Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our seventy-sixth guest was involved in the day-to-day running of the official Star Wars and Indiana Jones websites and these days writes for CNET – Bonnie Burton.
Lightsabre – Bonnie, welcome to Lightsabre.
BB – Thanks for interviewing me! It’s an honor!
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. Where did you begin with your writing and what led you to where you are today?
BB – Wow, that’s a big question. I started out as a freelance journalist, mostly writing about internet culture and the like for various magazines like The net, Yahoo Internet Life and Wired. At the same time I was an editor at various sites such as eWorld, @Home Network (which later became Excite@Home), and Winamp.com. I was also working on my own site Grrl.com which included an online journal (pre-blogging era). Eventually I worked with another writer on my first book which was an anthology and interviews with some of the first bloggers online. The book was called “Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-workers: Best of Blogs (Apress).
Lightsabre – What is it like to be a part of the Star Wars phenomenon?
BB – It’s both humbling and exciting at the same time. I grew up with Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but not in a million years did I ever think that George Lucas would be my boss. Granted, there’s about 7 people between us, and it’s not like I have my morning coffee with him. But to know that I’m a Lucasfilm employee in a job I love makes getting out of bed every morning that much easier. I’d have to say the fans are a huge part of my passion for my job. Whether it’s seeing a little girl dressed as Princess Leia at a convention, or watching those awesome 501st Stormtroopers in full gear at a charity event, it’s the fans that make it all worth it. It puts things in perspective and really pushes me to do the best I can.
BB – Well if you chat with my long-time friends, they might tell you it’s a hindrance. I used to talk about one of my favorite icons Bettie Page, or about a great comic book I just finished, or about the latest episode of some horrible reality TV show I was hooked on, but now I seem to mostly talk sci-fi and Star Wars. Even after being with the company for 4 years, I’m not close to being burnt out on the subject at all. Though my friends are. In fact, I believe there’s a no-Lucas zone around them at parties and such, so I can’t just dive into geek speak like I usually do. It’s easy to get entrenched in the whole Star Wars lifestyle and history. But I’ve been trying to branch out into other genres and franchises if I can muster the strength. Luckily I’m a big fan of Twin Peaks and Japanese horror films, so I try to feed those obsessions as well.
Lightsabre – You Can Draw: Star Wars was released in January of 2007, with brilliant art by Tom Hodges and friend of the site Matt Busch. Inspiring young children to draw is something that Star Wars has been doing since 1977, so how much pleasure did it give you to be able to bring that together into an official book?
BB – It was probably one of the biggest goals I had when I started working on starwars.com. I really wanted to revamp the kids section and have more “off-line” activities available for kids. As much as I’m a computer junkie, I still love DIY activities like crafts and drawing, and I know most kids do too. So I decided to start asking some of our licensed Star Wars artists if they would be interested in contributing online tutorials on how to draw their favorite Star Wars characters and vehicles in their own signature drawing styles, and to my relief they did. And all the artists did such an amazing job, that I decided to bug Lucas Books to let me put together the ultimate drawing book for fans — something both kids and adults could learn something from — and that’s how You Can Draw: Star Wars came about.
BB – I’ve always admired people who have the tenacity to follow their dreams no matter how unattainable it might seem at the time. Bettie Page grew up poor in the rural South, under really depressing circumstances with an unstable home life. But she managed to get her act together, move to New York and become a model. And not just any model, but one of the most famous pin-up girls in history. Girls like me still try to imitate her. But there can only be one Bettie, and she really was and still is an icon.
I think “The Notorious Bettie Page” movie did a decent job covering her life, but I suppose I would have liked to know more about the normal parts of Bettie’s life and not just the scandalous side. At one point I remember that Marty Scorsese was planning to do a movie on her life, with Liv Tyler as the lead, which would have been interesting to see another director give his take on her life.
Lightsabre – What were your feelings on Revenge of the Sith? Did it satisfy your fan appetite, or simply whet it for more adventures to come?
BB – Ya know, writing a film to please all Star Wars fans is impossible. I really enjoyed the film, and I think there was enough inside jokes and little clues to keep hardcore fans happy, while still being entertained by the overall story arc. My favorite will always be A New Hope but that’s mainly because it’s so wrapped up with my childhood at a time when I had the most fun as a kid.
Lightsabre – With the release of Indiana Jones 4 in 2008 there must be a hive of behind-the-scenes activity at indianajones.com. Do we have some special things to look forward to on the site as we did in the run up to Revenge of the Sith – production diaries, on set webcams etc?
BB – It’s too early to say what kinds of fun stuff will be in store on Indianajones.com, but all I can say is that if you’re a fan, keep your eyes peeled for some entertaining online content. We’ll also have news and info about the upcoming film on starwars.com too. So stay tuned!
Lightsabre – Which of the myriad Star Wars characters do you feel the most affinity for?
BB – I’ll always love the droids most. R2-D2 may be the smartest and cleverest of the droids, but I think I love Gonk the Power Droid the most.
It can’t be easy for a droid that looks like a trash can to get any respect. But I secretly like to pretend that Gonk was the mastermind behind R2-D2 getting bought by Uncle Owen. And of course, being one of the few fans of the Star Wars Holiday Special, I will always admire Ackmena. Bea Arthur was excellent as the cantina bar mistress, and I can understand why she captivated every alien that walked into that place. She can serve me a cup of jawa juice any day.
Lightsabre – Tell us more of your other interests outside of Star Wars?
BB – I’m a big DIY craft kid. That’s one of the reasons I started a craft section on starwars.com in the kids area. But when I’m not making mouse droid cat toys or Yoda felt dolls for the site, I’m deconstructing t-shirts and making squishy trees from sweaters. I also love taxidermy. I don’t have the stomach to do it myself, but I like to collect oddball pieces. I even have a jackalope at my desk. I also have a big nerdy crush on Sherlock Holmes. I read all the stories and can’t get enough of the Jeremy Brett version of Holmes from Granada Television.
Lightsabre – You have managed to speak to a multitude of Star Wars musicians who are also huge Star Wars fans, including Ash, The Darkness and Snow Patrol. For these guys it must be hugely exciting to be talking about their passion for Star Wars instead of their music, so just how much fun is it to get these people talking?
BB – Before I started at Lucasfilm, I was a VJ for a local music video show. So I’ve always enjoyed interviewing musicians. The research was fulfilling and the actual interview — most often on live TV — was quite a thrill. So I just took that same excitement and put a twist on it by talking to bands and celebs about their love for Star Wars. Most often than not, people will just start chatting away about the first time they saw Star Wars in a theater, or their first Star Wars toys, or debates they still have with their friends. Ironically, a lot of musicians you might think would give canned, typical responses end up sounding more like history professors. They talk on and on about Lucas’ affinity for the “Power of Myth” or discuss political and socio-economic motifs I never contemplated. But you also have quite a few funny moments. Almost all the celebs and bands have had their collections sold by their parents when they went away from home the first time. And they all have bad Star Wars costume memories of their moms making them Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker outfits from bathrobes and hockey helmets. It’s all good fun. And quite frankly I started the article series so fans could come out of the Star Wars closet so to speak, when they realized that their icons love Star Wars as much as they do.
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you in the future?
BB – I have a couple of non-Star Wars books in the works and hopefully a screenplay I want to get off the ground. I’m also starting to write for a great new magazine called GEEK Monthly for fun. They just published their Star Wars issue that I helped with, but I look forward to writing about other geeky topics like about Sherlock Holmes Societies and steampunk artists.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site. Any comments?
BB – If I come to Celebration Europe, will you all hang out with me? I’ve never been to London, so I need someone to tell me the best pubs to hit and where I shouldn’t talk willy nilly about the prequels. Thanks for having such awesome interviews on the site (not just me — but Rick McCallum among others!!!)
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Princess Leia, Betty Page and Ackmena are entered into a bikini contest. Leia has on her classic metal bikini and Betty her classic bikini arrangement, but what would Ackmena be wearing? And when the contest is marked, which one wins?
BB – Well Bettie Page could wear a paper sack and she’d still win.
If it was a talent show however, I’d put my money on Ackmena.
And if it was a card game, like poker or Texas Hold Em, it would go to Leia.
Leia just looks like she’d be good at bluffing.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 2nd September 2007.