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Posted: 4th October 2009

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[ Interviews ]
Joe Schreiber

[ Joe Schreiber ]

Later this month Death Troopers will be released. Death Troopers is the first Star Wars horror novel and as such represents a ground-breaking departure from the traditional science fiction/fantasy genre that most Star Wars fans are used to. Death Troopers' author, Joe Schreiber, the self-titled "Scary Parent", is a well-known horror author with two previous horror novels published while the release of Death Troopers coincides with the release of his third, No Doors, No Windows. Joe was born in Michigan but spent his formative years in Alaska, Wyoming, and Northern California. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife, two young children, and several original Star Wars action figures.

Star Wars Books are pleased that Joe has taken time out of his busy schedule to participate in this interview.

Joe, welcome to Star Wars Books.
If you like, could we begin with a short résumé of yourself and your work to date?
I've been writing for a long time, mainly just to entertain myself while working various menial day jobs. I published a novel called Chasing the Dead back in 2006. It was a horror novel, and I did another called Eat the Dark the following year. I continue to work as a midnight shift MRI technologist in a large trauma center, along with publishing Death Troopers and No Doors, No Windows, this fall.

How did you get this Star Wars 'gig'?
My editor at Del Rey was involved in the Star Wars expanded universe series. They'd been kicking around the idea of a Star Wars horror novel for a while, and when I found about that I started hounding them for a crack at it. It was too good to pass up.

Star Wars is one of the best known and established franchises with its own galaxy of established characters, locations and situations; do you find it easier writing for such an established franchise or creating original stories, characters, locations, etc from your own imagination?
Working in an established universe is an oddly liberating experience. You know, it's like the old Stephen Sondheim line about songwriting. "Tell me to write a love song, and I'm paralyzed. Tell me to write a song about a beautiful blonde in a red dress after midnight and I'm free, because I can write whatever I want." Death Troopers gave me the opportunity I've always wanted to explore every inch of that Star Wars galaxy from the inside.

So, what was it like writing in George Lucas's sandpit?
Fantastic. Lucasfilm is a dream to work with -- they wanted to try something new with this one, and they gave me all the freedom I could've possibly wanted, along with the direction the novel needed as it came along.

Can you tell us what your research for Death Troopers consisted of?
Right after I signed the contracts I received a huge box on my doorstep, a two-foot high stack of reference materials that have stayed permanently parked next to my desk. I tried to sit down and read them cover to cover and discovered it's actually much easier to refer to them as needed. As a universe, it's been extremely well mapped out. Which is hugely helpful to a lazy sod such as myself.

Star Wars novels have traditionally maintained the PG rating of the films (or PG-13 with Revenge of the Sith), with no excessive violence (apart from the occasional lightsaber amputations) or sex, even if the subject matter is of a more adult and mature nature. As Star Wars' first horror novel, Death Troopers will substantially raise the bar of such traditional Star Wars story-telling, were you conscious of this when writing Death Troopers? And how does it feel to pen such a ground-breaking story?
As far as violence, I didn't really think that much about it, not at the time, anyway. Lucasfilm told me that they wanted a George Romero story set in the Star Wars universe, and that's all I needed to know. That was my starting gun. Bang -- go.
It's funny, because Fangoria recently posted a review of the book where they sited all the more graphic bits sort of placed back to back, and I thought, "Wow, did I really put all that in there and get away with it?" I tackled it the same way I went about writing my other books, listening to the voice that told the story and putting the words down as they came out. Whether or not it's actually ground-breaking, I guess we'll see.

So how much 'Star Wars' can we expect in Death Troopers?
Lots. As much as I could reasonably find room for. I more or less wallowed in it.

And how would you describe Death Troopers as appealing to: the average Star Wars fan? your own fans? and horror fans?
I'm honestly not sure. I certainly hope Star Wars fans dig it. And there's definitely some horror/Star Wars audience crossover. My first thought is just to assemble the most compelling, compulsive reading experience I can, something you'll want to read straight through regardless of what kind of reader you are.

On your own blog recently, The Scary Parent[External site - opens in a new window/tab] (by the way are you really scary?), you listed the music that you listened to while writing Death Troopers and suggested that people should listen to this "soundtrack" while reading the novel; music has always been an important part of the Star Wars films, but I believe that this is the first time that a Star Wars author has suggested listening to music while reading one of their novels, how important is music to you and do you believe it has a role in writing and/or reading novels?
The whole music thing a relatively new deal to me. What I've discovered is that, although I don't really listen to music while I'm writing, certain songs do suggest themselves throughout the process, and by the time I finish the first draft I've got a fairly extensive playlist running through my head. When I wrote "the end" with Death Troopers, I went to iTunes and started pulling these songs, arranging them to fit the flow of the story -- not necessarily the plot, but the feel of events and moments as I experienced them. Then I just kind of listen to it over and over throughout the revision process. Like everything else, it's basically just another diversion, a means of making it more fun for myself and inviting whoever wants to play along.

It was recently confirmed that you are to write a second Star Wars horror novel and that will not be a sequel to Death Troopers (due to be published in October 2010), can you offer any tidbits as to what we could expect in it?
Big scares. Relentless horror. A bunch of new songs.

Finally, if you could meet face-to-face with any fictional person and could only ask them one question, who would that person be and what would you ask them?
Oedipus, I guess: "Dude, you do know that's your mom, right?"

Thank you Joe for your time, it has been a pleasure and wish you every success in the future.



Death Troopers will be published in hardback in the US on October 12th by Del Rey and in the UK in paperback on 22nd October by Arrow Books
You can also follow Joe's writings on his blog, Scary Parent, at http://scaryparent.blogspot.com
[External site - opens in a new window/tab].

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