Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chat Wrap: Del Rey Star Wars Editor Shelly Shapiro with My Commentary

Shelly Shapiro, is Editor at Large at Del Rey publishing and along with Sue Rostoni one of the guiding lights for the Star Wars Expanded Universe was kind enough to take part in a chat with fans on the social media website, Facebook.  Below is a transcript of what Shelly had to say along with my commentary to her answers.


"Will our timeline ever meet up with the events of Dark Horse's Legacy series? I have no doubt that it will, eventually, as we continue to fill in the future history of the Skywalker/Solo clan. More Tales collections? We don't have plans for those right now, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. For the moment, though, the only collection we're planning is a Lost Tribe of the Sith collection."

It makes sense that the ends of the time line farthest away from George Lucas' vision of Star Wars are likely to see expansion in the future.  The Clone Wars television series as well as the currently on hold Live Action Series (set between Episodes III and IV) create a certain difficulty in terms of continuity that make them de facto off limits.  
Count me as extremely disappointed that there are currently no plans for more "Tales of" books, as these are extremely fun books.  It seems like a Tales of the New Jedi Order, Tales of the Smuggler's Alliance, Tales of the Empire of the Hand, and Tales of the Imperial Remnant could be interesting concepts to play with. 

"Smugglers: I like them, so yes, I think we'll consider smuggler-type adventures in the future. And don't miss The Old Republic: Deceived, as it has a great smuggler-type character! New Clone Wars novels: Possibly. A GL signature series: That could be very cool, but I don't see it happening any time in the near future. Blu-ray: We have marketing plans tied in to the blu-ray release."

Smugglers would be a nice focus and would be a nice lead in to test the waters for the Live-Action TV series which is suppose to focus on non-Force users, like smugglers and other background characters from the GFFA.  I doubt we ever see a GL signature series, but it would be interesting to see the occasional preface by Lucas to a book, perhaps if down the road they decide to kill of any of the Big Three, then he could write a preface or forward in the book.  

"Two more 20th anniversary novels: I'd love to do them, but I think we will likely let the market guide us on that decision. Possible future additional Rogue and Wraith Squadron novels? Absolutely possible. Next series after FotJ: No idea yet! We have a lot of ideas to hammer out first."

The translation here is that if you want Dark Force Rising and The Last Command annotated editions then you need to buy Heir to the Empire.  Sales will dictate whether it makes sense to give these books the same treatment.  More X-Wing books are always welcome by me and might be a nice way to get Mike Stackpole back into the SWEU.  

"More Kerra Holt or other JJM novels: Definitely possible. Nothing in the works at this moment, though. 3-novel vs. 9-novel multi-author series: We are backing off the multi-book, multi-author series for a little while, I think, if only to give us all some breathing room. We are talking about sticking to standalones, duologies, and trilogies for a bit in the near future. Video-game novelizations? If the right game presents itself."

I like the idea of backing off the mega-story arcs for a while.  It tends to chew up a lot of timeline and characters.  There is a finite amount of storytelling space on the timeline, switching to smaller stories that can be fit more easily into the timeline and perhaps focusing on characters that are off-screen in some of the earlier series should allow for more Star Wars publishing long term.  It is also nice to not have to wait multiple years for a story to be completed.  Instant gratification.  
" I have to say that right now we have a lot of ideas--a LOT of ideas, let me stress--and they're mostly in the early-seed stages. So all these questions about "any plans for..." are hard to answer definitively, and easy to answer with a "Possible.""

Well if they need anyone to help nurture those seeds of ideas, this guy volunteers to take a trip to Maine.  

"I can tell you that there are definitely plans for post-FotJ stories. Just not sure yet what form and exactly what the stories will be."

The adventures of Ben and Vestara?  Jaina in the Imperial Remnant...

"Character dying in FotJ: Actually, what I recall promising was that in this series, NO major character would die. Believe it or not, we don't kill major characters lightly, and we don't enjoy inflicting grief on our surviving characters."

Kenth Hamner's Force Ghost gives Shelly a dirty look, the Grand Master not a major character.  Seriously though, Luke, Han, and Leia are safe for a while.  

"Hardcover vs. trade paperback: Most new novels are being done in hardcover these days, because that seems to be what the market is asking for. Our one foray into trade paperback for novels wasn't terribly successful, so unless we see a major change in the marketplace, I suspect we'll be sticking to hardcovers, mass-market paperbacks, and now--yay!--e-books."
 Count me in the camp that hates trade paperback novels.  They feel cheap, both the cover and the paper.  They are easily damaged and they are just a awkward size.  I didn't have a problem with the experiment or the Clone Wars stories in that format, I just really dislike the format.  Oh and I second the "yay" on the e-books. 

"Darth Bane followups: We absolutely want Drew to explore the future with Zannah. Nothing definite yet, though. Boba Fett: We had to cancel that book because of changes to continuity and new material being planned on the tv end of things. . Alex Irvine: It's set in the distant past and stars Nomi and Vima Sunrider. I think it's really cool to explore some of these older legends and time periods that haven't been touched by novels yet. And Alex is a terrific writer, so I'm hoping for an epic legend!"

Alex is a terrific writer from what I have read, so the Nomi "can't call it Sunrider" novel should be a lot of fun.  A Darth Zannah book would be cool, but I worry they may be over saturating the Sith-focused books at some point.  
The Boba Fett comment is intriguing because the "tv end of things" could refer to the Clone Wars, but its cryptic and vague enough that it could also be referring to what is planned for the Live-Action Series.

"Wow, it's so great to see all this enthusiasm! The best thing (and sometimes the hardest!) about working in Star Wars fiction is the incredible wealth of ideas open to us to explore. It's like being the proverbial kid in a candy store. So yes, I hope to address Ben's future in the Jedi Order at some time--I like Ben, and I think he has amazing potential as a really cool adult characters. And then, of course, there's his cousin Allana, whom I can't wait to help develop further. Cade Skywalker is a really neat character--but right now I feel that things are so rich, we'd be limiting ourselves by simply novelizing Dark Horse's material. I'm much more excited by collaborating more closely with Dark Horse, the way we did with Knight Errant--where each of us develops part of a greater whole and we work together to make that greater whole something really rich and exciting."
 More Ben stories and more tie-ins with Dark Horse comics, I'm down with that. 

"E-book pricing: I wish I understood that stuff, but I don't. I do understand, however, that we live in a relatively free-market capitalist economy... Continuity: This is one of the biggest challenges for us. Thank goodness for Leland Chee at Lucasfilm, Keeper of the Holocron and grand master of retconning. Some things, though, just have to remain as they are. I prefer that to going back and revising already published novels to reflect recent changes. Look at Splinter of the Mind's Eye--never revised, it just lives as an entity of its own, and that's how it should be. Imho."

The E-book pricing issue is something that author Drew Karpyshyn discusses on his website in his most recent post.  E-books will be a major profit center for publishers because of the miniscule production cost versus traditional published books.  As long as authors are compensated fairly, this will be great for publishing and hopefully see more books published and more authors get publicity as publisher's shift budgets from production of books into marketing of books.  

The continuity comment and the opposition to revising previously published books tells a lot about what is going to happen to certain books like Coruscant Nights I.  The whole Evan Piell issue will either be ret-conned in CN4 or it will be ret-conned at some other time but I don't think we are going to get an edited re-release of CN1.

"Death of Luke Skywalker: To be honest, I don't even recall that brouhaha. Most so-called fanatics are wonderful in their love of the material, and getting excited--even negatively--is just a sign of that love. Choosing authors: I get approached by a lot of authors who want to write Star Wars. I read samples of their published work, and when I find someone I feel will be able to live up to our SW expectations, I pass those samples on to Lucasfilm for approval. Why don't editors do their jobs? Well, I suppose I should be a little insulted by that question. I know I do my job. But I can tell you that these books go through a lot of iterations, and are read and reread by numerous people, but that sometimes, even with all that, errors slip through the cracks. Rest assured that every error we do catch gets corrected, but if we catch it too late... We're also on a very tight production schedule, which can introduce errors, as well. We do our best to not let these things happen, and I, for one, hate when I find out that a major error has made it through into a finished book." 

Death of Luke Skywalker is like the Death of Superman, it will be a major event when it happens, but it has to be handled right and I am in no hurry to see it happen.
Fans are incredible, and not in a good way sometimes.  Lay off the editors.  No person or computer program is perfect, mistakes will be made in the editing process.  To get hung up on little mistakes and let them ruin your enjoyment of a book is silly.  Relax, take a deep breath and just have fun with Star Wars.

"Of course GL has the final say as to when and how Luke dies! No current plans to even touch that."

"Will the SW saga ever end? I hope not! We have millennia of past and future history yet to explore!"

Keep making Star Wars books and I will keep reading and buying them.  

"Deaths and future: Most SW characters don't live THAT much longer than contemporary humans. 120 would probably be pretty impressive. What has changed is that they age better, and remain vital much longer than most of us do on 21st-century Earth. As for an end point in the future, honestly, I don't see that happening. There can always be new events in a galaxy that large. Though when, and if, we eventually put an end to Luke, Han, and Leia's active careers, that'd probably feel like a major ending point, at least to one part of the saga."

It would be interesting to see Luke, Han, and Leia transition into a Obi-Wan/Yoda role and mentor the next generations of heroes without being as actively involved, but I still enjoy seeing the AARP crowd in action.   

"who is your favourite character, author, novel, comic, movie ;) are you sith or jedi or mandalorian, etc.? and last but not least: what is the meaning/message of star wars for you? Hard questions! I confess to being very fond of Han; I like Jaina, Ben, and Allana a lot, too. And I loved Qui-Gon Jinn. I can't have a favorite novel, because it'd be too much like a parent choosing favorites among his or her children. My favorite movie is ESB. Meaning/message? Good question. I think it's that events--no matter how small or large in scale--revolve ultimately around human beings (including sapient aliens, of course!) and their feelings and their relationships with one anther. Also, that no matter how strong the lure of evil, which we are all susceptible to, there is always the possibility of redemption. Which probably makes me a Jedi. Though my colleagues at RH probably would say I'm naturally more of a Sith!" 

Well if Shelly is a Sith, may I humbly suggest Darth Pyro as in Sha-Piro.

"No current plans for a third Chronology book, but I can see the need for one in the future. As for MAKING OF BOOKS, J. W. Rinzler is currently writing the MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI. And the REVAN cover should be revealed sometime mid-summer."

Ohhhh, Revan cover this will be interesting but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a close of the mask.  

"Aaron's Wraith Squadron novel takes place around the end of the FotJ. I can't wait to read it! The cover for Revan will be revealed when it is finished--right now we're just at the sketch stage. But I know it's going to be awesome. I love our Old Republic covers! (Also can't wait to try the game!!!)"
Interesting placement of the Wraith Squadron novel, do we see a cameo of some of the Wraith characters in the end of the FotJ series?  I am really intrigued by where this book is going.  Also she is right about the Old Republic covers, they are very well done so far. 

"Palpatine: I think once you've read Darth Plagueis, every one of Palpatine's later decisions will be very clear. It will make watching the prequels much more interesting, I think."

This is probably the novel that I am most looking forward to.  This could be epic.  Fingers crossed. 
"Diversity: I feel we've had quite a bit of diversity, especially when you take into consideration the growing number of prominent characters that aren't human. Saba Sebatyne, for example: An awesome female Jedi who is barely even humanoid. (I like her a lot!) Single book story arcs: Yes, of course! Alex Irvine's novel will stand alone, as will Jeff Grubb's. We will be planning others, as well."

I don't particularly care what a character looks like if the character is interesting, but I am not sure this is really that big of an issue.  

"I can't tell you when the contract is up, but I can tell you that we have books planned through 2014 at the moment. :-)"

Now that is a non-answer, answer.  Fingers crossed on a new contract extension. 

"Shelly, could you discuss how the role of editor is different in the Star Wars publishing shared universe, versus if you were editing an author's own individual work in their own universe? Could you also describe how your role is either similar or different from Sue Rostoni at Lucasfilm? My role as editor is much more complicated in the Star Wars universe. When I work with an author on a non-tie-in novel, the entire job is between the author and me, and the author has a lot more leeway in terms of what happens on the pages. Those novels don't have to have approved outlines, for example: I'll just make suggestions to the author as to how I feel he or she can improve the story and/or characters. With Star Wars, every aspect has to be approved by the licensor--LFL. So part of my job is to help the author make the work the best novel they can write, and part is as liaison between the author and LFL. Sue and I do very similar work, though it's more her job to make sure the story and characters conform to SW continuity and LFL expectations, while it's more mine to make sure the writing flows well, the story evolves smoothly, etc. I hope that answers the question--it's a small space and time in which to answer something not that simple!"

This was my question, so a big personal thanks to Shelly for taking the time to answer it.  It is a pretty impressive balancing act that Shelly, Sue and the various authors have to do to keep this giant Star Wars universe fitting together.  

"Thanks, O Great Holocron Keeper! And thanks to everyone for coming here with all these great questions, for putting up with any awkwardness on my part in terms of keeping up with this chat format, and especially for your ongoing enthusiasm and support for our books!"

Thanks to Shelly and the rest of the Star Wars Books staff for putting the chat together and to fans for submitting many great questions.  

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