Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our ninety-fourth guest was the writer of the Starbridge novels, Sarek and the Han Solo series – the late A C Crispin.
Lightsabre – Ann, welcome to Lightsabre.
ACC – Thank you very much for inviting me to participate. It’s always fun to talk about Star Wars!
Lightsabre – What are your major influences as a writer?
ACC – As a young reader I was very influenced by Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and those great old Holt-Winston books with the rocket on the spine, books with titles like “Rocket Jockey,” “Stadium of the Stars,” “Danger, Dinosaurs!” and “The Year that Stardust Fell.” I read every one I could get my hands on.
As I grew older, of course, I began to read the classics. My favorite authors there are Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Tolstoy. And I also read and love the work of Anne Tyler, Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, Margaret Atwood, and so many others I can’t name them all.
These days in science fiction I read C.M. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, George R.R. Martin, Greg Bear, Vonda McIntyre, and many other well-known writers.
Lightsabre – Which of the six films stand out as your personal favourite, and why?
ACC – I always loved the second film released, the best – The Empire Strikes Back. I thought it was great at combining character growth and change with the action we all love in Star Wars. And of course Han Solo and Lando are prominently featured. I loved the interplay between the two!
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. How did you begin as a writer and how did you end up taking this career path?
ACC – I started writing seriously for the first time back in 1978 when I had an idea for a Star Trek book. I wrote the book, rewrote it five times, and eventually submitted it to Pocket Books. It was published in 1983. The title was Yesterday’s Son. I later wrote a sequel to it called Time for Yesterday. When my first book was released, that coincided with downsizing in the government agency I worked for, so I decided to try my hand at writing for a living. It worked out pretty well.
Lightsabre – How did it feel continuing the adventures of Han Solo, such a well-defined and popular character? Was it a major challenge or just another job?
ACC – Han Solo was always my favorite character, ever since I saw A New Hope the very first night it opened in Washington, DC. I was in my 20’s, and married, and Luke was just a kid to me. Han was a man, and such an attractive one! I was a Star Wars fan from that first night, and still am today.
When I first was asked to do the Han Solo trilogy, I spoke to the Lucasfilm rep to discuss what kind of storyline they wanted me to pursue, and I mentioned (mostly kidding) that I thought it would be a good idea for the trilogy if I could have lunch with Harrison Ford in order to discuss Han Solo’s “history” and character development. The Lucasfilm rep laughed and said, “Nice try! We’d ALL like to have lunch with Harrison!”
Writing the Han Solo books was, of course, a job for me, and it was indeed a challenge. Lucasfilm said I couldn’t use Darth Vader, or the Emperor, and that I couldn’t say much of anything about who Han actually was. His past had to remain pretty much a mystery, even to him. And yet, he had a relative, Thracken sal Solo, and somehow I had to come up a way to explain how Han found this relative and yet still knew nothing of his parentage. That was indeed a challenge.
I applied myself to finding out as much as I could about the Star Wars universe. I read all of the books that had been released up till that time, except for the young kid’s books. I looked at them briefly, but they didn’t seem to relate much to my assignment, since they mostly had to do with adventures of Han and Leia’s children.
It was also a challenge when Lucasfilm said I couldn’t say anything about how Han and Chewie first met. I went back to them on that and pointed out how that just wouldn’t work. I mean…I could give Han amnesia? That sounded silly. So LFL realized that wasn’t feasible. We ended up compromising…I was told it was okay to summarize how Han and Chewie met, but I couldn’t have that action happen “on camera,” so to speak.
There were a lot of challenges involved in trying to write books in the Star Wars universe while remaining faithful to the continuity of the universe. Of course, since I wrote the books, the continuity has changed because of the subsequent film trilogy, but that was nothing I could control.
Lightsabre – In your opinion, what makes for a good book?
ACC – I feel a good book has an exciting adventure, and that the main characters grow and change. If a character remains static during the action of a book, then the book just isn’t compelling in the same way. Writing tie-in fiction is a really big challenge, for that reason, because the characters aren’t supposed to grow and change…they’re supposed to remain pretty much at the end as they were in the beginning, at least in most cases. I was lucky with the Han Solo Trilogy, because it was a given that Han at 19 was going to be a much different person than Han Solo at 29. So I was allowed to have the characters grow and change.
I don’t think I could have handled a project of that scope without LFL bending the usual rules so I could do that.
Lightsabre – How would you like to see the Star Wars books continue? Would you like to see both the prequel and original era’s continue, or forge ahead as they are beyond the New Jedi Order and into the future?
ACC – To be honest about it, I haven’t been keeping up with the Star Wars novels since I wrote mine. If I were ever to write another, I would have a lot of catching up to do! I think I’d like to see authors free to create new characters that could have more growth and change, with the original characters or their descendants perhaps having cameo roles. I’d also like to see the books go more towards the science fiction end of things, as opposed to fantasy. It’s a big universe, lots of fascinating races and worlds. I’d like to see the Star Wars universe exploring “strange new worlds” to borrow a phrase from another media franchise. *wink*.
Lightsabre – You’ve established your skills in novels, but if you had the choice of what you were good at in another field, what would it be?
Lightsabre – You also have a career as a very popular writer of Star Trek fiction. What are your thoughts on the differences between the two franchises and the state of Star Trek today?
ACC – I haven’t written for Star Trek since 1992 or 93, so I am way behind in that universe, too. I liked Next Generation, and I enjoyed Deep Space Nine, but I wasn’t crazy about Voyager, and I actively disliked Enterprise because of the way the Vulcans were portrayed – scheming, lying, emotional…well, those weren’t the Vulcans I’d come to know and love! I love the Star Trek fans. Every year I go to a Star Trek convention called Shore Leave, and it’s great fun. I haven’t had nearly as much contact with Star Wars fans. I confess that I’m getting rather curious about the new film they’re shooting, since I am a Heroes fan, and I’ve seen the actor (Zachary Quinto) that will be playing Spock. I’ll probably go and see that.
ACC – With the right project, sure. I’ve always said I’d like to write Princess Leia’s backstory as a nice big thick novel full of intrigues and glimpses into the early days of the Rebellion. I like doing backstories, and I’m actually becoming sort of known for being able to do them well.
Lightsabre – Your career has certainly been a success – the licensed novels like Star Wars and Trek, V and Alien Resurrection along with the popular Starbridge series and the Exiles of Boq’urain trilogy have certainly kept you busy. What do you foresee in the future for yourself outside of the Star Wars universe? More fantasy?
ACC – I was just hired by Disney to write the first Pirates of the Caribbean grownup novel, and I’ll be doing some backstory for Captain Jack Sparrow – at this point, I think the story they want me to write will be the story of how Captain Jack first became a pirate. In order to take on this project I’ve had to postpone finishing Exiles of Boq’urain, which is my only regret. But I’ll be coming back to it first chance I get, you can count on that. My next published work will be a Zorro short story in the Tales of Zorro anthology that’s coming out in February 2008 from Moonstone Books. If I could pick any universe I wanted to write for, and do a novel based in that universe, it would LOST” I’m a big fan. I love mysteries, and there are mysteries galore there, as well as lots of really quirky characters.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. Han Solo, Spock and Jezzil are locked in a room. Han has his wit and charm, Spock his logic and Jezzil his warrior’s cunning. Who would get out of the room first and how?
ACC – Jezzil would get out first, because he can do magic. Using magic, he can lift the bolt and slide it back, or cause the tumblers in a padlock to click to the “open” position. As long as he can visualize the type of lock, he could open the door.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 27th January 2008.