Star Wars New Jedi Order: Round Robin Interview (Part 2)
DR: Who was responsible for what?
SS: In general, I’d say I’m responsible for the books working primarily as novels—making sure they tell a good story, are well paced, and well written and edited—while Sue is responsible for the books working as integral parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, both in terms of continuity and making sure they “feel” like Star Wars. But in truth, we overlap a lot, working closely together to make sure the books work as well as possible on all levels.
SR: Right. My input is generally around continuity issues, characters, story elements, what will work and what won’t work.
DR:So the idea of big multibook saga was there from the start?
LW: Even earlier. I got the idea of doing a sequential series of related Star Wars books toward the end of the Bantam
run of original Star Wars novels. The Bantam books were very much determined by what each writer wanted to create and were either one-off titles or trilogy series. Very early on we had agreed that it was important to maintain Star Wars continuity if people were to believe the Star Wars universe and its history were real. That meant that all events and characters created by any author (comics, novels, RPG material, et cetera) immediately became historical and could not then be contradicted in any subsequent book, story, or comic. But as the universe got more complicated, it was clear we had to take more control over where the stories were going in order to maintain this continuity. We also knew our readers wanted more sequential stories—rather than stories that jumped around in Star Wars time. So when the agreements for books related to the prequel trilogy films were negotiated and licensed to Ballantine Books in 1997, we included the rights to create a new spin-off fiction program that would be one big sequential story. Originally we planned to include thirty titles in this program, but concerns about whether we could sustain one story for that many titles, combined with a desire to create new stories set in the original trilogy period of history, resulted in an adjustment that reduced what had become the NJO series to nineteen books.
DR: What role did you play in all this, Jim?
JL: My original role was to assist in the nut-and-bolts development of the series. I attended the initial story conference at Skywalker Ranch in March 1998, then a follow-up conference in May devoted to fine-tuning the ideas that had been discussed at the first. Shelly had already written a rudimentary outline of the project, and for the next several weeks I worked closely with her and Del Rey editor Kathleen O’Shea to fashion a five-year story arc, along with individual story arcs for the principal characters, all of which would ultimately be incorporated into a writers’bible. That meant keeping careful track of plot points and continuity, creating names for new characters, and designing a social structure for the Yuuzhan Vong.
My outlines and suggestions went directly to Shelly, who would rework them as necessary and forward them to Sue and Lucy, whose comments would frequently send Shelly and me back to the drawing board. Eventually, though, we’d all find ourselves on the same page.
I was also commissioned to contribute one paperback novel to the series, though at the last minute my one book became two when changes in the publishing schedule required that Mike Stackpole’s trilogy be compressed into two novels. As the project evolved, I worked with Dan Wallace and artist Christopher Barbieri to map the Star Wars galaxy and the Yuuzhan Vong invasion corridor, and I continued to read and comment on book outlines and manuscripts. After many discussions with Shelly, Sue, Lucy, Greg Keyes, Greg Bear, Sean Williams, and Shane Dix, I began work on the final NJO volume, The Unifying Force, in May 2002.
DR: Shelly, you mentioned Dark Horse Comics had people at the original meeting. What was their involvement?
SS: They had a character that we thought Bob Salvatore could use for the bad guy in Vector Prime.
SR: Right, Nom Anor. The original concept for Nom Anor came from the Crimson Empire II comics by Dark Horse.
LW: What we did at that meeting was plot out the major story points for a five-year book program that would be published from 1999 through 2003, with the big events unfolding in five hardcover novels; the material that would go into the paperbacks was to be developed later. That was where, for the first time, we all agreed that a well-loved Star Wars character would die—after all, the general story idea was a big alien invasion and galaxy war, and we wanted people to feel that there are consequences to war. Once we had agreed on the general plot, Dark Horse noted that they had invented a new character in their Crimson Empire comics who might serve as one of the invading species, so we started with the character of Nom Anor as an early concept for what was to become the Yuuzhan Vong.