Lit Lit Exclusive: Dave Wolverton Addresses Fan Criticisms of The Courtship of Princess Leia, & MORE

Discussion in 'Literature' started by IG_2000, Nov 17, 2014.

  1. IG_2000

    IG_2000 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 5, 2008
    I think I've found my new niche within the Star Wars community :p Dave Wolverton will be my second 20th anniversary interview, for his 1994 novel The Courtship of Princess Leia.

    Unconfirmed time and date right now, but it may be happening Wednesday, so if anyone has any questions they'd want me to use, by all means leave them here.

    Also, note to mods: I won't spam with different threads for when interviews are published, I'll just ask one of you to edit in the link to the completed interview in each respective thread and change title to "Dave Wolverton/Kevin J Anderson 20th Anniversary Interview - NOW LIVE" or something like that.


    Interview conducted by Doug McCausland (IG_2000) on November 17. 2014. Permission granted to reprint interview in its entirety on any website/fansite is permitted as long as it's properly credited.

    The Courtship of Princess Leia recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, and I had the chance to speak with author Dave Wolverton. Wolverton addressed some long-standing fan controversies surrounding Han Solo's characterization in the book and actually made all accusations of Prince Isolder being "Space Fabio" completely legitimate.

    What was the creative process of TCOPL like? Did you have any influences?

    What happened was Bantam came to me and asked, “Are you interested in a Star Wars novel?” I said, “Sure, what about?” They said I could pick anything I liked in a certain timeframe. Of course I had read a few previous books, the Tim Zahn novels, and of course Han and Leia were married. I thought, “It can’t be easy for those two fiery personalities!”

    So I wanted to do something that was romantic and would bring more women into the Star Wars universe. Really, the people in power in the Star Wars universe tend to be men. I wanted to do something there; that’s how I came up with the idea of the Witches of Dathomir. It was just fun.
    I got together a bunch of screwy ideas and some fans who were Star Wars fans, and I threw the ideas out there to see which made people’s eyes sparkle, where they would get excited and go, “Oh, cool idea!” They’d start throwing out their own ideas. It was a matter of being asked to do it, getting the friends together, go the ideas out, turned it into an outline, faxed it over to my editors, and it was pretty much approved! Very, very minor changes.

    We went through George Lucas and he signed off on each point. When he got done, he wrote me a little note that said, “Great job, I can’t wait to see it!” It was that easy to get through the approval process. Of course, once you write the story, they read to make sure you wrote what you said you would, and it’s up to their standards. Really, it was a painless process that was pretty much all of my creation and I just felt lucky and grateful George Lucas signed off on it!

    Are you aware of how important the mythology of Dathomir ended up being to The Clone Wars TV series?

    Yeah! I remember when I wrote it, I hoped that other people who were writing the Star Wars universe and making future books, movies, and games would make use of it. I’m glad to see that it was used for video games and the TV series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see a witch of Dathomir in an upcoming movie!

    The Imperial Warlord Zsinj and his ship, the Super Star Destroyer Iron Fist, was your creation originating in TCOPL. However, Zsinj didn’t play much of a role in the story besides being the context of the action. His backstory would later be fleshed out in Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron novels. Did you give any input?

    Not really! I wrote my Star Wars books and got off on other things. I worked with Kevin Anderson and Kathy Tyers and some others, but I haven’t had much contact with many of the later authors. I’m just delighted people are picking up some pieces and using them in their own stories in the Star Wars universe!
    I thought a really interesting implication in TCOPL was that Luke realized that Darth Vader and Palpatine never sought to kill him, facing the full brunt of the dark side when the Nightsisters attack and pretty much feeling completely helpless.

    The “contagonist”, which is what Darth Vader is called, there’s a person who works for an evil power, a dark lord who has his or her own agenda. It seemed obvious to me that Darth Vader looked at turning Luke very early on. Luke had never felt the full force of what the dark side is, at least in episodes 5 and 6. He was pulling his punches! That seemed pretty obvious to me. The idea that, “Gosh, somebody who doesn’t care for me at all who is with the dark side is trying to destroy me!” just seems sort of a logical next step in Luke’s character arc.

    A huge point of the novel is that Han goes kind of “love crazy” after Prince Isolder enters his and Leia’s life, to the point that many thought Han was acting out of character. At one point Han decides to shoot Leia with a mind control weapon and shove her into the cargo hold of the Millennium Falcon just to have his way. Chewbacca even offers to beat Han up for Leia when he learns this!

    At the time, I was a fairly new father with several kids. I was very interested in the fact that when my children were stressed out, they would regress! So I got to thinking about that and watching to see if adults regress too. I can see many of us do when we’re put under heavy stress. The idea of “what if Han was stressed?” kind of clicked with me. What would he regress to? Having been somebody who was a drug dealer and things like that… this kind of concerned me, because I knew I was taking him back to a dark place that we really didn’t see too much of.

    He starts off as an anti-hero. By that, what I mean is that he’s a bad guy who joins the good guys. He has a lot of skills as a gunman, as a criminal, that he brings to the Rebellion’s table. When I looked at writing this novel, I really wanted to say, “If he regressed, and he regressed back to that time, what would he do?” I just kind of looked at the crazy things people do in relationships and really see what I could get away with. That was my biggest concern when I outlined it, because I knew that there would be some people who would be like, “Oh, no, that would never happen!” There are people who don’t want to believe he was ever a criminal.

    I got a little photo that has Harrison Ford sitting by his mailbox saying “I shot first!” There’s that revisionist history where people say, “oh no, he was just defending himself!” That’s not what he was doing. He was defending himself, in advance. The whole point here is that he came from a dark side, and I wanted to go back and explore what that might have been like a little bit. Yeah, he is a little bit love crazy, he is a little bit of a stalker, a criminal. It’s just kind of taking it back to that. There’s a certain part of me that said you shouldn’t be able to always anticipate what a character is gonna do, or why they’re gonna do it. I wanted to try to layer in some motivations a little thicker and different from what people anticipated.

    The Star Wars movies really have a lot of humor in them. A lot of funny one liners, and stuff like that. I felt that the novels weren’t really trying to capture that humor. I also wanted to do just that with Han, too… it’s just something that lines up. [IG's note: What a man! Solo.]

    I was coincidentally going through some very similar relationship problems at the time so I could totally understand/relate to Han. Of course, I didn’t have a mind control spear. Anyway, the novel had two covers: a bridal Leia with Prince Isolder, and a more action/adventure oriented reprinting with Han holding his blaster amid the backdrop of a rancor. I know you probably don’t have anything to do with the choice of cover, but was the change in cover done out of concern to sell to young boys?

    I didn’t have any say over the covers. When they were gonna create the covers, my editor came to me and said, “What does Isolder look like?” So I told her Fabio! The guy with all the muscles on all the cover of all those romance novels. He was really getting hot right about that time. She kind of just groaned and said, “I knew you were gonna say that!” I wanted a hunk. Big, muscular, the perfect man. I think part of that came from just a couple of years before that. I had a good friend, we were both pre-med students. He was pretty intelligent, a wonderful singer, played the guitar, he was athletic… every time I got into a room with a bunch of girls I saw the eyes go to him. I just felt I couldn’t compete! I remember thinking, “The only way to really compete is to get him married… or kill him.” [laughs]

    I wanted Han to be in that kind of a relationship. He felt he just couldn’t compete. Isolder’s richer, stronger, and more handsome than him. A higher moral character… Isolder basically beat him in every way. And that’s what love is about. Love is kind of crazy. It doesn’t always make complete sense, and I wanted to show that side of it too. The idea that Han and Leia had a history, and his belief that underneath it all she really did love him, I wanted to bring that out. When you’re in love with somebody, you really know just what’s going on in their head, and wat the chemistry really is. I think I wanted Han to feel that in his gut and act on that, despite whatever rationale Leia may throw at him.

    Your other major addition to the Star Wars canon was the Expanded Universe backstory of Dengar in the Tales of the Bounty Hunters compilation. What was the process of being assigned different characters for the anthology, and what was your inspiration for Dengar’s personality (or lack thereof)?

    The characters that we did already had a little biographical information sketched out by the Star Wars sourcebooks. [Kevin J. Anderson] had said, “Okay, here’s our characters and what we know about them. Who do you want?” Of course, everybody grabbed the same person, more or less. Dengar was probably my second choice. He’s sort of a somber character to me, and I just wanted to capture that worn out feeling that he had in his life. That was just a lot of fun.

    I worked as a prison guard for a while in college, and there were a number of killers. I wanted to try to capture the inner deadness that some of them have. That sense that you are just a sociopath and completely gone. In the Star Wars universe, he basically had his brain altered and turned into that kind of person. However, I did choose someone else over him, and I can’t really remember who it was…

    I’m guessing everyone was trying to grab for Boba Fett!

    Yeah. Everybody wants Boba Fett.

    You must have a busy schedule with all of your other projects, but would you ever return to the Star Wars universe if you were asked?

    I would absolutely love to! All I’m doing is waitng for someone to say, “Hey, that Dave Wolverton guy would be fun to work with!” When it was announced that Disney was making the new Star Wars movies, my very first thought was, “I hope they get somebody as good as JJ Abrams to come in and work on it!” I was pleasantly surprised when JJ Abrams was the guy they picked. I’m interested to see what he does artistically, with a new and updated vision of what the Star Wars universe would look like, and story wise. So yeah, I’d love to work on Star Wars again! Hopefully I won’t mess up Han Solo again. [laughs]

    Hey, I wasn’t knocking you when I asked that!

    But it is true. That’s the one thing I got hit with. You can’t judge fan reaction to a certain degree. I did get a fan letter from George Lucas! You know that no matter what you write, if you take any chances at all, you’re going to get criticism, and if you don’t take any chances, you’ll also get criticism. It’s one of those things where you know you’re gonna have somebody to disagree with you somewhere. There’s gotta be at least a couple hundred million Star Wars fans, easily, and I think at least 10 of those will disagree with me![/blockquote]
  2. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Sep 7, 2012
    I guess his thoughts on how the Nightsisters and Dathomir went on to become so major, not just in TCW but in the earlier EU, also.

    How much input/guidelines did he get from Lucasfilm on creating the plot.

    Did he read the Thrawn Trilogy beforehand to get a sense of what the continuity was at the time?
  3. BigAl6ft6

    BigAl6ft6 Force Ghost star 7

    Nov 12, 2012
    Which cover do you like better?

    Sexy Leia ample cleavage hardcover (which I got as an X-Mas present when I was 14. Homina!)


    or rancor adventure time with ROTJ promo shots paperback / reprint cover?

  4. IG_2000

    IG_2000 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 5, 2008
    To me it's pretty obvious, but I'd still wanna know how the issue of marketing to boys came into play with the rancor cover.
  5. ThreadSketch

    ThreadSketch Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 22, 2013
    Hehehe, Space Fabio. :p

    But seriously, I'd ask... many drinks did it take to compose "The Virtues of King Han Solo?" :D

    *ducks flying boots*
  6. Riv_Shiel

    Riv_Shiel Jedi Master star 3

    Apr 12, 2014
    Is there any telling what you could do with a whuffa?
    TKT and Sarge like this.
  7. Ackbar's Fishsticks

    Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 25, 2013
    I guess I'd want to know whether when he wrote his female-run cultures on Hapes and Dathomir (but especially Dathomir), he was drawing on the whole Strong Women Showing They Can Kick Ass Just Like The Boys fad of the era? I admit, most of the examples I can think of came out after the book (Sam Carter in Stargate, Sarah Mackenzie and her predecessors in JAG, obviously Buffy, and for the campiest example which is also how I ended up picturing Dathomir, the Hercules/Xena-verse), but when I was first reading it, the whole Dathomiri culture just screamed "nineties" to me.
  8. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Jul 6, 2007
    I wonder what he thinks about Dathomir & the witches making it into official canon. It is a pretty big aspect from Courtship that got championed, and expanded upon, by Lucas.
    BigAl6ft6 and TheRedBlade like this.
  9. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Hangman Host/ 19X Wacky Wednesday Winner star 10 VIP - Game Winner VIP - Game Host

    Sep 2, 2012
    The Witches in particular reminded me a great deal of D&D's drow civilization as depicted by R.A. Salvatore - just a bit nicer, and without the spider deity.
  10. Barriss_Coffee

    Barriss_Coffee Chosen One star 6

    Jun 29, 2003
    Going off of what Rob said -- is Wolverton aware of how TCW (presumably under Lucas's directive) made Darth Maul a Nightbrother? If he has seen the show, what are his opinions of seeing Dathomir on the small screen so frequently? (and if he isn't aware, tell him to check that out! ...just don't tell him about that one episode where Jar Jar's fighting Nightsisters.)

    And I don't know if he'll answer this, but I'm curious if he's been approached recently (e.g. last few years) to pen anything for the EU. His last work I think was around the time TPM was coming out - which was a while ago but still post-90s - and I always wondered why he never came back.
    cwustudent and Iron_lord like this.
  11. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Hangman Host/ 19X Wacky Wednesday Winner star 10 VIP - Game Winner VIP - Game Host

    Sep 2, 2012
    It was - The Rising Force, which was the first book in the Jedi Apprentice series about Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon.
  12. IG_2000

    IG_2000 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 5, 2008
    Interview is confirmed tomorrow, get questions in before it's too late!
  13. TOD-UK

    TOD-UK Jedi Grand Master star 3

    Mar 4, 2002
    Why did he only write the first "JA" book, while Jude Watsom wrote the rest? Contract issues, or personal choice?
    Force Smuggler likes this.
  14. Bly

    Bly Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 28, 2005
    With all the work he did establishing Dengar's backstory and personality, how does he feel about his appearance on TCW?
  15. First Of My Name

    First Of My Name Jedi Master star 1

    Apr 28, 2014
    How does he feel about how his original characters were treated after COPL (Isolder's death in Invincible, for example). Would he have liked for them to be used more, would he have changed some things? More importantly, did he have plans for these characters after COPL?
  16. Iron_lord

    Iron_lord Hangman Host/ 19X Wacky Wednesday Winner star 10 VIP - Game Winner VIP - Game Host

    Sep 2, 2012
    His opinion of how they were treated in stories before COPL (Allston's Wraith Squadron trilogy) might be interesting to hear as well - did he like the way Zsinj and Melvor were depicted?
    Sarge and First Of My Name like this.
  17. IG_2000

    IG_2000 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 5, 2008

    I think I'd rather ask him if he helped Allston with the storyline.

    EDIT: Interview is done. I posted the KJA one on AltNation (a site I have admin access to), but for this one I'm considering just editing it into the OP here as an exclusive.
  18. Sarge

    Sarge Chosen One star 7

    Oct 4, 1998
    I want to know exactly what Han meant by the phrase "ride my rancor."
  19. IG_2000

    IG_2000 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 5, 2008
    Bump for interview [face_coffee]
  20. Lugija

    Lugija Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Oct 3, 2009
    Did he talk with the food additive people?
    CaptainPeabody, Vthuil and IG_2000 like this.
  21. IG_2000

    IG_2000 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 5, 2008

    Kessel, aka the Gingerbread Kingdom
  22. Arawn_Fenn

    Arawn_Fenn Force Ghost star 7

    Jul 2, 2004
    People = George Lucas
    EternalHero likes this.
  23. CaptainPeabody

    CaptainPeabody Jedi Master star 3

    Jul 15, 2008
    Man, all the Bantam authors seem like such nice people. It really was a kinder, gentler era of Star Wars.

    Though I do have to laugh at the "Han Solo was a drug dealer vs. Han Solo was the guy who smuggled the ingredients for Christmas Ginger Snaps for all the good little boys and girls oppressed by the Empire" debate. It makes every single debate we've ever had on here seem so boring and reasonable.
  24. Ulicus

    Ulicus Lapsed Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jul 24, 2005
  25. IG_2000

    IG_2000 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 5, 2008
    But seriously: People who didn't like the novel, what are your feelings on his explanation of Han's personality?