Timothy Zahn can do no wrong. Starting with the Thrawn Trilogy, he has written many classic Star Wars novels, and judging by the near universal praise, Scoundrels is bound to be another. In this brief but eye-opening interview, Timothy Zahn tells us why Han Solo is like art, who he cares about the most, and much more!
EUCantina (EUC): You write Han so well that Austin Blankenship dubbed Scoundrels “ZahnSolo” on Twitter, and after reading the book, I can definitely say that Scoundrels lives up to its new moniker. What makes Han Solo…Han Solo?
Timothy Zahn (TZ): Boy, that’s a tough one. Han is sort of like art: hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. Let’s see. He’s got an ethical core (though he pretends not to); he has that diamond-in-the-rough charm that attracts the ladies and simultaneously drives them nuts; he’s fast, smart, supremely confident, and loyal to those he’s decided deserve that loyalty. And he shoots first *only* when the situation calls for it. Note that he waits until Greedo more or less explicitly announces that he plans to kill Han before Han actually takes action. That’s an important point that I think often gets overlooked. Oh, and he’s also Harrison Ford. Absolutely.
EUC: I’ve always been impressed how you imbue your Star Wars novels with distinct alien cultures, but still maintain the tonality of the films. Scoundrels, although it’s a novel about a heist, has its own cultures too. Can you tell us more?
TZ: Part of the challenge (and fun) of writing Star Wars is the choice of setting – where does the story take place, and what are the consequences that will be tied up with that locale. For example, if you set a story on Tatooine you’ll probably need to deal with the politics of Hutt domination, plus how all that sand will affect things. In Scoundrels, I decided to set the story in the midst of a grand planet-wide festival, and from there had to sort out how the festival would operate and how Han & Company would work their scheme into that setup. Layered on top of that, we have the Black Sun’s criminal culture, Dayja’s own Imperial background and perspective, and the culture of our scoundrels themselves.
EUC: At last year’s Dragon*Con, you, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Stackpole, and Aaron Allston discussed masculinity in Star Wars. What’s your analysis of femininity in the Expanded Universe? How does your perspective affect the ladies of Scoundrels?
TZ: I have to stand with Talon Karrde on this one: decorative and competent is my favorite combination. <G> Seriously, though, I treat my female characters the same as I do my male ones. I try to give all of them a good set of strengths (and usually a few weaknesses), which will play into how the story unfolds. I also try to give each of them some level of depth that will add to the reader’s understanding, and thus give the reader more reason to care what happens in the story. And, of course, my absolute first rule of characters: *no* one is ever simply dead weight.
EUC: Out of all Star Wars characters you’ve created, which one(s) are you the most emotionally invested in and why?
TZ: In general, Mara Jade is probably the one I care about the most, partly because she was there from the beginning and she’s the one I’ve spent the most time with over the years. In Scoundrels, I’d probably have to say I’m more invested with Bink and Tavia than any of the others. But of course, I like all of them, for different reasons and in varying degrees. After all, if I’m going to spend several months living with these people, I’ve got to at least get along with them.
Special thanks to Timothy Zahn for taking the time out from his busy schedule to answer our questions. Check out previous (and still awesome) EUCantina interviews here.
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