Del Rey’s Star Wars Books Facebook page hosted a chat with Joe Schreiber, author of the new book Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown as well as two other Star Wars titles, several horror novels, and a handful of action packed YA novels. The chat revolved around the new Darth Maul novel, Star Wars in general, Joe’s previous books, and writing. A brief synopsis of his new novel before the chat transcription begins:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this new novel is a thrilling follow-up to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis.
It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object that will enable the Sith to conquer the galaxy.
Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.
Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown
Jay Sans: How close does Lockdown take place in comparison to episode 1? Is there any chances of seeing another Maul book? After reading Lockdown I really enjoyed learning how Maul thinks and reacts to situations given to him prior to episode 1, any plans on furthering his pre-episode 1 adventures?
Joe Schreiber: Jay, Lockdown takes place not too far before the action of Episode 1 — it’s a very fertile place to work, story-wise, because so much is coming together on the grand scheme of things…and I love that all-too-brief glimpse we get of Maul in that film…a caged animal, pensive, intense, a predator. I’d love to work more with him in that time frame.
Rico Kunst: Do you think Darth Maul is more a brutal beast as we know him from Episode 1 or more like the cunning evil mastermind we see in The Clone Wars?
Schreiber: Rico, my vision of Maul in this book is like a hybrid of the brutal predator we saw in Episode 1 and the scheming Tony Montana galactic crime lord whose rise we see in The Clone Wars. It was cool to tackle him that way, because there was so much potential for developing his inner character and we’d seen a glimpse of where he was ultimately heading in [The Clone Wars].
Tony Miller: [Was] the ending given to you or did you have free reign?
Schreiber: Tony, the ending of Lockdown is mine. One of the coolest things about working with Del Rey and Lucasfilm is the free hand you’re given creatively, but how immediately accessible everyone is when you need a hand. The team of people that I worked with, especially Frank Parisi and Erich Schoeneweiss at [Del Rey], were always ready with super strong ideas of how to make the book better.
Jeff Bucklew: Hello Mr. Schreiber, I could have finished the book last night, I am almost done, but I didn’t want it to end just yet for me. I have enjoyed the book very much and just amazed that people in the book can have a conversation with Maul, not everyone ends with a light saber sticking out of their chest. I get the impression Maul wants to, like the elevator ride with the Munn. I laughed at the thought of some elevator music playing in the background with Maul fighting the urge to remove the head of the poor passenger he was with. What thought went into making Maul more in control and not a wild psychopathic killer to those he came in contact with?
Schreiber: Jeff, the biggest challenge of getting into Maul’s head was the question of how to make him more than just a predator, a weapon of the Sith…especially since he’s not a talker, and so much of what we know about him comes from his simple physical presence. Ultimately it came down to showing how he’s not a guy who makes idle threats, doesn’t waste words, and basically just uses every aspect of his surroundings to his advantage. A guy who’s committed to his assignment, and is simply unable to quit until he’s either successful, or dead.
Dee Cranney: Did you get any access to the LucasArts archive when researching your novel?
Schreiber: Dee, I did get a chance to go out and tour Lucasarts while researching the book — it was phenomenal, a dream come true, really.
Timothy Eubanks: Loved the book. I own the audio book version and I’ve listened to the book 4 times now since it’s release.
Schreiber: Hey, Timothy, totally agree, I love the audiobook work that Random House does on the [Star Wars] books. The production is always excellent, love the music and sound that they do…the audiobook of Darth Plagueis is one that I listened to for weeks while prepping for Maul.
Gabriel Flores: Joe, will you be doing a book tour with Maul: Lockdown? If so, when and where?
Schreiber: Gabriel, unfortunately no current plans for a tour/signing, but we’ll see what happens in the future.
General Star Wars questions:
Paul Dunahoo: Hello! My first question is a simple one, really. Would you ever consider using Ahsoka in one of your Star Wars books? She is my favorite character, and I love your books, so I think it would be a great fit. Thanks for doing this!
Schreiber: Hey, Paul, I like Ahsoka a lot too, and the good news about the [galaxy far far away] is how many opportunities there are to involve characters like hers in the larger story — I’d love to use her somewhere…if the opportunity arose.
Marty Mohr: Do you think Disney will consider the novels cannon?
Schreiber: Marty, no idea what Disney will consider canon or not…it’s a haunting question, really, because they already seem to be taking the subject of what’s canon (and what isn’t) very seriously. My main hope of course is that I’m just writing what fans like myself like to read, and I’m grateful to have that chance.
Ben DarthYoda Dombek: Do you think Maul could have ever usurped Palpatine [to] become Sith Master if things had turned out differently in Episode 1?
Schreiber: Ben, man, that’s a tough question. Maul develops into a fascinating character in The Clone Wars, with dimensions we never saw before, so I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility out of hand.
Kenny Robertson: Joe, I love what you’ve contributed to the Star Wars universe so far. I especially loved Death Troopers, I thought it was a breath of fresh air for [Star Wars]. I’m enjoying Maul: Lockdown as well. Do you get to choose the era’s/main characters that your write about or are they assigned to you?
Schreiber: Kenny, the question of where in the time line the story is set is actually one that gets talked about a lot during the planning stages. Fortunately, when it comes to that, there are a lot of people who are much smarter than I am, and it’s an ongoing conversation with Del Rey and Lucasfilm, because there’s so much going on, and continuity is critical…I need all the air traffic control info that I can get.
Audrey Jane: Do you think you will be writing any more Star Wars books related to Maul? I am almost done with [Maul: Lockdown] and I have to say that I can’t put it down.
Schreiber: Thanks, Audrey. I’d love to do another Maul novel. He’s one of my favorite characters to write — there’s just a lot going on inside his head, and he’s an antihero, which just makes him that much more fun to follow around.
Todd Ridley: My question is will you make a novel series on bounty hunters or one just with a main bad ass bounty hunter?
Schreiber: Todd, yeah, a bounty hunters novel would be awesome. I’d do it in a heartbeat — and I’d read it if somebody else wrote it. Will it happen? You got me.
Andrew Colias: Mr. Schreiber, in light of the fact that within a democratic system the cumulative influence of a single voter is inversely proportional to population size, is it possible the Old Republic ceased millenniums ago to be democratic and is only nominally republican in the most abstract way, and as such the transition to a militarized oligarchy under Palpatine is a negligible political change in the galactic macrocosm?
Schreiber: Andrew, an excellent question, which I believe is best answered with a Wilhelm scream.
Questions about Joe’s novels:
Johann Mitzscherlich: Hello, Mr. Schreiber. I have a question regarding your first Star Wars novel, Death Troopers. While we have a relatively clear view on how old Trig Longo is, but we can only guess the age of his older brother Kale. Did you leave it open on purpose or can you give a more definitive information there?
Schreiber: Johann, I tend to leave that sort of detail open to interpretation, but that’s probably just my preference as a reader…
Jonathan MacQuarrie: Joe, do you think more Star Wars books like Death Troopers and Red Harvest will be done in the future? Will you have a hand in writing them?
Schreiber: Jonathan, not sure if there will be more Star Wars horror novels, but I’d love to get involved if there were!
Jason Renault: Hey Joe. Absolutely loved your previous [two Star Wars] books. You bring a darkness to the novels that we really don’t see from other writers. Is that your contribution and [Del Rey Books] says “ok,” or did they come to you looking to write a little more gritty, a little more horror-based, a lot darker of a novel?
Schreiber: Jason, I’m not sure about where the darkness and grit originates from. I know that when Del Rey first started talking to me about a Maul prison book, I wanted it to be a more “realistic,” down and dirty idea of what prison would look like, no holds barred, in the [Star Wars] universe. They’ve always been very cool about letting me go dark with the material…and the first time I saw the cover for Death Troopers, I knew everything was gonna be exactly what I was hoping for, tone-wise.
Brian Klueter: Great job with the new book! What are some of your other original books to start reading after having read your Star Wars ones?
Schreiber: Brian, I’ve written some horror novels for Del Rey/Random House — Chasing the Dead, Eat the Dark, and No Doors, No Windows — along with some young adult and middle grade readers, that are just as action-y but not quite as dark (Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick and it’s sequel, Perry’s Killer Playlist). Depends on your taste.
Questions on writing:
Samantha Volz: Hi Joe! It’s a real pleasure to talk to you. How did you start writing? Have you always done sci-fi like Star Wars, or did you start elsewhere? What drew you to Star Wars?
Schreiber: Samantha, I’ve been writing since 5th grade, short stories and a novel back in high school (it was awful). I got involved in Star Wars when Del Rey published a horror novel of mine called Chasing the Dead, and later an opportunity came up for Death Troopers. I’m old enough to remember A New Hope when it first came on the big screen and it was amazing to get a chance to fuse what I loved about horror and Star Wars.
Melih DJninetales Kazancioglu: What was your favorite part [of] planning out? With the Star Wars universe being so grand, the options are only as limited as the author
Schreiber: Melih, my favorite part of the whole process is probably the writing itself. I’m terrible at outlining things. I’m pretty much the worst example you could have, as far as an orderly approach. The moment where I get to dive into the story, make a playlist of songs for the chapters and just start writing…that’s the best feeling in the world.
Paul Dunahoo: What tools do you use for writing (apps, computers, etc)?
Schreiber: Paul, I write on a MacBook Pro, although I’ve used everything from a pen and paper to a manual typewriter. I’ve got a day job (I’m an MRI tech at a nearby hospital) and two kids, so my writing time tends to be where I can find it…typically in the mornings for a couple hours. My desk is the bed, the floor, anywhere I can set up shop for a while.
Michael Steinberg: How did you choose to write any of your books? Were they your ideas or did Del Rey approach you with some ideas they wanted to develop? How does the pitch process come about if it was your ideas that needed to be sold?
Schreiber: Micheal, the process for writing [Star Wars] books, for me at least, has always started with a one-liner idea from Del Rey/Lucasfilm, “how about a [Star Wars] horror novel,” “what do you think about a Maul in prison novel.” That’s as specific as it gets to begin with, and it’s a long process of multiple outlines from there…culminating in what’s hopefully a pretty detailed vision of the story, that everybody basically signs off on. Then the writing starts. I get notes along the way, and there are always some deviations from the outline, but it’s a pretty structured process (by my standards, anyway).
Jono Davies: How you write a comic/book as I want to but don’t know when to start?
Schreiber: Jono, asking about getting started writing comics, books, etc. It’s a hard question because a lot’s changing in the marketplace, and continues to change with e-publishing and self-publishing and everything else available…but I would say the constant is, whatever format you’re working in (comics, fiction, whatever) you need to learn how to provide solid content, consistently. Learning the market. Writing every day. The 10,000 hour rule probably applies here. I once took a picture of all the stuff I’ve every written that was so awful that it never got published, and it was literally taller than my daughter was at the time.
Schreiber: Thanks, everybody — lots of great questions. Thanks for spending the lunch hour here with me. Take care.