Sean, in a number of your novels, your bio has mentioned that you enjoy cooking curries and DJ'ing... can you tell us more about that?!
[SW] Well, I love cooking curries, and look forward to having more time to spend on that in the near future.
[SD] And I'll challenge him any day for a competition to see who can cook the meanest curry... J
[SW] As far as DJing goes, a friend and I bought decks and PA a couple of years ago after finding that we enjoyed this sort of thing immensely. We play either professionally or for fun every now and again, when both the opportunity and the urge coincide. We don't do it for the money, and we're not as good at the technical side as we'd like to be. But we're good at getting people dancing--and that, I think, is a DJ's priority. There's nothing we won't play: disco, eighties retro, nineties classics, current pop, house, techno; whatever the crowd seems to be enjoying. We're shameless. :-)
I hope that one day I get the opportunity to tasting one of your famous curries! :) Personally, I prefer Chilli... are you a fan of Chilli? Ever tried to make your own song / mix? Have you ever played, or have been requested to play, the dance version of the Star Wars theme? :)
[SW] What would a curry be without chilli? Mmmm. Making me hungry just thinking about it. I haven't had the time to get into the remixing thing, although I would like to, just as I would like to get back into writing music one day. (I dabbled a lot when I was younger, winning the SA Young Composer's Award in 1984.) I have been tempted on numerous occasions to spin one of the Star Wars mixes floating around, particularly at the various SF conventions I've played at, but I've yet to take the leap...
Congratulations on the award! Music, writing... I wonder what is next for you?!
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
[SW] Read a lot and write a lot. With emphasis on both uses of "a lot." It's not that simple, but that's the best place to start. There are lots of other things you can do to improve your chances. These include: joining your local writers' centre or a writing group; going to writers' festivals and workshops to hear from and talk to other writers; doing a writing course or reading books on writing. There are lots of avenues open for people willing to put the effort in. But don't expect it to be easy. It rarely is.
[SD] Yeah, there is a lot of work involved--more than people realise, I think. The image some people have of a writer sitting there at his/her desk just tapping away happily at the keys as the words pour out onto the page is a far, far cry from reality--for most writers, anyway! It involves a lot of time and patience, but it's worth it in the long run. But like Sean said, a person needs to read and write a lot to become a writer. It requires a lot of discipline--something I actually learned from you, Sean. When I first met you, you would write every morning before work, every night after work, and every available moment you had. Me, I used to write when I had a spare couple of hours here and there, you know? No good. You need to put in the time. That's why it's so hard for people, I think, who have day jobs and families. It's like working two jobs, but only getting paid for the one. But once you make that first sale, it really is a buzz and you see it's all been worthwhile. Well, I think so, anyway... J
[SW] I agree too. You have to really love it, otherwise you'll resent those hours lost to the PC (or notebook, or typewriter, whatever). It's hard to have a social life on top of it, that's for sure--although maintaining a healthy one is probably more important for writers than people who have "ordinary" jobs. The isolation can really eat at you, at times.
Where do you see the future of publishing heading? What do you think of the E-Book format?
[SW] I think electronic publishing is inevitable and may come to dominate the field. Not right now (we still lack both acceptable readers and a universal format) but I'd be surprised if it hadn't started to emerge in the next ten years. I love the idea of being able to carry my entire research and reading library around in a device the size of a mobile phone, which I could connect to a flexible reader that looks exactly like ordinary paper but which can perform every function of a computer monitor. I anticipate being able to read quite happily on such a device--plus access dictionaries, maps, author biographies, all sorts of things that will enhance my reading experience. And listen to music at the same time, of course. :-)
[SD] I agree with everything Sean just said, that this will be the way of the future... But while I think it will have advantages, I have to say I like the idea of just having a book in my hands, you know? Or browsing through a book shop or a library. Something very satisfying about that for me. I don't think it would be the same having everything there in the palm of your hand. Of course having said that, when they do come out with such gizmos then I'm sure I'll be right there with everyone else wanting one!
Do you think it is now easier for an aspiring writer to get their material read, ie: online, than it was say, 10 - 15 years ago?
[SW] I don't know for sure, but my gut feeling is no. Not read by someone who will make a difference to their career, anyway. Anyone can put their first novel online, where their family and friends can look at it, and that's an improvement. But I don't think editors or agents are likely to see it. The competition is too huge.
[SD] Yeah, and you do need those editors and agents reading your stuff if you want to make a living out of your writing. With no disrespect intended to the people who read my stories at the beginning and offered me feedback, but I never made any real development as a writer until I was having my stuff read by people within the industry.
What can you tell us about your non-Star Wars novels?
[SW] Shane and I write space opera novels. Our Evergence trilogy is (loosely speaking) a cross between Star Wars and Blake's 7; our Orphans series (book two is just out) is a little more "serious" (i.e. is more firmly rooted in actual science).
[SD] Yes, but both series are a lot of fun! Well, I like to think so, anyway... There is a very different feel to each series, though.
[SW] I've also written a couple of crime-influenced science fiction thrillers (_Metal Fatigue_ and _The Resurrected Man_) plus a fantasy trilogy, the Books of the Change, set in a very Australian landscape. A bit of a mixed bag, really, and there's many more on the way...
I believe that you have mentioned in other interviews, that the two of you are considering a sequel to the Evergence trilogy. Any further updates on this?
[SD] It is something we would still like to do, but not sure when. But I like to think it will happen one day. The Evergence books stand as a self-contained trilogy, but would be nice to have BOTH Evergence self-contained trilogies out there... J
Sean, you are also scheduled to write another noir novel, 'Window of Opportunity'... is there anything you can tell us about this novel, when it is due for release?
[SW] This novel is a post-human take on the 20th century, set in an artificial city 500 years from now and featuring familiar icons of film noir. The book is ready to roll, but I haven't started writing it yet. No projected release date, as yet, I'm afraid.
Sounds very intriguing!
S T A R W A R S G E N E R A L
What was your first reaction when seeing Star Wars?
[SW] Awe and excitement. I think those two words cover it pretty well. Those are the two principle emotions I'm seeking when I read this sort of SF.
[SD] Gobsmacked. I remember walking out of the cinema and wanting to go straight back in and see it again. Most of my friends at the time weren't overly interested in science fiction, so I didn't really have anyone to sit down and talk about it to afterwards, you know? Very frustrating...
Shane, did Star Wars change your friends' interest in the genre?
[SD] Not really. It wasn't their type of thing. I think I was the only one from my group to go back and watch the film again...and again...and again...
What do you think of the prequel trilogy so far?
[SW] It's great to go back and see what led to the events of Episodes 4-6. Lots of pieces are finally falling into place.
[SD] I enjoyed Episode 2 a lot more than Episode 1, I have to admit. I was very disappointed in Phantom Menace. I know there were a lot of people who still didn't like Clones, but I thought it had more of a feel of those earlier films. Part of my problem with Ep 1, though, was that my expectations were so high! After the initial trilogy so many years before, I was very excited about the new film coming out. And after seeing the trailer, I was convinced this was going to be the greatest space opera film ever. Seriously, how can a film possibly hope to live up to those kind of expectations?
What are you both hoping to see in Episode III?
[SD] If this is to be the last SW film, then I would like to see it wrapped up in a spectacular, action packed film! I hope there won't be any overt sentimentality, too. Not a great lover of this kind of thing...
[SW] More of the Clone War, more great effects, and a lovely dark ending. That would be perfect!
What is your favourite Star Wars movie, and why?
[SW] Episode IV: A New Hope is my favourite because I still feel that same awe and excitement, no matter how many times I watch it. It's still in my top three movies, after all these years.
[SD] Same. I don't know if I will ever get that kind of a thrill from a movie again.
[SW] "The Fellowship of the Rings" is a contender, for me. I can understand why Peter Jackson is being hailed as the George Lucas of this generation. :-)
Sean, out of interest, what other 2 movies make up your top 3, and why?
[SW] Well, "The Fellowship of the Rings" would be there for certain, because of that thrill. The other is Terry Gilliam's epic "Brazil": I've watched this dozens of times, and I still see new things in it; a masterpiece.
What is your opinion of Star Wars fans, and fandom in general? Would you agree that fans of Star Wars are a passionate group?
[SW] "Passionate" is an understatement. :-) They seem to me to be a uniformly nice bunch of people. I've never felt threatened by them or intruded upon in any way, and some have been exceedingly helpful during the writing of the books. I don't have enough good words to say about them. I suppose there are some fans who become a little obsessive about the franchise, as there are in any field, but I've yet to encounter any.
[SD] I would have to say the same thing here. I will admit to being apprehensive about this side of it to start with, because you always hear stories about the overly "passionate" fans, and I was worried about how critical they might be about us coming in and writing in their universe, you know? But really, the people I have encountered so far have been fantastic. And like Sean says, very helpful. I haven't read all of the Star Wars books that are out there (not by a long shot), and it was nice to have people who had read them and would talk to you about different characters and stuff.
P L A N N I N G
Can you give an insight how you first entered the realm of Star Wars? What was your first reaction when you were offered the opportunity?
[SW] Some years ago our agent, Richard Curtis, suggested that he would try to bring us to the attention of the editors at Del Rey, since our Evergence books were in the same sort of vein. They read our books and liked them, and offered us a spot in the New Jedi Order series. It sounds simple, but I'm certain it was a long and complicated process. Authors don't often get to see what goes on in the background, as editors and agents (busy people all) do their business. I found about the offer in the middle of the night, Australian time, when Richard rang to let us know. Within hours, the deal was finalized. It was a blast.
[SD] Oh God, yeah. I was at work when Sean called me to let me know we'd got the gig, and I was totally rapt. I mean, this was Star Wars, you know?? I was very excited. But I was also quite terrified! I mean, this was Star Wars, you know?
I read the reports in the Australian media about your deal. Funnily enough, they reported that you were signed to write Episodes VII - IX! Did that give you a laugh?!
[SD] After a while, yeah, but it was embarrassing for a while there. I didn't even know the media had been made aware of our deal--or that they'd even care anyway--and then I get a couple of phone calls from local radio stations wanting to talk to me about writing the next 3 Star wars films... It was very perplexing, I have to say. And it all started because Sean was misquoted in our local paper. Interestingly, I was sent some newspaper articles from my hometown in Wales, and even these were stating that we were doing the films! It seemed that no matter how much we were denying it, the papers just wanted it to be true! As would we wanted it to have been, too, naturally... J
What were your experiences like at Skywalker Ranch?
[SW] Very pleasant indeed. It's a lovely spot, and everyone I met was friendly. Meeting Sue Rostoni, Shelly Shapiro and Walter John Williams was a highlight. Brainstorming took a full day, but went very quickly. When you're interacting with people who know so much about the story and are committed to making it even better, it doesn't feel like work.
[SD] My experiences were limited to a couple of pictures from an old calendar that Sean brought back with him! L I had personal business here that prevented me from going, unfortunately. One day, perhaps, I'll get another invite... He says, hopefully...
The overall arc of the New Jedi Order was pre-planned. During your meetings with LFL / Del Rey and Walter Jon Williams, did your story deviate from what was originally planned? How much input did you have in the pre-planned story?
[SW] It was a delightfully collaborative process. There was plenty of room in our outline for us to let our imaginations go wild. Very few of our ideas were knocked back. Writing this way--in such a large series with so many other writers--is inevitably going to complicated, but I like a good challenge. In the end, I think it has worked out very much for the best.
[SD] Yeah, I think it was, overall, a valuable experience working with so many people. Normally it's just Sean and myself, and then input from the editor at the end of the process. But with these books there was a lot of conferring with different people. Some days your head was spinning when you'd check your email to find a dozen messages from various people discussing some thread of the story! J
Can you share with readers how you prepare for writing a Star Wars book? What material do you use to research the massive volume of backstory, history, information? What does Lucasfilm and Del Rey provide in assistance?
[SW] Lucasfilm and Del Rey provide constant backup if ever we strike a hitch or need something clarified. There's a constant stream of emails going back and forth, on all sorts of issues. We use all the Essential Guides and CD-ROMs we've been provided, there's a wealth of material out there, and it all helps.
[SD] I have to confess, as well, that getting all of this stuff in the mail throughout the course of writing these books was fantastic! They were all really useful, and will continue to be used in the years to come. Both my kids will often sit there next to the bookshelf and just browse through all the Guides and the encyclopaedias. They love it.
[SW] Some research is performed on the run, as we're writing. A large amount was done before we started, exploring the universe and seeing what opportunities existed. I'm very interested in tying up loose ends, both because we're coming in toward the climax of the NJO series, and because there are so many places in the Expanded Universe that have been visited once or alluded to but never seen again. Those places fascinate me. It's been great fun exploring them, and I hope the fans feel that way too.
[SD] Totally agree. Hopefully an opportunity will arise at a later date for us to explore them some more, too!
Are you also planning to tie up some of the story threads from the Bantam novels as well, or are you just sticking to the NJO open plot threads?
[SW] I think the intention has always been to tie things in from anywhere within the EU, so we are following that M.O. to the limit. There *are* limits, of course. Gratuitous links can get in the way of the story. Sticking someone or something in from another novel without a good reason tends to annoy readers, so we've only done it where it felt natural.
How do you prepare / research for your non-Star Wars novels?
[SW] It's an accumulative process involving science magazines, non-fiction and fiction books, and the world-wide web. I read for enjoyment, so quite often I'm researching without even knowing it. A steady input of ideas will usually stimulate new ideas of my own. I make sure I have a notebook or computer handy at all times so I can jot them down as they come.
What is it like working within the limitations of a shared world?
[SW] It can be very rewarding because the world is so big and full of opportunities. It can be hard too, of course, because continuity is so important. That makes it a lot like writing non-fiction, in a way, which is quite different to writing fiction. Once I got my head around that point, it became a lot easier. Shane and I have done it before, with our first novel, but in a much smaller way, so it wasn't a completely new experience for us.
[SD] It requires a lot of discipline, too. You may feel like taking characters in certain directions, but you're quickly reined in if it is inappropriate for that character or indeed the Star Wars universe in general. Someone asked me a while back what it felt like, and I described it as colouring between the lines. You have a lot of freedom for storytelling, but the boundaries are well defined and you must make sure you don't go over those lines, you know?
What is the hardest part of the Star Wars saga to capture?
[SW] Hmmm. There are lots of things to get right, some more difficult than others. The hardest part I guess has been ensuring that our novels fit seamlessly into the NJO series--but I think that has more to do with the nature of the exercise rather than the universe itself.
[SD] When we first started writing the books, I found myself wanting to 'capture' that feel of the films. It'll be a Star Wars movie in words, thought I naively. Of course this isn't really possible, as writing and filmmaking are two very different means of storytelling. However, from memory I do think that initially Remnant started very differently--much slower. There needed something more there, we thought, something like the films have... Hope it worked.
C H A R A C T E R S
Who is your favourite character?
[SW] My favourite characters (in no particular order) are Nom Anor, Tahiri Veila, Saba Sebatyne, and Jacen Solo.
[SD] Mine would have to be Tahiri and Saba. And Nom Anor, naturally. Then of course there's ... J
The both of you seem to like the same characters. Do the ones you mention feature heavily in the Force Heretic trilogy?
[SD] That would be telling, wouldn't it? But, I guess that by the time your readers see this interview the book will be out anyway, so it probably doesn't matter. Yes, each of these characters feature throughout the trilogy. But that's all we're prepared to say on the matter! J
What is the hardest character you find to write?
[SW] For me, C-3PO.
[SD] lol Yes, I hope he comes across okay in the end. But finding stuff for R2 to do was a bit hard, too. He wasn't necessarily hard to write, per se, just difficult knowing how to use him at times.
Who is the most fun character to write?
[SW] Nom Anor. He's extremely hard, but rewarding every time.
[SD] I'd have to agree with Sean on that. We got to write Nom Anor at a very interesting time of his development, I think.
What does Nom Anor believe in? What is his 'cause'? Does he truly only think of himself? He reminds me of Gollum, from a certain point of view! They are both driven by a single desire; Gollum the One Ring, Nom Anor his ambition.
[SW] I think that sums up Nom Anor perfectly well, although I'd probably associate Nom Anor more with Grima Wormtongue than Gollum. I have a lot of affection for old NA, but I wonder if he's redeemable, as we must allow that Gollum is, particularly in the movie of "The Two Towers". Regardless, he's a complex character, a clever rogue--and they're often the most interesting for readers (and writers).
N E W J E D I O R D E R
What does the 'establishment' (Lucasfilm, Del Rey and the authors) set out to achieve with the NJO -- what goals do you have? To shake up the galaxy? Passing down of the torch? What underlying themes so far have been presented? Were these themes a part of the planning, or a natural progression of the story line?
[SW] I think the primary goal of every writer should be to grip the reader. Everyone involved in this project, I'm sure, wanted to give the fans a story that would grab from the very beginning and not let them go until the end. That's no mean feat across nineteen books, so the secondary objectives of the series reflect that. There has to be a real risk in order to warrant so many words. In order to make the risk seem real, there has to be some sort of loss. Risk and loss don't leave people unchanged, so there will inevitably be changes in the EU. And as characters age and change, the status quo will change too. I don't know if the series has ended up exactly where those who wrote the first synopsis expected it to go. Sometimes the characters make their own decisions. And that's the way it should be. All readers want an experience that is vivid and vital. I think the NJO delivers on both counts.
What are your thoughts on the religion and society of the Yuuzhan Vong?
[SW] Irrespective of the details, I like the way the YV have evolved from bloodthirsty bogeymen to complex, intelligent, interesting creatures in their own right. The more we learn about them, the more fascinating they become. They're not just monsters fit for cannon fodder; they are something much more. And that makes them a worthy challenge for the Jedi and the Galactic Alliance, in moral as well as military terms.
[SD] Yeah, I have to say that the Yuuzhan Vong of the earlier books are a far cry from the YV of the latter books. They've been developed well, and this comes about from what we spoke about earlier, having so many people helping to stir the pot...
Will there be any E-Book tie-ins to the Force Heretic trilogy? A prologue? Short story between books? Epilogue?
[SW] At this point, none that I'm aware of.
[SD] Interestingly, there was one small section taken from book 3 that we thought would make a nice little e-story, but nothing has been talked about it.
Sean, Shane - thankyou very much for taking the time to take part in this interview with TF.N Books!
[SD] No, thank you. We appreciate your interest in us and our work. Hope you enjoy the books... J