Troy Denning Chats with Fans, Transcript Provided

Author Troy Denning took some time today to chat with Star Wars fans on Facebook. Using the official Star Wars Books Facebook page, Troy answered questions about Vortex, the direction of the Fate of the Jedi series, his favorite novels, and more! Many questions were asked, but time didn’t allow for an answer to all of them (including our Thrawn return query). We’ve taken the questions and answers and collected them below! You can read the entire chat here.

Question (Q): Troy, what was your favorite scene to write in Vortex?

Troy Denning (TD): Okay, this is going to take some getting used to! My favorite scene? The Epilogue, of course! Seriously, that’s a hard one — I think either the Saba scene in the hangar, or the Mahdi scene on Blaudu Sextus.

Q: Hello Mr. Denning. Glad to have you here. Can you tell us how you all decided what Force groups would be used in the different books?

TD: It’s hard to recall how we decided which Force groups would be used — I think we just started to list the ones we were most interested in, and the ones that we knew for sure Jacen had visited.

Q: Thanks for taking time out for us Troy. Do you think you will be continuing with the SW franchise beyond the current series?

TD: — let me finish Apocalypse first! Seriously, I’m just concentrating on Apocalypse right now . . .

Q: How did you get started writing Star Wars books?

TD: I got started writing Star Wars when West End games had the role-plyaing license — I did some galaxy guides for them, and four “choose-your-own-adventure” style books. After that, I wrote a bunch of novels for TSR/Wotc, then got in touch with Shelly Shapiro when Del Rey took the license — fortunately, she said “Yes!”

Q: Thanks for taking our questions, Mr. Denning! Do you find it difficult to write in such a large, shared universe?

TD: Actually I find it inspiring to write in such a huge shared universe. There’s an awful lot to keep track of, of course, but that also means there’s a huge amount to draw on. I love writiing in SW because of that, and because the people involved (on all levels) are more than wonderful.

Q: Mr. Denning, Each time I read one of your novels, O am struck by how concise – yet effecient – your writing is…and that you are able to do this in such a short amount of time (between novels). Do you mind sharing a little about your writing process and/or method? How many drafts does it usually take you to write a star wars book?

TD: Thanks for the kind words. I have a pretty rigorous planning process, going through three or four drafts of an outline BEFORE I show it to the editors. After it’s accepted, I divide the story up into scenes/chapters and try to work out the best, most suspenseful flow. (This always changes as I work, though). Then I start writing, outlining/making notes for each chapter before I write it. Often, I’ll rewrite a chapter four or five times, especially if it’s a climax or an important action scene, before going on to the next one. Once the entire ms. is complete, I pass it to my wife to read for 1st reactions (she can be very hard on me!), then rewrite that, then polish, and turn it in — and revise some more after Shelly and Sue comment. It’s long and hard, but fun all the way.

Q: Is there a specific period in time from the EU that you would prefered to write?

TD: I think I tend to prefer the Legacy period (where LotF is now), because I really enjoy working with the classic characters and carrying their story forward.

Q: Who’s your favorite Star Wars character?

TD: My favorite movie character to write is probably Han (just because I seem to have his smart-ass streak myself); hard to say what my favorite non-movie character is — that shifts a lot, depending on the story I’m writing.

Q: Welcome Mr. Denning. I was wondering if you would explain how tightly you work with Allston and Golden when writing these books. It’s unbelievable how many small details are carried over author to author in these series. How exactly is that done?

TD: The entire FotJ team (editors, writers, and many others!) get together at the beginning of the project to plan the general story. After that, we use a LOT of email, occasional phone calls, and make a point of getting together again in person whenever we can (usually at a convention.) It works pretty well, but you do have to be diligent about communicating the unexpected changes that any story goes through when you write it.

Q: Mr. Denning, thank you taking the time to answer our questions. :) What’s your favorite Mara moment in the EU?

TD: My favorite Mara moment in the EU — it’s hard to recall when I’m typing so fast, but I think it has to be when she has Ben.

Q: Troy, I thought this was the best book in the series so far. Will the Daala storyline wrap-up before book 9 or will you have to deal with that and the conflict with the Sith? (It’s hard to ask a good question when there are two more books before your next one in the series.)

TD: I don’t want to talk too much about what happens with Daala in the rest of the series — but rest assured, there will be surprises! Very big surprises!

Q: Hi Troy, Dave here, hope you’re well and not too bombarded, ;-) What I wanted to know was, how did it feel writing the scene in Abyss where Luke and Ben meet with Anakin, Mara and Jacen again (note, everyone, I said Jacen – i.m.o. he wasn’t Caedus anymore)? I guess I’m asking particularly about Anakin, for the obvious reasons. (btw, I’m finishing up Sean’s TFU2 and then I’ll get started on Vortex) :-)

TD: The Lake of Apparitions scene in Abyss was a blast to write, but also pretty scary. When I outlined the book, Luke was going to meet a whole different cast of characters (no, not gonna say who, not gonna do it!). But I wrote a draft the chapter and it felt flat, because they really weren’t the characters this story is about. So I thought hard about who the characters were that were influencing this story, — and this era — the most, and I went back and took another crack at it. i think I finally got right after three tries.

Q: Hello, Mr. Denning. It’s great that you were able to join us. Could you speak a little about what has been your favorite book to work on in the SW fandom? You’ve contributed so much to SW, and I would love to know which book you enjoyed working on the most.

TD: My favorite book is always the one I’m working on at the time! It’s hard to look back and be objective, but I think my favorites are Star by Star because that was just such an opportunity to tell a huge, epic story, and Invincible, because I learned an awful lot writing that book, and from the fan reaction that followed (good and bad!)

Q: Hi, Mr. Denning! I love your writing style throughout the Star Wars universe. How do you think your style has evolved since you started writing within the EU?

TD: I’m not sure that a writer can ever be objective about how his writing style changes over the years. There’s just so much that you do without realizing, certain words that you favor, certain syntax, certain ways of seeing things. But one of the great things about writing for Star Wars is the amoung of feedback you receive. I try to use that as a learning tool, and it’s helped me identify some things that I wanted to improve. An example would be space battles — I started out thinking that I wrote pretty awesome space battles, but then I noticed that people were getting confused by them more often than I liked. So I looked at some of what I had done and realized I was using TOO much detail. Now, I try to give a sense of what the character is feeling, rather than exactly what is happening on each front, and I think that gives the scene a more dramatic feel. Over the years, there are too many examples of that kind of thing to comment on, but it IS valuable. That said, there are some things I won’t want to change, no matter what they say on the boards; I’ll be using the word “efflux” at least once a novel until I die!

Q: I am just curious what happened to Daala’s eye patch?

TD: We had a big discussion at one of our convention get togethers about Daala’s eyepatch and decided not to use it anymore. But I can’t remember now what the reasoning was! And there’s no time to go digging through my notes — but I’m sure we had a good reason. Trust me.

Q: Hi Troy, absolutely love your work, I’m a big fan of all the NJO/Post-NJO storylines, and I can’t wait to read Vortex (Being in the UK, it’s only just been shipped). My question is, are you a Star Wars fan yourself? I know that Karen Traviss has stated before that at the end of the day her authoring work although enjoyable is a job, and she is a professional, do you share this view, or do you take a deeper enjoyment as a fan of the universe yourself? My deepest thanks, and keep up the amazing work!

TD: Yes I am a big Star Wars fan — and always have been; that’s how I came to be involved with West End games’ RPG so early on. (One of my biggest thrills was picking up the Thrawn trilogy and realizing that Tim Zahn had drawn from GG4!) But I’m not a collector (just don’t have the space!), and I am often in awe of the knowledge that people like Dan Wallace and Jason Fry have amassed over the years.

Q: Hey Troy, what makes Jedi Master Tesar Sebatyne one of your favorite and go to characters?

TD: SABA Sebatyne is one of my favorites because I like to put myself into a non-human head, and see how we look from the outside. I also think that she has a sense of honor that remains more undiluted by human dilemmas — she sees right and wrong more clearly, because she’s looking at us from the outside, and I’ll often use her perspective to try to emphasize how confused we humans can make ourselves.

Q: Mr. Denning I was wondering what your thoughts were on this question. What feelings and thoughts do you think Lord Vader would be feeling if he knew that it was his beloved Artoo that reengaged the hyperdrive on the Falcon in Episode V? I know it’s not an EU question but it would be great to share your opinion. Thanks.

TD: If I’m recalling the scene correctly, I think Vader would have felt a grudging respect for Artoo.

Q: Mr. Denning, are there any chances that a deceased (or thought to be deceased) character will return?

TD: I would have to say that the chances look dim for the return of any and all deceased characters . . . but never say never! The decision, obviously, is way above my pay grade . . .

Q: Hey Mr. Denning Vortex is now my favorite FotJ book. Great job. So, is Abeloth a continuation of the ‘white eyes’ prophecy and if so was this an idea you had to utilize that particular idea/theme in the series? Thanks!

TD: I’m going to plead “spoiler” on the Abeloth/White Eyes question; suffice it to say that there’s a connection, and that it will probably grow at least a little bit clearer by the end of the series.

Q: Troy, are there any new characters that you have particularly enjoyed writing in the FotJ series? And why?

TD: I’ve enjoyed writing Vestara a lot, and some of the new Jedi characters that we introduced in Omen and Abyss. Mahdi was fun to write, and Senator Wuul , and . . . well, pretty much all of them!

Q: The Ascension is when Christ rose to Heaven while the apocalyptic literature has Jewish roots. Was it deliberate to use titles, such as “Ascension” and “Apocalypse” that call to mind religious imagery? If so, why?

TD: The titles weren’t deliberately drawn from religious imagery, though of course we weren’t blind to it, either. But I think it would be stretch to try to draw too much meaning from that . . . to tell the truth, a lot of the title selection has to do with that fact when you have one-word titles, you have a limited number of good choices that relate to the book’s theme!

Q: Still catching up on the previous questions, but a quick one if there’s time… will Tarfang return?

TD: I don’t have any specific plans for Tarfang to return, but he IS one of my favorites, so if there’s an opportunity …

Q: Has there ever been a time when feedback about your writing has had a drastic impact on what you felt the next time you sat down to write?

TD: I wouldn’t say that the feed back has ever had a DRASTIC impact the next time I sat down to write. When any book comes out, you’re going to have some reviews that make you feel like you can walk on water and some that make you feel like you’d better start training for a new career — that’s a given. What I try to do is look for patterns, and then see if something resonates with my own gut instinct. When that happens, I take a look and see if there’s something I can improve (or if it’s something I’m doing right). But generally, it’s just the “review” process that any professional goes through to analyze his own stuff. I DO stop reading anything that looks like it has a nasty personal edge to it (who needs that?), or in which it appears that the person/group is trying to drive an agenda. There’s just nothing constructive to be gained from that kind of stuff — and I’m not the guy that makes the decisions anyway.

Q: Mr Denning, I am really enjoying your work. I was just wondering, will we be seeing some of the “forgotten” Jedi again soon. Like Kirana Ti and Streen?

TD: We generally don’t keep of list of characters to be worked into a story — there are just too many characters in the EU to make that practical. The process usually works in the opposite direction; we have a role that needs to be filled, and go to the list of existing characters to see if someone fits the bill. That Kirana Ti and Streen haven’t been seen lately is just a reflection of the fact that an author hasn’t picked them to fill a role that needs to be filled.

Q: This goes back a ways.. in Star by Star, why is it so important to kill the voxyn queen? I get the voxyn are a huge threat.. but why wouldn’t the Yuuzhan Vong be able to make another one? Wouldn’t they have kept the blueprints laying around? It’s like saying i just baked the perfect cake, then threw away the recipe.

TD: I remember thinking the Voxyn-queen question (why couldn’t the YV just create another one) very carefully, because it IS so important to the plot. I can’t remember where offhand (it HAS been ten years since I wrote Star by Star), but I’m pretty sure that I explained the reasoning: she was a unique genetic creation that the shapers were unable to reproduce a second time, probably because of some mutation that they couldn’t replicate. So all of the voxyn had to come from the same genes.

Q: Mr. Denning, you are my inspiration for getting into writing! Is Callista going to have a larger role to play in the series than simply being a mortal body for Abeloth to inhabit?

TD: I can’t answer the Callista question — spoilers! Sorry!

Q: Ooh have another question, may have been answered before, though, at least in part – should TOR become a raging success, which is sure to happen, would you take a gig writing in novel set in that time period? Or how about a novel detailing Revan’s fall? (May be stepping on Drew’s toes, here)

TD: I’d consider writing in The Old Republic era, if the subject ever came up — and depending on what the story was. It’s certainly a rich setting with a lot of story potential, but that’s nothing that’s on my radar right now . . .

Q: I thought that hiding in the Force was supposed to be a hard and rare skill to master… but what’s the point when you can shrink your aura to accomplish practically the same thing? Almost everyone seems able to shrink their auras.

TD: You’re right, hiding in the Force is kind of the same as shrinking one’s Force presence. But I’ve always thought of it as a matter of degree — you can hide in a dark closet and hope no one opens the door, or you can make yourself invisible. Obviously, one is a lot more useful to a burglar than the other . . .

Q: When is Leia & Jaina going to become Masters?

TD: I’m not sure I can comment on Leia and Jaina becoming Masters — the only thing you CAN be sure of is that if it were going to happen, I wouldn’t be able to comment on it!

Q: Out of curiousity, are we going to see the Yuuzhan Vong in this series? We see the echoes and after effects of that war, but not the Vong themselves.

TD: I don’t know that we’re going to do anything more with the YV yet. I think that’s worthy of a book (or two) on its own right.

Q: Out of all resurrection consideration, I’d like to know if you miss Jacen as a character. You “met” with him during the NJO when he was a teenager, you developped him in Dark Nest as he grew to a man and had his only child, and then wrote and watched him die during LOTF. I know a lot of readers (like me) grew up with Jacen. Do you miss him?

TD: That’s a very insightful question. I DO miss Jacen as a character. Every time I’ve ever had to kill a character, especially a major one, I have at one time or another gotten cold feet and gone to my editor and said, “Do I haveta?” Fortunately, editors are wise people who remind you that you develop plans for a reason . . .  Seriously, it’s always hard an author to kill a beloved character — very hard — and that’s as it should be.

We’d like to thank Mr. Denning for taking nearly an hour-and-a-half of his time to answer questions from his readers! Keep an eye on the Star Wars Books Facebook page for more author chats in the future.

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.