Kevin J. Anderson

Our Star Wars author interview with Kevin J. Anderson (December 7, 2008).

KJA: And I am here with a Jedi Holocron in hand to try to answer questions. Thanks for having me.

Welcome Mr. Anderson!

How did you come up with the Tenel Ka? Have you followed the progression of Tenel Ka’s character?

KJA: For Tenel Ka — I’ve been friends with Dave Wolverton for a long time and I read an early draft of Courtship of Princess Leia. I loved the Witches of Dathomir, even included Kirana Ti in my Jedi  Academy books. It seemed natural to have a character from there, halfway between warrior princess and noble lord; she lives in two worlds. You can see I don’t answer short questions <g>

Kyp is AWESOME too. As are Tenel Ka and Daala!

KJA: Kyp was also interesting — a really good kid, good natured, like the son Han had never had but I liked luring even the nice guy to the Dark Side.

I was wondering about Qorl, how did you come about inventing such a dual attitude in one character?

KJA: Dual attitudes — I think that’s what makes a bad guy really complex and interesting. No bad guy <em>believes</em> he’s the bad guy. He always has his reasons, and Qorl is faced with some decisions that his sense of honor can’t handle.

I have a question. How did you come up with the idea of the Sun Crusher?

KJA: What could be bigger than the Death Star? Something that blows up suns rather than planets, of course!  My degree is in astronomy, and actually it would probably be easier to trigger a sun explosion.

How did you come up with Qwi Xux?

KJA: This is fun — I wrote those books almost 15 years ago, so I’m trying to remember all the details.

(She comes) From the awful “Holiday Special” there was a bit with Diana Ross dressed in a feathery alien suit. I thought she looked pretty good, and I wanted to make Qwi from the same alien species. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a beautiful genius scientist!

When I wrote those books, I was working for the Lawrence Livermore Lab, a big government research lab, and a lot of the Maw Installation details came from my daily life.

Tell us about Daala please.

KJA: Daala — I wanted to make an Imperial villain the opposite of Thrawn, who is basically a cold, emotionless tactician — Daala is more of a loose cannon, an Imperial officer with lots of weapons who doesn’t know the war is over. She’s out to get some payback. Not with any designs of rebuilding the empire with her in the lead.

Any plans on returning to the Star Wars universe or are those days long past?

KJA: Returning to the SW universe — I’d be happy to, but it all depends on the project. As I said, I have not read all the NJO or Legacy books, so I couldn’t jump in to the middle of that.

Mr. Anderson, as an aspiring author, I find it hard to sit still and actually write a book. I plan, sure. But I can never just…write. Any tips?

KJA: Writing tip: make sure you set aside the time, non-negotiable, to do a page a day, or two pages, or one hour, or whatever it takes. I write with my tape recorder, so I get to go out hiking all day and still call it “working.”

Thanks! And I have something else to say- Jacen and Tenel Ka. Being a huge fan of both, I naturally loved that relationship. Did you have fun developing that relationship?

KJA: We developed those characters as friends, a group of friends, but Jacen and TK were so obviously opposites, and it was clear that Jacen would fall for her. I mean, she’s a babe — did you SEE the cover Dave Dorman painted for LIGHTSABERS??? We had a lot of fun building that relationship

I’m gonna briefly shift the topic to the days before the Death Star… How did you come to writing part of the Tales of the Jedi series?

KJA: Now the Tales of the Jedi — my favorite work in the EU, btw — I was asked by Dark Horse to write an introduction to their collection of DARK EMPIRE; in doing so, I got to know Tom Veitch, and we started brainstorming Exar Kun together…I needed the ghost of an ancient Sith lord for my Jedi Academy books, so we decided to write the origin story in TOTJ. I love that whole epic, from having Jacen stand by her decision not to replace her arm after the accident, and then (*anguish!*) when he falls from Cloud  City and she desperately reaches out to catch him, but she doesn’t have an arm to grab him!!! So, yeah, we liked them.

I was wondering, I’ve written some humor SW stories. Do you think there is much of a future with that, or would it be better to focus on something more mainstream SW?

KJA: There’s plenty of humor in SW — I tried to make sure there was one funny storyline in the books (Lando and Han gambling the Falcon back and forth, the blob races, etc.)

But let me pre-empt a question that’s probably out there…if you write your own SW story, how can you get Lucasfilm to let you publish it? I get that one a lot. The fact is, they are open to seeing the work of other authors, but only <em>professional authors</em>. That means if you want to write for SW, then you have to write your own original fiction and get it published, establish yourself as a reliable professional author, and then they will consider your name. It’s like trying out for the Olympic team — you can’t expect to be picked unless you can show them your stuff ahead of time.

Also, out of all the characters you’ve written in the past, who would be your favorite one to write?

KJA: SW characters you mean? I did like Admiral Daala a lot … and I really enjoyed Ulic Qel-Droma from the TOTJ comics. I tend to like the gray-area characters, the good guys who step on the slippery slope, or the bad guys who really aren’t all that bad when you get to know them — Dark Lords of the Sith, to the Sith War, to Redemption.

I have a question- when you were sitting down to plan the YJK series, what did you look for when creating the main cast?

KJA: Rebecca and I wanted to write a YA series where the characters are in real danger and can really get hurt — in other words *real* SW adventures, not kiddie books. (I’m sure some of you remember “The Glove of Darth Vader” etc.)

We wanted to have characters in their early teens — because we were writing for teens rather than making the familiar Adult characters (Luke, Han, Lando, etc.) simply ACT like kids. We wanted Jacen and Jaina to be polar opposites: Jacen being the goof-off who tells jokes and likes animals; Jaina is much more like her father, cool, mechanically minded. Tenel Ka is a female Klingon warrior! And Lowie, with MTD, are very much like Chewie and Threepio.

Now, another interesting thing — while we were *wrting* the YJK books, which are set many years after the Thrawn books and the Jedi Academy books, Rebecca and I knew that LFL planned to have Luke and Mara get married — so they were married in the time frame of the Young Jedi books…but the Luke and Mara wedding hadn’t happened yet, so we had to dodge that issue all the time while writing. So, when Mara makes a guest appearance in the YJK stories, she was probably there for a conjugal visit!!!

My favorite story arc out of the Tales of the Jedi series was definitely Redemption. I loved the griping story of Ulic finding peace with himself.

KJA: Chris Gossett stayed at my house when we were mapping out the last issues of Redemption and we had developed Ulic together for years. When it came time for his death scene, we were both really shaken up — Chris had tears streaming down his face when he was sketching the final panels!

Do you ever get writer’s block and if so how do you get around it?

KJA: I never get writers block — I prevent it by having several projects going at once, so that if one starts to go “stale” I can do something different; that way I can be productive all the time.

Wow!

KJA: That sums up a lot of my best characters!

I want to ask about one of your more obscure works. Specifically The Tale of IG-88 how did you come up with IG-88’s personality? Or rather, character as a whole.

KJA: Well, TALES OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS is the best-selling Sf anthology of all time, so I wouldn’t call that story *obscure* &lt;g&gt;

West End Games had drawn up some background material on the bounty hunters, including IG-88.I followed that background, but I thought it was fun to have a totally megalomaniac robot in control of the Death Star, all ready to wreak incalculable havoc on the whole galaxy…and nobody even knows he’s there. And, to add insult to injury, he gets blown up without anyone even knowing of his grand plans.

Do you still keep in touch with Timothy Zahn?

KJA: I still see Tim Zahn occasionally, mostly at DragonCon in Atlanta. I keep in closer contact with Mike Stackpole and Dave Wolverton. Karen Traviss is a really good buddy of mine, and Sean Williams is a truly close friend — he was one of my writing students, way back in the mid-90s. Now he wrote a very touching dedication/acknowledgement in THE FORCE UNLEASHED. (novel)

Oh, if you could write about any character in the SW universe, other than the ones you already have who would it be?

KJA: back to the questions…if I could write about any character other than the ones I already have.. Hmmm, are there any I haven’t written about? That’s not really facetious. I did a total of 54 projects for Lucasfilm, and I really covered just about everything I could mine from the material. I suppose I could go into the prequel era and the Clone Wars, but I don’t know those as well.

Where do/did you teach writing if I may ask?

KJA: I am a judge for the Writers of the Future contest and Sean was one of the winners. He and a small group were in a very intense workshop taught by Dave Wolverton, Algis Budrys, tim Powers, me and Rebecca. But you have to win the contest before you can be in the workshop! You can see it on the web, http://www.writersofthefuture.com, I think…

Also, while I’m babbling and we’re getting close to the end of the hour, my own website http://www.wordfire.com. If anybody wants to send a mailing address (snailmail) to me at anderzone@wordfire.com, I’d be happy to put you on the comp list for our newsletter and I’ll also send you a postcard to let you know if I’m doing a signing or talk in your area. Also, you can go to anderzoneshop.com to see some signed books and out-of-print things available, including a complete set of all 14 volumes of the YJK series, autographed by both me and Rebecca. We’re still putting a lot of new things up there, so check it out.

[OK, end of infomercial.]

okay, I have one more question: How did Bane of the Sith come about? did you come up with the story, or did Lucasfilm give you the outline of it, and you just filled it in?

KJA: Bane of the Sith — now that one is obscure! Lucasfilm had a <em>sketch</em> of Darth Bane and they wanted to include something about him in an encyclopedia (I’m a little fuzzy on the details now), and they contacted me to see if I could do a story for the SW Gamer magazine…and could I do it in four days. So, I went into overdrive, created the story, and that started the ball rolling. I understand he’s become quite a popular character these days!

Oh! I have one more question from someone who couldn’t make it as well. If you had to redo one thing that you did in SW what would it be? If anything.

KJA: A do over? THE ESSENTIAL CHRONOLOGY I did with Dan Wallace was not the sort of book I had envisioned it would be. I originally planned it as a Michener-style novel, with Luke going to the Jedi Holocron and actually revisiting all those stories, so that the book would be readable, like a novel. Even so, it was a huge amount of work, and the novel-version would have been even more!

OK, guys, my hour seems to be about up. Thanks for all the great questions. The Star Wars EU is a vast and exciting place. I can wrap up one more question.

I have a question related to the original Dune work although I’m afraid it requires a bit of background, if you don’t mind. I took a class where the “final” so to speak was a class-wide debate in whether or not Paul is or is not a positive influence on his society. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on that subject.

KJA: wow, I couldn’t have paid for that segues! My most recent novel in the series (from Sept) is PAUL OF DUNE — and the whole story is about how a hero becomes a tyrant, and how his good intentions may not be pristine after all. (That old gray-character stuff again.) So, now you’ll have to check out the novel!

Last question: hat’s your favorite character in all the Star Wars universe?

KJA: Han, out of the original characters; Ulic out of the ones in my own stories.

OK everybody, gotta sign off. Thanks again for all the great questions. Keep reading.

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