Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our third guest is one of the best loved authors – Mike Stackpole.
Lightsabre – Michael, welcome to Lightsabre.
MS – Thanks, glad to be talking with you.
Lightsabre – What are your major influences as a writer? Here at Lightsabre we are obviously influenced by the writings of you guys. What floats your boat?
MS – I read a lot of different stuff. At my website I have a list of the books I’ve read of the last two years. Of the influential authors not listed there I’d have to add: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent, Roger Zelazny, Fred Saberhagen, Jennifer Roberson, Stephen R. Donaldson, Dennis L. McKiernan, Larry Bond and my grandfather, Austin H. Kerin. His single book, Yankees in Court, and the very fact of its existence pointed me toward writing and also made it okay for me to be a writer.
Lightsabre – Which of the four films is your favourite?
MS – The Empire Strikes Back. The story took on added depth there and was one in which the good guys lost. It would have been very easy just to retread again and again, but here we had a solid bridge movie that moved from the first and into the third, setting things up very well. The dire tone, though, I really liked and picked it up for the two Dark Tide novels
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. How did you begin as a writer and how did you end up taking this career path?
MS – Well, in first grade I wrote a poem that my mom liked, so she typed it up and sent it off to a magazine. At age 7, then, the first piece of mail I ever got addressed to me was a rejection slip. I guess, since that point, I’ve been on a crusade to prove the publishing industry wrong in their judgment of me. More seriously, however, I came out of the gaming industry, working on modules and games, all the while doing stories on the side. I wrote a novel, Talion: Revenant, which didn’t sell in 1986, but got me a lot of other work from the editors to whom it was shown. I later got a contract with Bantam for some fantasy novels and, ultimately, they tapped me for the X-wing novels.
Lightsabre – One of the finest Star Wars novels was I, Jedi, which was unusual because it was written from the first-person perspective. How easy or difficult was this to achieve?
MS – Frighteningly easy. I love writing in first person because it makes everything so much more immediate. I knew, from the start, there needed to be a first person Jedi novel. I wanted to do one with Luke, the Dark Empire kinda covered the material I would have hit, so I was lucky enough to be allowed to shift to Corran and write it. That book wrote itself very quickly: 166,000 words in 31 days of a 41-day period.
Lightsabre – In your opinion, what makes for a good book?
MS – How many Megs do I have to answer? You really need three things: Great characters, a solid sense of the world, and a plot that drives the reader on through because of twists and tight writing.
Lightsabre – What are your impressions of George Lucas? Rupert Murdock-style media tyrant or Walt Disney-style fable teller?
MS – I’ve not worked with Mr. Lucas per se, so I don’t really have any impressions of him. If, however, a man can be known by those with whom he works, I’d say he’s a very creative man who enjoys creativity in those who work with him. Lucasfilm was nothing shy of great during the time I worked on novels for them, and they’ve given me bunches of opportunities for other things that they really didn’t need to. The Star Wars family feels very much like a family, and I’m honoured to be part of it.
Lightsabre – The Battletech and Mutant Chronicles settings are large canvases for you to paint your word pictures on but are ultimately restricted by borders on creativity. Considering the vastness of the Star Wars galaxy, are you subject to the same limitations when writing a novel for it?
MS – I really don’t like the working in someone else’s universe is constricting questions because them miss an important thing in the whole process. No one ever asks Jerry Rice, “Hey, isn’t playing on a field that’s fifty yard wide by 120 constricting?” Compared to having zero boundaries, sure it is. On the other hand, you know what those boundaries are when you sign up for the gig of writing in any universe. The key, then, is not sweating where you can’t be, but using the whole field. I’ve never felt restricted, be it Star Wars, or Battletech or any other universe I’ve worked in. I find a place where I can tell a story, and work the corners because the safeties never get out there. 🙂
Lightsabre – You run your own website. How large and important a part does it play in the modern day world, in relation to books?
MS – I think it is vastly important. Publishers do not publicize writers; don’t put ads out to let readers know when books come out, or anything like that. We have to do it ourselves, and that is the beauty of a website. It’s easy to maintain, can be kept current, and is a great place for answering questions that a lot of readers have. That all being said, the goal for my website is simple: it’s the place 6th graders can find all the material they need for putting together a book report. Anything more than that is gravy.
Lightsabre – Do you have any new Star Wars projects lined up? And please – feel free to spill the beans all over the page!
MS – Nope, no new projects inked. Star Wars is like a prom, you have to be asked before you can dance
Lightsabre – What do you foresee in the future for yourself outside of the Star Wars universe? More Mutant Chronicles?
MS – Right now I’m concentrating on writing my fantasy novels. I’m writing Fortress Draconis, which is the sequel to The Dark Glory War. I’ve also got a mystery novel in the works. I wrote a novelette using the characters from the novel and I serialized it to my website, so you can check it out for free
Lightsabre – What were your thoughts on Episode I?
MS – I liked the film a lot. I know there were parts designed to enthral kids, but I didn’t have a problem with them. I really like the Jedi stuff and that fight scene, well, they should just issue a tape with it on it so I can watch over and over again.
Lightsabre – And your personal thoughts – are Palpatine and Sidious definitely the same person or is George luring us into a false sense of security?
MS – Well, the parallel seems obvious to me. Either he is the same, or one will take over for the other. Then again, Mr. Lucas could be doing something different entirely. I’m content to wait.
Lightsabre – What surprises are you anticipating when Attack of the Clones arrives on Thursday May 16th 2002?
MS – Well, I expect to be 100% surprised. I’m going to keep out of as much of the news stuff as I can, so I’ll be able to walk in there like a kid who’s never heard of this stuff before. 🙂
Lightsabre – Any thoughts on our site? Constructive criticism is more than welcome.
MS – I’m impressed. The site looks great. It is clearly a labour of love, but there is a lot of that going around concerning the Star Wars universe. 🙂 I wish you the greatest success with it.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. You’re given fifteen days to write the novelization of Episode III. It’s got to be finished and complete for delivery to the printers, and you know that your whole reputation depends on it being an excellent read. Given your reputation as a fast writer, we ask the question – would you play safe and pass or would you go for it?
MS – Well, knowing the process, I’d never be placed in that sort of bind. The comic adaptation at 44 pages, I’d take the job in a heartbeat. The novel, well… if they wanted something 75,000 words long, I could hit that pace, sure. I’d probably have to pass, though, since that’s really just too little time. Double it, and pay me a fabulous amount of money, and I’m your guy. In a side note, my whole reputation wouldn’t depend upon it being an excellent read. First, folks would know it was done from a script, so my ability to warp and change things would be limited. Second, because of the hype surrounding everything, everyone would know I only had a handful of days to do it. What we’d likely hear is this, “Given the constraints, Stackpole did not do a bad job.” Not the greatest praise ever, but I could live with it. 🙂
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 3rd November 2000.