Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Novel – Sean Williams Interview

This week I got the chance to interview New York Times Best Seller Author Sean Williams about his new Book “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II” the novelization of the upcoming video game from LucasArts.

What is it like being allowed to write in the Star Wars Universe?

Awesome! My inner ten-year-old gets very excited every time I sit down to a new book set in that galaxy far, far away. My outer forty-three-year-old sometimes struggles with the tight deadlines and the highly collaborative nature of it all, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Have you written any Star Wars material before?

The Force Unleashed II is my sixth Star Wars novel. My first were the Force Heretic trilogy, co-written with Shane Dix, in 2003. Then there was The Force Unleashed, which was the first ever novelisation of a computer game to debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Earlier this year saw The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance hit the shelves. It’s the first tie-in to the forthcoming Old Republic MMO RPG, and also the very first novel in the Star Wars Extended Universe, chronologically speaking, so if anyone ever tries to read them all in order, mine is where they’ll start.

Did you have any restrictions on the story you could tell?

Well, you have to write something that fits with the Star Wars oeuvre, which isn’t hard if you like writing adventure novels in a similar vein to the original movies–so no explicit sex, for instance, or bad language. My game tie-ins were constrained by the stories of the games themselves, obviously. My job there is to tell a particular story the best possible way, which involves occasionally cutting things, quite often adding things, always giving it my own spin.

Did George Lucas have any input into story?

I believe he had a lot of input in the original TFU story, and I assume the same applied while Haden Blackman was writing TFU II. The story of Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, is our first real glimpse into the dark times between episode three and four–episode three point five, if you like–so George is understandably careful to make sure nothing goes awry.

Were you allowed to add new locations/planets to the Star Wars universe?

I’ve added the odd world, here and there. Mainly in the Force Heretic series, since that wasn’t tied so much to stories or locations in a particular game. The Extended Universe is large enough now that if I want a particular kind of world, there’s usually one in the canon already–maybe one that hasn’t been visited for a while, so it might be nice to go back there. I really enjoy joining the dots in the continuity like this. Wookieepedia is my friend.

What is the process adapting a game into a novel?

The first place to start is the cut scene scripts. The game has its own narrative, its own structure, and taking the overarching story and turning it into something that will work in a novel can be quite tricky. In TFU, for instance, I decided that building up Juno Eclipse, Starkiller’s pilot, into a fully rounded character was the key to making the novel tick, and in the sequel I’ve taken that process even further. Her character isn’t in the game so much, but I think she’s critical to the novels.

Do you think it is more difficult to write an adaptation of a video game than to write an original story?

They’re both hard, in their own ways. With Star Wars, I have continuity guys to check my mistakes, the work of talented scriptwriters to fall back on if I get stuck, and lots of people happy to chip in an opinion when needed. Writing my own work, I’m completely on my own–so more vulnerable, but also freer to do anything I want. That sounds ideal, but as Devo once said, freedom of choice is not always what we desire. I enjoy changing modes, and keeping myself on my toes, so switching back and forth suits me fine.

What is your geek status? ie Geeky stuff you enjoy

My stepsons think I’m a total geek because I don’t like sport and love shows like Doctor Who. My study is full of remote-control Daleks, Colonial Vipers, steampunk Godzillas, and so on. I also have an Energy Dome, which probably gives me a bigger claim to geek status than anything sci-fi-related. I mean, sci-fi is so mainstream now. You have to dig deep to find something that people will really find odd.

Are you a gamer? And if so did you play the first Force Unleashed Game?

I grew up with an Atari 2600 and have played a bit in the intervening years. The Jedi Knight games on the PC remain a firm favourite. I find console games challenging because I don’t seem to have enough thumbs, and I haven’t really invested the time into working all that out. Therein lies the dilemma: I write almost constantly, and I know that if I did start playing games in earnest, there would go a big chunk of my output. So I play imaginary games with my characters, with an infinite special effects budget.

How long have you been a Star Wars fan?

Ever since the first instalment came out in 1977, back when video recorders barely existed and the only way to revisit movies once they finished in the cinema was to read the novelisations. I still have the edition I read and reread back then. It’s literally falling apart. To say that Star Wars made a big impression on me would be something of an understatement.

Which of the six movies is your favourite and why?

Episode IV: A New Hope, because it was the first, and because it stands alone. The Empire Strikes Back is excellent too, of course, but it leads you to Return of the Jedi, which always feels like a bit of a letdown.

Who is your favourite Star Wars character and why?

Probably Obi-Wan Kenobi, both versions, because it’s his dilemma that really drives the whole saga, in my opinion.

Who is you’re least favourite Star Wars character and why?

A lot of people would say Jar Jar Binks, and I wouldn’t say they’re wrong, but I would have to say that the most disappointing character for me is the Yoda of the prequels. He feels like an imposter to me, so far removed from the weird hippyish little dude of Empire that he’s almost unrecognisable–the real Yoda’s cigar-chomping evil twin. I could go on, but I feel disloyal even mentioning it.

Which Star Wars Character do you think would be the most interesting to write a whole novel around?

Obi-Wan, again, somewhere between Episodes III and IV. We don’t know much about his activities in there, lurking about on Tatooine while Luke grows up. What was going through his head? What regrets did he have? I like conflicted characters, and I figure he had plenty of time in the desert to at least consider changing his mind.

What other writing projects do you have up your sleeve?

I have a kids’ series, The Fixers, coming out down here for Xmas, about a boy who gets caught up in a scheme to make the multiverse a boring place, and next year will see the launch of Troubletwisters, the first book in a series I’m co-writing with Garth Nix. So there’s lots on the go. I like to keep busy.

Sean’s Website can be found HERE and The Novelization of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II can be bought from Titan Books HERE

GS Reporter: Matt

Find me on twitter @matpease

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