Author: A Barve Like That (Tales from Jabba’s Palace), The Last One Standing (Tales from the Bounty Hunters), Empire Blues (Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina)
Interview: July 2018
I’d like to start at the very beginning: what got you into writing and how did your career take off?
I can’t remember ever not wanting to be writer. Wrote my first novel at 8 “Third Degree Magic,” the main two characters were me and my friend Steve. The bad guy was named “Diablo.”
Sent my first story off to a magazine at 13, “A Day in the Life of a Telephone Pole.” Wrote my first real novel at 15, an alien invasion western novel. Finally sold a story to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, at 18. Few years after that sold my first novel to Amy Stout at Bantam Doubleday, we’re now married and have five children together.
When and where was your first encounter with Star Wars? And what did you think of it?
My high school debate team won a pretty big debate and as a reward we were offered the chance to do several different things one of them was going to see this obscure movie called Star Wars at the Chinese Theater on opening day. I don’t think we were at the first showing I vaguely recall getting back to the school pretty late in the day but maybe the second or third showing. Pretty good chance David Gerrold (the writer of “Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles,” Chtorr, “The Man Who Folded Himself”) who later got to be a great friend, was in the theater with me when we watched it. He was also there for an early showing, that first day.
I was blown away. It was the first SF movie that managed onscreen the sorts of things I saw in my head when I read Edgar Rice Burroughs.
You wrote two short stories about Fett (called A Barve Like That and The Last One Standing), creating a lot of background for the character, who was especially back then a huge fan favorite. How did you approach this massive task?
It wasn’t a massive task. It was a short story and a novella, and while I put a lot of skull sweat into them, most of what I’ve ever written’s been a heavier lift. They were fun to write, aside from dealing with Lucasfilm. I put a pseudonym on “A Barve Like That” because I was cranky with Lucasfilm; they were mad about that. So it was a surprise to me when they had me write “The Last One Standing” I was pretty blunt by that point, having done two stories already and scratched the itch to work professionally on Star Wars. Wrote them an outline, told them they could have it or not have it but I was writing what was in the outline, and they said yes. So that was a surprise. Then they tried to excise what was probably my favorite scene in that story; Kevin J. Anderson stopped them, and I’m grateful for that. It was published as written, minus a few word changes here or there.
It’s one of my favorite stories. It came from Harrison Ford’s desire to see Han Solo die in Return of the Jedi “he’s got no Mama, he’s got no Papa, he’s got no story.” So I took that and ran with it. I did the first “Old Han” story as well as the first real Boba Fett story, taking them into the future and dealing with the loss of their youth.
You also wrote the tale of Kardue’sai’Malloc, the devaronian seen in the Cantina. What was your inspiration to write his story?
That was a pure “I want to write Star Wars” thing. Kathy Tyers had written an excellent story about the Modal Nodes, the band that plays during the Cantina scene I wrote a story that surrounded hers, about Kardue/Labria, who always seemed to me to be having an awfully great time in the bar that day. Turned him into a music collector who worshipped the Modal Nodes, and had a fun story about how he arranged to have them playing at the bar that day.
One of your Boba Fett stories and the Devaronian’s tale were heavily edited. In fact, the Fett story was published under your pseudonym JD Montgomery. What was exactly edited, and what was the reason?
Devaronian’s Tale wasn’t edited that much. Mostly they wouldn’t let me swear, or mention whores. I wasn’t thrilled with the changes, but they were minor.
I don’t know what happened with “A Barve Like That.” I agreed to do it, then they told me I couldn’t really write my outline, where Fett spent years down in the Sarlacc; he could only be down there for a day or two. So I wrote that story. Then they told me the Sarlacc couldn’t be intelligent, which was the actual center of the weakened story, so I took all the Sarlacc’s contribution to the story and gave it to one of Fett’s fellow prisoners “Susejo,” or O Jesus backwards. I’ve had people write me telling me they loved that story, and OK, but man, it was only a shadow of what it should have been. In its final form Fett falls into the Sarlacc, argues with a fellow prisoner, and climbs back out again. Eh.
How did you react to the news your stories were edited and why did you choose to have one being published under a pseudonym?
I behaved with forthright and reasonable bluntness. Later on I met one of the ladies who worked at Lucasfilm, and upon hearing my name, she took two steps backwards. So maybe my perception isn’t the whole of the story.
I always thought that back in the 90’s Lucasfilm didn’t want authors to write about the pre-A New Hope era because they were making the prequel trilogy. However, they let you write about Boba Fett in his younger days. Do you know why they approved that?
A couple of years after your Fett stories the movie Attack of the Clones showed the origins of Fett, contradicting your stories. How did you feel about this and which version do you prefer?
I prefer mine, of course. But it didn’t particularly annoy me. I don’t care much about canon, and my stories are still out there for anyone who wants to read them. And frankly, even within the universe of commercial fiction, Lucas was utterly contemptuous of his own early writing, when it came time to make the prequels. The idea that I should get annoyed about him ignoring mine? No.
In your stories Fett’s real name was Jaster Mereel, something which was later retconned and Jaster became another Mandalorian. Did you know about these retcons and do you like them?
I haven’t followed along with anything except the televised & movie material. Shout out to Star Wars Rebels, there that was a fine piece of work. Watched it with my youngest boy, start to finish.
There are rumors about a Fett spinoff. Any advice for Lucasfilm? You’re the expert!
I’ve had a guy at Disney email me a couple times over the years regarding Lucasfilm adapting “Last One Standing” into a Fett movie. Not asking permission, they own those works, just letting me know they were thinking about it. So that was kind. But after Solo stiffed, apparently there’s some question about the Fett movie being made.
As to advice for Disney? I thought The Last Jedi was brilliant, the first Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back I thought was a complete success on its own terms. Then I thought Solo was perfectly adequate and inoffensive, and as much as I love Star Wars, that’s a little sad. So for advice? Get the creative team behind The Last Jedi on your Fett movie, rather than the team behind Solo.