This afternoon, author James Luceno answered questions from fans on Facebook about his latest novel, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, which was released earlier this month. Below you'll find a complete transcript of the Luceno Q&A, which took place on the Del Rey Star Wars Books Facebook page. For clarity purposes, questions have been edited for spelling.
Q: I was wondering about Yoda's line in ROTJ on not dying: "Strong am I with the force, but not that strong." Was Plagueis' ability to restore life in the novel based on his strength in the force, or his willingness to explore the "unnatural" (or a bit of both)? A: I believe that Plagueis's strength was based on his willingness to go as far as he needed to…
Q: Do you feel that, had it come to a contest of lightsabers or Force powers, Sidious would have prevailed anyway? A: If it had come to a duel, I think Plagueis may have found a way to undermine his apprentice
Q: What sparked the idea to begin the book with the scene of the death of Plagueis? Were you trying to connect fans at once to the only part of his story that we've heard? A: I felt that I had to deal with that proverbial elephant in the room. The surprise, if we can call it that, had to be the when rather than the how.
Q: When you were writing the novel’s story right into the time of the events of Episode 1, what was going through your mind as you were writing it? A: While writing I may as well have been living inside the film.
Q: Any book signings in the near future, James? A: No signings scheduled, but there's a good chance I'll be at Celeb.
Q: Who hired Subtext Mining to sabotage Tenebrous' mining droid? A: As Plagueis thinks to himself: Rugess Nome had many enemies. I'd take a hard look at Santhe...
Q: I was curious as to the amount of previous research you put into writing this book. I noticed you included a reference to just about every little tidbit concerning Palpatine ever published. A: Normally I wouldn't have had as much time to devote to research. The novel's cancellation turned out to be a good thing.
Q: Doesn't it demean Sidious to have him as an apprentice at 50? If he was really maneuvering Plagueis the whole time, then why not just kill him anyway? A: The thing is that Palpatine probably never thought of himself as an apprentice, and Plagueis never really treated him as an underling. Palpatine was merely biding his time, waiting for Plagueis to reveal the full depth of his knowledge of the dark side.
Q: What Star Wars book was the most fun to write? A: I think I had the most fun with Cloak of Deception. I liked dealing with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and I enjoyed portraying Palpatine and Sidious as two separate characters.
Q: Can you let us know if OneDeeFour was actually wiped and had his name changed to a droid we might know in the Star Wars universe? A: There's a scene at the end of Labyrinth of Evil where a couple of droids get the drop on the good guys who are closing in on Sidious's secret lair. I like to think the 11-4D might have been in that room, and he was surely present when Anakin was fitted with the suit
Q: So it was your idea to make Anakin not a direct product of Plagueis? A: A while back there was talk among scientists about the ability of certain subatomic particles to interfere with attempts to fully understand the complexity of atomic structure. Almost as if the particles had a kind of will of their own ... A theory since disregarded, of course.
Q: When you wrote the book, how much of the story was told to you? A: Very little of the story was told to me. I was given certain parameters, but I was largely on my own. However, some things I proposed were shot down or reconfigured to satisfy the demands of others.
Q: I know GL doesn't have much – if anything – to do with how the EU works, but he does get involved with some of the major stuff, like his approval for Chewie's death. I’m curious how high up the chain you had to go in regards to the in-universe timing of the end of Plagueis? A: As I've said in other forums, GL was the one who said that Plagueis should be a Muun, and that Plagueis should have an "accident" that forces him to wear a mask. GL also weighed in on other matters, though mostly through Howard Roffman -- then president of LucasArts -- with whom I worked most closely.
Q: What are your feelings on midi-chlorians after spending so much time writing and thinking about them for this book? A: I'm still not a big fan of midi-chlorians, but I have to say that I enjoyed the challenge of trying to make sense of them – if sense is the right word.
Q: Is it safe to say that Sidious did not follow the Rule of Two? A: Sidious doesn't follow rules of any sort.
Q: How did Palpatine eventually end up learning essence transfer post-Endor if Darth Gravid sabotaged all the holocrons? Did he teach himself? A: Gravid's attempts to destroy everything were cut short by his/her apprentice.
Q: Can you talk about the rend in the force? A: That "rend" is something that should be explored. I can't say more than that just now.
Q: How did you get your start writing for Star Wars? Did you meet George Lucas personally? A: I was brought into the SW franchise as a kind of consultant when the New Jedi Order was in the planning stages. What I thought would be a year's work has since turned into a career ... As for GL, I've had very few face-to-face dealings with him.
Q: Can you speak as to how clear it really should be that Anakin is perhaps a sort of illegitimate son to Palpatine? A: I think you've worded it perfectly: an illegitimate son. There is indeed a generational aspect to the entire saga.
Q: Was Darth Gravid your own idea or was it one of the things you were told to include in the novel? A: Gravid was an invention of mine. I needed some way to distance Plagueis from the ancient teachings and powers. The more I thought about Gravid, the more interesting his/her story became. In my mind, at any rate.
Q: Did you ever get any indication as to whether Palpatine was responsible for staging the Tusken attack on Shmi Skywalker in order to cause Anakin to begin faltering, and thus being more susceptible to Palpatine's influence? A: My son and I were just talking about the Tuskens ... I can't offer anything definitive, but I believe that Sidious's fingerprints are all over Shmi's abduction.
Q: If the time was right in your schedule, would you write a novel about the beginnings of the Sith if you were asked to do it? A: I feel that Drew and others have a better handle on the early Sith. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Dark Horse does with the early Jedi.
Q: How much of Sidious going on at the end about who's been manipulating whom is factual, and how much is Sidious' ego or a use of Dun Möch? A: Sidious is fond of boasting, and is often full of bluster. He assures the Neimoidians that everything is going according to plan. He lies to Anakin. He boasts to Luke.
Q: Did I catch a reference to the Mortis Trilogy from The Clone Wars with mention of higher beings controlling the balance of the Force? A: I was referencing the Mortis trilogy at several points. More is likely to emerge regarding those characters…
Q: On a separate note, I see Ryder Windham is on this thread and just wanted to mention how much I enjoyed the "Wrath of Darth Maul". A: The Wrath of Maul is a terrific read. I enjoyed getting to know Ryder and working with him.
Q: Are you interested in writing the story about Darth Krayt and his One Sith Order? A: The ancient Sith are in good hands.
Q: How did you create Plagueis's character? I've seen quite a few Sith, and none of them focused solely on cunning and plans upon plans like Plagueis did. A: Plagueis is a kind of composite: part Godfather, part magician, part mad scientist, part vampire, if you will. Still, he was years in the making.
Q: When you wrote Darth Plagueis, did you write it in order, or did you sometimes skip ahead and come back? A: I spent months thinking about the story before I wrote a word. That's just my approach. Once I had the story firmly in mind -- even bits of dialogue -- I wrote a very detailed outline, and worked from that while writing, from start to finish. Along the way, though, I made discoveries that compelled me to go backward and forward, altering things as need be.
Q: In the Phantom Menace, Yoda said to Mace Windu, "Always two, there are. No more, no less. A master…and an apprentice.”How does Yoda know about the Rule of Two? A: If I'm not mistaken, Drew – in one of the Bane novels – offers an explanation of sorts for how it is that the Jedi Order know about the Rule of Two.
Q: You and Matthew Stover are my favorite authors. A: Matt Stover is one of my favorites, as well.
Q: In the end, Sidious tells Plagueis that all the plans set in motion (Yinchorr, Dorvalla, Eriadu…) were actually Sidious's ideas… I can't notice it anywhere in the novel, I may have missed something, are there any hints I didn't see? A: Sidious takes credit for everything, but can we believe him? I deliberately avoided going too deeply into Palpatine's thoughts during the middle of the novel, but there are hints here and there regarding his motives and his manipulations.