Thursday, May 31, 2012

Interview With 'Star Wars Awakening' Author David Gremillion

By: Benjamin Hart

I had the opportunity to talk with David Gremillion, author of "Star Wars Awakening", an alternate take on Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Be sure to download his novel (It's a great read!) and check him out on Facebook.

Q. What inspired you to write Awakening?
A. I feel that a great number of people felt disappointed in The Phantom Menace. Not that the acting was poor or that Jar-Jar was there, but that the story itself left so much to be desired. It really brought up more questions than it answered. Sure, the CGI was mind-boggling, but even Lucas said that "special effects are just a tool" to aid the story. Star Wars fans felt they deserved more quality substance and less flash. Awakening ties the two halves of the saga closer together and answers those questions. It gives the readers a solid story with some great twists while maintaining that Star Wars “canon” feel.

Q. For those who don't know, how is Awakening different from The Phantom Menace?
A. Awakening is different on several key points. First, there is no Jar-Jar Binks at all. There is still a comedic element to it, but the humor is closer to the witty quips of Empire Strikes Back than the slapstick of The Phantom Menace. Second, Phantom Menace had Naboo, an unknown planet, with a questionable blockade. I replaced it with Alderaan, a planet Star Wars fans know and love, and bring in a stronger villain for Senator Amidala to face off against. Also, Anakin is older and a starfighter racer with dreams and ambitions of his own. He is very close friends with Owen Lars, who has dreams and ambitions of his own. Finally, I give Darth Maul the larger role that fans were looking for. The Phantom Menace portrayed him as little more than a mindless killing machine. Awakening gives him depth, motivation, and a voice (literally and figuratively) that was lacking in the movie.

Q. Do you think this re-envisioning is a more probable alternative? Do you think that this is a more acceptable plot since a large number of fans were mostly disappointed in the prequels?
A. The answer is really up to my readers. I like to think of this as a more solid foundation to Anakin and Padme’s beginning. The Phantom Menace disappointed so many and really stretched a few things to the point of disbelief. Awakening doesn’t go out on so far of a limb, but keeps the story grounded in a plausible and believable story. My characters have clear motivations and fiery personalities that you can root for. All in all, it’s a solid beginning that fans can enjoy.

Q. Obviously committing to writing, not one, but three novels is quite the undertaking. Did you have any writing experience before hand?
A. Amazingly enough, I just sat down one day and started writing. My brother and I had often complained about how disappointed we were by the Phantom Menace and my wife got sick of hearing it. “Why don’t you do something better?” she quipped one day and so the journey began. I have done some writing since then, some Star Wars, some original. I currently have a suspense/horror novel in the works that revolves around a haunted children’s hospital. Sounds like fun to me.

Q. In 'The Empire Strikes Back' Obi-Wan insinuates that he was Yoda's Padawan at one time. With the introduction of Qui-Gon in 'The Phantom Menace' we found out that wasn't the case, much to many fans' dismay. Why did you decide to keep Qui-Gon in your novel?
A. To be fair to Lucas, Obi-Wan’s exact words were “…you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me.” I was right there with my hand raised saying “Ummmm, what?” when I saw Qui-Gon. As we saw in Attack of the Clones, it appeared that Yoda “instructed” quite a few Jedi. In Star Wars: Awakening, I only had a brief mention of Qui-Gon for a couple of reasons. First, to pay homage to one of the better actors in the movie. Second, to show that Obi-Wan was his own man. He had been a padawan, but now Obi-Wan is a true Knight of the Republic and stands is able to make his own way in the galaxy.

Q. Anakin Skywalker is depicted as being much older in your novel than he was in 'The Phantom Menace'. Do you think this set-up is more convincing? Do you think that him being a young adult makes him more susceptible to the temptations of the dark side of the Force?
A. I think it gives him a greater range and flexibility. Luke Skywalker in A New Hope was someone that everyone could sympathize with. We’ve all been at that age and felt trapped, wanting to break out and do our own thing. Putting Anakin older than a nine year old kid allows him to make his own choices, to feel love for Padme, and to really shine as a character. Being older doesn’t necessarily make him more susceptible to the Dark Side, but the lack of training and discipline will hurt him. From the Phantom Menace to Attack of the Clones, Anakin had roughly ten years of Jedi teachings and he still couldn’t be controlled. That seems a little odd to me compared to Awakening’s Anakin that, like Luke, is eager to flex his “muscles” and prove himself. To make him similar to his son will only enhance Luke because the son will not fail as the father did.
Q. You removed Naboo and gave us Alderaan and Cerea, why?

A. Naboo seemed to come out of left field and left us with four metric tons of questions. What did the Trade Federation get out of the blockade? Did Palpatine/Sidious promise them something for doing this? Why do they elect royalty? Why should the audience care about a planet they have little or no connection to and only see for about one-fourth of the movie? We had no connection to Naboo. Alderaan already has special meaning to Star Wars fans (Alderaan shot first!), but we didn’t spend a lot of time there. I wanted to strengthen the ties between the prequels and the original trilogy so Alderaan was the logical choice. After reading Awakening and you see Alderaan destroyed (by Tarkin himself!), the emotional connection is stronger.

Q. The Darth Maul here is different from the one you are familiar with. This one is more… conversational compared to the one in the film and the EU. His fierceness and abilities are more defined if not deadlier. What other comparison could you make out of him here in Awakening and on the film, and which one do you prefer more?
A. The Phantom Menace’s version of Darth Maul was plain, stale, and boring. “I wear black and have a red blade, so we must fight!” What was worse was that they killed him off far too soon and gave us additional villains with no background. We had Vader for IV, V, and VI. Why not Maul for I, II, and III? I wanted DM to be far more than just a killing machine. I wanted him to have purpose, motivation, and some mystery. What is he like? Why is he following Palpatine? It can’t just be as simple as “I’m Sith, you’re Sith, do as I say”, there has to be more to it. Maul was, arguably, the most underused character in the saga and he deserves more.

Q. What can you say about Major Relian Issic? Is there something more in him or is his purpose as clear as daylight?
A. This character is, by far, the most mysterious character I’ve ever written. Major Issic is cunning, ruthless, and has revenge on his mind. He’s also involved in two of the greatest twists in the entire book. As if that wasn’t enough, he and Anakin are linked in several ways that become painfully clear in Episode II. I wish I could go into greater detail about him here, but I don’t want to spoil it for the readers.

Q. Khian is this type of tempered steel, wrought to toughness and strength by the power of hardship and conviction through pain and sufferance. Do you think that his strong personality and character could prove to be a real competition, or even a threat, to Anakin Skywalker who was supposed to be the default/designated love interest of Senator Padme Amidala?
A. That all depends on a few things. Khian clearly had loved a woman before and, somehow, it all went horribly wrong. He puts on a very tough front, but that man is hurting inside. He’s strong, yet vulnerable and even he is unsure if he can love again, but isn’t Padme worth it? Meanwhile, Padme is looking for someone. She’s taking on some incredible responsibilities and no one likes doing a big job by themselves. I mention several times that her greatest fear is being alone. If Khian is always there and Anakin is off meditating…

Q. Can you give us any hints as to what's coming in the next two novels?
A. If we throw out the obvious (Jedi Order falls, Palpatine becomes Emperor, Anakin falls to the Dark Side) then I can offer up a few tidbits. There’s definitely more the Major Issic than meets the eye. My remake of Episode II will see larger roles from Jango Fett, Yoda, and I’m proud to introduce the Jedi Battlemaster Cin Drallig. As in Episode I, the sequels will take us to worlds rarely explored in the Star Wars Universe. The end of Episode II will certainly leave more than a few people breathless with the cliffhanger and I can confidently say that Episode III will not disappoint. In that novel, it’s not a question of “if” events happen, but “how” they happen.

Q. Any plans for the future?
A. I am happy to have my first book signing at the Star Wars Weekend on June 8th at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Anyone can bring a copy of my book, the cover, or their favorite section and I will be glad to sign it for them. In addition, Star Wars Episode II is nearly completion and should be hitting the internet in July or August of this year. In the meantime, I have artists working on teasers for Episode II that should be hitting Facebook in the next few weeks. Stay tuned and May the Force be With You!

Fan Question From Ahsoka Tano:
Would you, David, ever be interested in sending books via mail to HUGE fans who cannot make the Star Wars Celebration?
A. An excellent question and one I've been hearing more and more! Unfortunately, CVI is too late in the summer for me to attend. However, after my book signing at the Star Wars Weekend on June 8th, I will consider sending signed copies of my cover out to fans and readers that request them. I cannot send out whole books as that would kill my poor printer. Thanks for reading and get ready! Star Wars Episode II will be coming out this summer!


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