Michael Siglain, Creative Director, Lucasfilm Publishing, introduced the panelists to start things off for the New York Comic Con/BookCon Star Wars panel, bringing novelists Timothy Zahn, Chuck Wendig, James Luceno and E.K.Johnston out, along with comics writers Charles Soule and Kieron Gillen. Editor Jennifer Heddle came out, as the moderator for the panel, kicking things off by asking the writers about their typical working day.
Gillen jokingly said he was a big fan of “procrastination and fear” as his key motivators, while Luceno says he spends the morning “messing about” before starting work at midday – writing solidly until five. Soule, on the other hand, is well-known for his hyper-organized approach, and told the crowd he has so many books that he now uses color-coded notepads: for “Poe Dameron” he has a black one. He goes to coffee shops and bars where he will make long-hand notes, before sitting at the computer and writing solidly until those notes have become a full script.
Wendig, on the other hand, said that having a son had greatly affected his ability to work. He now has a shed out in the middle of the woods behind his house. He will get up at 6 AM, head to “my adult shed” and go write in the middle of nowhere, where his son doesn’t dare follow. Zahn also gets up early, and works steadily through the day, aiming for 1000-1500 words as a general rule.
Heddle asked what they find particularly inspiring within “Star Wars,” as writers, and several of the panelists agreed that the music composed by John Williams really helped them. Soule recounted how when he was young and “A New Hope” had come out, his father would invent bedside stories for him which filled in the gaps between the movie and the as-yet-unreleased sequel. “Now I get to tell my own bedtime stories,” he told the crowd, “which is very inspiring.” Johnston said she was 14 when “The Phantom Menace” was released, and that she’d really been inspired by seeing Padme and her friends – women who were good at both fashion and shooting people.
Wendig added, “in most ‘Star Wars’ stories, a small group of people can change the entire galaxy. That’s a great thing, to me, as sometimes things feel overwhelming with nobody on your side.” Zahn agreed, saying that the series dealt with “universal themes like love, loyalty, and sacrifice, which connect with everybody.”
Gillen liked when lightsabers made cool noises. When he writes a script, he’s continually asking himself whether the work is good enough for “Star Wars.” Soule followed up by saying that it’s hard to feel that you’re always measuring up to the other stories, which are so iconic.
Aked about their favorite scenes to write, Luceno said that he enjoyed a scene in “Dark Lord” which was told from Anakin’s perspective as he wakes up in the Darth Vader suit for the first time. He also brought up the scene in which the Jedi took back Coruscant in “New Jedi Order.” Gillen turned to the scene at the end of his first “Darth Vader” arc, where Vader realizes that he has a son. Zahn said he’d like to see the end of “Choices of One” onscreen, with the scene where Mara Jade is on a high-up platform whilst being shot at from below. She has to block the bolts whilst switching her lightsabre on and off to protect herself from other dangers, meaning she needs to draw so purely from the Force.
Soule’s choice was a two-page Yoda scene he got to write, which was “so difficult to make work. Yoda sometimes speaks in ‘Yoda-speak’ – but not always.” That led Heddle to ask who else the panelists found intimidating to write. Luceno immediately said C-3PO, whilst Johnston said writing Ahsoka for the first time was a challenge because she had such a defined voice. Gillen picked Boba Fett “because it feels like you’re breaking the character to even have him say anything at all.” Soule’s choice was Palpatine, saying writing evil isn’t hard – but writing the puppet-master style of evil that Palpatine utizes is. Luceno brought up that in “Labyrinth of Evil” he had to write Palpatine and Sideous in the same scene… without spoiling the fact that they were, in fact, the same person!
Soule mentioned that he really enjoys how up-to-date Wookiepedia is. “When my comics are out on a Wednesday, if I’ve introduced a new character, then they’ll have a page by that afternoon!”
Next up for Luceno will be “Rogue One: Catalyst,” which will tell the backstory for several characters, and especially the Erso family. Johnston happily said that “Star Wars: Ahsoka” is out on Tuesday, which starts a few minutes before Order 66 is activated, and then leads to “some real fun times.” Gillen’s “Darth Vader” run with Salvador Larocca also ends next week, with the writer then moving onto a classified new book in December. All he could say is that one the characters “has the best hat.” Soule still has “Poe Dameron,” although he teased that he’s also going to be including a “clanking” characters from Wendig’s “Aftermath” series in an upcoming issue.
On that note, Wendig mentioned the third book of that trilogy will be coming soon, called “Empire’s End.” He’s also adapting “The Force Awakens” for Marvel, and may well be including a scene with Phasma in the trash compactor. Zahn rounded things out by talking about his return to the character of Thawn, which will begin in April. This will be a prequel, showing him before his appearance in the upcoming season of “Star Wars Rebels.”
Siglain then thanked the panel for their time, before announcing some new books to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars in 2017: a “Star Wars: Rogue One” YA novel focusing on Jyn Erso and a middle-grade book from Greg Rucka about the character of Chirrut Îmwe. He also teased announcements to come shortly about new partnerships with Del Rey, Hachette, and Marvel.