Sean Foster, FBC Contributor: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today! After finishing Book of Sith, I took a look at my own Star Wars book collection, and the name Daniel Wallace graces about half of them! Obviously, your Star Wars knowledge is vast, so I guess I have to ask, when did Star Wars really become a part of your life?
Daniel Wallace: I've been a fan since I was a kid, and, luckily, have had the opportunity to turn that into a professional outlet. My life would probably have turned out a lot differently if there were no Star Wars. I think the same can be said for a lot of Star Wars crazy kids who grew up to become writers, illustrators, animators, filmmakers, and the like.
SF: When did your first realize you wanted to become a writer?
Daniel Wallace: I've always loved writing, but I ended up carving out a niche in nonfiction, like DC Comics Year by Year -- which is a real-world history book about the company -- or even with The Jedi Path, which is in-universe nonfiction and thus kind of fiction. From a certain point of view.
SF: A lot of the books you have written are reference guides, such as The Essential Guide to Characters and The New Essential Guide to Droids, which are just a massive wealth of information. Where does one even start on such a large undertaking like an encyclopedia?
Daniel Wallace: It's gotten easier with the rise of Wikipedia. It was a lot harder to do projects like these in the 1990s. Now, it's easy to use wikis and other online sources to get a general overview of a topic, then identify the most important primary sources and follow up with those directly.
SF: How did Book of Sith come about?
Daniel Wallace: It's an unofficial follow-up to The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force, which came out in September of 2010. That project was conceived as a lost textbook from the Jedi Temple, annotated with the scribbles of the book's previous owners like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Book of Sith provides the other side of the story, and is the Emperor's collection of important writings from Sith Lords throughout history.
SF: The Star Wars Universe is always growing, and Book of Sith gives us a lot of great back story into the history of the Sith. Were there specific guidelines and limitations given to you beforehand as to what you could or could not touch upon? For example, were there certain things you were allowed to mention about, say, Darth Plagueis and other information that needed to be kept in the dark for other books or future stories?
Daniel Wallace: I always trust that Lucasfilm will catch information that's too out-of-bounds and push back. But, I also think I have a pretty good sense of what is likely to get red-flagged and what won't, so, usually, these things are pretty minor. For Book of Sith I did get advanced, behind-the-scenes information on Darth Malgus, Darth Plagueis, and Mother Talzin.
SF: Book of Sith is a compilation of notes and journals from the Sith of the past, and each "chapter" has a different feel to it, depending on who is writing. What was it like writing from all those different perspectives?
Daniel Wallace: It was a lot of fun getting into everybody's head. Each Sith author lived in a different era and believed different things, so I wanted them all to have unique views on the dark side. My favorite part of the writing process was coming up with different philosophies for each writer that fit with what we know about the Sith overall.
SF: While the Nightsisters have been around in Star Wars mythology for awhile now, Mother Talzin is a relatively new character, thanks to The Clone Wars. Having her as part of Book of Sith solidifies her as an important part of the Sith history! What was it like expanding on her character?
Daniel Wallace: Well, she's the only writer who isn't a Sith, and I thought that was important. The dark side is more than just the Sith, just as the Force is more than just the Jedi. I liked the idea that Palpatine was practical enough to recognize this and include her perspective in his collection. And, she was great fun to write. She's one of the bad guys, but is a true believer in the predator/prey natural balance and, thus, is less selfish than the other Sith writers.
SF: Did you have a personal favorite character to write for?
Daniel Wallace: I had a lot of fun writing Darth Plagueis, who is the scientist-type Sith who believed he could influence the midi-chlorians to create life. Plagueis' section is the only one that mentions midi-chlorians, and it's actually the perfect thing for somebody like him to focus on, since he has kind of a rational skepticism about the magic and mysticism that the Jedi or Sith traditionally attach to the Force. So, he was a bit of Dr. Frankenstein meets James Randi, illustrated in the style of Leonardo da Vinci.
SF: The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and they compliment the writing so well. I know Terryl Whitlach did concept art for Phantom Menace, but I was wondering what your relationship was like with her, and the other illustrators, during this process? Did you work separately or collaborate on how all the weapons, creatures, and everything would look?
Daniel Wallace: Terryl's illustrations of Sith creatures are beautiful, and all the artists did an outstanding job including Paul Allan Ballard, Jeff Carlisle, Chris Reiff, Chris Trevas, Russell Walks, and Aristia/Hive Studios. For the most part I wrote my text knowing that certain illustrations would follow, but not knowing exactly what those illustrations would look like. Then, I was sent a rough pass with the artwork in place, where I could offer critiques and write the illustration captions.
SF: One of my favorite parts of the book was the comments written in the margins by other characters. The idea of reading Darth Bane's story and having Luke, Yoda, and Mace Windu throwing in their two cents made the whole experience feel that much more real. What was it like adding in those quick notes? What research went into deciding how someone like Quilan Vos would react to specific Sith passages?
Daniel Wallace: The comments were a lot of fun to write, but they were harder to figure out for Book of Sith than they were when we first did the concept in The Jedi Path. Because each of the six sections in Book of Sith was ripped out from a historic document by the Emperor and then reassembled into the book you now hold, it meant that Yoda, for example, couldn't have commented on all the segments, just the segments that he realistically might have seen at one point prior to Palpatine getting his hands on it. So, some of the documents were presumably held in the Jedi Temple's rare documents library where Yoda, Quinlan Vos, and Mace Windu were able to offer their commentary. Luke Skywalker recovered the Book of Sith many years after Palpatine's death so was able to offer commentary throughout the whole thing. There aren't a lot of Quinlan Vos comments since he only commented on one of the six documents, but they were great fun to write. I was channeling the enthusiastic Quinlan Vos from Star Wars: The Clone Wars more than the brooding Quinlan Vos from the comics, helped along by the fact that Doug Wangler -- the model that artist Jan Duursema used for Quinlan Vos when she created the character -- is definitely more of the former than the latter. I was asking myself, "What would Doug say?"
SF: Each character has their own specific handwriting. Was there a lot of thought put into how each handwriting should look and why they would write that way?
Daniel Wallace: The designers at becker&mayer came up with the typefaces for the handwriting, led by lead designer Rosanna Brockley. They put a lot of thought into it. For The Jedi Path, the decision was made to have Darth Sidious write in red and Qui-Gon Jinn write in green to subtly convey the dark side and the Living Force.
SF: Palpatine signs his comments with a nifty little symbol. How did that come about?
Daniel Wallace: That was created for The Jedi Path. I agree that it's a cool little stylistic symbol that gives him a little bit of flair.
SF: As a child I always wondered to myself, "Does Yoda write like he talks?" To which this book has shown me that, yes, he does! Was that a creative decision on your part?
Daniel Wallace: I actually puzzled over that one quite a bit! In the end I thought it would just be strange for the reader if Yoda didn't write in Yoda-speak. I'm sure he could write normally if he chose, but given that these were off-the-cuff scribbles, I thought it was acceptable that he'd put things down in this fashion.
SF: And just for fun, who is your favorite Star Wars character ever and why?
Daniel Wallace: Lando Calrissian. He can do everything Han Solo can, but on top of that he's a smooth talker and a responsible businessman. And, he's the only one besides Vader who can pull off wearing a cape as part of his day-to-day ensemble.
SF: Vader has some fantastic penmanship for a cyborg! Which begs the question, is he a righty or a lefty?
Daniel Wallace: I've got to say righty; however, in The Jedi Path we used a block letter typeface for Anakin Skywalker's comments, and in Book of Sith we used more of a cursive-style typeface for Vader. S,o I've got to assume that joined writing is easier on the hands when you've become more machine than man.
SF: Are you a Jedi or a Sith?
Daniel Wallace: Smuggler. Those Force guys can keep fighting it out. Me, I'll try to make a living in the meantime.
SF: What does the future hold for you? Any Star Wars related reading material we can look forward to?
Daniel Wallace: The next project I have coming out is Bat related! Later this summer keep an eye out for Batman: The World of the Dark Knight from DK Publishing, which is a guide to everything Batman and features some great artwork from the comics.