With three Star Wars
novels to his name, author James Luceno has told some very important tales set in the galaxy far, far away. His bestselling Agents of Chaos paperback duology got a despondent Han Solo
back on track after suffering the death of his Wookiee
companion, and the recently released hardcover Cloak of Deception
explores the political climate of the Republic that precipitated the momentous events seen in Episode I.
Cloak of Deception begins the Star Wars novel timeline, and directly leads into the events of The Phantom Menace. How did this affect the way you introduced familiar concepts such as the Jedi, and the state of the galaxy?
I chose to treat the book as just that: the introductory work to the entire saga, similar to the way The Hobbit "introduces" The Lord of the Rings. That meant accepting the risk of describing many elements readers have come to take for granted. Even so, I kept the descriptions short, as if to whet everyone's appetite, and I tried not to be too heavy handed about foreshadowing.
With your previous Agent of Chaos novels, and now Cloak, you've quickly gained the reputation as an author who truly knows the Expanded Universe. What sort of research did you do to become well versed in the Star Wars galaxy?
I read everything I could get my hands on: the early comics, the later comics, the entire line of Bantam novels, the Essential Guides, a dozen or so roleplaying books ... That may sound like a daunting task, but I've been a Star Wars fan for a lot of years, and I have deep respect for what so many people have brought to the Expanded Universe.
Working with Dan Wallace in fashioning a map of the galaxy was also an immense help, since I came away from that particular project with a good grasp of the hundreds of worlds and species that have been created for the Expanded Universe.
Your novel explores one of the most intriguing characters of the Star Wars saga, a character that, by design, must be kept somewhat vague. How did you get inside Palpatine's head? What did you have to do to write this character?
I paid very close attention to the Palpatine scenes in The Phantom Menace -- his gestures and patterns of speech -- and I watched and rewatched every scene of the classic trilogy in which the Emperor appears. I knew going into the project that I couldn't create a backstory for Palpatine, but I had Mr. Lucas's permission to depict Palpatine as a consummate manipulator and master politician. I figured that if I could mimic Palpatine's speech and keep him ever-crafty, the rest would follow.
Arriving on the heels of a coming-of-age prequel novel (Rogue Planet) and a pulpy detective story (Shadow Hunter), what were your thoughts upon agreeing to write what can be described as a political thriller? What were the challenges? How did you keep it Star Wars?
In his instructions, Mr. Lucas stated up front that he wanted a political thriller that focused on Palpatine and Valorum, so I looked to writers like Forsythe and Ludlum, who are masters of the genre. The challenge was to keep the story moving, and to honor as many Star Wars conventions as I could.
My first couple of outlines were too action-oriented, too focused on Qui-Gon and secondary characters; but with help from Sue Rostoni of LucasBooks, and my editor Shelly Shapiro, I was able to keep trimming back on the action until a balance was struck between intrigue and swordplay. I then tried to mirror the three-part structure of the films. Once I knew the full story, I imagined myself writing a novelization of the film that was running in my head.