With today’s release of the latest officially canon Star Wars novel, Dark Disciple, we asked author Christie Golden to share some of her behind-the-scenes perspective on the story, which was destined to be told on the small screen before The Clone Wars was abruptly ended after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. She very kindly agreed! We are running our questions here along with her answers, unedited.
Nerdvana: This book is adapted from untelevised scripts for The Clone Wars series. Is this the first time you’ve worked with previously charted material in this way? Were there any particular challenges this presented?
Christie Golden: This sort of writing is called a “novelization,” and it’s different from an ordinary media tie-in novel in that you are adapting material from another medium (scripts) and turning it into a novel as opposed to simply writing a new adventure in an established universe. I’ve done this before with the first five scripts of Steven Spielberg’s Invasion America television show (a too-short-lived anime aired in the late 1990s) and, similarly but not exactly, with my first Warcraft novel Lord of the Clans. With LOTC I took the outline of an unproduced game and turned it into a novel, but I didn’t follow a script. The challenges here are to preserve and honor the original work, but flesh it out and make it feel “bigger.” You also get to get into a character’s head, which you can’t while watching a TV show. The end goal is to make it so well adapted that the reader just enjoys the ride and can’t tell what was from the script and what the author brought to it.
N: There’s a significant romantic element in Dark Disciple. Was it as pronounced in the planned animated storyline? If not, how did that develop?
CG: Most definitely. The subtitle was “A Love Story.” That was always the focus and one of my favorite aspects, as each character was so well-developed outside of a relationship.
N: Star Wars romance usually calls to mind Han-Leia or Anakin-Padme. Do you see the love story here as significantly different from those iconic relationships?
CG: These characters were not designed as a couple from the outset.They are also fully-formed adults, with their own histories. I enjoyed bringing them together and watching their chemistry unfold. Just like in the movies, chemistry between characters in books is very real, so it was great to see them click in the scripts and get to go deeper into that aspect of the storyline. I think Ventress and Vos are more like Han and Leia, but edgier. And perhaps a bit more like real people, with their pasts and their complexities.
N: Bounty hunters play an important role in the storyline at one point. Was it fun to go beyond Jedi and Sith and explore this more gritty and gray area of the Star Wars universe?
CG: I’d never really worked with that much, so yes, it was a blast. Young Fett was particularly fun to write, and the scenes with him and his fellow bounty hunters were well-fleshed out from the outside.
N: Did you get to consult directly with Katie Lucas at all on her scripts? Or the Lucasfilm Story Group – and did this new world of Star Wars canon bring new clarity or new challenges?
CG: Alas, I did not get to work with Katie at all, and only got to meet Dave Filoni after the book was completed (though we did bounce some things off him, and the book benefited from that.) It was great to shake his hand and thank him for this wonderful show, and I’m so pleased he enjoyed what I did with the book. Mostly I worked with Shelly Shapiro, Jennifer Heddle, and Story Group, who were terrific and supportive. I think we all knew this project was special, and I really enjoyed working up some ideas and angles with them. Certainly everything did need to be “vetted” more thoroughly as we were truly blazing new trails, but I think in the long run this attention to detail is going to be one of the strengths of the new canon.
N: Dark Disciple is in some ways a departure that contradicts some of what has been written in other books and comics. Did that weigh on the process at all?
CG: I think this is exactly what we are trying to do moving forward with the new canon–take what really worked from the Legends and move forward with it to create a whole tapestry of wonderful, bright threads. I focused solely on what I knew to be canon–the episodes of the show, and the scripts as well as what Story Group authorized. The Quinlan Vos is both the devil-may-care fun-lover of “Hunt for Ziro” and also the darker character from the comics. It was an honor to sort of “birth” this new Quinlan, and I really enjoyed this complicated character.
N: You get to “write out” someone in what seems to be a pretty final way. Was that an honor or a burden?
CG: Both, quite honestly! You want to really do this character justice. There is a saying we’ve heard, “it is important to make a good death,” and I think this one is. It was a hard scene to write, and I’ve heard that a lot of readers (male and female) strangely seem to get something in their eyes when they read it. Seriously–an honor. And a solemn task.
N: How did depicting Ventress and Count Dooku differ from writing for the Lost Tribe Sith in Omen and Allies?
CG: One of the cool things about writing The Fate of the Jedi was getting to develop an entire planet of Sith from the ground up. They were products of their environment–unquestionably Sith, but with a more egalitarian approach. Dooku of course represents the more traditional Sith that we know and lo– er, hate. Hate. And Ventress, ah, Ventress–she is unlike pretty much any Sith out there, as she was able to really walk away from it and straddle the line without compromising who she is.
N: With the recent passing of Christopher Lee, do you have anything you’d like to say about writing one of the last depictions of his powerful character Dooku?
CG: We are the poorer for his passing, but so very lucky to have had him. Of course, the book was completed by the time of his passing. I’m glad that I got a chance to write this iconic character, and particularly proud of a certain scene were Dooku’s cruelty is matched by his charm and masterful manipulation. I could easily hear that sonorous voice saying some of the lines, and I’m sad that I never actually will.