An Interview With Star Wars Author Drew Karpyshyn
Drew, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today. We were going to try and play it cool, you know, like we get to talk to New York Times best selling authors every day, but we quickly realized you’d see right through us. So we’re going to fess up and come right out with it; we here at GalacticBinder are huge fans of yours. We didn’t even have to assign your novels as homework since everyone had already read them!
We get the sense from reading the FAQ page on your site, www.drewkarpyshyn.com, that you’ve fielded certain questions about a billion times. So we’re going to steer clear of those since we don’t want you (or our readers) to die of boredom. Now let’s see if we can challenge you with a few interesting questions about your site, your work and of course, Star Wars.
GB: In your site’s FAQ page, you allude to the fact that you built and designed your own site. We think it’s a simple, yet effective site. But you take a swipe at yourself and joke that it’s ugly. Do you have plans or desires to redesign it or even to hire someone to redesign it? If so, what would you add or change?
DK: I take a perverse pride in the functional ugliness of my site (and in doing it myself). It basically matches my personal style in clothes and general appearance: not much to look at, but comfortable and familiar. As such, I don't actually think I'll be changing it anytime soon.
GB: We notice you blog on your site, and you also have a blog at StarWars.com. Is blogging something you relish to keep in touch with the fans, or are you saying to yourself every two weeks, “Crap, I gotta go update that darn blog again!”
DK: Blogging is tough. I try to walk a line between giving people a glimpse into the real me, while staying somewhat professional. If I just cut loose and wrote my true, uncensored thoughts I think people who don't really know me would be horrified. Taken out of context, I can come across as a truly terrible human being. Fortunately my friends understand my odd sense of humor, and they accept my otherwise unacceptable traits. But for blogging I have to be careful because people can misinterpret my humor.
GB: Your homepage is pre-set to ESPN. As sports fans ourselves, we certainly understand. But do you ever get around to hitting any Star Wars sites in your “spare” time? If so, which ones do you enjoy (other than StarWars.com obviously!)
DK: I visit theforce.net sometimes (usually when I need to be humbled or I need to get smacked around for violating continuity). And there's GalacticBinder, of course.
GB: Okay, your work as lead writer on KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) is pretty well known to most of the Star Wars fans out there. But give us some insight as to what it was like that first day of work and how you felt when you got the job. Were you saying to yourself every five seconds, “Holy cow! I’m working on Star Wars and getting paid for it!” Did you put insane pressure on yourself?
DK: Hmmm... how can I say this without sounding arrogant? It actually felt more like I'd fallen into a position that my whole life had been leading up to. I've basically been a Star Wars fan for 30 years, and a role-playing game fan for 25, a video game fan for 20, and a writer/story teller my whole life. Obviously I appreciate how lucky I was to find the opportunity, but it almost felt inevitable once I was in the position.
GB: You mention on your site that your work on KOTOR opened the door to write "Darth Bane: Path of Destruction". But you already had two novels under your belt as well - "Temple Hill" and "Baldur’s Gate: Throne of Baal". Give us some background on how you got those books to the shelf and how they prepared you for your work on “Bane”.
DK: The first novel I sold was Temple Hill, and I got that gig simply by sending in a submission to an open call for new writers to Wizards of the Coast (WotC). I followed the submission guidelines on the website, wrote up my synopsis and chapter by chapter outline as they requested, sent it in and was fortunate enough to have them select my submission for publication. That "in" with WotC probably helped me get my job when I applied a few months later at BioWare, who were working with WotC on the Baldur's Gate games at the time. After I submitted Temple Hill and began working with BioWare on the Baldur's Gate series, it was only natural for WotC to ask me to write the third installment in the BG novel series.
As for preparing me for writing Bane, I think any writing experience ultimately helps you with your next project. But I didn't learn any great
lessons, other than that I could write a novel in three months if I absolutely had to.
GB: Your Bane novels are tremendous, and we tore through them as fast as we could turn the pages. The beginnings of the Sith order and the rule of two were ripe to be explored. Were the concepts something the folks at Random House approached you with, or were you the one who went to them with the idea?
DK: I approached the people at Lucas Books, pitching myself as a potential writer for the novels based on my work with KOTOR and my two WotC novels. They added me to "the list" of potential novelists, and when they decided to do an Old Republic novel they figured they'd give me a shot.
However, the first idea I pitched them didn't quite hit the mark. With my WotC novels I had instructions to keep the stories "small" - nothing that would fundamentally change the world and accidentally mess things up for another writer working in another area of the shared world series. So I kept that in mind when I submitted my first idea to Lucas Books. To my surprise, Shelly Shapiro and Sue Rostoni (my editors on the SW books) came
back and asked me to write something more "epic" - they wanted me to write about events that fundamentally changed the galaxy. From there, Bane became the logical choice.
GB: We loved the “descent” of Dessel from cortosis miner to the darkest of all Sith Lords. Everyone is familiar with Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”, but can you relate to us the storytelling challenges of using that to get readers to root for someone who in the macro view of the Star Wars universe is the ultimate villain! Is empathy the key? Was your editor and/or publisher worried about if this would sell?
DK: Writing villains is always difficult because most people can't identify with true evil. So for Des I wanted to show how he took small steps along the way. My hope was that readers would see every single act as reasonable or understandable, until at some point they just stopped and realized "Hey - Des has become a monster! When did that happen?" I knew if I could accomplish that, I'd have them hooked.
As for the editor/publisher, I think they were excited by this chance to explore a villain... it kind of tied in with the direction of SW at the time. The new trilogy of films focused on how Vader became the terrifying character we remembered from the original trilogy, so I think the concept of exploring the dark side and evil was already gaining traction before my novels.
GB: What were your expectations (and if you can, your publisher’s expectations) when each book Bane book was released? Were you confident they’d be well received or even end up on the New York Times best sellers list? Or were you sweating bullets and crossing your fingers both times?
DK: I was really hoping to make the New York Times bestseller list. I know most Star Wars novels find their way onto the list, but I was a new (for SW) author in an untested time frame. I was terrified that if "Path of Destruction" bombed my career with Star Wars would come to an inglorious end. Fortunatley, it debuted at #11 on the NY Times list, and actually spent several weeks on the charts. For "Rule of Two", the expectations had already been set by the first novel, though I was obviously pleased when it also hit the lists.
GB: We know there are no plans for a third Bane novel right now. And we also know you’ll have no comment on the future KOTOR (unless you want to spill the beans!) But we do know you’re working on your own fantasy novel right now. How is that going? Is it a nice change of pace working on your “own” stuff again?
DK: Working on my own stuff has its pros and cons. On the plus side, I have total control. The SW people are very good about allowing me to have the necessary creative freedom, but there are so many established conventions in the Star Wars universe that you simply can't ignore, so you always have to keep them in mind. On the flip side, with my own work I don't have any kind of deadline pushing me, so the writing kind of plods along. I'm a procrastinator of the highest order, so without a looming deadline I tend to slack off a bit.
GB: You list on your site that you’d like to do some screenwriting. Any talks of working on the Clone Wars animated series? Maybe even the live action series? If those aren’t in the works, tell us what types of films or television you’d love to get involved with.
DK: Actually, most of my screenplays are NOT fantasy or sci-fi. I like writing comedy and historical action/adventure scripts. (I guess that's close to fantasy...). Sadly, I'm already typecast as fantasy/sci-fi writer by most Hollywood people I chat with, so nobody is really interested in my non-sfci-fi screenplays. But I'll keep working on them, because I actually find it refreshing to break away from the genre. It's a nice (though arbitrary) division I've made in my projects: novels are fantasy and sci-fi, screenplays are not.
GB: Finally, here's a question we're asking to everyone we interview at GalacticBinder: If you were transported into the Star Wars universe... what era, location and/or setting/situation would you want to end up in, and what's the first thing you'd do and with whom? (Keep it somewhat clean, Drew!)
DK: Clean? You're severely limiting my options here. I guess I'd have to jump onto the original Death Star just as Luke and Leia are about to swing across the chasm so I could shout out "Dude - don't kiss her! She's your sister!" This still gives me the shivers every time I see it. Seriously.
GB: We get the shivers too, Drew. Good call. Thanks so much for chatting with us. We encourage everyone to keep their eyes open for the paperback of Drew’s second Darth Bane novel, “Darth Bane: The Rule of Two” which will be released on October, 28, 2008.
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