EUC Interview: Sue Rostoni

Sue Rostoni is the executive editor for Lucasfilm's Licensing Company. She has quite the job on her hands, often dealing with Del Rey and Dark Horse to approve our favorite EU material. She was recently gracious enough to answer our questions. EUCantina (EUC): What exactly does your job entail? Sue Rostoni (SR): I oversee and ultimately approve, disapprove, or request changes to each element of each publishing product produced by the licensees under contract that are my responsibility. I think that’s it, in concept. I do a lot more than that, mostly due to my being here for so long…… EUC: What does a regular day at the office consist of for you? SR: Every day starts with hot chocolate. I have my priorities…. Check email that has accumulated while I slept: Here’s a sampling: Dark Horse final cover and letters page for Legacy 14 Back and forth with LotF authors over a story point – goes on most of the morning. Ad pages from Delcourt for their DH comics in France My low-rate mortgage has been approved. The manuscript for the junior novel adaptation for Temple of Doom will be coming in soon. [I better watch the movie again] Approved the cover for Legacy 16 Approved the final art for the cover of Dark Times 10. Received and distributed advance copies of DH’s Legacy 15 and Rebellion 9. Continue reading and editing REVELATION (I’m about half done now). Short internal discussion of the cover of an annual to be published by Pedigree in the UK. More reading, interrupted by email requests…. Request by Delcourt to use a specific painting as cover art for a special comic—routed request to others for more input. Read REVELATION while eating homemade chili. Read Dark Horse outline for the Rebellion series, issues 11-14. Pub Staff meeting to discuss upcoming projects and review cover concept and other visual submissions (like catalog pages, advertising, etc.). Department meeting to celebrate August birthdays. Yum. A phone call from LucasArts regarding possible writing talent they could use on a specific upcoming project. Pack up and go home! EUC: How much say do you have with what the writers write or what direction they take? SR: I work mainly with Del Rey (Shelly Shapiro) and Dark Horse (Randy Stradley and Jeremy Barlow). The writers work with the various editors to establish direction and storyline. I don’t have a lot of input into the comic storylines unless questions come up and then we hash them out as a team. For the novels, Shelly and I and the authors work together directly to come up with storylines. In some cases an author will approach Del Rey with a specific area he or she would like to explore. It if seems like a good idea to Shelly and me, we’ll work with the author to develop a story proposal. In other cases, Shelly and/or I will l have an idea for a book and then we’ll discuss possible authors and approach the one we want, at which time we work together to develop the story. It’s very much a team-oriented process for the most part. How much input do you have in deciding what a series or single book will be about? For instance, the Legacy of the Force novels? For the Legacy novels, the idea of Jacen becoming Sith evolved out of the Dark Nest trilogy and was Troy Denning’s suggestion. From there, Shelly and I approached the other two authors, Karen Traviss and Aaron Allston, hoping they would join with Troy for the series. We wanted to keep the number of authors on the low side to help keep the series coordinated. We learned from The New Jedi Order that multiple authors and a long series are a bit much to administrate. As far as the storyline and plot points, I have as much input as the other team members. For Legacy we had two face-to-face story meetings and many, many email conversations. Some of my suggestions were incorporated and some were not, and that’s how it went for each member of the team. Brainstorming is the best part – everyone throws out ideas, then we take them and see how they fit, where they lead us and the characters, and if it gets the series where we want it to go. We examine the characters’ motivations for their actions. If we want someone to do something, it really has to fit with who they are. If the characters can’t get the series where we want it to go, then there’s something wrong with what we want. So we try things out, change or keep elements, and come out with a cohesive story outline. Of course, things change once the authors begin to write. The characters can take them someplace new – and with the emails coming and going, the rest of us can discuss and adjust. The only instances where my position at Lucasfilm carries more weight than other people’s ideas is when something is definitely not part of the intention of Star Wars (and that’s mostly a judgment call) or goes against established continuity (especially with characters’ actions and motivations). In theory, Lucasfilm has the last word and I carry that word, but practically, things are more of a team decision. EUC: Would you mind explaining how it is to work with a variety of authors and fellow Lucasfilm employees? SR: It’s totally awesome. There’s nothing more exciting or creatively challenging than sitting with a group of talented authors and developing a storyline and character arcs. It’s an amazing process and one that, as someone who is not a talented author, delights me. I feel very fortunate to be part of that process.
The cover for Steve Perry and Mike Reaves Death Star

The cover for Steve Perry and Mike Reaves' Death Star

Each author is different, as we all are different. We each want to produce the best material, so that makes things go pretty smoothly. The authors are very open to Shelly and my suggestions, as we are to theirs. We now have a lengthy history with most of the Star Wars authors and we trust each other to be open and honest. Sometimes new authors are not sure how tight Lucasfilm is going to control them and I’ve heard it’s a welcome relief that we are here to enable the talent rather than handcuff them. And on the Lucasfilm side, who wouldn’t want to work with Leland! Our publishing staff and the other Lucasfilm folk are all here for one reason – to put out the best product we possibly can. It’s energizing to work with people who are passionate about that goal. EUC: If you've finished Death Star, what is your first reaction? SR: It’s a very fun read, with a bit of mystery. I enjoyed getting to know some of the “common” folks who were on the Death Star and how the drama affected their lives. It’s a well-done combination of regular working folks, stormtroopers and other Imperials, and cameos by our heroes, and a compelling storyline. EUC: Will there be a Darth Plageuis novel in the near future? SR: There are no plans for this… after much discussion in light of the book we had planned, we’ve decided to table it, and I doubt it will be resurrected.
What? No love for Plagueis

What? No love for Plagueis

EUC: Which era of Star Wars is your favorite? SR: At the moment, my favorites are the Knights of the Old Republic and the Legacy eras, probably because the characters are newer and still evolving. EUC: Who is your favorite EU character? SR: Han and Chewie. I know, that’s two. But I can’t really separate them. They’re like me and my dog. We’re a pair. Not that Chewie is a dog…… although my dog is almost as smart as Chewie and just as loyal. My dog can’t manage a hydrospanner yet, but she’s great at keeping me in line. I like Han because he’s hard on the outside and soft in the middle. Yeah, a Tootsie Pop. My favorites: A Tootsie Pop and a Dog. EUC: We thank Sue for her time and dedication with the interview and answering the questions.  

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, 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.