Interview with Steve Perry

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Originally published February 8, 1998

 

Steve Perry, author of Shadows of the Empire, was the first author to pen a Star Wars novel taking place between two original trilogy films: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Most of the books that have come out since Tim Zahn’s Heir to the Empire in 1991 were set after the theatrical trilogy’s finale.

Shadows of the Empire is a fantastic piece of work and accurately reflects the action, adventure, and excitement of the original trilogy. It was launched as part of a huge multimedia extravaganza including a CD soundtrack, video game, action figures and toys, comics, and more. Some of Steve’s work was even referenced in the Star Wars: A New Hope Special Edition. I had a quick chat with to Steve Perry resulting in some rapid-fire answers about his work. Enjoy!

 

 

Steve PerryT-bone: Shadows of the Empire was the first novel to take place between two films. How did that happen?
Steve Perry: Lucasfilm wanted to work in this area, so that was the deal from the start.

T-bone: When you first found out that your material would be referenced in the A New Hope: Special Edition, how did you feel? When DID you find out?
SP: I knew about this from the beginning, and it was quite a rush.

T-bone: Did you meet George Lucas?
SP: Nope, he was gone the day I went to Skywalker Ranch.

T-bone: George obviously liked the end result. Did you get any feedback from him?
SP: I got a note from him in the book he autographed for me, thanking me for the great work.

T-bone: When you submitted your outline, was there anything specific that Lucasfilm rejected?
SP: They didn’t want the droids flying the Millennium Falcon scene, but I asked them to let me try it. They grudgingly agreed, then liked it enough to ask me to make it longer. I had one other scene involving a gag where Luke and Lando pull the Falcon into what is essentially a gas station to use the phone, and they didn’t think it was funny, so that went away.

T-bone: How early on did you know about the scope of the marketing and what kind of pressure did that put on you?
SP: I knew from the word ”Go.” It did make me want to to a good job, knowing how much was riding on it. My editor convinced me I could do it, and not to worry.

T-bone: How much control over the look of the merchandising material did you have?
SP: Very little. They used my character descriptions, that was about it.

T-bone: Have you seen or played the Nintendo 64 game?
SP: Seen it, played it a little, don’t have one. Looks terrific to me.

T-bone: How did you like the action figures and toys? Did Hasbro contact you for advice?
SP: What I saw looked okay, though Luke had more muscle than he should. I didn’t talk to any of the companies who make ’em.

T-bone: Have you heard the audio book?
SP: Yes, and it was quite well done. A lot was left out, and I’d rather have had it unabridged, but when you do a condensed version, that’s how it goes.

T-bone: SOTE was one of the few books to have its own musical soundtrack. What did you think of the the music?
SP: I liked the music a lot, and I also liked the artwork.

T-bone: Were you always a big Star Wars fan?
SP: Yep. Saw the first movie first week it was out. Loved it.

T-bone: Which is your favorite Star Wars movie and why?
SP: I think The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the three, but I like them all. Got to have them all or the series doesn’t work. A New Hope is the most complete.

T-bone: Who is your favorite SW character?
SP: I can’t pin that one down. I like all the major characters in the movies, and in SOTE, and all of them are necessary.

T-bone: How do you come up with character names?
SP: Fertile imagination. I tried in the Star Wars stuff to use names that would sound right in the universe.

T-bone: I enjoyed Prince Xizor as a main villain. Please tell me how you came up with that name and what the correct pronunciation is.
SP: Lucy Wilson at Lucasfilm came up with the name. It’s “Shee-zor.”

T-bone: The end explosion involving Dash was left open for readers. Tell us, is Dash dead and gone?
SP: Nope. He’s alive and well.

T-bone: Are there any familiar references or inside jokes in your character names?
SP: All kinds, but I don’t want to give too many of them away. The jewel thief Luke thinks about at one point is one. And the traitor in the sewer is another.

T-bone: If you had to cast a SOTE film, who would you put in the main roles? Who would you like to direct?
SP: I wouldn’t much like the job of director, it’s too much work. And since I couldn’t use the original actors for their parts in live action — they’d have to be twenty years younger — I would rather see it as an animated feature so all the originals could play themselves. Voice actors are easier to cast than live action.

T-bone: Who are your biggest influences as a writer?
SP: Hard to say. I like a lot of writers in a lot of different genres. In science fiction, I like Harlan Ellison and Roger Zelazny, also Harry Harrison. In mysteries, I like John D. MacDonald. Overall, I think John Locke is the best writer in the English language.

T-bone: Where do you write and has your style changed over the years?
SP: I have an office in my home, and I work fairly regular hours, weekdays. I hope my style has gotten better.

T-bone: What’s a typical day for Steve Perry like?
SP: Weekdays, I get up about 9 a.m., have a cup of coffee, turn on my word processor and do mail or work for a couple of hours. Take the dogs for a walk, have lunch, get back to work until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I generally work out (yoga, weights, pentjak silat), fix dinner for myself and my wife, who gets home around 6 p.m. We watch the news, a little TV, read, like that. I walk the dogs late, and generally go to bed around 2 a.m.

T-bone: When will we see another Steve Perry novel?
SP: The paperback version of Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals will be out in April. Isaac Asimov’s I-Bots: Time Was with Gary Braunbeck will be out in June. The first of five comics set in the Star Wars universe, Shadows of the Empire: Evolution, ”After the Fall” will be out later this month (February, 1998).

T-bone: What current projects are you working on?
SP: A couple of spec novels in collaboration with Michael Reaves and K.W. Jeter, thrillers. And a near-future SF novel series I’m ghostwriting for a Big Name Writer. Can’t say who. An animated TV show I can’t talk about yet.

T-bone: What’s the last good book you’ve read?
SP: Most recent is Steve Barnes’ horror novel, Iron Shadows.

T-bone: If you were given a choice on your next novel what would it be about?
SP: I’d like to write the movie tie-ins for the new [Star Wars] movies. Me and everybody else who owns a word processor or a pen.

T-bone: Will any of your characters be referenced in any upcoming novels? Are authors required to tell you if they are using them?
SP: Yes, and no.

T-bone: Are authors required to reference other characters and plotlines?
SP: I wasn’t, I dunno about the other writers in general. The rules are that you do Star Wars material as best you can. Lucasfilm has final approval — it’s their universe.

T-bone: What is the worst complaint you’ve heard about one of your books?
SP: I wrote a novel called The Trinity Vector. A reader wrote and said he hated it a lot because he didn’t like the ending. In SOTE, the worst complaints are about the Leia/Xizor seduction scene. A lot of fans don’t like the idea that there is sex in the Star Wars universe.

T-bone: As a rule, being involved in Star Wars generally changes one’s life. How did it change yours?
SP: It allowed me to put the characters through their paces. It got me a lot of fan recognition. It made me a little money. And it made me into a New York Times Bestselling Author, and got me more job offers.

T-bone: What’s the best advice you can give some of the aspiring Star Wars authors out there?
SP: Write something else first. If you want to write Star Wars professionally, you have to be invited. Only way to get invited is to have a record as a good writer doing similar material. They can pick and choose, and they do.

 

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