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Wookieepedia > Wookieepedia:Interviews > Interview/Kevin J. Anderson

The interview

  1. Greyman: Can you please describe how you first got involved with writing for Tales of the Jedi? Was it through an invitation?
    • Kevin J. Anderson: I had signed up to do my Jedi Academy trilogy for Bantam, and a friend of mine who worked at Dark Horse asked if I would be interested in writing an introduction to the collected trade paperback of “Dark Empire” by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. I hadn’t read those comics — wasn’t even aware of them! -- but since those events took place immediately after Timothy Zahn’s first SW novels, I felt I needed to account for them in my stories, so I was interested in doing the introduction. I read all the comics and loved them, and in the course of writing the introduction I got in touch with Tom Veitch. We talked about our respective projects; he was working on his initial “Tales of the Jedi” issues and wanted to continue them with a big new story. I mentioned that it just so happened much of my “Jedi Academy” storyline hinged on the spirit of a long-dead Dark Lord of the Sith, Exar Kun, who had died “thousands of years” earlier. As we talked, we both realized that the story of Exar Kun fit perfectly into Tom’s ideas for further TOTJ issues, so we decided to do it together, originally mapped out as a single 12-issue epic (but for practical reasons we did it in two six-issue halves).
  2. GM: What were your feelings on being asked to help write Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith?
    • KJA: I was an avid comics reader, and I had been interested in learning how to write comic scripts. I was very excited about being brought in, having Tom as my mentor and teacher to show me how his work was done (and I invited him to write the Greedo story for my TALES FROM THE MOS EISLEY CANTINA anthology, so he got to work on my side of the street, too). I was also intrigued to be writing in a sort of “medieval” Star Wars universe.
  3. GM: Were you involved with any type of promotional efforts for Dark Lords of the Sith? What about the other story arcs you worked on? (The Sith War, Golden Age of the Sith, The Fall of the Sith Empire, Redemption?)
    • KJA: I did a lot of appearances at comic conventions; Dark Horse had me as their guest at the San Diego Comic Con several years, and I also sold plenty of the comics during my regular booksignings. I don’t recall doing anything particularly unusual for promotion.
  4. GM: From your point of view, can you please describe the conception, writing, and production of Dark Lords of the Sith and The Sith War?
    • KJA: As I said, we plotted the whole 12-issue story arc up front, and we alternated writing the first draft of each script (though we discussed the page and story breakdown ahead of time). We would do sketches of each page with a rough mosaic of the panels and stick figures inside just to help the artist (Chris Gossett for the first 5 issues of DLOTS). When we received pencils back, we would make sure the dialog fit with the images and tweak it as necessary. Sometimes we would very carefully map each panel, other times Chris would plan it himself with his artist’s eye (especially the battle scenes). He made some particularly effective changes in how he wanted to draw the death of Master Arca. This was all a long and laborious process, and Chris began to fall behind by the time we reached issue #5. Dark Horse brought in a pinch hitter at the last minute, Art Wetherell, to do a rushed and (in my opinion, a vastly less interesting) job of the climactic pages. We took a brief break between the first and second halves of the story, and by that time Tom had other projects in the works, so I tackled The Sith War solo. By this time, though, I was comfortable with the format, and we had already mapped out the overall story arc, so I knew where I was going. Dario Carrasco came aboard as the new artist, a very reliable and enthusiastic guy, and we worked well together.
  5. GM: Do you happen to remember any sales figures for any of the TotJ comics that you wrote?
    • KJA: They were all major comics bestsellers, selling somewhere in the 250,000 copy range, if I remember correctly. Years later, when we came out with Redemption, we were hitting just as high on the bestseller lists, but the comics market had imploded so much that our numbers were about 20% of what they had been earlier.
  6. GM: With the conclusion of The Sith War story arc, you chose to place Ulic Qel-Droma’s story on hold and instead write both the Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire story arcs. What was the reason behind deciding to launch into a new topic for Tales of the Jedi? At this point, did you know that you were eventually going to write Redemption? Or was that story arc yet to be conceived at this point?
    • KJA: I’m not entirely sure how that came about. I think I had conceived of going back to a different time period to tell another big story arc. We did know there was more to Ulic’s story, but we also knew it would be a very powerful and intense emotional journey, so we wanted to recharge our batteries a little bit first.
  7. GM: What was the conception behind the Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire story arcs? What interested you in particular about these events? Did Lucasfilm ask you about writing a set of stories about the ancient Sith Lords?
    • KJA: No, we proposed it to them. We asked for more information about the Sith and were able to submit a list of Yes/No questions to George Lucas, which he answered, providing the fodder for our stories.
  8. GM: To your knowledge, other than Odan-Urr, were there ever any discussions, or thoughts, about doing new story arcs centered around other established TotJ characters? Such as Tott Doneeta, Sylvar, Thon, etc.?
    • KJA: We had plenty of discussions and kicked around lots of ideas, but Dark Horse had a very specific contract with Lucasfilm that limited the number of comics they could produce, so any project had to go through many steps before it was approved.
  9. GM: Along the same lines as the above question, were there ever any discussions with Lucasfilm about the possibility of doing a novel series revolving around Tales of the Jedi? Or, perhaps, did you ever entertain the idea of authoring such a novel series? Back when you were heavily involved with Star Wars, would that have been something that might have interested you?
    • KJA: I have suggested it several times as a new direction for original novels, which I offered to write, but nobody nibbled <g>
  10. GM: Did you conceive the characters of Gav and Jori Daragon, and Memit Nadill (from the the Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire story arcs)? Or were they created by Lucasfilm, and you chose to build their characters into your stories?
    • KJA: All of those characters were created by us. Lucasfilm gave us a lot of freedom in developing the stories and rarely “handed” us characters or stories.
  11. GM: Similar to the above question, Odan-Urr first appeared in Dark Lords of the Sith 3: Descent to the Dark Side. Was his character your creation? Tom Veitchs? Or was he a combined creation? Did you know during the writing of Dark Lords of the Sith that you would use Odan-Urr’s character in future TotJ back stories?
    • KJA: All of this work was a combined creation between Tom Veitch, Christian Gossett, and myself. I really don’t remember any specifics about the individual characters.
  12. GM: I assume that writing a stories like the Golden Age of the Sith, which takes place 5,000 years before the feature film Episode IV: A New Hope, allowed you a certain degree of freedom through which to develop your characters and events. How free were you to write your stories as you wanted? Did Lucasfilm tell you something like, “You can develop your stories between here and here, as long as X doesn’t happen”?
    • KJA: As mentioned above, Lucasfilm was extremely flexible with these comics and allowed us to do basically whatever we wanted, so long as we remained true to the spirit of Star Wars.
  13. GM: What led you to develop the Redemption story arc the way which you did? Originally, if I remember correctly, Tom Veitch had intended for Ulic Qel-Droma to die an un-redeemed Sith Lord. Had you always envisioned that Ulic would redeem himself, and certain others around him?
    • KJA: In the story, it seemed to me that Exar Kun was genuinely a bad guy who seemed hell-bent on heading to the dark side, but Ulic was a much more idealistic guy who was deluded into going down the wrong path. Redemption seemed the proper thing for him, but I don’t know when we actually talked about writing that story.
  14. GM: Chris Gossett has explained in another interview (http://theforce.net/jedicouncil/interview/gossett.asp) that he travelled to your home during the writing and creation of Redemption so that you both “could lay out each issue together. Panel by panel, page by page, issue by issue.” That must have been an interesting experience, to be actually be able to influence the art work of for the characters that you were writing. What can you tell me about this time? Were you and Chris Gossett able to get the character’s images to closely match what was originally in your mind?
    • KJA: That was a very powerful experience, especially during the writing of what I consider to be the most emotionally intense piece of SW fiction I have ever written. By sitting together, riffing off of each other, making suggestions and fine-tuning them, we got so involved in the story that we were practically shaking by the time we got to Ulic’s death and redemption. I still think that’s the best SW work I’ve done (I think it deserved attention for some comics awards, too, but comics awards tend to look askance at “movie-related” comics...as if they’re somehow less respectable than superhero comics. Grrr...)
  15. GM: Did the decision to kill off Ulic Qel-Droma’s character come from Lucasfilm? Or was that a creative decision that Lucasflim left up to you? Some fans have commented that only through his death could Ulic, and therefore Sylvar, have ever been truly redeemed. What are your thoughts on that line of thinking? Is that pretty close to what you had intended?
    • KJA: It was entirely our decision, approved by Lucasfilm of course. Yes, that’s what I intended.
  16. GM: How was writing Tales of the Jedi stories different from your other Star Wars writings? Did you find anything particularly enjoyable or challenging about writing this comic series?
    • KJA: Well, I think SW does very well in the comics format, because it’s such a visual story and universe. I did enjoy the different costumes, the different government and environment in the TOTJ timeframe. Remember, though, that when I was writing these books and comics, ALL of it was relatively fresh and unexplored, long before Episodes 1-3 were released. As a fan who had seen SW in the theaters when I was in 9th grade, it was a playground I loved to be in.
  17. GM: When you were writing Darksaber, did you know what the future plans for Luke's and Callista's relationship were?
  18. GM: In your mind, were Lando Calrissian and Mara Jade an item, or was it just for show, like Mara's character later proclaimed in Vision of the Future, by Tim Zahn?
  19. GM: Were there any specific influences you had when you were writing Callista? Did you communicate with Barbara Hambly about the character?
  20. GM: For the Jedi Academy trilogy and Darksaber, what preparation did you do to help write the character of Mara Jade? Did you know what Timothy Zahn had planned for her and Luke in the future?
    • KJA: Those four questions are all interlinked, so I’ll answer them together. When I began plotting the Jedi Academy books, I had several lengthy conversations with Tim Zahn so that I could determine his plans for Mara Jade and Luke. At the time, he had not yet finished THE LAST COMMAND, so I didn’t know how his Thrawn trilogy would end. I thought it seemed obvious that Mara and Luke were going to fall in love, but Tim insisted he intended for them to be just friends. Based on that, when I was plotting DARK APPRENTICE, I made Mara and Lando an item, because they seemed to have a lot in common. (Remember, I had written the first two books of my trilogy before Tim’s third book was published, so all of this was developing at the same time.)
    • Barbara Hambly began to work on CHILDREN OF THE JEDI, and since Tim did not plan to have Mara and Luke together, Barbara’s *assignment* from Lucasfilm was to create the great love of Luke Skywalker’s life -- Callista. When I got the contract for DARKSABER, though, the fan reaction over Mara was so strong that Lucasfilm decided that maybe she was the right woman for Luke after all, and since DARKSABER was the next book chronologically, I had the rather unfortunate task of getting Callista out of the picture. I didn’t want to just kill her off, and so Barbara and I had many brainstorming conversations on the phone to deal with the situation. We plotted CHILDREN, DARKSABER, and PLANET OF TWILIGHT very closely together.
    • Also, Rebecca Moesta and I were writing our Young Jedi Knights series at the time -- which is set many years later than these other books, at a time when we knew Luke and Mara would be together, but we could never refer to that because their relationship had not yet been revealed. It was all very complicated!
  21. GM: With Luke, you have him founding the New Jedi Order and then spending a large amount of his time dealing with the struggles of setting up this new order. Why do you think Luke chose to rebuild the order, and what goals did you have in mind for him and the new Jedi?
    • KJA: Obviously, if the Jedi Knights were such great icons of strength in the Old Republic, then the New Republic would need similar symbols to strengthen the new government. The Jedi had been around for millennia, and had been gone for only a single generation. Luke knew very well, however, the dangers of a Jedi trainee falling to the dark side, and he hadn’t been given the full training or experience to be a perfect teacher -- yet he felt the rewards outweighed the risks. Since we were going to be writing a great many more SW stories, introducing new Jedi Knights certainly provided a lot of story possibilities.
  22. GM: When readers read about Lando in your books, they see a businessman moving from one venture to the other, but always willing to lend a hand to his friends. What influences or attributes did you have in mind with writing Lando?
    • KJA: You described it very well in the question. He’s a businessman with a bit of a shady past, trying to be reputable, but things don’t always work out for him.
  23. GM: Was there a particular reason you slated Crix Madine to die in Darksaber? Were you aware that his death marked the first speaking character from the movies to be killed in the Expanded Universe?
    • KJA: I was very much aware that this was the first character from the films to die in the books (though, let’s be honest, Crix wasn’t really a huge part of the movies!). We had been receiving some letters from fans that said “We know nothing truly significant can happen in the novels because Lucasfilm won’t let you change anything.” Lucasfilm decided it was time to shake up the readers a little. I suggested Crix could die a heroic death, and they liked the idea. George had to approve it, and he was fine with it.
  24. GM: In your Young Jedi Knights books, you wrote a lot about a group of characters-Jaina, Jacen, Lowie, Raynar, etc. that have since been through some turbulent times in subsequent Expanded Universe books. How did you feel about that, if you were aware?
    • KJA: To be honest, I have not kept up with the subsequent NJO and Legacy series -- I’ve got so many other projects under contract, and just reading all the SW novels is pretty much a full-time job. Other fans have told me about some of the fairly dramatic events, but of course that’s taken out of context without all the background leading up to it. Some of it seems awfully harsh and some of it seems to strain credibility…but I always remember -- and readers have to remember -- that these aren’t *my* characters; they belong to Lucasfilm, and they can do whatever they like.
  25. GM: Was there a particular inspiration you had when writing Jaina Solo? She seems to recall a lot of her father.
    • KJA: Yes, Rebecca and I didn’t want her to be a typical “girl” character, but intended to make her more of a tomboy, much like Han, more logical and mechanical-minded, while her brother is the goof-off.
  26. GM: In the Young Jedi Knights books, some of the young Jedi trainees are trained at an early age to wield weapons, and have killed other beings in combat. Was their youth a consideration when thrusting them into roles where they would face danger, kill people, be imprisoned and tortured, etc?
    • KJA: Rebecca and I had extensive discussions with Lucasfilm about these aspects of the YJK books. We felt very strongly that if these were going to be “Star Wars” books, the characters needed to be thrust into real danger and face genuine situations, rather than “kiddie adventures.” If the young Jedi trainees were being trained with lightsabers, that’s the equivalent to giving them submachine guns -- and the weapons needed to be dangerous. These aren’t just kids out on the playground -- these are *Jedi*, and needed to be treated as adults.
  27. GM: Based on his comments, Daniel Keys Moran's Tales works are very popular with you, and you invited him to contribute towards your three "Tales of..." anthologies (Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales from Jabba's Palace, and Tales of the Bounty Hunters). What attracted you to DKM's first work that made you invite him back to write other stories such as "A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett"? DKM has hinted in personal blog that there were some problems that LFL had with his writings. What can you tell me about that?
    • KJA: Dan was a very good friend of mine and I loved his writing (THE LAST DANCER, etc.), and I thought his edgy big-scope science fiction was just perfect for the SW universe. I loved the first story he did, and so of course I asked him to contribute to the next anthology. LFL wasn’t as thrilled with his first story as I was, and we went through several rounds of revisions before they accepted the tale. But I thought Dan was perfect for the Boba Fett story in the BOUNTY HUNTERS book, and to help things run more smoothly, we had Dan submit a detailed outline of his story for approval before he spent the time writing it. When they were happy with the outline, Dan wrote the story -- they still were resistant to the ambigious “Mexican Standoff” ending -- which I absolutely loved. We had to do a lot of back and forth, but the story did get published in a form that I was very pleased with (and I think Dan was, too). It’s been so long, I’m not sure I can say it’s my favorite of all the SW works ever published, but I do think it’s an excellent piece, one of the very best.
  28. GM: What exactly did you intend for the series of events for the Battle of Kemplex IX? Were there actually two battles, the first where the Mandalorians might have destroyed the station and the second which was depicted in The Sith War 4: Jedi Holocaust that witnessed the deaths of Keto and so many others?
    • KJA: I can answer that one quickly for you...though not a very satisfactory answer, I’m afraid. I really don’t recall the answer...please bear in mind that I wrote that story more than a dozen years ago and I’ve published more than a hundred novels and comics since. I really can’t give you much on such an esoteric point — I’m sure I knew the answer when I wrote it, but I’d just be waving my hands now.
I hope that gives you plenty of information to work with. Take care,
KJA

Initial contact

The first sixteen questions and answers were the result of a series of emails between myself and author Kevin J. Anderson, best known among Star Wars fans for his work on The Jedi Academy Trilogy novels. I initially contacted Mr. Anderson on Wednesday 16/04/2008 regarding the possibility of conducting an interview with him with regards to his work on Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi. Following this initial communication, various emails were sent back and forth between myself and Mr. Anderson to determine the scope and nature which this "interview" would take. The below Q&A combine the questions I sent to Mr. Anderson on Tuesday 22/04/2008, with the answers he provided to me on Tuesday 29/04/2008. To those reading this, know that it was a special privilege to be able to communicate with Kevin J. Anderson, and that I appreciate his willingness to discuss this time in his writing career. Greyman Jan.png (Talk) 16:28, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

November 2008

In November of 2008 I was approached by two users, Atarumaster88 and AdmirableAckbar, who had a number of questions that they had both compiled with regards to several characters, events, etc. appearing in Kevin J. Anderon's Star Wars' works. They were curious if I could pass them along to KJA due to my previous interactions with him, and so I agreed. Questions seventeen through twenty-seven are the results of my interactions with both Atarumaster88 and AdmirableAckbar to formulate the specific questions were then sent to KJA early in the month. KJA was kind enough to reply with his answers towards the end of the month. Likewise, I also asked KJA a specific question with regards to TotJ which I forgot to include in our initial interview back in April 2008. Question twenty-eight is the result of that Q&A with KJA. Greyman(Talk) 14:21, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

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