Interview with Sue Rostoni

There are those who enjoy reading. There are also those who enjoy reading and Star Wars. Then there is Sue Rostoni; editor at Lucas Licensing, Sue is tasked with editing comics and books Expanded Universe fans have come to love and enjoy. From covers to text, Sue checks it all. Join EUC’s Andrew as he talks with Sue about everything from old works to works such as Fate of the Jedi.

interview-long

–Warning: SPOILERS FOR LEGACY OF THE FORCE FOLLOW–

EUCantina (EUC): Sue, welcome back to EUC! Great to talk to you again

Sue Rostoni (SR): Thanks!  Sorry about the lag time between your sending me the questions and my getting back to you – you know how it is.  Busy, busy, busy.

EUC: Sure! You being busy makes the readers happy. So, a lot has happened in the EU since we last spoke, including the end of Legacy of the Force series. How do you feel that ended?

SR:  The end was one of the most difficult decisions the group had to make.  There was a lot of  discussion – some wanted Jacen redeemed, some felt there was no redemption possible; he had to die.  Jaina had to fulfill her prophesy as “Sword of the Jedi” – another hard call.

I mean, a sister killing her brother – not such an easy thing to do.  I thought the way Troy Denning scripted the battle scene, with Caedus thinking he was battling Luke, was inspired.  It kept the battle alive and gave it a depth that wouldn’t have been possible with just Jaina and Caedus dueling.

The one that ended it all, Invincible

The one that ended it all, Invincible

EUC: Oh, I agree. With that said, How do you feel about the fan reaction to the Legacy of the Force series?

SR: You mean the negative reaction from the fans who wanted to see the characters’ hearts breaking, again?  I understand their needs.  The series was one emotional disaster after another and, personally, I wanted the last book to end with the typical Star Wars parade!

Now, while a parade would have been totally wrong considering what had happened, it was a group decision to end the series on as high a note as we could.  Perhaps Troy could have shown more of the main characters’ reactions, but at the time we thought it best left off-camera.

EUC: That always made sense to me and I still think it was for the best. Well, now the fans have the upcoming Fate of the Jedi series to look forward to!

Speaking of which, why don’t we dive into some FOTJ questions: Will Jaina Solo have a major role in the FOTJ series, or any other upcoming novels?

SR: Yes, Jaina will have a major role, along with Ben and others.  At present, she won’t be featured in any of the stand-alones, but we haven’t yet mapped out the entire book line for Del Rey’s contract period.

EUC: Is there any truth behind the saying that Karen Traviss was going to pen three FOTJ novels but was too busy and Christie Golden came in? Also, why Ms. Golden?

SR: Karen Traviss is a very strong and productive writer and we wanted her to be able to focus her storytelling talents on areas where she holds the most passion – with the Mandalorians and Boba Fett.  To this end, we asked her to write the new Imperial Commando series, a stand-alone featuring Fett, and the Clone Wars novels.

Christie Golden was chosen for the Fate of the Jedi series because she, too, is a strong writer and Shelly Shapiro and I are always on the hunt for authors willing to write for Star Wars.  Christie is familiar with writing in a shared universe (World of Warcraft novels) and we felt her talents would add another voice to Star Wars.

The one that will start it all, Outcast

The one that will start it all, Outcast

EUC: Well, Karen Miller was an instant hit– I can imagine she can be too. A lot of readers are a little concerned with the fact that these FOTJ novels will be all hardcover– is there anything you would like to say to perhaps put off their fears a little bit about them all being hardcover? Also, why all hardcovers?

SR: The New Jedi Order series was a combination of hardcover and paperback novels and we initially anticipated major events happening only in the hardcovers.  The idea was that if folks weren’t able to read all nineteen novels, they could read just the hardcovers and still enjoy a great story.

Once Shelly and I read the manuscript for ONSLAUGHT (the first paperback in the series), it was apparent that each of the novels, regardless of format, would contain major plot points important to the series as a whole. This held true for the Legacy of the Force as well.

So, in recognition of the importance of each book, we decided to try this all-hardcover approach.  They’ll look cool on bookshelves, too, and if folks can’t afford the hardcovers, they’ll all be coming out in paperbacks a number of months later, as usual.

EUC: Sounds good. Lastly on FOTJ, are you excited about the series? Also, do you feel like the PR for this series is going to be good?

SR: I am very excited about the series! The series has two major plot lines – Luke and Ben retracing Jacen’s path over those five years he went traveling and folks at home coping with Chief of State Daala’s intentions toward the Jedi Order.  Watching how these two threads come together and resolve is going to be a lot of fun.

I’ve seen some of the PR for the series and I have hopes – there’s no plan yet for a “name the Sith” contest, but I’m hoping Del Rey will put together some exciting programs that involve the readers.

EUC: Very interesting, indeed. So, moving onto really Post-LOTF era questions: Presumably, the novel series over the next few years will have to gradually head towards the events in the Legacy comics.  Does that make planning difficult or more interesting?

SR:  The planning is both interesting and difficult. The interesting part is that we know the landscape that the novels are heading towards.  The difficult interesting part is how to get there!  We have to consider how soon to start sewing the seeds of the events in the Legacy comics without resolving everything too early and how to drop those hints without them impacting the present storylines.

We don’t want the Jedi, or anyone else, to appear dumb by not picking up a major clue so there’s a lot of finesse that has to go into the writing.  We have a bunch of years to work within, so I don’t see any major issues coming up soon.

Legacy: Both interesting and hard

Legacy: Both interesting and hard

EUC: Are there plans for other novels with Luke, Han and Leia besides Fate of the Jedi, or will there not be any until 2011 when FOTJ ends?

Also, will Fate of the Jedi be the last we’ll see of the big three chronologically or will they be in another arc after FOTJ and will there be a final Luke/Han/Leia adventure at the end of this new contract?

SR: That’s a long question.  They may show up from time to time but there aren’t plans right now to include them in a stand-alone until after the FOTJ series ends.

EUC: Ha, yeah, but worth it, I’m sure. I can’t remember if this is referred to, but what happened to Mara’s lightsaber? Will it be given to Ben, seeing as it’s come down the line from Anakin Skywalker?

SR: It hasn’t been decided yet…

EUC: Got it. Moving onto a more generalized Star Wars novel topic, are there still plans to write a novel specific to one of the ancient Sith Lords?

SR: Not specifically about an ancient Sith Lord, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing a few here and there.

EUC: That’s always good to hear. How far in advance do you have to plan out the plotlines of Star Wars novels? Do you know now roughly what’s going to happen over the next few years?

SR: We try to plan them out at least a few years in advance.  Right now we pretty much know what’s happening until mid 2011, and we’ll soon be assigning those books.

We like to give an author at least nine months to write, and the production takes another six months, so ideally, we’d have an author signed at least a year and a half before the publication date… Two year is better, so there’s time for reworking outlines and rewriting manuscripts (if needed).

EUC: Interesting… Has George Lucas ever had any involvement in the EU – even simply saying what you can and can’t do? Or has absolutely everything been left up to your team, in terms of novels and comics.

SR: George Lucas has little involvement in the EU.  He’s stated many times that the EU is Licensing’s galaxy, and while he does use bits and pieces of the EU in his films and TV programs, as a whole he considers it separate from his galaxy.  Our job is to try to mesh the EU as closely as possible with George’s galaxy so that it can appear as one continuous history.

There are times when we ask for his input and permission – generally when we have questions about his main characters and what we can do with (and to) them, and what time periods are off-limits so we don’t impact storylines he’s developing in those areas.

EUC: Most of the novels featuring the Solo-Skywalker kids have been part of fairly large scale ensemble series (with the exception of the Young & Junior Jedi Knights series, which were for younger readers).

Is there any chance of any more character-focused, stand-alone novels involving any of them being published in the future? Or for any of the other “younger generation” characters?

SR: Yes, the upcoming novel Blood Oath (by Elaine Cunningham) stars Zekk, a character featured in the Young Jedi Nights series.  That’s the only one so far that doesn’t include the older heroes.

Zekk as seen in Blood Oath

Zekk as seen in Blood Oath

EUC: Recently on SW.com you also stated that there are plans for a The Old Republic MMO tie-in novel. Can you perhaps give us any little information about it? Perhaps not much is known yet?

SR: No, I can’t speak to this yet – it’s too early.

EUC: Will do; There’s recently been some debate online about whether female characters need more attention in the EU.  What is your reaction to that?

SR: Interesting – I hadn’t picked this up and I’m generally pretty sensitive to these issues.  I haven’t felt a particular imbalance – yes, there are probably more males than females as named characters, but both males and females hold positions of power across the spectrum (i.e., Jedi, Sith, etc).

EUC: Is the upcoming ‘holostar’ novel about Wynssa Starflare?  Or is that something you can’t tell us yet?

SR: No, it’s not.

EUC: Totally understandable. What are your favorites of the Star Wars novels?

SR: Ah, I get asked this occasionally.  I do have favorites, but I keep them to myself.  I don’t think it’s professional for me to state favorites.  I have favorite characters, though – Han and Chewie, Jaina, Ben…Luke…. well, I think I have favorite things I like about most of the characters!   Right now I have portraits of Luke (painted by Russell Walks) hanging in my office, and a Chewie standee.

EUC: Will there be more of the “fill in” stories like Truce at Bakura, Tatooine Ghost, LS and the Shadows of Mindor?

SR: Yes, I think the novel by Alex Irvine featuring Nomi Sunrider could be considered a “fill in” story.  And Elaine Cunningham’s Blood Oath.  There could be more.

EUC: What was one of the most difficult decisions, regarding the novels of the EU, that you’ve had to make?

SR: Participating in the decision to allow Chewbacca to be killed was the most difficult, by far.

Chewbaccas death rocked fandom for years

Chewbacca's death rocked fandom for years

EUC: I’m sure. Many fans love writing fan-fictions and other pieces of literature. Can you maybe explain how most Star Wars author end up where they do?

SR:  All of the Star Wars authors are established writers having already published novels of their own.  This is the one major requirement that precludes our fan writers from becoming Star Wars writers – it’s not an overnight adventure.  It takes years and a lot of writing to achieve success in the publishing field.

There’s a lot of competition and most submissions to editors are rejected.  A person has to be resilient and persevere, and has to be a good writer with a powerful story.  Each author’s beginning experiences are probably different so there’s no single way to become published.

EUC: Well, I think that just about wraps it up. Sue, thanks so much for answering these questions and continued success in editing our favorite novels.

SR:  You’re more than welcome.
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