Recap: Jason Fry on The Essential Guide to Warfare

There was another Star Wars Books chat today, this time with Jason Fry (and, via proxy, co-author Paul Urquhart) on The Essential Guide to Warfare. Chats for this type of continuity-baiting books do tend to be a tad calmer than for the big fiction books, so I’ll do a more straightforward recap.

However, because some of the questions touch on some fairly obscure parts of the EU, I have added a few notes and Wookiepedia links where called for. Be cautious: There may be spoilers in the links.

Head beneath the cut to check it out!

Ian Miller: How did you determine how much space to give to each element and era of Star Wars history?

Jason Fry: Not an exact science. Mix of things designed to appeal to fans of the movies/TV show, hardcore EU fans and fun stuff I’d just always wanted to tackle.

Star Wars Books: Jason, you’ve been posting “end notes” for the book the past two days. What gave you the idea to do this

Jason Fry: Dan Wallace and I did em for the Atlas and thought it was a lot of fun. As a reader, I always liked getting to peek behind the scenes and think along with the author(s).

Joe Sorbera: Was there a particular era or battle that you personally wanted to explore in more detail?

Jason Fry: I’m a huge fan of early galactic history and Xim, but that’s a bit too esoteric for lots of fans, so we dialed that back.

OTOH, I love the early days of the Empire, and we got to do tons of stuff there. That was really fun.

Appearing as a fuzzy blue Ewok, Paul chips in by saying that the things he had most fun getting his teeth into were Ruusan and the NJO.

Mike Cooper: What is the likelihood that the fate of the Intimidator  will be expanded upon at some point? Note: A Star Dreadnought also known as Pride of Yevetha, from the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy.

Jason Fry: We’ve steered clear of the Empire of the Hand in the Atlas and Warfare because I sense Zahn will have more tales to tell there and he should have a free hand.

Len Forgione: Can you describe the collaboration between you and the artists in this book?

Jason Fry: Art and text is an interesting collaboration. I gave Ian Fullwood and John VanFleet notes and some really bad sketches for the Xim ships, but mostly leaned on Erich Schoeneweiss to make all the trains run on time.

You can see my Tionese sketches in Endnotes Pt. 1. I cannot draw.

Star Wars Books (Erich:) Jason’s sketches were a big help to the artists. Really made it clear what he was looking for in the final ships.

Aurelia Diesel: You’ve written quite a few ‘essential guides’ to Star Wars now. What is it like researching and compiling all the information needed to write these ‘guide’ books? What is the pre-writing/composition process like?

Jason Fry: It’s a ton of work and constant checking of book after book after book. The key is a good outline. My Warfare outline was way too long — I got to Rise of the Empire and was 30% over my word count for the whole book. Budding writers, listen to a convert: Hard work on the outline will be hugely helpful in the writing.

Plus you lean on LFL and smart fans for help with thorny issues.

Daniel Negrete: How did you come up with a first name for Ackbar? Were there other options, and was the decision to give him a first name something that you’d been looking forward to?

Jason Fry: From Paul: Ackbar’s first name is the name of Mon Cal Senator Gial Gahan in the Legacy comics. So he’s named after a character who’s named after him.

Johann Mitzscherlich: Why did you choose Trench as Clone Wars veteran? Sure, he is a cool character, but was there any personal involvement?

Jason Fry: Trench was an obvious choice for CW fans, plus I like the character and his species background, and wanted to do a little retcon involcing Yularen and how the two faced each other.

Daniel Negrete: I was wondering if there was a specific intention behind calling Naga Sadow “Darth Naga Sadow,” or if it was an error.

Paul Urquhart: Yes, there was a specific intention with using the name Darth Naga Sadow. It’s meant to indicate Sadow’s ambition, and his status as “supreme viceroy” (i.e. top Dark Lord). The context needed a title that wasn’t Sith’ari. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a contemporary usage.

Jason Fry: Paul did the bulk of the NJO material, because he’s a huge fan of the series. I think he did an awesome job.

Aaron Goins: On page 44 you reveal that the Old Republic era Jedi Valenthyne Farfalla is “Half-Bothan”. His species before this was never confirmed although he was called an “Equine”. What was the thought process behind making him half-Bothan? Was this something of your creation or was it already established in the holocron? Can we assume the other half is human? Thanks again!

Paul Urquhart: “Half-Bothan” was because they’re the most prominent near-human equine species. As to what his other half is, I wanted to leave it ambiguous: he might have some Sephi ancestry, or maybe his people were originally the products of Sith Alchemy.

Bothans are very confusing and inconsistent, which is part of the reason for choosing them! My favourite picture of Borsk is the kangaroo one on the front of Specter of the Past. And Farfalla isn’t a character whose appearance can be explained rationally outside Narnia – hence leaving the option open that his ancestors were warped by some Sith with a sick sense of humour.

Robert Joseph Dacunto: My only complaint was the Imperial rank system, but I guess I read too much of Curtis Saxton’s website in the past. What made you go that route?

Paul Urquhart: The primary motivation was the desire to be as faithful to the movies and Expanded Universe as possible. You never know when old WEG ranks might pop up in Zahn’s next novel.

Aurelia Diesel: How has your previous experience with journalism and writing for the Wall Street Journal Online prepared/help you for writing books about fictional universes such as Star Wars? Would you suggest to budding writers that they also dab in nonfiction & fiction writing?

Jason Fry: My background probably gave me a leg up in terms of organization and being able to write clearly. Plus HIT YOUR DEADLINES and don’t be a diva. As an editor myself, you have to know writers will do their jobs and solve problems rather than causing them. Reliable writers get more work. Unreliable ones never get called back.

Johann Mitzscherlich: It may seem obviously, but is the name “Skere Kaan” (where you first introduced his forename) to the tiger Shere Khan from The Jungle Book.

Jason Fry: Yep, Skere Kaan is a Jungle Book nod. That was Paul. Made me smile.

Roqoo Depot: There was some interesting things about the Hutts and there move toward a more militaristic stance after the NJO. Where did that idea come from?

Jason Fry: I’ve always loved the Hutts, so anything I do with them is a ton of fun. Hutt Space was the first area I detailed for the Atlas. Love it and them.

The new stuff came about after their activist role in the Legacy of the Force series. Which surprised me a bit, but ran with it….

Daniel Negrete: I read in another interview you did (I think it was Suvudu) that there was a lot more material that you wrote for the book, but it ended up having to be cut. Was most of this material EU-era, and are there any plans to release it in another format (online, perhaps)?

Jason Fry: Material was all over the place. Would love to find it a home, but have to see what the options are. Will try!

Ian Miller: Do authors currently writing get drafts of the new Essential Guides, and most recently published similar works for reference and research?

Star Wars Books (Erich:) Ian, yes. We’ll send copies of the Essential Guides to the authors writing novels and we send the novels to the authors writing Essential Guides. Jason actually stays up to date with all of the SW novels. He walked out of here with a copy of Scourge just last week.

John Jackson Miller: The EU writers use these all the time, as the spine on my Essential Atlas would show. :)

Glenn AJ Van Biesen: Did you use Wookiepedia during the writing, either as source or as help?

Jason Fry: Wookieepedia is a fabulous resource. Love it and use it a lot. But it’s always a starting point for further verification, not an endpoint.

Tim Veekhoven: I would have loved to see a pilot roster for the Battle of Endor for the Alliance. Wasn’t this part of the plan to include it?

Jason Fry: Had to cut back pretty drastically, and thought there were more interesting things to tackle than the Endor roster. But yeah, on further review it would have made sense to complete the trilogy. Did a Rogues roster for Brentaal, but it was lame and I cut it. Note: The Rogues fought the Battle of Brentaal in the ‘In the Empire’s Service’ arc of the X-Wing comics. It’s most noteworthy for being the debut of Baron Fel.

Ian Miller: The Rogues at Brentaal were lame? But I love Feylis, Avan, Fel, etc!

Jason Fry: The Rogues at Brentaal were great. My writing about them was lame. Out it went.

Keith Kappel: My question is related to the image of the sector armies on page 98 during the Clone Wars. You have each sector army being led by a Moff, which I think is great, I loved seeing all the familiar and obscure Moff names, however, I had been under the impression Jedi-General Ry Gaul ran the 2nd Sector Army, and Ki Adi Mundi ran the 4th. Were the Moffs just liaisons between the Jedi/Army and Senate? Also, are there any plans to establish definitively which Jedi Council member controlled which Systems Armies? And Finally, was the inclusion of Black Sword Command as the 6th Systems army meant to be a nod toward the Black Fleet Crisis material?

Paul Urquhart: The exact evolution of the Governors-General before they take full control in the last days of the Republic is deliberately left ambiguous, but most are Judicial officers (compare them to the Clone Marshal Commanders who also pair with the Jedi Generals). Black Sword is definitely intended as the original of the Black Fleet command – Moff Gann and Sector 5 are also referenced there.

Faith O’Leary: What is it like to be a part of Star Wars? I mean, that’s HUGE! it must be a big honor!

Jason Fry: It’s an enormous honor. I pinch myself all the time. Also, it’s AMAZING to know that kids like your books and those books have encouraged them to become avid readers and use their imagination. I get that with my DK books a lot, and feel very lucky to hear it.

Johann Mitzscherlich: On page 125, you introduced the story of Isila Drutch, a female Stormtrooper. On the accompanying image, you can see two women, a black-haired and a blond one. Is one of these women Isila and if yes, which of them?

Jason Fry: Don’t think either of those is Drutch. She’d probably punch the photographer.

Tim Veekhoven:Warfare revealed some new names. This will open some possibilities to retcon some unnamed characters in the movies, don’t you think?

Jason Fry: There are some cool blanks filled in re movie characters in an upcoming Star Wars Insider magazine. More would be cheating. Gonna be fun.

Aaron Church: What was your biggest challenge in putting this book together?

Jason Fry: Biggest challenge was I felt far more confident in my geography knowledge for the Atlas than I did re military and Warfare. To address that I a) brought in Paul b) leaned on LFL for help c) crowdsourced stuff with fans on TheForce.Net and d) worked as hard as I could. I think/hope it worked out OK….

Charlie Korb: What percentage of the the guide would you say is information that is found only there versus the information that you put together from an amalgam of other sources?

Jason Fry: Hmm. Hard to say because sometimes the info’s established but the connecting framework that forms a new/never-before-explicated narrative is new. You try for a mix.

Johann Mitzscherlich: You introduced the Z-95 Headhunter on p. 52, using the image of the TCW-like Z-95 that was introduced just this season. Do you want to say with this that the TCW Headhunter is actually the original Headhunter from the EU because as far as I know, it’s intended by TCW to have an own Headhunter (A Clone Z-95 Headhunter, if you want so).

Jason Fry: Paul worked out a full development sequence for all the Z-95 variants, but then the Clone Wars version showed up. Best to leave it to one side and avoid snafus.

Joe Sorbera: Are there any new “Essential Guides” that you’d like to write?

Jason Fry: I’ll leave that to Del Rey and LFL. I’d be thrilled to play any role where they think I make sense.

Star Wars Books (Erich:) I can say this, as Jason’s editor I’d love to work with him on another Essential Guide and we’ve had numerous conversations about what subject we could tackle next. As soon as we settle on something I’ll let you all know.

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