- Matt Wilkins
Star Wars New Jedi Order: Round Robin Interview (Part 1)
Hey folks, good news! With the help of Brian Borg, we've uncovered a long lost interview on the New Jedi Order!
I'll be posting pieces of it every day for the rest of the month. Be sure to check back for more updates!
Featuring: Shelly Shapiro, Editorial Director, Del Rey Books
Sue Rostoni, Managing Editor, Lucasfilm
Lucy Wilson, Director of Publishing, Lucasfilm James Luceno, Author
DR: Welcome all! Let me start with Sue Rostoni and Lucy Wilson, from Lucasfilm. Can you give our readers an overview of your jobs and your involvement with Star Wars publishing?
LW: Sure. I started my career at Lucasfilm way back in 1974. Believe it or not, one of my first jobs at the company was to type the original Star Wars script from George Lucas’s handwritten pages! Although I had majored in English literature at UCSD, prior to joining Lucasfilm I had worked as a bookkeeper in the machine shop at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, so I had no professional publishing experience. At Lucasfilm, after years of working my way up through various departments in finance, I started working with the then director of publishing on the book program for the movie Willow in 1988. In 1989, I negotiated the first deal with Bantam Books to relaunch the Star Wars adult fiction publishing line with three hardcover novels to be written by Timothy Zahn. By 1990, I had transferred out of finance to head up a new publishing department full time.
SR: Compared to Lucy, I’m a newcomer. I’ve been employed at Lucas Licensing since the fall of 1990, when Heir to the Empire was first released. I began as an assistant to Lucy, who was then director of finance and publishing, and worked my way through various job titles until I was promoted in late 2001 to managing editor, which is my position today.
I was involved with the Bantam Star Wars books with Tom Dupree and Pat LoBrutto, the editors at Bantam. I’ve also edited the Berkley line of Young Jedi Knights novels and Bantam Doubleday Dell’s Galaxy of Fear series, as well as numerous nonfiction titles, including the Star Wars Encyclopedia. For the first few years, it was just Lucy and me handling the entire publishing program.
Now, as managing editor, I am available as a resource and sounding board to the other two Lucas Licensing editors, Michelle Vuckovich and Jonathan Rinzler. I am also responsible for the editorial on Del Rey’s line of Star Wars fiction and, recently, the Dark Horse Comics line (except for Tales). I review, comment, and approve every element that goes into the novels, from outlines to cover and sales copy, cover art, manuscripts, all the way to the finished product.
DR: Let me bring in author Jim Luceno. Jim, what’s your history with Star Wars, and how did you get involved with the New Jedi Order?
JL: I was in my late twenties when Star Wars: A New Hope premiered. I went to a matinee screening in New Jersey with my then best friend, the late Brian Daley, who had just sold his first science-fiction novel and would go on to write a trilogy of Han Solo novels and radio dramatizations of the classic movies. The film had a great impact on both of us and became something of a leitmotif in our enduring friendship and various collaborations. Before the Star Wars license went to Bantam, there was a period when it looked liked Brian and I were going get a shot at contributing new material to the somewhat stalled franchise. Brian was asked to outline a novel, and I was working on a “nonfiction” book titled The Way of the Force. Those projects disappeared when Ballantine Books surrendered the licensing agreement it had with Lucasfilm. Regardless, I read and enjoyed many of the early Bantam titles by Tim Zahn, Kevin Andersen, Kathy Tyers, and others. When the license ultimately returned to Ballantine, and Shelly Shapiro asked if I’d be interested in working on the NJO, I made it a point to read the entire Bantam line, in addition to all the comics and sourcebooks.
DR: That’s Shelly Shapiro, the editor at Del Rey in charge of the NJO project. Shelly, what role did you play in this project, and how did Del Rey and Lucasfilm work together?
SS: I was involved in planning the NJO from the start. When I first came on board—when Ballantine first got the Star Wars license and we had to figure out what our publishing plan would be—I spoke with Lucy about the idea of one big ongoing multibook saga. That turned into a meeting with Lucasfilm’s licensing folks out at Skywalker Ranch—a huge meeting that included some authors (Star Wars veteran Mike Stackpole and then newcomer Jim Luceno among them), as well as some of the guys from Dark Horse Comics. From that point on, I became the liaison between the authors and Lucasfilm— everything they did was filtered through me, and I tried to help them get their work in as good a shape as possible before passing it on to Sue for approval. Throughout the series, I continued to brainstorm and debate ideas with Lucy and Sue as we and the authors moved the growing story forward. Sue and I became a real team, supporting each other, backing each other up (and arguing occasionally over creative issues!), and just working to make these books happen.