I was able to catch up with Jeff Grubb, the author of the new Star Wars book, Scourge. I enjoyed Scourge, and it was a pleasure to chat about his book. Jeff is an engineer, author of over thirty novels, and game creator. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Kate, who the book is dedicated to, and their two cats, Vicky and Harly.
LHR: You’ve written several novels in other shared universes. How did that experience help you with writing your first Star Wars novel? How is Star Wars different?
Working in a shared universe is a challenge of coordination and a lesson in playing well with others. There are a lot of visions, concepts and ideas all jostling around, and creating a good story while maintaining the core ethos of the world is a challenge.
Star Wars has deep and rich heritage that reflects the contributions of a wide variety of talented individuals (this is particularly true of the Expanded Universe). I don’t want to negate other peoples’ visions while presenting a new and different story. Respecting the universe is a big part working successfully within a shared world.
LHR: In the acknowledgements, you state Scourge is based on Tempest Feud, a Star Wars RPG you wrote. Is Scourge how you’ve imagined your own adventure in the game might have been?
No, oddly. When writing the original Tempest Feud, with Owen Stephens, I was more concerned about handling everyone else’s potential player characters and what they would do in most situations. RPG adventures often have to foresee most of the likely (and several of the unlikely) possibilities.
Once Mander entered the picture as my protagonist, the entire plot shifted. The book started being about the underbelly of the galactic civilization, but quickly became about one man’s own personal validation and understanding of his role in that universe.
If I had a character I would run through the adventure, it would have been Reen. Or Eddey. That Bothan gets all the good lines.
LHR: Mander Zuma is a different type of Jedi – he’s intellectual and analytical, a direct contrast to his brash former apprentice. He wears glasses, even! Who or what inspired you to create him?
Fans of the Star Wars books have an image of the Jedi as wise warrior-monks. That image also applies to how people within the universe think of the Jedi (remember Luke’s first meeting with Yoda). Mander doesn’t feel like he lives up to the legend, and that in part has encouraged him to disengage, to pull back into the archives where his uncomfortable nature would not be noticed.
The holospecs, of course, are purely for research, but it amuses me that they are rose-colored.
LHR: I’ve been helping out with the FANgirl Blog GeekGirlCon panel – it’ll be in your hometown, Seattle – so perhaps this has been on my mind, but Mander is kind of a geeky Jedi, isn’t he?
A bit. I work with a lot of geeks and count myself among their number. But I don’t see Mander as being socially awkward as much as afraid that someday everyone will wake up and see that he really doesn’t deserve to be a Jedi. It is a problem that a lot of writers and other creatives have (myself included).
LHR: In a similar vein, Angela Krin and Reen Irani are flip sides of strong female protagonists – the former by being a disciplined and by the book captain, the latter a reactive and intuitive smuggler. Do you picture them as ever moving from mutual beneficial cooperation to actual friendship?
No. I think the differences between them are too great. They are law and chaos. Angela Krin thrives in a hierarchical organization where her inherent ability is recognized, while Reen is more of an independent who lives in an ever-pliable universe. I think Reen views the situation that Angela gets into with sympathy, but more than a little schadenfreude. I don’t think the link of gender (which they both recognize) is enough to overcome the differences in outlook.
LHR: I found the Hutt characters in Scourge to be interesting individuals, while retaining a sense of “Huttness.” Are you particularly fond of Hutts? Do you have a favorite Hutt?
I am a fan of Hutts (and most of the alien species of Star Wars). I wanted to remain true to the “brand” of Hutts, but also show variety among them, and to show Hutts struggling against their own legend (Mika, for example). Of the Hutts in the book, I would say I like Parella the best – if only because he seeks out new experiences, but never really learns from them.
LHR: That struggle against their own legend – it’s very similar to Mander’s struggle as a Jedi, isn’t it?
Yes. It is one of the reasons that Mika and Mander connect. Mander empathizes with the small Hutt.
LHR: One of the details I enjoyed in your book was the dialogue. The cadence between the characters reminded me of the movies, especially Episodes IV, V, and VI. Was this something you thought about while writing?
I didn’t pitch my dialog to a particular movie, but the New Hope trilogy are my faves, so I am not surprised it came through. In general, I like smart characters, and ones that can quickly bounce off each other verbally. I can’t do that in real life – I tend to overthink (a lot like Mander), so it is great to do it in a book.
LHR: On your blog you talk about the first time you saw A New Hope. (Though we all just called it Star Wars back then!) Do you have a favorite scene from the movie?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot since finishing the book, and most of my favorite scenes are Han Solo scenes – the cantina, bragging about his ship, the intercom scene, riding to the rescue. Back when we first saw the movie, all the guys liked Luke, but we all wanted to BE Han (most of the women wanted to be Leia, the butt-kicking princess with a blaster).
LHR: What can we look forward to from you in 2012 and beyond?
For me, my day job has been working as the Lore and Continuity Designer for ArenaNet, on the upcoming Guild Wars 2 MMO (speaking of shared worlds). In addition, I keep my hand in with traditional RPGs, and have finished up a campaign setting called Midgard, with Wolfgang Baur of Open Design.
Beyond that, I have no idea. I’m still writing at the moment, but not for anything with a firm deadline.