The future of Del Rey was the subject of the first panel on the Behind-the-Scenes Stage this morning, as Pablo Hidalgo discussed Star Wars novels recent and forthcoming with Timothy Zahn, Troy Denning, Del Rey's Shelly Shapiro, LucasBooks' Jennifer Heddle, Drew Karpyshyn, James Luceno, and Aaron Allston.
After Del Rey's Joe Scalora took the stage to briefly discuss the publishing community's Star Wars Reads Day project (scheduled for October 6th, 2012), Shelly Shapiro reviewed the slate of books that were just published and that are soon to be released. She provided summaries of each one and allowed authors to say a little bit about their books.
The first piece of news from the panel was the announcement of a short story written by Timothy Zahn that will serve as a prequel to Scoundrels. "Win Or Lose All," available in eBook formats only, will focus on Lando Calrissian.
When discussing Troy Denning's Crucible, Shapiro called it "THE most awesome book." According to her, fans will not need to have read the Fate of the Jedi series to enjoy it. Shapiro described it as "one big adventure" that only the "Big Three" (Luke, Han, and Leia) can handle. They come through the book "changed," according to her -- it's a "threshhold experience" for them.
The next piece of news was that Del Rey is planning a classic adventure series set between Episodes IV and V called "Rebels." The first one will be told from Leia's point of view and written by Martha Wells, an author who is new to the Expanded Universe. The second one will be written by another new EU author, Kevin Hearne, and told from Luke's point of view.
Right before the Q&A, Del Rey dropped the big announcement: post-Fate of the Jedi, the adventures will continue with a trilogy called Sword of the Jedi, written by Christie Golden and focusing (obviously) on the series' namesake, Jaina Solo. There was huge applause at this news.
The majority of the panel was devoted to an audience Q&A. Fans who asked questions were given Scoundrels and Annihilation ARCs.
Q: How much inspiration have you drawn from the fan community? AA: He's inspired by individuals. He met a young woman and based the mannerisms of the character Bhindi in MK after her. JL: "I learned not to use large words." DK: Stick with your integrtity, write something you love yourself, and hope fans love it too.
Q from Jovial Jay: Does Drew prefer writing Sith or more "regular" characters like in Annihilation? DK: It's nice to step away from the Bane and Revan type of stuff and do something different.
Q: Tim, why not reveal Thrawn's race and backstory in Heir to the Empire? TZ: There was no need. Thrawn was the only Chiss in the book, and until the Hand of Thrawn duology, there was no need to distinguish him from any others.
Q: What was the inspiration for Abeloth? AA: The concept started with discussions about the Dark Side personified.
Pablo asks Luceno: How did you take two of the most mysterious characters (Plagueis and Sidious) and make them relatable and familiar to readers? JL: "I had to dig deep to justify the machinations of these evil characters [and] provide them with their own rationale for their actions."
Q: Will Del Rey try to appeal to younger fans with young reader novels? SS: Del Rey does the adult side of the EU, although its FOTJ novels do have Allana growing up. There are no specific plans to do Scholastic-type novels to bring in younger fans. Also, Del Rey's partners, including Scholastic itself, do those types of books.
Q: When are the Big Three going to die? JH: That would have to be approved by GL. SS: When we planned NJO, Han was originally on the can-kill list, but GL changed his mind later (and SS didn't want to do it anyway). There are no plans to kill them anytime soon. "Too sad." PH: "Is it needed?" Maybe it's not something that requires a dramatic depiction.
Q: Plans for something like Tatooine Ghost for Padme's backstory? SS: We'd love to do a lot of ideas but there are only so many publishing slots. That's why we love digital.
Q: Any plans for more same-sex relationships? JH: "Dumbledore is gay." SS: We don't want to "shoehorn it in ... just to prove a point." With the Mandalorians in LOTF, it just worked and no one made a big deal about it.
Q: Can someone fix the Even Piell death continuity mess? SS: "We like continuity to be as smooth as possible ... if it comes up and we can fix something ... we will, but sometimes we just can't. I mean, Splinter of the Mind's Eye still exists." "Sometimes these things happen and there's just nothing you can do about it." TZ: Think of it as historians goofing and us not knowing if they just messed up or were lying or if the stories got corrupted, etc.
Q: How about that Paul S. Kemp duology? SS: Still super secret. Can't talk about it yet.
Q: When do you start to think about continuity? Before you start writing or when you talk to your editor about a draft? AA: I build a network of advance readers, friends, fellow authors, and other resources who will know while I'm writing if I'm causing any headaches. TZ: Usually an editor or Leland or Pablo will catch something that's going to be a problem before it really becomes one. PH: He wants to point out that Leland isn't a "continuity cop," he's much more of a resource. AA: He may not be a continuity cop, but he will advise if you're creating redundancies with your storytelling (for example, if you create a whole new crystal planet when one already exists that you can use).