Roqoo Depot Interview with Troy Denning at CVI

September 11, 2012 at 7:31 am | Posted in Books, Celebration, Fantasy, Interview, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Are you wondering what Crucible is going to be like? Do you want to know more about the upcoming Forgotten Realms novel The Sentinel? Are there unanswered Tarfang, Jae Juun, Hapan and Squib questions driving you crazy? Well we have some answers for you in our Star Wars Celebration VI interview with author Troy Denning. Troy took the time to chat with us about Star Wars, Forgotten Realms, and writing in general. We got to the bottom of the tropical shirt conspiracy between him, Aaron Allston and Jeff Grubb as well as some more thoughtful questions about the future of Star Wars.

Interview Transcript

So Troy, big news of course is your upcoming novel, Crucible.  What can you tell us about it?

TD: It stars Han, Leia and Luke, starts in a bar, and Han shoots first.

Will we see any Squibs?

TD: I don’t think we will.  At least I don’t have any planned yet.  The Squibs just kind of pop up as they want, as they happen.

How far along are you with the writing process?

TD: I’m fairly well started, but that’s a difficult question to answer because the way writing works for me I start to work and I kind of of explore more as the book goes, and is seems to go pretty slow at the initial stages.  And then it’s at some point after I’ve been working on it for awhile, it clicks, and it just starts to flow and go really fast.  I’m right at that point where it’s just clicked, and everything’s kind of gelled in my mind and I know who the characters are and what they want and what they’re trying to accomplish.  So now it’s kind of at the stage where it kind of just lays itself out in front of me instead of me trying to still explore my way through it.

Do you write in order, sequentially, or…?

TD: Yeah, I always write sequentially.  Well, I don’t want to say always; almost always write sequentially.

I’ve talked to Paul — Paul Kemp — and he says he likes to write out of order, and that seems so weird to me because I’ve never heard of anyone doing that.

TD: When I write out of order what I do, it’ll be when I’m jumping around in a story when I’ve got two or three storylines going and I’m trying to juggle them and keep them all going at the same time.  Sometimes I’ll write one whole storyline first and then go back and write the second storyline, and then divide them up, and insert them into each other later.  But that’s the only time I really write out of order.

Now with this being your twelfth Star Wars novel, are you going to try and do anything different with this one to make it stand out from the others?

TD: Not specifically to make it stand out or be different than the others.  When I write a book, any book, what I do is dictated by the story itself, what the story needs.  So I don’t think in terms of oh, this is my twelfth book, I gotta make it different than the others.  I just think in terms of this is a book about Han and Leia and Luke going off on a grand adventure, and what do I need to do to make that adventure exciting and fun and fast-paced and engaging.

Have you ever thought about doing any comics?

TD: I’ve kind of toyed with the idea, but I haven’t really approached it seriously.  I don’t know how to write comics really.

Would it be something you’re interested in?

TD: Well, I might be interested in writing comics some day.  It would take a patient publisher to show me the ropes though on how to write comics.  As I’m sure most people are aware you can’t just go from one medium to the other and you know, just change.  There’s little tricks of the trade in each one you have to learn and I don’t know the tricks of the trade in comics.

This one’s kind of a sneaky question.  You, Aaron Allston and Jeff Grubb, you’re always wearing tropical shirts. Is it a secret club?

TD: (laughs) You know it might be.  It may go back to our days of TSR.  Aaron actually never worked at TSR, but he worked for TSR back in the old days.  I have a hard time remembering how the tradition got started, but the game designers at TSR started to wear tropical shirts.  I think [David] ‘Zeb’ Cook was the first one to wear one, then Jeff started to pick up on it and I started to pick up on it.  And then Aaron was picking up on it.  Since then it’s become kind of a tradition, my con uniform.  Matter of fact I have several tropical shirts that I only wear at conventions, at no other times, for any other purpose but at cons.

Now big announcement last week was your new Forgotten Realms novel, The Sentinel.  What can you tell us about that one?

TD: Oh, that’s going to be a cool, cool concept. WOTC (Wizards of the Coast) asked me to come out last November to talk about doing a Forgotten Realms novel and me being no fool said ‘Sure, free airplane ride to Seattle to see some of my buddies and gab and talk with WOTC, a company I haven’t worked with for ten years, I’ll at least go out and talk.’  I went out and talked. We had three days of meetings and by the end of three days we had plotted not only my novel but the other five novels in the series.  And I was so excited about it I couldn’t wait to just get going on it.  Like we had said, it’s obviously a Forgotten Realms novel, part of The Sundering series.  Bob Salvatore will start it off with The Companions, Ed Greenwood will finish it with The Herald, and I’m going to be next to last with The Sentinel.  The Sundering itself is going to tell the story of a major event in the Realms, a major arc that happens to the Realms itself.  Each will tell the story of a certain set of characters that are involved in the series, so you’ll be seeing it through six different sets of eyes, because each set of characters is different.  Each book will be stand alone.  So if you want to read book three you won’t have to have read books one and two, but if you want to get the whole story of what’s happening in the world, you would just start reading with book one, The Companions, and then go through all the way to the end.  

It’s going to be fun.  My characters involve an embittered paladin who’s been worshiping the dead god, Helm, for his entire life. Of course his god is dead so he hasn’t had much luck with it.  He ends up being thrown in with a princess who is a very noble princess, but she has a somewhat self-important view.  She’s a little bit delusional about her own importance in the world.  They end up being thrown together in an adventure with one of my old Forgotten Realms characters, who’s Cyric, Prince of Lies.  He ends up being thrown into an adventure with my embittered paladin and delusional princess.  It’s going to be a lot of fun.  It’s a story of forbidden love, many kinds of different forbidden love, driving the plot.

When will that one be out?

TD: That one is April, 2014.  I don’t know how much your readers are aware, but WOTC is retooling D&D.  As part of that, they’re going to retool The Forgotten Realms, and they’re really taking their time to do it right.  They’re getting a lot of audience feedback, and they’re allowing the audience’s feedback to dictate most of the elements of the game design.  Same thing with the Forgotten Realms; they’re going to allow the audience’s choices to dictate the direction of the Realms in the future.  It’s an exciting project.  It was just one of those things that ended up being so exciting I couldn’t say no.

Going back to Star Wars, I have a question from one of our admins [Zinnos].  He wanted to know, considering all of your Star Wars books, which character’s development would you be most proud of?

TD: Oh, boy, that’s a good question.  I have to think back about all the characters.  I’m really happy with what we’ve done with Jaina over the course of the years.  She started as a teenage girl when I started writing her, and she went through some very rocky times as a teenage girl.  Then of course when she had to kill her brother, Jacen, in Invincible, that pretty much tore her apart.  But I think it also was the crucible that she had to go through to become the super competent, very fearsome Jedi that she is now.  I’m really happy with the kind of leader that she’s growing into as a master in the Jedi Order.  So that’s one I would be very proud of.

I’m proud of a lot of the characters I’ve introduced: Saba, Tarfang, but they haven’t had the kind of the long arc that Jaina has.  Jaina’s arc has been going on for almost 40 books.  Well, I’m thinking of just her arc as when she became a young women in the New Jedi Order, a young warrior.  And then became to where she is now where she’s a leader of the Order.  That arc’s been over 40 books, and I’m really pleased with where she is now even though she went through some really rocky times.

Where do you think she’ll go in the future?

TD: Well, I have a pretty good idea (laughs), but I’m not at liberty to say.  It’ll be exciting.  There are great things in the wind for Jaina.

What’s your opinion of the new generation of Jedi?  I know a lot of new Jedi were introduced in the Fate of the Jedi series.  Do you see them as a beacon for new readers to attach to?

TD: I hope so.  They’ve gone through an era that I kind of think of as the Jacen Solo era, from the New Jedi Order through Legacy of the Force through Fate of the Jedi, that has been one of soul searching for the whole Jedi Order; not quite sure who they should be serving, what their purpose is.  And one of the things I really wanted to accomplish in Apocalypse was to give the Jedi Order a final crystallization where they know who they are and why they’re there.  I think that, if the future of the EU goes where I think it’s going to go and I’m somewhat guessing at this point, I think the Jedi are going to be in a great place to have a lot of super-interesting stories.  And to be real heroes of the universe without having a lot of the grey storylines that have lead to some of their downfalls.  I think that the Jedi know who they are and the challenges that are going to face them…

A lot of the grey areas they get into are when they start getting into politics.

TD: Right, exactly, and I think they’re going to move away from that.  That was one of the goals I set for Apocalypse, to move us into an era of the more monk-warrior type Jedi.

This one is kind of an oddball question.  Will we ever hear any more about the Lorellian Court?

TD: Oh boy, that’s actually a good question.  I think it’s quite likely we will, but I’m not sure how it’s shaking up yet.  Obviously Hapes, Tenel Ka and Allana, and all of that is going to be a big part of the future of the Jedi Order since the Jedi are actually living in the Hapan Consortium now, so my guess is we will be hearing a lot more of that now.

I think they will continue to be a part of the storylines but I don’t know that the storylines are going to be about the Hapes Consortium.  The Hapes Consortium will obviously be in the background.

Which villains have you enjoyed writing the most.  You’ve got the Yuuzhan Vong, you’ve got the Killiks, you’ve got Darth Caedus, you’ve got Abeloth.

TD: You know, I love all my villains equally.  It’s hard to pick one because the villain you’re writing at the time is the one you’re most engaged with.

Is there one that was harder than the others?

TD: Abeloth was a fairly hard villain to write just because of her power level, and because of who she was and not really wanting to reveal that too early in the series.  So you had to mete that out, and then of course you’re obviously writing with two other authors and there’s always a little bit of grey area in terms of what we decide we’re going to mete out at a particular time.  So she was a bit harder to write than a lot of them.

One of the villains I enjoyed writing the most was Alema Rar because she really wasn’t a villain, she was more of a victim. But she was fun to write.

Jacen was a challenge to write.  I did like writing Jacen a lot because it was difficult for me, at times, to remember that he was the villain because he was doing all these terrible things. But in Jacen’s mind he had a clear view of why he was doing it.  He was doing it to save the galaxy, and from a certain point of view, he did save the galaxy.  I like that he’s a villain that’s very difficult to really pin down and make sure and say absolutely, crystal-clearly, ‘he was wrong’ because from a certain point of view he wasn’t wrong.

Now with Abeloth, did you kind of channel any of the ideas you laid out with the Lady of Pain (from Pages of Pain), because there are some similarities there?

TD: You know I didn’t consciously channel those ideas, but now that you bring it up, they’re both very mythic characters, both entirely based in myth. I think there’s a lot of similarity there and their function, the idea of pain and strife being a necessary part of the galaxy, being necessary for rebirth of the next generation is a good parallel to bring up.

Where did the idea for Tarfang and Jae Juun come from?

TD: I’m honestly not sure that I can remember, but I think it was one of those spontaneous things that while I was writing, I needed a couple of characters to fulfill a role.  As I recall I needed somebody to take Han and Leia somewhere or tell them how to get somewhere.  I can’t even remember what the function was, but I needed some characters to fulfill a function, and I just said “Alright, what would be cool here?”  And I decided to make a comical version of Han and Chewbacca, so that was kind of the origination.  Except obviously, Jae Juun was a little bit Han’s opposite because he was so into orders and the proper way of doing things.  I thought it would be fun just to take Han and Chewbacca, put them down to half scale, and then flip them around.

Now you first wrote about the Squibs in the West End Games Alien Races Guide.  Also the Squibs are kind of closely tied with the Ugors, the trash worshiping aliens.  Is there any reason we haven’t seen more of them?

TD: I think probably because the Ugors just aren’t going to be as fun a character.  The Ugors especially were tongue in cheek characters.  It’s fairly hard to write an interesting story about these pseudopods that worship trash.  I think that wouldn’t be a very compelling character.

What made you choose to use the Squibs and not something like the Jawas which are a little bit more fan recognizable?

TD: Right, I’m trying to remember when I used the Squibs for the first time.  Tatooine Ghost, that was the first time I used the Squibs.  I’m trying to remember why I chose the Squibs instead of  the Jawas.  The Jawas — for one thing, I don’t think could speak common…or basic.  I getting my worlds mixed up here [laughs].  I don’t think they can speak Basic, and the characters needed to be able to communicate, but the Jawas didn’t have quite enough personality in my mind for what I needed.  I wanted to have some characters that could be a real pain in the ass, and the Squibs pretty much fulfilled that.

In telling a story what do you do to keep it fun?

TD: I try to make it fun to write.  I look at the structure of a story and I think about the structure of a story a lot, and for me a lot of the work that I do is in terms of setting up a structure so that it’s an engaging structure that raises a question in the reader’s mind and pulls them through the story through suspense.  That’s really the primary thing I think about when I’m sitting down to outline a story or to outline a chapter.  Once I achieve that I kind of just let it go to see where it goes.  When it works best is when the characters come alive by themselves once I have the structure.

What author would you like to work with in a future project?

TD:  Any author?

Yeah, any author.

TD: Oh, boy.

Or a Star Wars author.

TD: Well, William Goldman’s my favorite author, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.  It just would depend on the project.  There’s a lot of great authors that I really enjoy, and if we were working on a series of books that we were alternating, I think it would depend on the series.  Some authors would be great for a series and some wouldn’t. While they’re still great authors, they might not be the appropriate person for that thing.

In Star Wars where do you think, from a storytelling aspect, it needs to go to do a villain we haven’t seen already? Where would we go?

TD: Crucible.  Crucible’s going to have villains I don’t believe we’ve seen before.  I think that’s one of the things that’s going to be coming in the post-Apocalypse Star Wars EU is that there will be a lot greater variety of villains to pick from.  My guess is, and this is really just a guess, is that there will still be Sith, but it won’t be all Sith.  Every story won’t be about the Sith; there’ll be a lot of different kinds of stories, and of course that means different kinds of villains.  Certainly Crucible is going to have different villains.

When writing, what part comes the easiest to you?

TD: Actually, the rewriting.  Once I’ve got the first draft done it becomes very clear to me what I need to do to polish and fix it and knock off the rough edges.  So that’s the easiest part.  If all I ever had to do was write the second draft, I’d be a happy man.

What would be the hardest part?

TD: The hardest part is getting the story going.  When I finish an outline I always have a pretty clear idea in my mind where the story is going to go and what it’s about, and then I start to write.  As I write it, the story starts to take on a life of its own.  The characters want to go in their own directions, and discovering the interplay between that and the outline, allowing them to have the freedom to go and do what they want while staying within the confines of the outline, that can be pretty difficult.  It’s really a process of discovery, and that’s almost without exception the most difficult part of a book for me, say the first one hundred pages, and that’s a very rough figure.  Sometimes it’s the first two hundred pages and sometimes it’s just only the first fifty pages.  That’s where I’ll go slow and really get to know who the characters are in this particular book, because even though I write the same characters over and over, they’re coming from a slightly different place in each book.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen at Celebration VI so far?

TD: Man, I just got here [laughs].  Just being here.

Last question: Stephen King once remarked that he likes to use certain words just to keep them alive. Are there any words you like to use just to keep them alive?

TD: Efflux.  I know a lot of fans are always looking for how many times I use efflux.  I generally try to use it at least once a book.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

TD: No, that sounds good.

We’d like to thank Troy for taking the time to answers our questions, even when we went chasing after Ewoks and Squibs. Reader’s can look forward to Crucible summer 2013, and his return to the Forgotten Realms in April 2014 with The Sentinel.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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