September 4 was a big day for Star Wars fans. Force Friday brought plenty of merchandise giving teases of what is to come in The Force Awakens this December. Force Friday also brought with it an unprecedented collaboration with authors all working on the "Journey to the Force Awakens." Jason Fry was responsible for the a couple of those stories that are now part of the Star Wars canon.
Fry authored The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure and he co-authored Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure with Cecil Castellucci. The Star Wars Adventure Books are the only to books that fall into the time period immediately preceding The Force Awakens. These books give us hints of what the Resistance is about to be facing in the much anticipated installment from Lucasfilm.
Jason Fry was kind enough to talk with the Inquisitr in this exclusive interview. Fry discusses working with the Star Wars Story Group and the responsibility of bringing a critical story of Luke Skywalker to the fans of the "galaxy far, far away."
The Journey to the Force Awakens is an undertaking that we haven't really experienced from any property before. How long has this event been in the planning stages?
"All I can tell you about is the role I've played in it. I will say that as a fan I think it's a really cool idea, and felt that way from the very beginning. We all love teasers and hints, and in these books you get what I like to call 'puzzle pieces' about The Force Awakens. That part of the project appealed to me as a fan, but I was also intrigued by that as a writing challenge. My fellow authors and I wanted the search for those puzzle pieces to be fun and to lead to lots of reader speculation, but the stories also had to stand on their own."At what point did you know you would be a part of it?
"That's something I think it's important to emphasize – these books aren't going to 'spoil' The Force Awakens. In The Weapon of a Jedi, Luke's story is bookended by chapters set in the timeframe of the new movie. But they don't depict events in the movie itself. So you can read any of these books and go to the theater on Dec. 18 without having any of the surprises ruined."
"Let's see. I signed on last August and turned in my draft of The Weapon of a Jedi at the end of September. You just have to get used to that as a writer -- publishing takes a long time, and if you finish a book you're proud of you can't talk about it right when you most want to. It can be tricky to talk about a book that came out a year ago, then shift gears and work on something that won't come out until a year from now and keep it all straight – particularly when it's important not to slip up and give anything away."When writing a book like The Weapon of a Jedi or Moving Target, how did you go about choosing a character? Did you pick Luke Skywalker, or did the story group make that decision?
"I was assigned the Luke book as my solo (not Solo) effort. Which was kind of funny because I have to admit I'm a Han guy. (Greg Rucka wrote the Han book, which I can't wait to read!) Even as a kid back in '77, I identified more with Han than Luke. I don't know, zooming around on the Millennium Falcon sounded much more fun to me than joining this revolutionary movement and trying to live up to this mysterious family legacy."Can you tell us about how much of the story you came up with versus how much influence the story group had on the book?
"Now combine that with the fact that Luke is a tricky character to capture correctly, as well one Star Wars fans feel really protective about. Put all that together and I felt a lot of pressure to do Luke justice, and figure out how he ticks. But that turned out to be a good thing – I wound up with a lot more appreciation for Luke as a character than I'd had before. I'm still a Han guy, but now I'm also a proud member of Team Luke."
"(Warning, mild spoilers ahead.) I inherited the basics of the story: Luke would be called by the Force to a planet and explore mysterious ruins in search of Jedi lore, make progress in the ways of the Force, and then have to fight a deadly enemy with his lightsaber. But I was able to fill in the details from there. I did a lot of fun thinking about Luke's relationship with the Force, what Obi-Wan had taught him and what he hadn't, and what he might find in the ruined Jedi temple. That let me think about the mistakes he would make essentially trying to train himself, and the realizations he might have."Is there a different amount of freedom dealing with a core character like Luke Skywalker as opposed to writing a character like Zare Leonis from the Servants of the Empire series?
"I've written books where I had near-total freedom to tell the story – most of the Servants of the Empire series worked that way, for instance – and I've done projects where the broad strokes of the story were already filled in at the beginning. In either situation, Lucasfilm gives you about as much freedom as a project allows, which is wonderful as an author. There's a genuine love of storytelling at Lucasfilm, and respect for it as the guiding principle. That's taught me a lot -- I think I've grown as a writer while writing Star Wars fiction. Believe me, plenty of writers working with licensed properties wouldn't say that."
"Oh, without a doubt. Go back to what I said about Luke and Star Wars fans being so protective of him. A lot of Star Wars fans have been watching and reading the adventures of Luke Skywalker for their entire lives, and they have finely-tuned radar for how Luke talks and acts – something that goes for C-3PO and R2-D2, too. They can feel it when you don't have the character quite right, and it throws them out of the story."The Weapon of a Jedi falls into the same time period as some other New Canon titles like Heir to the Jedi as well as the Marvel ongoing comic titles. What kind of difficulty is there when it comes to trying to write a book and keep everything straight?
"That isn't true of Zare – yes, he's a Star Wars Rebels character, but he's a pretty minor one on-screen. And Merei Spanjaf is my own creation. So there's definitely more leeway there."
"But that's a good challenge. I know fans are protective of Luke and Threepio and Artoo because I feel the same way – I've known and loved these characters since I was eight years old. So while I was writing I'd close my eyes and make sure I could hear a line I'd written for See-Threepio in Anthony Daniels' voice. How awesome is that?"
"I left all that to Lucasfilm and focused on my story. That was the way the Journey to The Force Awakens project worked – everyone had their own little piece of the picture to color in. Fans have asked me where The Weapon of a Jedi slots in with Heir to the Jedi and the Marvels, and I have to shrug and say I don't know. Which I have to say was a nice change of pace for me – a lot of my earlier Star Wars work was guidebooks, what you might call "non-fiction fiction." I loved writing those, and I think world-building and continuity-wrangling are fun, but it was refreshing to just tell a story and let other folks worry about that stuff."The Weapon of a Jedi seems to bridge the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back especially as it pertains to Luke's skills with the lightsaber. Was this the plan when you began writing the book?
"Folks have said online that The Weapon of a Jedi fits really neatly between Heir and the Marvels in terms of Luke's telekinetic abilities and how he responds to a … to avoid spoilers let's call it a difficulty in fighting. I don't know if that theory's correct or not, but if it is the credit should go to Lucasfilm, not me."
"Definitely. We wanted to see Luke right after A New Hope, but then get him closer to the character we get to know in The Empire Strikes Back. That's about more than lightsabers and telekinesis, though – it was also fun to explore the conflict Luke wrestles with during that time period. He's a rebel hero and an ace star pilot, but he also feels a responsibility to Ben Kenobi and his father to learn the ways of the Force and restore the Jedi Order. I've always found that really rich material: Luke becomes a hero for one reason, but it becomes increasingly clear to him that that isn't his destiny, that his true path is more difficult and largely unmarked."It's hard not to be intrigued by the promise that clues are in this as well as the other Adventure novels about the upcoming The Force Awakens. For those that read the books and see the movie, will we have the moment when watching the film that says, "Oh, I see where that comes from in The Weapon of a Jedi?"
"I hope so! The goal was to give readers of whatever age – because I hope The Weapon of a Jedi will appeal to you if you're eight, 80 or 800 -- a classic-era story to enjoy on its own merits now and some puzzle pieces that will make you want to re-read it in late December, when we'll all know so much more."The illustrations by Phil Noto are wonderful in all of these books. How much of an input did you have on them?
"Nothing beyond basic reference. But wow, aren't they wonderful? As a writer, that's always a wild card. I've written books I'm really proud of and had my heart sink when I saw the covers, and I've reached the same point and wanted to jump for joy because the covers and interior art were so great. All of us authors were really lucky to have Phil as part of Team JTFA."To say that there is more than one loose end in The Weapon of a Jedi to tie up is an understatement. This goes for just about all of the Star Wars Adventure books. Will we see more of these in the near future? Jason Fry channeled his inner Yoda for that answer...
"Always in motion is the future, to quote a little green friend of mine."Have you had a chance to read the books from Journey to the Force Awakens? Jason Fry's The Weapon of a Jedi should be first on the list. If you have, we would love to hear what you think the future holds for Luke Skywalker.
[Photo by Lucasfilm/Phil Noto]