I was going on it was to take a looser dialog—forms of address—that sort of thing that I might more commonly do in my own work or my work for Star Wars. The Trek dialog is a lot more formal and it’s much less likely to be casual except in certain circumstances.
There are a lot of layers to the story, did you have to do anything to keep that organized?
Yes I did. I ended up getting a magnetic board where I had all the various plot points there because one of the big concerns of the book is information. There’s been a strike against communications systems in the sector, so various characters only know certain things at certain times. I needed to have a sense of what the people on Enterprise knew and what the people on Titan—Riker’s ship—knew, and then of course I needed to know where Aventine was relative to the other players because there are seven different factions involved in this book. It sounds like a lot but it’s actually very streamlined.
What brought you to using shorter chapters?
That’s been a trend of mine, especially as I’ve been writing along the chapters in A New Dawn are quite short, the chapters in Takedown are even shorter. Part of it is to keep the story moving quickly. Another part of it is simply with the Star Trek universe you have the transporter so there is not a lot of time going from scene-to-scene. I’m able to put people immediately in settings and of course that’s a consequence of them having created that story device for the TV series 50 years ago.
Along those lines, how have you gone about improving your craft as a writer?
Well I’m certainly trying to diversify the language that I use a lot more. I get to the end of every book now and I can it through a word frequency counter so I’m able to flag for myself—here are the terms, here are the words, here are the phrases—that I lean on too much. That’s a really helpful thing because it allows me to go back in and give things more variety.
Now that Star Wars Rebels season one is over, how do you feel your characterizations of Kanan and Hera have held up?
I think they came remarkably close given the fact that I hadn’t seen any of the episodes when I was writing the book. But I had an idea of what they wanted for these characters for five years later. There’s an aspect to them that is very much a family. I had that sort of sense that that was beginning to develop even in very early elements in A New Dawn. We have that scene where Kanan and Hera and Skelly and Zaluna are all walking along. Kanan refers to them mom, dad, the crazy uncle and grandma. Of course they all take offense to that. But that is kind of where it’s beginning to go by that point. Certainly when we get to the end of the first season of Rebels, we get a definite notion that there’s a family dynamic there.
What do you think of the show?
Oh I enjoy it. I’ve watched all of it. Never really got to watch all of The Clone Wars, but this time I was able to catch it all from the start.
Did you get to watch it with your kids?
Yeah, they watch it, they like it, particularly the destructive moments.
In Star Wars Insider #157 you have a new short story called “Orientation”. What can you tell us about that?
It was written to tie-in to Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith novel, and it does so. It’s a Darth Vader/Emperor story, the first time I’ve written the Emperor at all. It’s really only the second time that I’ve written Darth Vader since my very first comic book for Dark Horse nine years ago, which was in an issue of Star Wars: Empire. But it is also a tie-in, in a sense, to A New Dawn, there being a character in this [story] meeting Darth Vader for the first time, and that in fact is a moment that was mentioned and referred to in A New Dawn. I’m glad I was able to show that moment.
Have you read any of the new Marvel Star Wars comics?
Yes I have.
What do you think of those?
Well I certainly like Kanan – The Last Padawan #1. There’s a couple of references to what happened later on in A New Dawn. Actually, they were references back to the flashback or prologue sequence from A New Dawn, that were in there, and I thought that was really cool. Just shows the story group at work making sure everything is connected.
Are you doing anything more with your Overdraft setting?
There is a story that is out right now, it is the lead story in an anthology called Apollo’s Daughters. That’s an anthology that has my work, the work of Michael Stackpole, David Alan Mack, also the last story from Aaron Allston who passed away last year. That is all from Silence in the Library Publishing. The story is called “Burn Out” and it is the first adventure really [in] the career of Bridget Yang who is the head of security team in Overdraft.
So is this story set before the other ones?
It is set well before the other ones, including the first short story. So yes, it is indeed. That is before she meets many of the main characters, but it does show her meeting one of the characters that we meet later on, and it’s a pivotal moment in her career. You don’t have to have read the rest of Overdraft to get it. Again that is in Apollo’s Daughters. That is available online both in physical format and digital.
And is there anything else readers can forward to coming from you?
Well there is a collection of my work from Marvel coming out. They are collecting the Knights of the Old Republic comics that I did. The first volume is Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Volume 1. That is due out on July 1st. That is issue #0 through #18 I believe of Knights of the Old Republic. That’s good because that book is out of print at Dark Horse and sold out at Dark Horse really pretty much since the middle of last year. So I’m glad to get that out again. As for some other projects, it’s one of those things were what’s not been announced cannot be discussed.
We want to thank John for taking the time to answer our questions. If you haven’t picked up Takedown, A New Dawn, Overdraft, Apollo’s Daughters or The Old Republic Volume 1, you can find publisher links below. You can find out more about John Jackson Miller and stay up to date with the latest news by visiting his official website FarawayPress.com. In addition to all the titles mentioned above, John will have a new short story appearing in Star Wars: Rise of the Empire which is coming out from Del Rey on October 6th.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown
- Star Wars: A New Dawn
- Overdraft: The Orion Offensive
- Apollo’s Daughters
- Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Volume 1
- Star Wars: Rise of the Empire