Best-selling author Matthew Stover recently took time to answer a few of our questions. Stover wrote the critically acclaimed New Jedi Order paperback, Traitor, and well as the recently released Clone Wars novel, Shatterpoint. Recently, Stover's Clone Wars short story "Equipment" was published in the Star Wars Short Story Collection.
AL: Hello Mr. Stover, thanks again for returning for a second round of questions. I've since read Shatterpoint, and have some more questions for you.
MWS: Glad to be back.
AL: In Shatterpoint, we learn that Mace Windu is from a planet called Haruun Kal. The natives are all descendants from a crew of Jedi that crashed on it many years ago, and as a result, are Force sensitive. In your mind, did this help impact the idea of the "jungle rules"?
MWS: Not directly. The "jungle rules" of Shatterpoint are based on what I know of natural behavior in the wilds of Earth; they are there mainly as a contrast for the rules of civilization, by which Mace lives.
AL: You did some interesting things with Mace, mainly with his Journal, making this book switch from the first person to the third person. How was it to write that and why did you choose to write like that?
MWS: I had originally planned to write the entire novel with Mace as the first-person narrator; Heart of Darkness is narrated in first person by Marlow, and Apocalypse Now is narrated (in voice-over) by Martin Sheen's character, also named Marlow. First person narration lets us experience directly the character's subjective experiences as he slowly is Forced to abandon the constraints of civilization. But -- due to Mace's serious-minded declarative style -- telling the whole story in first-person would have undermined the cinematic nature of the rest of the novel. A fight scene narrated by Mace wouldn't have been very exciting, for example. After all, exciting action and drama is a lot of what people read Star Wars for in the first place. So I decided to include segments of his journal to hit a happy medium between cinematic excitement and psychological questing.
AL: Another Heart of Darkness question. How did you (or LucasBooks) decide to follow Heart of Darkness? This is a new thing for us to be reading something like this. Was it the themes that were involved?
MWS: I decided to follow Heart of Darkness (up to a point) entirely due to the themes involved. I wanted to emphasize the role of the Jedi as defenders of civilization. Those of you who have read Conrad's novel as well as mine will have noticed that Mace's reaction to these experiences is very different from Marlow's. Marlow is an observer. Mace is a hero.
AL: During the events of Shatterpoint, we see a very complicated political situation. There are two factions, the Korunnai and the Balawai, and of course, the Republic and Separatist forces. At times, these conflicts are startlingly similar to the current conflicts in Israel and Palestine, as well as elements of Vietnam. Can you elaborate on this?
MWS: I'd rather not go into it too deeply, beyond observing that there are a limited number of "styles" of war. When I was developing the scenario, I was thinking more in terms of the Indian Wars here in the United States.
AL: You mentioned that this novel is a PG-13 novel, mainly because it is very dark. We see some really brutal things that are associated with war. Would you say that this is an anti-war novel?
MWS: No. It's just a war novel: as honest a war novel as I could make it. War is an ugly, dangerous business -- as the United States is currently being reminded by the ongoing guerrilla conflicts in the aftermath of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which initially appeared to be fairly "painless" and "just." I am not anti-war. War is sometimes necessary. But that's no excuse to depict it as good, clean fun.
AL: Why the change in novels? For the most part, many of the Star Wars books that came out were fairly closed ended. Heroes go in, solve the problem, come on out okay. The New Jedi Order changed this slightly, but with your two Star Wars books, you introduce a lot of philosophy into the GFFA. Can you tell us some more?
MWS: I'm not introducing any philosophy into the GFFA. All I've done is point out some of the implications of the philosophy that's already there.
AL: We learn that Mace Windu created a form of lightsaber fencing called Vaapad, and that it is an incredibly dangerous form to use. How does this form reflect Mace's experiences in the Jungles of Haruun Kal?
MWS: Y'know, it never actually occurred to me that Vaapad might have been influenced by Mace's "homeworld training" back when he was a teenager. Good idea. A pity nobody brought it up in time for me to work it into the story -- I could have done a LOT with that . . .
AL: There were some connections between Shatterpoint and the one-shot comic Jedi: Mace Windu, mainly in Vaapad, and the rogue Jedi mentioned in Shatterpoint. Did you and the other writer work together or did you just use the reference?
MWS: I just used the reference. As soon as the inked panels were available, LFL forwarded them to me. I had to make SOME reference, if only because Mr. [John] Ostrander's story had so many unintentional resonances with Shatterpoint.
AL: "Shatterpoint" refers to Mace's views of the Force, being able to detect weaknesses in patterns and objects, and we see him use this to succeed in his mission. Does the term "shatterpoint" also refer to how delicate the world is, and how the Force works to some degree? Or of the Jedi's future?
MWS: It's mostly just an illustration that the Force is different things to different people. What the Force gives to you depends, in large degree, on what you bring to it.
AL: Towards the end of the book, after Mace meets up with Depa, she explains that in order for anyone to win a war, you have to become as brutal as the enemy. In order for the Jedi to win the war, they would lose everything that they stand for. Is this a foreshadowing of the Jedi Purge?
MWS: I can't answer that.
AL: There is some irony in the book, especially when Mace comments that Palpatine would have made a good Jedi, and that Anakin Skywalker was the Shatterpoint of the Jedi. Can you elaborate on this?
AL: At the end of the novel, Depa and Mace Windu face off. Depa and Kar have sort of linked in the Force, and as the fight goes on, strange things happen. Can you explain this a little, 'cause I'm a little confused by it. And what exactly happened to Depa?
MWS: Sorry. I don't comment directly on the text. What do YOU think happened?
AL: Mace is particularly concerned with his actions at Geonosis. He can't bear to look at the clones with their helmets off, and faced dreams of the battle. How do you think that this battle affected Mace and the Jedi in general?
MWS: Beyond what you have found in the book, I can't tell you. Wait and see.
AL: In Traitor, Jacen Solo learns much about the Force, and a very different view of it, views that are considerably radical from our main perception of it. In Shatterpoint, Mace comes up with the Jungle, which is sort of similar. Can you elaborate on this a bit? Did your work in Traitor help with coming up with this?
MWS: Obi-Wan tells Luke that Life creates the Force. Life, as anyone who's really thought about it knows, is NOT peaceful. It is not gentle. Life is an endless savage struggle, red in tooth and claw -- except where it has been tamed by human discipline, also known as civilization. That's a lot of what being a Jedi is about, from Mace's point of view: keeping the savagery of life at bay.
AL: Nick Rostu is a very interesting character, very funny, almost carefree, and chatty. Can you talk a little about him and where you drew some inspirations from? He certainly adds to the book, and lightens up parts.
MWS: The story needed someone to act as a foil for Mace's unrelenting seriousness. It also needed someone young enough that we can see how being around Mace helps him grow up into a better person than he would otherwise have been. Nick is my favorite non-Jedi character in the book (though I'm very fond of Colonel Geptun, too).
AL: How do you come up with names? My sister is named Keelia, which is very nearly the same as Keela in the novel.
MWS: I just make 'em up. I fiddle around with letters and sounds until I find some that sound like a name. That's all.
AL: You had an e-book in the works, which was later cancelled. However, I've heard rumors that that is returning in the form of a short story for Star Wars Insider. Can you tell us some more about this, and if it's true, what changes were made to the story to allow it to appear in a magazine?
MWS: The e-book is kaput. Which is too bad, but there wasn't time to write it. The story (possibly stories) for Insider will be different. I just have to find time for them, since I'm very busy right now with the next Caine novel.
AL: Can you give some aspiring writers some advice on writing? Can you explain how publishing a novel kind of works?
MWS: There's a book called Writing To Sell, by Scott Meredith. Buy it. Read it. Believe it. It contains everything you really need to know.
AL: The final question. What did you think of the cover art of Shatterpoint? Do you think that it reflected the content of the book sufficiently?
MWS: I love the cover art. Love it. Everything about it. Period.
Conducted by Andrew Liptak, August 2003.
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