Timothy Zahn's Star Wars
novels have over 4 million copies in print. Since 1978, Zahn has published nearly 70 short stories and novelettes, 19 novels, and three short fiction collections, and won the 1984 Hugo Award for best novella. He is best known for his five Star Wars
books, (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, Specter of the Past
and Vision of the Future
). His latest work is Survivor's Quest
, which hits bookstores today. Here is a brief interview with Zahn followed by an excerpt from chapter seven of his new book.
How long has it been since your last Star Wars book? How does it feel to be back in that galaxy long, ago and far, far away?
The Hand of Thrawn duology was published in 1997 and 1998, so it's been almost six years. I have done a few Star Wars short stories in that time, though, so it isn't like I've been out of the GFFA entirely.
You mentioned The Hand of Thrawn. That series, along with its predecessor, The Thrawn Trilogy, remains hugely popular with fans. What is it that sets your Star Wars books apart?
That's a question you'd have to ask the fans, because I really can't tell you. As an author, I simply do my best to create a story with an interesting plot, characters the reader will care about, lots of action, and maybe a few twists along the way. At that point, all I can do is hope that what I've done will connect with the readers. So far, I've been very fortunate.
Your new novel, Survivor's Quest, is also concerned with Admiral Thrawn -- or, rather, with the consequences of certain actions taken by him. How does this book fit into the Star Wars timeline? Is it a direct sequel to your two previous series or only tangentially related?
All of my Star Wars books have sort of melded into a single series, dealing with the same characters and some of the same events . . . or, as you say, the consequences of those events. Once the Outbound Flight book is finished, the books will form a loose septology spanning roughly fifty years of Star Wars history.
Tell us a little about Outbound Flight and the part it plays in the novel.
Outbound Flight was a project to send an expedition to another galaxy in the days before the Clone Wars, a project pushed strongly by Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth. On its way through the Unknown Regions, it was attacked and destroyed by the young Chiss commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, better known to us as Thrawn. In Survivor's Quest, the Chiss have discovered the remains of Outbound Flight a considerable distance from where it was destroyed, and invite Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker to accompany them on the official voyage to examine the wreckage. Also along are representatives of an alien species who wants to pay their last respects, a group of stormtroopers from Thrawn's Empire of the Hand, and a New Republic ambassador with some private ghosts of his own.
Luke and Mara are still basically newlyweds as the novel opens. They both have doubts to work throughnot about their love for each other, but about their own pasts, and the still-mysterious past of the Jedi order. Can you talk a little bit about this element of the novel?
Though Mara has fully joined the New Republic, there are still parts of her past Imperial service that hold a draw for her, particularly the order and discipline the Empire offered, and she discovers she still has to work through some of those feelings. Luke, for his part, is still struggling with questions about his role as "the" Jedi Master of the New Republic, as well as how some of the rules and traditions of the old Jedi order relate to the new Jedi Order he's trying to build.
In writing Survivor's Quest, you're limited in what can happen to Luke and Mara by future events already set down by other writers in books like The New Jedi Order series. Did you find that constraint to be a troublesome one? How do you keep up the suspense when readers already know what's going to happen to your characters in the future?
I didn't find that a particular problem, since I suspect most readers already know I'm not going to kill Luke or Mara, or even lop off a limb or two. However, even though the Skywalkers may be safe, there are still quite a few secondary characters who the readers will hopefully also come to root for. And their fates are in no way guaranteed.
What is the relationship of the Empire of the Hand to the Empire of Palpatine?
The Empire of the Hand is Thrawn's legacy, his version of the Empire of Palpatine that he brought to the Unknown Regions. Since Thrawn didn't have Palpatine's megalomania and xenophobia, there are some interesting differences between the two institutions.