In 1994, Kevin J. Anderson helped to bring together the Star Wars novel and comic book universe with his Jedi Academy novels. He created characters such as Admiral Daala, Tionne, and Kyp Durron as well as most of Luke's first generation of new Jedi Knights, he killed off the first (minor) movie hero in a EU novel and created one of the most epic character arcs of the EU for Ulic Qel-Droma.
He is the internationally acclaimed author of Darksaber, as well as, together with his wife Rebecca Moesta, the Young Jedi Knights junior novels. He wrote the Tales of the Jedi comic books Dark Lords of the Sith, The Sith War, The Golden Age of the Age, The Fall of the Sith Empire and Redemption and was the editor of the short story anthologies Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales of the Bounty Hunters and Tales from Jabba's Palace.
Outside of Star Wars, he greatly expanded Frank Herbert's Dune universe with over a dozen original novels and short stories. He created his own space series, the Saga of the Seven Suns, and wrote the novelizations of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Over the last 20 years, close to 50 of Mr. Anderson's novels have hit bestseller lists, and he has over 20 million copies of his books in print all over the world.
An interview with Kevin J. Anderson
With your Jedi Academy trilogy and your work on the Young Jedi Knights series, you put great effort into establishing Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi order after Return of the Jedi. Since the creative team now working on the sequel trilogy will soon be facing that same challenge, what were your thoughts behind the overall philosophy and moral underpinnings you created for Luke’s Jedi Knights? And how would you feel about finding some of your creations, such as a Jedi Academy on Yavin IV or multiple apprentices for a single master, in the new movies?
To be very clear, all of my work for Lucasfilm was done FOR them, and they are perfectly welcome to use any and all of my ideas in any fashion they like. Even though my Jedi Academy trilogy established Luke's attempts to recreate the Jedi Knights, it is an obvious idea to extend the history after Return of the Jedi. I would love to see them use some of my ideas in the new films, but they are under no obligation to. When I was writing the trilogy, I wanted Luke to understand the need to bring back the Jedi Knights as strong forces for the light side, but also be aware of the potential dangers. Even though he was the most powerful Jedi still alive at the time, Luke would have been a rank amateur a few decades earlier. That's a lot of pressure for a person!
In your novel Darksaber, General Crix Madine became the first movie hero – albeit a minor one – to die in the Expanded Universe. Nowadays the 1990s Bantam EU is generally seen as a safe haven where heroes didn’t die but since then, Chewbacca has followed in Madine’s wake, as have many prequel Jedi and EU characters such as Mara Jade and even two of the Solo children you and your wife worked with in Young Jedi Knights. Was killing Madine considered to be major decision by both you and your contacts at Lucasfilm and how do you generally feel about the death of heroes in Star Wars and in particular in the Star Wars novels?
We were a little surprised by the intensity of the reaction. Madine is a very, very minor character in Return of the Jedi (he has, what, four seconds of screen time?), but as he was developed by West End Games and other material, he seemed a very interesting person. When I suggested killing him off as part of the plot in DARKSABER, Lucasfilm was at a point where readers felt that nothing "significant" could happen in the Star Wars EU novels.
Though Madine was not an important character in the films, his death did signal to readers that this was a *changing* universe and that all of the novels mattered. I won't comment on the deaths of any specific characters, but this is a big universe with some tremendous events happening. It only makes sense that some people will be hurt or killed.
Fans know you primarily as a novel writer and one of the major creative forces in establishing the Star Wars novel universe but you’ve also worked on many successful Star Wars comic books, in particular the Tales of the Jedi stories. The world you and Tom Veitch created in those comics has since been expanded as well as radically changed with the advent of the Knights of the Old Republic video games and the online game Star Wars – The Old Republic. What intrigued you about working in that prehistoric world of Nomi Sunrider and Ulic Qel Droma, and how do you feel about both its ongoing popularity and the changes it has undergone since its creation?
Of all my Star Wars work, I have the greatest fondness for those Tales of the Jedi stories. I felt they were like the King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable stories, and because this was thousands of years before the film, it made perfect sense that it would have a more antique look and feel. Honestly, I'm not a gamer, so I don't have any direct contact with the depiction in the videogames. Chris Gossett did the bulk of that design, and I loved working with him.
You once said that while working on your Old Republic comic books you actually got to send a list of Yes/No questions to George Lucas. Do you remember any of the Nos you got back? Timothy Zahn likes to tell the story of how he wanted his Noghri assassins to be the original Sith. Since you got do dig deep into the history and doctrine of the Sith, did you have similar ideas that Lucasfilm or Mr. Lucas himself shot down?
Yes, George sent back a series of Yes/No answers to my questions. I remember one of the most perplexing answers was that there was only one Sith Lord at a time, a master and an apprentice…but he didn't explain anything else! So we had to figure out how the Sith could be such gigantic threats if there were only 1-2 in existence at a time! I was anticipating a big evil civilization that was a galactic threat.
The Expanded Universe of the 1990s is largely defined by three great trilogies: Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn books, your Jedi Academy novels and Tom Veitch’s Dark Empire comic books. Mr. Zahn outright ignored Dark Empire for some reason but you featured characters and referenced events from both these trilogies in your own novels. What was your rationale behind that decision? Were you specifically tasked to intertwine the novels and comic books or did you take that course because it was the right thing to do as a team player?
I thought that if these tremendous events actually happened, then the characters would *remember* them. Tim Zahn was writing his trilogy when Tom Veitch was doing his comics, and neither knew what the other was doing—at the time, Star Wars was considered "dead" and these two things were done independently.
When I got asked to write the second trilogy after Tim's, I started gathering the background material and discovered Dark Empire almost by accident (it was just being released). When I read it and saw the major events, I talked to Lucasfilm and said, "What do I do? These two story lines contradict each other." They said I didn't have to reference the others, but I had a great deal of trouble with that—in Dark Empire, Leia has another child (Anakin) and Luke goes over to the dark side, and the Emperor comes back. Not the sort of thing you can just ignore!
So I wanted to develop a story that enfolded both and fit them both together—and it fit in just fine.
Since working on Star Wars, you have taken on a broad variety of other projects: You have created your own space saga with the Saga of the Seven Suns and you have greatly expanded the Dune universe. What are you working on at the moment? And could you imagine returning to Star Wars in the future?
I am doing a "next generation" trilogy in the Seven Suns universe, "The Saga of Shadows," which I enjoy very much. With Brian Herbert, i have two big projects, a new Dune novel in process, MENTATS OF DUNE, and the second in our original SF trilogy, HELLHOLE AWAKENING. I just did a wonderful steampunk fantasy adventure based on the new Rush album CLOCKWORK ANGELS (written with Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush), as well as a hilarious comedy horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI—about to go into its fourth book. You see, I have a lot of fun with all of my projects—and several of them still need German publishers!
I have great memories of the Star Wars universe, and if Lucasfilm wanted to invite me to do some other project, I hope we can think of one (although there have been so many other novels published, it's hard to imagine how I could have sufficient background to go back to that universe without a crash studying course!)
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions!
For more on Kevin J. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta visit Wordfire.com.