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Windham & Vilmur Facebook Q&A Recap

Posted By Eric on November 1, 2011

Ryder Windham and Pete Vilmur, authors of the recently-released book Star Wars: The Complete Vader, answered questions from Star Wars fans this afternoon on the Del Rey Star Wars Books Facebook page. Below is a transcript of readers' questions and the authors' responses. For clarity purposes, questions have been edited for spelling.

RW = Ryder Windham, co-author
PV = Pete Vilmur, co-author
ES = Erich Schoeneweiss, Del Rey editor

Q: How did you guys feel when you found out the book was going to be delayed due to printing issues?
RW: We were wrecked. But it was beyond our control ... and we knew the book WOULD eventually ship. Now, we're very happy it finally has.

Q: I got the original edition and the sticky pages aren't that bad at all.
RW: I got a few copies of the sticky edition too, and they worked for me. A bit static clingy, but a beautiful book.

Q: Why did it take so long for the book to be re-released?
ES: Tim, we inspected a lot of the books we had on hand. Some weren't so bad, others you literally needed to pry apart. It wouldn't have been fair to the consumer to leave the book out there. It also wouldn't have been fair to Ryder or Pete who put so much hard work into it. The only choice was to destroy the batch and reprint.

Q: How did this book come together?
RW: As usual, it started with a phone call. Becker&mayer! wanted to do a Darth Vader book to follow up their SW Vault, and they contacted me.

Q: How did you become involved in the book and what other Star Wars stuff have you done?
ES: Ryder has an excellent short story in the Star Wars Insider Special Edition that goes on sale in a few weeks. It features a certain Dark Lord of the Sith he's very familiar with.

RW: I love writing anything Star Wars, but I especially enjoy writing for kids, the illustrated books and also juvenile fiction. I recently wrote a Vader short story for the SW Insider, and I think that's geared for "all ages." If I were asked to write an adult SW novel, I'd certainly want to work it.

Q: What was the best part of working on this project?
RW: The best part of writing Star Wars books is that I get paid to write Star Wars books. I don't mean that in a crass way. I just can't believe I wound up making a living at this. Working on the Vader book, it was a great opportunity to revisit old comics and back issues of Starlog. I used my own old magazines and comics for reference. Very fun to revisit all that.

Q: How many volumes do you see the "Secret Missions" series going on for?
RW: Missions is slated to end with book #4, which ships in February (I think).

Q: What was the weirdest fact about Vader that your learned when doing research?
RW: I think the weirdest fact about Vader that I learned was that if you're ever going to sculpt a dark lord out of butter, use unsalted butter.

Q: What advice can you give me on how to go about writing an official Star Wars novel for Del Rey and Lucasfilm?
RW: I regret I don't have any advice for how to break into writing Star Wars. It just happened to me. I was an editor at Dark Horse Comics, wound up editing SW and Indiana Jones titles, left the company on good terms, and Lucasfilm remembered me well, began recommending me to write books for different licensees.

Q: Just commenting...when Revenge of the Sith came out in theatres, I was struck by the emotional weight of Anakin turning Vader. The Vader holding 3PO's head in the opening pages of "The Complete Vader" brings back all that same emotion! Great Job!
RW: Thank you ... I confess, I still pinch myself for coming up with the storyline for "Thank the Maker." When I pitched the story, I was afraid someone else was already working on a similar idea. I was just lucky.

Q: Ryder and Pete, in terms of writing the book, was it a real treat to find the page from the TESB script that said, "Luke, I am you father"?
RW: YES, that was a major score to get that ESB script page into the book. We really wanted it in there, and were glad to get it.

Q: Are the Force Unleashed video games actually cannon and how were they discussed and included in the book?
RW: Rafael, I'd have to flip through The Complete Vader again, but I can't recall off the top of my head if The Force Unleashed is mentioned.

(Note to readers: The Force Unleashed game is indeed mentioned in the book.)

Q: What was your favorite piece of Vader merchandise as a kid?
RW: My favorite piece of Vader merchandise? I don't know... I had an action figure, but... my older brother bought the SW novelization when it was released in late 1976, and that was the first time I saw Vader, on the book's cover. So I'd say my favorite collectible was that first edition, specifically because of Ralph McQuarrie's cover. I love it.

PV: Regarding favorite Vader collectible -- to which I must answer, one which day? Seriously, my list of favorites seems to change every day, but I guess my favorite piece depicted in the book is the Vader humidifier from Japan. The only way I could get one was to bid in a silent auction staged by the Licensing division here at LFL. I bid high, but Darth Vapor is mine.

Q: Ryder: since you've re-introduced Gizz in the Secret Missions books, I've been wondering if Nuru and Spiker are actually the same person?
RW: Kevin, I'm glad you've been wondering if Nuru and Spiker are the same person. I've been wondering if anyone has been wondering that.

Q: I've also really enjoyed the "biography" books about Vader, Luke and Obi-Wan that you wrote and I'm looking forward to the upcoming one about Darth Maul. Do you foresee yourself writing anymore?
RW: Thanks, glad you like the "bio" books. Yes, I hope to continue writing SW books as long as folks keep hiring me. I think Lucasfilm appreciates the fact that I really do make an effort to make continuity mesh, that I respect the fact that other SW stories precede mine, that I like to recycle characters more than I like to invent them.

Q: What is the most interesting part of the book in your opinion?
RW: I think the best part about The Complete Vader is just that it's a drop-dead gorgeous coffee table book about Darth Vader. That's what we set out to do, and I think we did it. The design is terrific, everyone seems happy with it. I hope you enjoy it too!

PV: I thoroughly enjoyed researching Vader's first brush of public fame, making appearances at record stores, toy stores, and such. I was fortunately able to track down Kermit Eller, the original actor who portrayed Vader for public appearances in the US. He had some great history to share on that one.

Q: Any writing tips for the sci-fi writers just starting out?
RW: Yes, my advice is... write your own stuff. Also, don't read an excessive amount of science fiction. I'll explain...When I worked at Dark Horse, a science fiction writer made two story pitches to me that I immediately recognized as, um, "borrowed" plots from a Fred Pohl novels. I think if you're going to write science fiction, it's probably to your advantage to read almost anything but science fiction. You'll come up with more original ideas that way.

Q: I think Artoo & Threepio would do fine for another 'Complete' book and Boba Fett would be popular as well.
RW: I think the droids would be worthy of their own book. Boba Fett too. Heck, I never get tired of the Millennium Falcon. How about an entire book of Falcon stuff?

Q: Is there any new canonical information about Vader found within the book?
RW: I don't believe there's any new "in universe" info in The Complete Vader.

Q: My son (10) has always viewed Vader as the villain. To explain to him that Vader is the hero is a little odd for him.
RW: Yeah, it's a tough stretch (seeing Anakin as the hero) for adults as well as kids. I also look at Captain Rex and see a total hero too, then remember... Oh, right, Order 66. Ha ha.

Q (from Del Rey): Do you want to take a minute to talk about your Star Wars Insider story, "Vader Adrift?" (which comes out November 4th)?
RW: "Vader Adrift" was written for SW Insider magazine. The only direction I got was: make it a story about Vader set during the events of the original trilogy, as opposed to the Dark Times (between ROTS and ANH, but you all knew that already, right?). So, not knowing where else to start, I dipped into the old Marvel Comics to see if there were some sliver of time where I might find an opportunity for an adventure for Vader. And I found it. Thank goodness!

Q: Did the authors learn anything new about Vader and did it make you like him more or less?
RW: I think the thing that I learned about Vader that made me like him more was some info that Pete emphasized... The original SW publicity packages didn't really play up Vader as the major villain. Peter Cushing's Tarkin got more "billing" in that department. I just like the fact that audiences really embraced Vader as the villain they loved to hate.

Q: Ryder, when writing do you ever feel Vader getting those twinges of good in him that help you move the story along?
RW:, I think the twinges of goodness in Vader have to be very carefully balanced. For example, in the story "Thank the Maker," right after Vader decides to give C-3PO's parts to Chewbacca on Cloud City, what does Vader do next? He's off to the torture chamber to visit Han Solo. Vader can be a little good, but he never becomes "redeemed" until the end of ROTJ.

Q (from Del Rey): What was the one thing that didn't make it into the book you wish had?
PV: Well, right after the book went to press, I won a cool French Vader poster from McDonald's showing a couple smooching in the background and Vader levitating his lunch. Priceless image. Next time!

RW: I wish The Complete Vader had included an audio mechanism so when you turn the cover back, you'd hear Vader's mechanically labored breathing. I'd just love to watch people in a bookstore, from a distance, as they picked up the book and opened it. If that feature had been included, it probably would have been a good idea to line up ambulances outside the bookstore.

PV: I don't think Ryder will be fully satisfied until he gets that audio mechanism installed in the book -- I recall that being the very first thing he wanted to do when we started the project. Maybe a one-off can be devised just for him :)

RW: Pete, I knew you'd remember that! Yeah, I'll just insert an audio chip into one of my own copies and watch the bodies fall.

Comment from Del Rey editor Frank Parisi: Speaking of Vader levitating consumables, have you guys ever noticed him levitating a cup of coffee into his hand in the Marvel Comics adaptation of A NEW HOPE?

Q (in response to Parisi): I just re-read the Marvel run in Dark Horse's Omnibus series, and I saw that. I also seem to remember that happening in the 1976 novelization. The scene must have been deleted or un-filmed (i.e. based on early drafts of the script).
RW: You're right... the reason the "coffee cup" was in the Marvel comic was because the comic's creative team was working from an early draft of the screenplay. I think you can read the original text in The Making of Star Wars by Jonathan Rinzler.

Q (from Del Rey): Ryder, you also wrote THE WRATH OF DARTH MAUL. Who is the most challenging to write? Vader? Maul? Or Palpatine?
RW: Each has certain challenging aspects, but I think Palpatine is probably the most challenging because he's the least immediately-interesting character. He orchestrates events, manipulates others to do his bidding. Maul and Vader are relatively easier to write because they can just fly off and kill people. Ha ha.

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