Drew Karpyshyn

Our Star Wars author interview with Drew Karpyshyn (September 2008).

How did you get started as an author?

DK:For as long as I cam remember, I’ve been a writer… even back in grade school. I was always churning out stories. But my first professional break came when I answered an open call for new writers from the Wizards of the Coast. I submitted an outline and ten page writing sample that eventually became Temple Hill, my first book.

On a typical day, how much writing do you complete and how often do you write a new book?

DK: I usually write 1 or 2 full novels a year. When I’m working on a novel, I try to get about 10,000 words per week done. This is in addition to the words I write for BioWare games – typically about 3,000-5,000 words per week when we’re in full production.

How many drafts do you usually go through before submitting a story to a publisher?

DK: I tend to rewrite a lot as a I do my first pass, so it’s hard to say exactly. I’m constantly going back and changing or redoing paragraphs. I’d estimate I do at least two full rewrites before I’m happy.

What was your first story published, and where was it?

DK: My first story was a short-short called “Paradise Lost”, published in Paradox magazine. It was my own version of the Adam and Eve legend, and it got some pretty favorable critical reaction.

If you were to compare writing books for Star Wars to writing books for Mass Effect, what aspects did you like better about each franchise?

DK: For Star Wars I really enjoy the fantasy aspects of it: the lightsaber battles and the mystical power of the Force, along with the mythic depiction of good and evil. For Mass Effect, I like the technical details of the universe as well as the gray morality; I can create characters that aren’t all good or all evil.

So far, of all your works, which story did you enjoy writing the most? (by story that includes novels, short stories, unpublished works, etc.)

DK: Wow – every story was special in some way. Temple Hill was my first published novel, so I think that will always have a special place in my heart. The Bane novels gave me a chance to put my stamp on the Star Wars universe (as did the story for the KOTOR video game), so that was a real thrill. And the Mass Effect novels are set in a universe I helped create, so I feel a strong sense of ownership and pride in what we’ve accomplished. I really can’t choose.

How much fan of Star Wars are you?

DK: Let me put it this way: I saw the original Star Wars in the theatre during it’s first release. I got into a fight with a kid on the playground when Empire first came out because I refused to believe Darth Vader was Luke’s father (then I cried when I found out it was true). And for four straight years I went out for Halloween as a jawa.

Was any material cut from the Darth Bane novels?

DK: Very little. The editors at Del Rey and Lucas Books were very good about letting me tell the story I wanted.

Do you have any involvement in the KOTOR comics?

DK: No. Honestly, I haven’t even kept up with the story: I’ve been too busy focusing on my own novels and my work at BioWare.

Have you let Star Wars influence your writing for Mass Effect or vice versa?

DK: I try to make them as distinct as possible. Obviously, they are both sci-fi settings so there will be common elements, but I think the details are what really sell a character or story and I try to make each novel unique to its particular setting.

Is the Illusive Man from Mass Effect: Ascension the Shadow Broker?

DK: No – the Shadow Broker was around long before humanity ever appeared on the scene.

What’s the difference between writing for a game and writing for a book?

DK: A game is a very collaborative experience; you get to share ideas with dozens of other creative people (other writers, artists, etc.), and in the end what you have is a shared vision and a real sense of team accomplishment. Novel writing, on the other hand, is a very private, very solitary act. Ultimately you sink or swim entirely on your own, which can be both good and bad.

Master Vandar is of the same species as Yoda right?  How come he didn’t have the same backwards syntax as Yoda? I know, this is a nerdy question but it is something I’ve thought about for many years now.

DK: At the time, we spoke with the people at Lucas Arts (the game division of the Lucas empire), and they told us Yoda’s speech was a quirk of his individual character, not his species. So we didn’t mimic that quirk, as we feared it would diminish Vandar as his own character. In the end it worked out great, because we were lucky enough to get Ed Asner to do the voice over, and I don’t think Vandar would have had the same impact with Yoda’s odd syntax.

Have you played KOTOR 2, and if so what did you think of the storyline in that game?

DK: I did play KOTOR 2, and I thought they had some very interesting ideas and potential. Unfortunately, it looked like some elements of the game were rushed, and I don’t know if they ever quite got where they were going.

After you finish Bane (and Zannah, I presume)’s story, would you do novels for any other Sith? Like Andeddu, perhaps.

DK: Hard to say. I’d be interested, but that’s really a call for the editors over at Del Rey and Lucas.

Why do you choose to write Star Wars?  Specifically, the Sith?

DK: I’ve always been a fan of Star Wars, so when the opportunity came I jumped at it. And I wanted to explore the dark side in a way that hadn’t been done before, so the Sith were a logical choice.

If you could write a book centering on any Jedi, which Jedi would it be?

DK: Tough to say. I would have loved to do some stuff with Mace Windu, but Matthew Stover already did a great job with that character in Shatterpoint.

Who’s your favorite Kotor character?

DK: Dead-eye Duncan, the first duelist you fight in the Taris arena. I actually wrote a subplot where he survived Malak’s attack on Taris and escaped the world. Later you find out he is impersonating your character by posing as the famous duelist called the Mysterious Stranger. I thought it was quite funny, but unfortunately the plot didn’t end up making it into the final game because of time pressure.

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