Recap of the Jason Fry Facebook Chat

April 11, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Events, Interview, Star Wars Books, Star Wars News | Leave a comment
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Today Star Wars Books hosted a live Facebook chat with Jason Fry and Paul Urquhart, the authors of Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare. You can check out the full chat here, or read our edited transcript below. You’ll notice Paul’s answers were relayed through Jason and denoted as [From Paul].How did you determine how much space to give to each element and era of Star Wars history?

JF: Not an exact science. Mix of things designed to appeal to fans of the movies/TV show, hardcore Expanded Universe fans and fun stuff I’d just always wanted to tackle.

You’ve been posting “end notes” for the book the past two days. What gave you the idea to do this? They’ve been a blast to read.

JF: Dan Wallace and I did em for The Essential Atlas and thought it was a lot of fun. As a reader, I always liked getting to peek behind the scenes and think along with the author(s).

Was there a particular era or battle that you personally wanted to explore in more detail?

JF: I’m a huge fan of early galactic history and Xim, but that’s a bit too esoteric for lots of fans, so we dialed that back.

What topics did you like researching the most?

JF: Off the top of my head, I love the early days of the Empire, and we got to do tons of stuff there. That was really fun. Appearing as a fuzzy blue Ewok, Paul chips in by saying that the things he had most fun getting his teeth into were Ruusan and the NJO. Paul did the bulk of the NJO material, because he’s a huge fan of the series. I think he did an awesome job.

What is the likelihood that the fate of the Intimidator will be expanded upon at some point? I have to think its on your radar (or Dan Wallace’s), but The Essential Guide to Warfare seems like it would’ve been a good fit for it.

JF: We’ve steered clear of the Empire of the Hand in The Essential Atlas and The Essential Guide to Warfare because I sense Zahn will have more tales to tell there and he should have a free hand.

Can you describe the collaboration between you and the artists in this book?

JF: Art and text is an interesting collaboration. I gave Ian Fullwood and John VanFleet notes and some really bad sketches for the Xim ships, but mostly leaned on Erich Schoeneweiss to make all the trains run on time.

JF: You can see my Tionese sketches in Endnotes Pt. 1. I cannot draw.

Erich Schoeneweiss: Jason’s sketches were a big help to the artists. Really made it clear what he was looking for in the final ships.

You’ve written quite a few ‘essential guides’ to Star Wars now. What is it like researching and compiling all the information needed to write these ‘guide’ books? What is the pre-writing/composition process like?

JF: It’s a ton of work and constant checking of book after book after book. The key is a good outline. My Warfare outline was way too long — I got to Rise of the Empire and was 30% over my word count for the whole book. Budding writers, listen to a convert: Hard work on the outline will be hugely helpful in the writing. Plus you lean on LFL and smart fans for help with thorny issues.

Also, how did you come up with a first name for Ackbar? Were there other options, and was the decision to give him a first name something that you’d been looking forward to?

JF: [From Paul] Ackbar’s first name is the name of Mon Cal Senator Gial Gahan in the Legacy comics. So he’s named after a character who’s named after him.

Why did you choose Trench as a Clone Wars veteran? Sure, he is a cool character, but was there any personal involvement?

JF: Trench was an obvious choice for The Clone Wars fans, plus I like the character and his species background, and wanted to do a little retcon involving Yularen and how the two faced each other.

I was wondering if there was a specific intention behind calling Naga Sadow “Darth Naga Sadow,” or if it was an error.

JF: [From Paul] Yes, there was a specific intention with using the name Darth Naga Sadow. It’s meant to indicate Sadow’s ambition, and his status as “supreme viceroy” (i.e. top Dark Lord). The context needed a title that wasn’t Sith’ari. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a contemporary usage.

If you could only listen to one CD for the rest of your life, what would it be? No mix CDs.

JF: Favorite CD? Wow, random. But fun. “Sucking in Stereo” by The Figgs.

On page 44 of the The Essential Guide to Warfare you reveal that the Old Republic era Jedi Valenthyne Farfalla is “Half-Bothan”. His species before this was never confirmed although he was called an “Equine”. What was the thought process behind making him half-Bothan? Was this something of your creation or was it already established in the holocron? Can we assume the other half is human? Thanks again!

JF: [From Paul] “Half-Bothan” was because they’re the most prominent near-human equine species. As to what his other half is, I wanted to leave it ambiguous: he might have some Sephi ancestry, or maybe his people were originally the products of Sith Alchemy.

JF: [From Paul] Bothans are very confusing and inconsistent, which is part of the reason for choosing them! My favourite picture of Borsk is the kangaroo one on the front of “Specter of the Past”. And Farfalla isn’t a character whose appearance can be explained rationally outside Narnia – hence leaving the option open that his ancestors were warped by some Sith with a sick sense of humour.

Is there any other essential guides that you are dying to write?

JF: I’m up for most anything. Really looking fwd to the new Essential Guide to Characters. I love telling stories or explaining most anything about the galaxy far, far away.

Really, really loved the book. Thank you for writing it. My only complaint was the Imperial rank system, but I guess I read too much of Curtis Saxton’s website in the past. What made you go that route?

JF: [From Paul] The primary motivation was the desire to be as faithful to the movies and Expanded Universe as possible. You never know when old WEG ranks might pop up in Zahn’s next novel.

How has your previous experience with journalism and writing for the Wall Street Journal Online prepared/help you for writing books about fictional universes such as Star Wars? Would you suggest to budding writers that they also dab in nonfiction & fiction writing?

JF: My background probably gave me a leg up in terms of organization and being able to write clearly. Plus HIT YOUR DEADLINES and don’t be a diva. As an editor myself, you have to know writers will do their jobs and solve problems rather than causing them. Reliable writers get more work. Unreliable ones never get called back.

It may seem obvious, but is the name Skere Kaan (where you first introduced his forename) to the tiger Shere Khan from The Jungle Book.

JF: Yep, Skere Kaan is a Jungle Book nod. That was Paul. Made me smile.

Jason, just reading “he might have some sephi ancestry” makes me wonder how much working on this book contributed to your knowledge of the Star Wars Universe. I would bet that you would be pretty formidable in a trivia contest.

JF: I’ll destroy you if the trivia is geography. But with other stuff it might be a pretty fair fight. The EU is just so gigantic. I tip my cap to Leland Chee every day.

Out of all the books and movies, who is your favorite dark side character and you favorite light side character?

JF: Um, I’m a Han Solo guy. Can’t move anything with my mind, but like to drive fast and shoot my mouth off.

There was some interesting things about the Hutts and their move toward a more militaristic stance after the NJO. Where did that idea come from?

JF: I’ve always loved the Hutts, so anything I do with them is a ton of fun. Hutt Space was the first area I detailed for the Atlas. Love it and them. The new stuff came about after their activist role in the Legacy of the Force series. Which surprised me a bit, but ran with it.

I read in another interview you did that there was a lot more material that you wrote for the book, but it ended up having to be cut. Was most of this material EU-era, and are there any plans to release it in another format (online, perhaps)?

JF: Material was all over the place. Would love to find it a home, but have to see what the options are. Will try!

Did you use Wookieepedia during the writing, either as source or as help?

JF: Wookieepedia is a fabulous resource. Love it and use it a lot. But it’s always a starting pt for further verification, not an endpoint.

Craig Carey: I was going to make some pithy remark about your likeness to Han Solo. You know, something about always referring to your better half as “Her Worshipfulness”…

JF: I look much more like Lobot than Han Solo. But heartfelt tip of the cap to Craig Carey, a superb architect of lots in the EU and the guy who gave me my start as a SW contributor.

I would have loved to see a pilot roster for the Battle of Endor for the Alliance. Wasn’t this part of the plan to include it?

JF: had to cut back pretty drastically, and thought there were more interesting things to tackle than the Endor roster. But yeah, on further review it would have made sense to complete the trilogy. Did a Rogues roster for Brentaal, but it was lame and I cut it.

My question is related to the image of the sector armies on page 98 during the Clone Wars. You have each sector army being led by a Moff, which I think is great. I loved seeing all the familiar and obscure Moff names, however, I had been under the impression Jedi-General Ry Gaul ran the 2nd Sector Army, and Ki Adi Mundi ran the 4th. Were the Moffs just liaisons between the Jedi/Army and Senate? Also, are there any plans to establish definitively which Jedi Council member controlled which Systems Armies? And Finally, was the inclusion of Black Sword Command as the 6th Systems army meant to be a nod toward the Black Fleet Crisis material? I confess to only getting the tome yesterday, and not being able to read the entire book yet, but I did read this section immediately.

JF: [From Paul] The exact evolution of the Governors-General before they take full control in the last days of the Republic is deliberately left ambiguous, but most are Judicial officers (compare them to the Clone Marshal Commanders who also pair with the Jedi Generals). Black Sword is definitely intended as the original of the Black Fleet command – Moff Gann and Sector 5 are also referenced there.

What is it like to be a part of Star Wars? I mean, that’s HUGE! It must be a big honor!

JF: It’s an enormous honor. I pinch myself all the time. Also, it’s AMAZING to know that kids like your books and those books have encouraged them to become avid readers and use their imagination. I get that with my DK books a lot, and feel very lucky to hear it.

On page 125, you introduced the story of Isila Drutch, a female Stormtrooper. On the accompanying image you can see two women, a black-haired and a blond one. Is one of these women Isila and if yes, which of them?

JF: Don’t think either of those is Drutch. She’d probably punch the photographer.

Was it always planned to write the main part of the book along the chronology of the universe?

JF: I think it’s a straightforward way to tackle such a huge subject: It’s galactic history through the lens of war, if that makes sense. Did make it challenging to figure out just where to put the details about technologies, etc.

I think this book will answer many questions I’ve always wanted to know about past wars. Star Wars has always been about conflicts, wars, Jedi vs Sith. Darth Plagueis was a good book. Now reading Apocalypse. Next will be your book.

JF: Apocalypse is a great book. You’ll love it. Troy Denning is a great author — I love Star by Star, and his old WEG solo adventure Scoundrel’s Luck is the great long lost Han Solo novel. Hunt a copy down on eBay.

JF: If anyone’s near Seattle, Berkeley or San Diego, come see me on the Attack of the Authors tour.

Warfare revealed some new names. This will open some possibilities to retcon some unnamed characters in the movies, don’t you think?

JF: There are some cool blanks filled in for movie characters in an upcoming Star Wars Insider Magazine. More would be cheating. Gonna be fun.

Jason, CRAZY DUEL, who would win, Jar Jar Binks or Mr. Met tossing horse shoes at Citi Field?

JF: Mr. Met would win, but in losing Jar Jar would somehow turn the tables. Typical of Mets outcomes.

What book was it or moment when you first decided you wanted to became a writer?

JF: I’ve written all my life. Started with blue exam books my mom would bring home for me from her job at a college. Was always writing short stories, poems, you name it.

What was your biggest challenge in putting this book together?

JF: Biggest challenge was I felt far more confident in my geography knowledge for the Atlas than I did for military and Warfare. To address that I a) brought in Paul b) leaned on LFL for help c) crowdsourced stuff with fans on TheForce.Net and d) worked as hard as I could. I think/hope it worked out OK….

I am still working my way through The Essential Guide to Warfare but it has been excellent so far. I especially liked the little Lord Hoth profile and the artwork was phenomenal. Some of the stuff boggled my mind that you were able to pull together such diverse sources. Of course, such a concatenation must have some holes. What percentage of the the guide would you say is information that is found only there versus the information that you put together from an amalgam of other sources?

JF: Hmm. Hard to say because sometimes the info’s established but the connecting framework that forms a new/never-before-explicated narrative is new. You try for a mix.

You also introduced the Z-95 Headhunter on p. 52, using the image of the The Clone Wars-like Z-95 that was introduced just this season. Do you want to say with this that the TCW Headhunter is actually the original Headhunter from the EU because afaik, it’s intended by TCW to have its own Headhunter (a clone Z-95 Headhunter, if you want so).

JF: Paul worked out a full development sequence for all the Z-95 variants, but then The Clone Wars version showed up. Best to leave it to one side and avoid snafus.

ES: Had to ask you a Mets question my friend. If there are any baseball fans reading, do yourself a favor and check out Jason’s fantastic blog about his beloved NY Mets:

JF: Thanks for the plug re Faith and Fear, Erich. Mets down 2-0 in 7th, by the way.

John Jackson Miller: Congrats, Jason, on another great book! The EU writers use these all the time, as the spine on my Essential Atlas would show. :)

JF: Thanks JJM! Going out after this to buy the new Knights of the Old Republic: War #4!

JF: If you’ll forgive a personal note, I can’t note enough that books like Warfare are a huge collaboration — there are no empty gestures on that acknowledgments page. From Erich to the awesome artists to LFL to the test readers to the designer to the smart fans…a lot of people worked super-hard to make the book what it is. Really grateful to all of them.

JF: And equally grateful to everybody who reads it, asks questions, raises points, says hi at signings. Really appreciate it.

I want to echo a previous question: Are there any new “Essential Guides” that you’d like to write? And thanks again for taking the time out to chat.

JF: I’ll leave that to Del Rey and LFL. I’d be thrilled to play any role where they think I make sense.

ES: I can say this, as Jason’s editor I’d love to work with him on another Essential Guide and we’ve had numerous conversations about what subject we could tackle next. As soon as we settle on something I’ll let you all know.

No new Ben Skywlker or Cade Skywalker images. Any particular reason?

JF: Just finite space.

I have a great idea! How about more about the Knights of the Old Republic and Jedi Crusader military assets?

JF: Great idea — would leave that to JJM’s fertile imagination, though!

Thanks for the chat today. As a fan it really is great to get the story behind the books.

JF: Really appreciate it, everybody! And thanks to Paul for backchanneling, as well as his awesome work on the book.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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