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On the “Dark Side” with Author Christie Golden: An Interview from the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim

I’ve been a fan of Christie Golden’s work since her original fantasy novel On Fire’s Wings, and at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2015 I got to talk with her about her upcoming Star Wars book Dark Disciple. Talk about a dream come true!

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ML: Hi there!

CG: Hi!

ML: First of all, Dark Disciple. My favorite of all characters ever. How did you get the opportunity to tell the story?

CG: I was approached by Del Rey and they said they have this great storyline between two wonderful characters that did not get aired in The Clone Wars TV show. It was eight episodes, which is a pretty substantial arc, and they thought that the nature of it lended itself to the novel format where you can flesh something out […] rather than just see it.

ML: Absolutely. What was your reaction when you were given the chance to do it? Were you excited?

CG: Well, I was familiar with Vos, I was not familiar with Ventress. I did not watch The Clone Wars, but I now have watched every episode, and some multiple times so my street cred is back! Once I started watching I was really surprised; I thought Ventress was just a very great character in the show because she is—it’s kind of hard to like her, you know? You can admire and respect her, but I think the liking came with her own character development and you started to empathize with what she went through. And I’ve always liked Vos. They turned out to be great characters, and my strength is dialogue and characterization, so I’m very comfortable with novelizations that have that.

ML: And as much sass as these two have just on their own, my little universe will probably explode when I see them interact!

CG: I have a gift, it’s one of the reasons I think my novels […] special: I have an ear. I can hear the intonations and the types of words characters use […] and so once I got to see the animatics, not the final animations—I got to see four episodes done that way, and then I got to read the scripts. So it was really easy for me to just fall into their speech patterns and listen to what they say to each other. […] It’s a really brilliant choice to put these two together.

ML: Yeah, definitely. They’re both kind of very unconventional characters, especially Asajj within her development. Because Star Wars has always been kind of black and white, “this is good and this is evil”. But these two are definitely on the grey side; they’re more like anti-heroes almost by the time we get to the end of the series at least. And Vos we only saw in one episode, but in the comics he was very complicated, very angsty. For good reason, I think. What challenges did that present when having them interact with each other?

CG: See, that’s the sort of thing I like to write about! I like to explore the grey area and key questions that drive me when I am writing […] is what makes good people do bad things, and the other is what makes people get up when they’re down. Because there are some people who get knocked down and stay knocked down, but other people, they do tremendous things, they keep getting up and keep fighting and I love that! It’s the triumph of the human spirit […]. These two […] their choices and why they made the choices, where they misstep and where they didn’t is fascinating.

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ML: Dark Disciple has been promo’d as a lot more adult and mature for a Star Wars novel. I think maybe the worst we’ve seen [so far] is probably Red Harvest with the zombie stormtroopers; I could be wrong. In what way is this book different than what we’ve seen before?

CG: Well, because it is an adult relationship, and I don’t mean graphically. I mean these are adult people. They have pasts, they have histories, they’re fully formed individuals. And to bring them together is something that I don’t think we’ve seen. I think we’ve seen younger romances and things like that, but we haven’t seen two adults who are completely fine and whole on their own coming together in an adult way. That’s something that inspires a more mature way of looking at the world […].

ML: Magic and mysticism were something that was missing from Star Wars for a long time. The original trilogy introduced the Force as this kind of mystical thing, and then the prequels made it into something a little more scientific. And then they backtracked later on to try and blend the two together, but you still never really saw much actual magic; it was still all explained “oh, this is that side of the Force”. Will either of those things be coming into play in this book, or did they [Del Rey/Lucasfilm] not want you to put it in at all?

CG: Absolutely! In fact, it is a major aspect […].

ML: Thank goodness! Because she [Asajj] spent so little time with the Nightsisters but they’re still such a big part of that part of her.

[…]

CG: I think, for me, you can’t see those episodes and not like her in some aspect. […] For me, those episodes were all about sisterhood and support and unconditional love and it all. Blew. Up. And that’s so sad.

ML: But it kept coming back in future episodes a tiny little bit; in the bounty hunter episode…she [Asajj] had a connection with [Pluma Sodi] because she lost everything, and she, like you said, had a connection with Kenobi because in her mind the Jedi turned on her just like they turned on Asajj in the past (in her mind).

CG: Yeah!

ML: Will any other familiar characters make an appearance?

CG: Yes! You will see the Jedi Council, you’re going to see Anakin and Ahsoka and Mace and Padme.

ML: Like Padme and Asajj interacting?

CG: I can’t tell you.

ML: Crud! I thought I could get you with that one!

CG: Nice try!

ML: You mentioned a little bit earlier but I would like to get more inside your head about it. You’ve written Star Wars books before, but they were all after Return of the Jedi, which is a completely different era and almost like a different style of writing with the characters you have. How was it to backtrack into the Clone Wars era?

CG: (laughs) I had a baptism by fire because I had not kept up with the Expanded Universe, and my first books were not just one but three, and not three but nine with two other people and I got the middle books. So the challenging thing with that […] was I was coming in so new, trying to get up to speed, seeing only part of the picture sometimes. And to do the Clone Wars, everything’s there. All I needed to do was watch the episodes, watch the Clone Wars movie, so it was all there that I could access. Having it all in a convenient format was really useful as a writer because of easy reference. My heart broke for the clones, they are so tragic…Fives!

ML: I still can’t watch that episode again.

CG: I don’t know that I can either. Because he was one of my favorite clones even before that, and to see […] that wonderful moment where he shakes Palpatine’s hand and you hear the very subtle strains of the Imperial March…

CG: So, I really loved it. I really enjoyed my time visiting with that era. It’s not so big that I have to spend a ton of time simply to be able to write about it.

ML: I’ve been talking a lot about Asajj lately and I do want to ask a question about Quinlan. In The Clone Wars, again he was only in it for one episode, but he gave off a vibe of like a surfer dude kind of Jedi, whereas in the [Dark Horse] comics he’s this amnesiac rogue Jedi who’s trying to figure out what he’s doing, and then goes under deep cover into Dooku’s service and he’s very angsty and kind of hard to read all at once. Which way does your version of Quin lean: more towards The Clone Wars with the lightheartedness or the Dark Horse comics with the “oh my god, life sucks”?

CG: That’s something I’ve seen online, people talking about, and my answer is why not both? When you meet somebody at a party and you talk to them for fifteen minutes, do you think you know who they are? We have but one episode that was serving clearly to just introduce the character so that he could come back later. So, to me, given the kind of life that he leads, which is undercover work he seems like someone who really lives in the moment fully and fiercely, and that’s kind of a daredevil mentality because of who he is. So who better to laugh? Who better to have fun with the “look what I can do!” because he loves his abilities and he enjoys them and appreciates them.

ML: He does seem to love showing off in the TV show.

CG: He does! He’s a great character. He’s very flippant, he’s very fun, very charming. […] We definitely have the chance to, again, slowly as the relationship grows [there are some very interesting things I get to play with]…they’re not 22-minute episodes, it’s an ongoing process to make it develop in an organic manner. It doesn’t feel like “oh, these two characters have to be together now!” We can watch them grow together, and so I think he’s got that. […] I think he’d rather just jump off things and have fun. But I think it’s also one of the things that attracts Asajj to him because he is confident, he is very good at what he does, he is serious, but he understands how to play. And I think that one of the great things about being a true adult is knowing how to play. […] I think he is a very complicated character […] and as I was writing the book I kept finding more and more levels to both of them. So they’re very fully developed characters.

ML: What else do you hope fans and non-fans alike will walk away with?

CG: Well, the lovely thing about this as opposed to the Fate of the Jedi series is you don’t need to know anything about these characters. It’s so character-focused, all you need is right there. You don’t need to know the history to enjoy it and have a solid reading experience. […] I hope it will move people.

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Christie Golden poses with Asajj Ventress in her new ballgown (just kidding, that’s just me)

Dark Disciple hits bookshelves July 7, 2015.

About Michelle Lawhorn

Hailing from some kind of void beyond the stars, Stormraven indulges in costuming, writing, and flailing excessively over her favorite geeky things; Star Wars is at the top of the list and will remain there for quite some time.

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