I recently had the opportunity to pester and welcome author Paul S. Kemp to the Star Wars universe. Here's what happened...
MandyB: I want to begin this interview with a hearty ‘welcome to the Star Wars community’, Paul. We are looking forward to reading your debut SW novel, Crosscurrent.
Let’s assume you’re a Star Wars fan. How exactly did this happen?
Paul S. Kemp: My dad took me to see ANH the week of its initial release. I was already an imaginative kid, and the then-revolutionary effects of ANH, combined with the storytelling, sold me on the setting and characters for life.
MB: You’ve built a well-deserved reputation as a prolific “shared world” author. In what ways does writing in a shared world differ from writing within your own creative property?
PSK: So far, very little. I understand that some shared world/tie-in lines impose a lot of creative restraints on the line's authors. That hasn't been my experience in either the Forgotten Realms or Star Wars. In both cases, I've been able to tell the stories I've wanted to tell through the eyes of the characters I thought could best tell it.
Now, writing in tie-in does create some challenges in terms of research and getting the "flavor" of the setting right (if the setting has a predominant flavor; that's not the case in the Realms, but I think it is the case in Star Wars). A story ought to be nested in the lore of the setting and capture the setting's vibe. It's been a happy coincidence for me that the kind of stories I want to write jibe nicely with the Realms and the EU. That doesn't happen by accident, of course. I choose which settings in which I write (or hope to write) with care, knowing the kind of stories I want to tell, and knowing which settings will be a good fit for those stories.
MB: What prompted your choice of videogame character, Jaden Korr, as the protagonist of Crosscurrent?
PSK: I wanted a character who had minimal historical baggage, and whose internal conflicts hadn't been explored in print before. At the same time, I wanted a character who was pre-established in the EU (rather than simply inventing a new character). Jaden fit the bill on all counts.
MB: Tell us about your experiences writing within the Star Wars license. What has surprised you? Have there been any unexpected challenges?
PSK: I guess I've been surprised by the degree of creative freedom I've enjoyed. I mean, I expected a fair amount, but it's really been wide-open from a creative standpoint. I've also been pleasantly surprised by the degree of support I've received from the folks at Del Rey and Lucasfilm, from Shelly, to Sue, to Leland, to Daniel. Everyone has been a great help and a true pleasure to work with.
MB: You are slated to write the sequel to Crosscurrent as well as the sequel to Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams. Do you favor the “Old Republic” era for the leeway it allows you re: plot, characters, and continuity?
PSK: Just to clarify: My Old Republic novel isn't a sequel to Sean's novel. It will be released after Sean's novel, but (as far as I know) has little overlap with Fatal Alliance. It is, in effect, a standalone.
I honestly have no preference between the two eras. Both eras are rich in storytelling potential and (as I mentioned above) I haven't encountered much in the way of creative restraints in either time.
MB: According to one of your bios, you graduated from University of Michigan’s law school. What prompted the shift from lawyer to professional author? Or are you still involved in corporate law?
PSK: Oh sure, I'm still a servant of The Man, a corporate lackey, a desk monkey, a drone. But at night I throw on my mask and cape and fight boredom as Writerman, entertaining readers everywhere!
Seriously, I do still practice corporate law by day, and write by night/weekend/lunch/holiday. It actually works out pretty well.
MB: Do you have any plans for non-tie-in work in the near future?
PSK: I do. I've been pitching (so far to no avail) a fantastical thriller and a superhero novel (it does not feature Writerman...). We'll see how those shake out.
MB: For readers unfamiliar with your work, what do you recommend as a “starter course” in the world of Kemp?
PSK: Ah, easy. Understand first that I'm best known for my sword and sorcery stories featuring Erevis Cale, an assassin and priest who serves the god of shadows. Cale's story arc stretches across multiple books and series. I think the best place to start is with Twilight Falling, which is book one of The Erevis Cale Trilogy. If that's not on shelves, I think Shadowbred is also a good place to start. It is book one of The Twilight War, the events of which occur after the events of The Erevis Cale Trilogy, but I understand (having heard from many readers) that it's easy to get into the story there.
MB: What authors do you count among your influences?
PSK: The most direct influences are Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber (creator of Elric of Melnibone, and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouster, respectively). I love Chabon and Delilo, though, and learn what I can from them each time I read one of their novels.
MB: Let’s pretend Star Wars fans don’t care about continuity and in addition LFL and Del Rey are game: What character(s) from the franchise would you prefer to write and what would you do to them?
PSK: I'd love to give Luke the epic exit he deserves. There can and should be no quiet end for Grandmaster Skywalker, no peaceful retirement. His should be a grand finish to an incredible life. Yeah, that'd be cool to write.
MB: Paul, thank you so much for participating in our TFN Interview Series. Good luck with Crosscurrent. I can’t wait to read it!
PSK: I hope you enjoy! And thank you!
You can pick up your copy of Crosscurrent Tuesday, January 26 at your local bookseller or online provider!