A local Tampa Bay Comic Convention leads to an interview with Star Wars legend Timothy Zahn.
Tampa Bay Necronomicon is an annual event that has been going strong in Tampa for over 30 years. This year, my boss was running some of the crafts at the Con’s Cuthulu Academy and asked if I wanted to come and help. Knowing that legendary Star Wars author Timothy Zahn is a regular attendee, how could I say no to that?
My introduction to Mr Zahn, author of the Star Wars Thrawn novels, was made when he joked that someone needed to pull a Fezzik and yell “Everybody move!” in order to part the crowds at Galaxy’s Edge. A true Geek and obvious fan himself, he talked and joked with other Star Wars fans while his wife showed off their baby BB unit. During this time, Mr Zahn was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his writing.
Timothy Zahn | Exclusive Interview (A Thrawn in the Side)
Melissa Villy: In your 30-year history writing for Star Wars, what has been your favorite novel to write?
Timothy Zahn: I see them as 13 volumes of a single story all connected together. If I had to pick a single one, that really came out as I expected it to, it would either be Thrawn or Scoundrels.
MV: Scoundrels was very good. I really liked Scoundrels. And I would have to say that I agree that they’re all one big story.
TZ: I wanted to call Scoundrels “Solo’s Eleven,” and they wouldn’t let me.
MV: See, that was such a missed opportunity. They should have done that.
TZ: Well I told them, eleven is a number, Solo you have trademarked, what’s Warner Bros. going to do?
MV: What was it like seeing Thrawn brought to life on the screen?
TZ: Very exciting. I know there was a lot of fear in the fan community a little bit of fan trepidation that they were going to ruin him. I remember an Internet comment saying ‘they are going to ruin the character because he’s going to have to lose to teenagers every week.’ But you can see that what they did was either he is not in the scene and some other incompetent Imperial is losing or he is taking ‘Okay, they’ve got some Y-Wings, they’re obsolete, let them have their little victory, I’m gaining knowledge.’ Playing the long game. Dave Filoni, Kiri Hart, and the team understood the character very well and they did a great job with him.
MV: And he wasn’t always losing to teenagers. Not everyone on the team was a teenager.
TZ: True. But that was the complaint about it. You know, there are ways to make everyone think they are winning. In fact, we had a button we were still trying to talk Del Rey into making that said “It’s Thrawn. You only think you’re winning.” Haven’t gotten it.
MV: That was another missed opportunity!
TZ: They’re still mulling it.
MV: What was your reaction to finding out Disney wanted you back to write Thrawn again?
TZ: I don’t know how much Disney was involved, but I was very excited when the Lucasfilm people called me and said we’re going to put Thrawn in Rebels, we’d like you to write his backstory. That was one of those “Let me think…no, not let me think. Sure let’s do it!” No thinking involved. It will be exciting, it will be fun. I’d love to go back to the character.
MV: My final question I’m sure you probably can’t answer, but… the Ascendancy Trilogy was just announced at NYCC, is his backstory something you’ve always had in the back of your brain, or is that something you’ve recently worked on with the story group?
TZ: What I do, I learned early in my career, never fill in the map more than you need to.
MV: Good point.
TZ: Literally or figuratively. Because when I wrote the original Thrawn Trilogy I didn’t have any of Thrawn’s backstory ‘cause there’s no point spending all this time and energy thinking about it.
MV: Because it’s not relevant.
TZ: It’s not relevant. It’s not going to go anywhere. So it’s when I get an offer ‘we want you to do Thrawn arriving in the Empire and going through the ranks’. Then I start filling that in. The backstory that we’re doing with Thrawn: Ascendancy, big little bits of ideas, but nothing concrete until we made the decision to do this. Then I’m starting to fill in the details, fill in the map, and because this is the first trilogy they’ve given me since the original Thrawn trilogy. Thrawn, Thrawn Alliances, and Thrawn Treason I only had one book at a time. So, while I could pick up on something, character or plot thread from a previous book, I couldn’t plan for that. With this one, I can plan character arcs and story arcs that go through all three books knowing I’ve got the three. So this is going to be a lot easier to do this, a lot more satisfying for the reader. You can start with this character and they may not be growing to where they think they are, but I’ve got two more books to finish that up.
MV: Yeah, they didn’t announce Thrawn Alliances until after the success of the new Thrawn novel. So, yeah, you wouldn’t be able to plan anything.
TZ: I didn’t know when I was writing so this is going to work out very well.
MV: Well, thank you, Tim Zahn, for talking with me.
We adore Timothy Zahn’s books here at Future of the Force and we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to him for granting this exclusive interview. For more about the author and his catalogue of literature click our archive link here:
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.
Melissa Villy is a regular Staff Writer for Future of the Force. She is a passionate Star Wars fan and is the custodian of the FOTF Jedi Archives. Follow her on Twitter @JediLibrarian42 where she uses the force frequently!
I’m Mina, the Jedi Librarian. I’m a teen services librarian, lover of all the books, and a lifelong Star Wars fan. I’m also secretly a Jedi.