EUC Interview: Drew Karpyshyn

Author Drew Karpyshyn, the senior writer for Bioware’s Knights Of The Old Republic, Darth Bane: Path Of Destruction, and the upcoming Darth Bane: Rule Of Two, recently took the time to answer a few of our questions. 

EUCantina.net (EUC): As a writer, what does your typical day and schedule consist of?

Drew Karpyshyn (DK): Right now I’m still working full time as a writer on Mass Effect for BioWare, so I usually get in to work by nine. I enjoy the free breakfast they provide, then I have meetings and story planning sessions with other writers and designers on the BioWare Mass Effect team.

The afternoons are when I do my actual writing for the games, and I head home around 6. I’ll see my wife, relax with some golf or TV until about 11, then spend 2-3 hours working on my own writing: novels, short stories, etc. As you may have heard, right now I’m working on a sequel to Path of Destruction.

So between that and trying to get Mass Effect out the door and squeezing in 2-3 rounds of golf each week my schedule’s pretty full.

Drews first SW novel, Path of Destruction, was a huge hit

Drew's first SW novel, Path of Destruction, was a huge hit

EUC: Do you think Darth Bane: The Rule Of Two will do as well as its
predecessor?

DK: Actually, I’m hoping it will do even better. For Path of Destruction I was still something of an unknown quantity for many of the SW fans out there. But from comments on the boards and forums, not to mention e-mails to my website, I think most readers really enjoyed the first Bane book.

Word of mouth is getting around, and the audience for Bane is growing. Not to mention that much of Path of Destruction was a retelling of existing sources. Rule of Two, on the other hand, is going to be all new material fans have never seen before. Besides… everyone wants to know what it’s like to train under a true Sith Master, right?

EUC: Isn’t 6 months a bit too small of time to get a novel done, though?

DK: Not really. It usually takes me 8-10 weeks to write a novel. (PoD was 10 weeks.) I’ve mentioned this on my SW blog, but the real time push is on the publisher’s side – they usually need to plan months in advance to book printers, secure shelf space at retail stores, etc. But luckily Del Rey and Lucas had a “hole” in their schedule where they had everything in place, but no book to fill it. That’s where I step in.

Drews second Bane novel, Rule of Two, focuses on Bane and Zannah

Drew's second Bane novel, Rule of Two, focuses on Bane and Zannah

EUC: Do you enjoy all types of feedback – positive or negative – and does it ever get irritating when some constructive criticism goes a little too far?

DK: I enjoy hearing from people, but you can’t really put too much stock in the negative feedback. As a writer I have to trust my own instincts (and my editors); beyond that you can’t try to write based on someone else’s preferences. That’s a sure recipe for failure. Luckily, most of the feedback I’ve gotten has been very positive, so it’s encouraging to know my instincts turned out to be right.

EUC: Any non-Star Wars plans? If so, can you share anything about them?

DK: Well, I’m still working for BioWare, as I mentioned earlier. So I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the Mass Effect trilogy of video games over the next few years. I’m also writing a second Mass Effect novel to follow up on Revelation, my first Mass Effect novel that came out back in May. And I’m working on my own original setting fantasy novel that I hope to start sending out to agents and publishers sometime in early 2008.

EUC: How should someone wanting to get their first book published go about it? Any tips for beginning writers looking to break into the business?

DK: There’s no real secret formula. Write, write, write. Don’t be discouraged. Take courses and listen to people who give you tips, but stay true to your instincts at the same time. I think it’s really a matter of just paying your dues and honing your craft. If you’ve got the talent and determination eventually you’ll get your lucky break.

EUC: Who was your favorite character to write about outside of Darth Bane?

DK: I really liked writing Hoth. Showing a good man caught in a bad situation and struggling with morally ambiguous choices appealed to me. I think that’s what makes a real hero. If you don’t struggle and sometimes even fail or come up short, then victory isn’t really worth having in my opinion. (At least, not in fiction. In real life I’ll take all the easy wins I can get.)

Lord Hoth, the character Drew enjoyed to write, was crucial to the Jedi in POD.

Lord Hoth, the character Drew enjoyed to write, was crucial to the Jedi in POD.

EUC: What is the difference between plotting a video game and plotting a novel?

DK: The main difference is understanding the concept of agency. In a book, I control all the characters and situations, so I have to make sure the motivations driving my characters make sense to them and are clear and understandable to the reader. In a game, however, the player makes the decisions. That means I have to present multiple motivations and then, depending on which one the player chooses, present them with a continuing narrative that satisfies the needs and desires of the person behind those choices.

EUC: If you could go back, are there any changes in your career that you would make?

DK: Honestly, no. Everything seems to have worked out for me, and I really have no regrets. I have made some mistakes (like blurting out a couple really stupid answers when I was on the game show Jeopardy), but if I hadn’t made those mistakes I might not have ended up where I am today. I’m a big believer in the butterfly effect, so changing one small thing could make my life very different from what it is right now… and I’m way too happy to risk that.

EUC: What is your vision of Revan? What makes him different from other Sith Lords?

DK: This actually goes back to the concept of agency I mentioned earlier. Revan is interesting because we had to make him/her abstract enough in the game for players to embody and embrace the character as themselves, yet concrete and interesting enough to draw players into the narrative.

I think we did a great job balancing those opposites, so I’m always impressed by that aspect of the character. Malak touches on this with his dying words at the end of Kotor. Reven is really a servant of both the light and the dark, caught between the Jedi and the Sith, trapped between the reality of what Revan is and the myth of what Revan is believed to be. For me Revan will always be that shadowy figure with no true form or substance, representative of nothing and everything at the same time. (Wow… that’s my English Lit training coming out. I used to spew pretentious crap like that all the time at university.)

Darth Revan and his apprentice Darth Malak, as drawn by Chris Trevas

Darth Revan and his apprentice Darth Malak, as drawn by Chris Trevas

EUC: Who are the “true sith” whom Revan sought out?

DK: The “true sith” can mean a lot of things. It can mean those who are true to the teachings of the dark side. Tracing back further, it can mean the original Sith race, before they were discovered by the Jedi.

Or, if you want to go even further back, it can mean the Rakata mentioned in Kotor, who used the power of the dark side to create the Star Forge and found the Infinite Empire. So I think any journey, like Revan’s or Bane’s, that seeks out the “true sith” becomes a study in history, tracing back the followers of the dark side through each evolution until you get to the very beginning and encounter the original source of dark side power… and who’s to say that’s necessarily the Rakata? That’s the great thing about a universe like Star Wars – there’s always more to discover.

EUC: We’d like to personally thank Mr. Karpyshyn for giving us this opportunity.

 

About the Author

Austin Blankenship is the webmaster of EUCantina. He is a host of our official podcast, EUCast, and also founded our sister website, SoloSound.net. Austin helped turn EUCantina from a forum into a website in 2007, and continues to operate the site and the EUC social media accounts. Austin works as a librarian in a small town above Atlanta, Georgia.