Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion(Del Rey / LucasBooks; Trade Paperback Original; On Sale: October 2, 2012) spans the entire galaxy of published Star Wars fiction—movie novelizations, original stand alone and series novels, short stories, eBook novellas, and young adult titles. It features:
• A concise synopsis of each story, including key characters and planets
• Exclusive behind-the-scenes facts and anecdotes about authors, plot and character development, continuity notes, and significance in the Star Wars Expanded Universe
• Details on which novels are linked to Star Wars comic books from Dark Horse and Marvel
• A chronological listing of titles, spanning the 25,000-year history of the Star Wars universe and placing each story in its proper context
• More than one hundred and fifty full-color original paintings throughout by some of the most celebrated Star Wars artists
My review of the book will go up tomorrow, but in the meantime I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to have a Q&A session with the author Pablo Hidalgo, where we cover a range of topics from those that would be of interest to newcomers to Star Wars literature, young readers, and even long-time fans.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. I’ve had the chance to check out The Essential Reader’s Companion and I think it’s a wonderful resource for Star Wars literature. One of my favorite parts of the book were the annotations or notes you inserted after many of the book summary entries. Where did the information for those notes come from?
Pablo: It came from a variety of sources, mostly from talking with the editors here at Lucasfilm. Sometimes, looking through records of old emails and correspondence between the authors and editors of a book turned up some gems. Some of it comes from reviewing early drafts and outlines of certain books and comparing it to the end product. With the more recent novels, it was easier to construct a history of their development, as those files are more readily available.
Q: For me, uncovering that information, seeing the various possibilities that existed likely would have been the most interesting part of the job of putting this book together. What was the most interesting part for you?
Pablo: I found some of the earliest exploration of the New Jedi Order series quite fascinating. I had heard about some of the original proposals and the specific changes that came down from George Lucas, but seeing the documents firsthand was cool.
It was interesting seeing how certain ideas and concepts organically resurfaced over the years of development. For example, one of the earliest outlines of the New Jedi Order had a female dark sider who attempted to corrupt Anakin Solo, but he redeems her. Then, years later, when reading about Vestara and Ben Skywalker in Fate of the Jedi, it would seem that a version of this idea resurfaces. Now, I’m fairly certain that this was not deliberate. No one consciously said, “Hey, let’s take this abandoned idea from 1998 and use it.” I think it’s more of a concept naturally finding the right story.
Q: The artwork is amazing throughout, I loved that there were so many inclusions of previously unseen characters at the openings of each chapter. Did you have any input into any of the art – anything in particular that you wanted to see? Is there any art in the book you’re particularly fond of?
Pablo: Art recommendations were split between myself and Del Rey editor Erich Schoeneweiss. I would make a few suggestions here and there as I wrote entries, and he was better suited to take a larger view of the book and gauge if certain things were being underrepresented, or overrepresented, and make suggestions to better balance out the mix.
I’m really happy with the way all the art turned out. I have many favorites. If I had to pick just one currently on my mind, the brawl at Lady Valarian’s wedding is hilarious. The idea that it is a “wedding photo” just cracks me up.
Q: At this blog, I am aware that a number of readers may have picked up very few Star Wars novels, and am always trying to review books from the perspective of how approachable it is for a new reader. I think this Companion goes a long way towards making it easier for new readers to pick up a book and understand how it fits into the larger universe – but are there any books in particular that you feel are excellent entry points into the Star Wars Expanded Universe?
Pablo: The book is laid out in chronological order, which is a popular order for readers and matches what is printed at the front of most Star Wars novels these days. So, that makes the recommendation to start at the chronological start (in this case Lost Tribe of the Sith), which isn’t a bad starting point at all.
But, my personal recommendation is to go via publishing order, and there’s an appendix at the back of the book that lists the titles that way. This way, you experience the works as they were created. I find that most satisfying because you get stories in the order that longtime readers got them. So that would mean starting at the 1976 Star Wars novelization. But that’s really only recommended to someone who is determined to take a tour through the whole library.
Apart from that, if a reader wants to jump in at a random point, it depends on what kind of books said reader may like. If I had to arm a reader with books that I count among my favorites, I’d give them The Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley, Hard Contact by Karen Traviss, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous by Sean Stewart, and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matt Stover. I think what the Companion does well is it guides the reader as to what to read next.
Q: My older son (8) has read a number of The Clone Wars episode adaptations, Secret Missions and The Wrath of Darth Maul, but I am surprised by the fact that I struggle to figure out which books to recommend for his age group. Because The Clone Wars is his primary source of Star Wars material, I feel I’d like to have more literature in that era to direct him to, but I’m not all that knowledgeable in those books (especially aimed at that age group). Do you have any suggestions?
Pablo: You touched upon all the major Clone Wars books for that age group. If he likes The Clone Wars, point him towards the stories of Obi-Wan as a Padawan – the Jedi Apprentice books by Jude Watson. It may not have the intergalactic warfare of the Clone Wars, but there are solid Jedi stories with a relatable, likeable hero.
You know best what level your son reads at, but at eight years old, I would read adult fiction – movie novelizations and spin-offs for Star Wars and other franchises. Being grounded in the universe helped me get through books that were above my reading level. I remember as an eight year old re-reading A.C.H Smith’s novelization of The Dark Crystal many times, even though it wasn’t technically a young reader book.
Q: I’m not sure if you’re open to taking any suggestions on these kinds of things, but we’ve read the Star Wars: Head to Head books, and the one thing we’d love to see is the option to pit different characters within the book against each other (and perhaps use stats to decide who would win). Maybe using a spiral binding and putting one character on the top and one on the bottom, where they can be turned independently of each other. Anyway, my kids both love those books and I just wanted to share that input from them.
Pablo: Thank you. I’ll pass that along to becker&mayer!, who produce those books.
Q: Your love of literature showed through in Star Wars: Year by Year, that’s a fantastic book and provided a great peak at some books I’ve long wondered if I had just imagined (like a picture book about Chewbacca and his family). Do you have a favorite obscure story from the Expanded Universe?
Pablo: I have a fondness for some the now very dated children’s book produced in the ‘70s, like The Wookiee Storybook you mention. The Mystery of the Rebellious Robot and Maverick Moon have some great illustrations in them. Also, I love Russ Manning’s take on the early Star Wars Expanded Universe that appeared in his newspaper strips in the late ‘70s.
Q: As a final question, when you’re not reading Star Wars, what other authors or types of books do you enjoy reading? Or if you’d prefer, what authors did you read that inspired you to want to write?
Pablo: I read mostly non-fiction these days – history and science books. I read a lot of comics, mostly Marvel and Vertigo Noir titles. I love what James Roberts and John Barber are doing with Transformers over at IDW Comics. I think my biggest inspirations were Brian Daley, Donald J. Sobol, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and Mark Gruenwald.
Thanks for providing such wonderful entertainment for me and my kids. I look forward to seeing what your next project is.