We continue our look back to interviews conducted in years past by members of the Fantha Tracks team, and our 2012 interview with one of the saga’s most prolific authors – John Jackson Miller.
MN – Since we last spoke your Star Wars writings have taken you from a fan-favourite 50 issue run on Knights of the Old Republic to Lost Tribe of the Sith, the adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Knight Errant. All succesful, but which project gave you the most satisfaction?
JJM – They’re all different, all satisfying on different levels. Knights of the Old Republic, of course, gave us the chance to build some long-form stories that you don’t see much in comics any more; I think the soon-to-be-ten volumes of trade paperbacks hold together very nicely as a single narrative. Knight Errant with its prose and comics portions has really allowed me to focus on a single character — Kerra Holt — while also developing a realm more or less from scratch. And Indy was a blast, especially because it meant going to Lucasfilm to read the script.
And Lost Tribe of the Sith has let me take the prose-comics combo in yet another direction — as we’re dealing with stories that are separated by many years and often centuries. So they’re all very different, but also very satisfying.
MN – What sparked your ongoing interest in the Star Wars saga?
JJM – Well, there were these movies…
Seriously, yeah, with the fact that there were comics and novels expanding on the movies early on, and also action figures and ships available from Kenner, it was pretty easy for me as a kid to visualize Star Wars as expanding beyond the movies.
MN – Knight Errant: Escape comes closely after the first hugely popular Knight Errant series, which along with the 2011 novel introduced us to a new era with new threats and situations. What made you decide to opt for this particular period of Star Wars history?
JJM – The idea came from Dark Horse’s Randy Stradley, who was interested in setting a series in a time in which the Republic and the Jedi weren’t really going to be a big factor. Everything is so fragmented in Sith space in this era, it’s a much different setting. As a former comparative politics grad student, I was very much interested in the notion of a “balkanized” Sith Empire — where it was really lots of different fiefdoms run by people with their own ideas about how best to rule the galaxy through Sith power. With Kerra as our Odysseus, we’re getting to see a lot of different mini-empires without actually traveling very far. She’s been in the same sector for the entire comics-novel series.
MN – Kerra Holt is a real firecracker. Where did you draw inspiration for her character from?
JJM – I think there was a little Joan of Arc in Kerra to begin with. She was drawn to this one particular mission in her life, and nothing else mattered. And that made her a very intense person to be around, particularly in the early stories. As time has gone on, and she’s seen her role change, she’s been growing up — one difficult lesson at a time.
MN – Your notes on individual issues, as seen at your site Faraway Press clearly show that you are creating not only action, adventure and myth but a rich and detailed environment of political, personal and planetary intrigue. We saw this clearly on Knights of the Old Republic and it’s mini-series sequel Knights of the Old Republic: War. How detailed do you get on a project? Do we only see a fraction of the work you plot out?
JJM – I start with the story first and then work out the details of the world. “World-building” is both a powerful and a dangerous thing in the fiction world — you don’t want to make it seem like you’re presenting a campaign setting for a role-playing game that you just happened to set a story in.
That said, I think it is VERY important to know why things are the way they are, and why things work, even if you never actually draw upon those explanations. So I find myself thinking about things like why the Republic would let Jedi aboard its warships after a Jedi went bad and started the Sith War. Sometimes, you get a story springboard from these things — but even if you don’t, I think it’s good to communicate to readers that you do think deeply about what you’re presenting.
MN – You’ve already proven adept at skipping around the Star Wars timeline, but are there any era’s that you’ve yet to write about that you would like to get your teeth into?
JJM – I think everyone would love to work with the classic movie characters. I did write Vader in my very first story, but since then I’ve been playing Junior Time Lord. Whoops — wrong milieu!
MN – The Knight Errant gazetteer was a fantastic idea, bringing a sense of geography to the tale of Kerra Holt. Is this something you would like to continue to map out, working alongside Modi and the Essential Atlas team?
JJM – That was a fun little side project, which really helped both to promote the comics and novel and to set the stage for us. As we’ve gone from Aflame to the novel to Deluge to Escape, I think the reader can figure out how the sector’s been changing — the Bactranate has for example vanished, with Odion and Daiman carving it up. It’s just a little bonus, I think.
MN – With comics, books, TV shows, video games and other media all playing in the same sandbox, how difficult is it to ‘get your story straight’ and make sure you’re not contradicting each others ideas and plotlines? Does Leland Chee have any kind of involvement in determining the kind of tales you craft?
JJM – Everything we do at the plot and script stages goes through Lucasfilm, and they are very helpful. Working in these earlier timeframes, there really isn’t a lot to run into, so there are rarely continuity issues. There’s enough cushion there, time-wise.
MN – Star Wars fandom is large and vocal. Do you often get chance to interract with those fans, and what are your thoughts on the community?
JJM – I talk with fans on Twitter and Facebook and on my website, as well as on the message boards when I have time. And then I go to the conventions I can — I will be at Celebration later this year, and I will be at San Diego this week (my signing schedule is here). I think it’s great that there are so many devoted fans, and that I’ve been able to add to their experience in any regard.
MN – The Star Wars story is so large, covering so many time periods, that any number of media could be utilised to tell the stories. Would you be interested in webisodes, motion comics or other formats to tell your own stories?
JJM – Having done online short stories and an online roleplaying module, I’m pretty much platform-agnostic when it comes to getting the stories out there. As a reader I prefer the old-fashioned formats myself, but as an author I’m open to telling stories in whatever ways reach people.
And I like the fact that there’s more than one way for a single story to reach people. Those Lost Tribe of the Sith e-books are coming out July 24 in a collected edition including a new novella by me and my maps of the planet Kesh — and then two weeks later we pick the story up in the new comics series, Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral. And those comic will be available digitally, too — so really it’s all about expanding the menu of options for readers.
Interview originally posted at JediNews.co.uk.