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Posted: 20th January 2010

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[ Interviews ]
Paul S. Kemp

[ Paul S. Kemp ]

Crosscurrent Paul S. Kemp's first Star Wars novel and is a story that links the ancient Jedi and Sith wars of The Old Republic with events that are beginning to unfold in the Fate of the Jedi series.
Paul is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the University of Michigan law school and his reading tastes run the gamut from Shakespeare to Tom Clancy, although he is particularly fond of Milton. Apparently the best advice on life he ever received was from an undergraduate college professor in political science: always extend yourself. Paul tries to keep that advice in mind at all times.

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

Paul, welcome to Star Wars Books.
If you like, could we begin with a short résumé of yourself and your work to date?
Sure. I’m Paul S. Kemp. I live in Michigan, have been married seventeen years to same lovely redhead, and have five year old twin boys named Roarke and Riordan. By day, I slog through the Hell that is corporate America in my role as a corporate lawyer. By night, I write.
I'm known primarily as the creator of Erevis Cale, an assassin and priest of the God of Shadows. My work featuring Cale is as follows:

  • The Halls of Stormweather

  • Shadow's Witness

  • The Erevis Cale Trilogy
    Twilight Falling
    Dawn of Night
    Midnight's Mask

The three books of the Erevis Cale Trilogy (listed immediately above) will be available in June in an omnibus that includes all three novels and a couple Cale-related short stories. It is, aptly I'd say J, called The Erevis Cale Omnibus.

  • The Twilight War
    Shadowbred
    Shadowstorm
    Shadowrealm

You made your name working on roleplaying game tie-in novels. What attracts you to roleplaying settings and stories?
I find it an interesting challenge to step into a fully realized secondary world/universe, and attempt to tell a story within that's fresh. I also really enjoy and appreciate the passion that fans of the settings bring to the novels. It's really a blast.

In your opinion, what makes for a good book, whether it be sci-fi, fantasy or otherwise?
I think characters are of primary importance. Obviously other factors are integral to a successful novel -- plot, pacing, the quality of the prose, theme, etc. -- but I want readers to come away from one of my novels talking about the characters first and foremost.

So, where do you draw your inspiration and what forms the initial thought that leads to that first keystroke?
Honestly, like most writers, I get inspiration from everything: other novels, history, television, a stray thought, whatever. For me, the process of writing a novel typically involves conceptualizing a character first. I build from there.

You have been a major contributor to The Forgotten Realms franchise over the last 10 years, writing more 8 novels and several short stories. Now you are writing for another major franchise, how do you feel the two compare in terms of writing style and readership?
Well, the Realms is a sword and sorcery setting, while Star Wars is space opera or science fantasy, depending upon who you ask. But I've found them to be more similar than different -- both feature cinematic action, somewhat larger than life heroes/villains, rapid pacing, and an interesting underlying moral paradigm.
In terms of readership, both have extraordinarily passionate fans. The Star Wars readership is considerably larger than the FR readership (which is, nevertheless, quite large) and I'd say the passion of Star Wars fans exceeds that of FR readers.

How did you get this Star Wars 'gig'?
Indirectly through Bob Salvatore (R. A. Salvatore, the bestselling author of countless novels). He introduced me to my editor at Del Rey years ago and I pestered her for an opportunity to write in the Galaxy Far, Far Away for years. Finally, I annoyed her enough that she said -- Send me something you've written. So I sent her Shadowbred. She read, really liked it, and invited me to write a Star Wars novel.

So, what was it like writing in George Lucas's sandpit?
Intimidating, to some degree.  The EU is complex, with history stretching back a long way. When I write in a setting, I'm not interested in just telling a compelling story, I want to tell a compelling story that nests in the lore of the setting, that "feels" like a story set in the setting. Star Wars is more complicated than most when it comes to meeting those goals. I think Crosscurrent does so, but the readers will have to decide for themselves.

Can you tell us what your research for Crosscurrent consisted of?
Del Rey sent me volumes of research material, including all the "Essential Guides." I pored over those while I developed my story concept. And, of course, Sue Rostoni, Leland Chee, and my editor were invaluable when it came to refining the story concept and/or tweaking this or that aspect to make it consistent with past lore.

Did you have any particular reason for choosing the lead character Jaden Korr, who was, before his appearance in Legacy of the Force: Fury by Aaron Allston, just a videogame character whose biology was customisable by the game player?
I did. When I spoke with my editor about a Star Wars opportunity, I advocated strongly for the opportunity to write a story featuring a character who hadn't been featured in a novel before. As I mentioned above, I wanted to come at the readers with something fresh, and for me that meant an unknown character in a character-driven, small scale story. Obviously, I could have made up a character from scratch, but -- again, as I mention above -- I wanted to nest the story in the lore as much as possible. If possible, that meant using a character who had appeared in the EU, but who had never been featured in the EU. Jaden was perfect for that.

While working as a stand-alone story, Crosscurrent also acts as a tie-in to the ongoing nine-book Fate of the Jedi series as well as the eBook Lost Tribe of the Sith series, was this a conscious effort on your part or did it form part of your contract?
This happened by creative osmosis.  In my initial pitch to Del Rey, I has posited the existence of an ancient ship carrying a Force-enhancing ore (which became Lignan) that, through a relativity shielding malfunction, ends up in the present. Later, my editor came back and asked if we could make it two ships and tie-it into the forthcoming Fate of the Jedi series, which featured a lost tribe of Sith whose ship had crash-landed on a distant planet, allowing the tribe to develop in isolation. Harbinger and Omen were born. I thought it was incredibly cool that my novel was connected to the larger Fate of the Jedi metaplot, even if only in a small way. Kudos to my editor who conceived of the connection.

And did you have any interaction with any of the Fate of the Jedi authors, Aaron Allston, Christie Golden and Troy Denning or with John Jackson Miller (author of the Lost Tribe of the Sith series) while writing Crosscurrent?
Mostly via email. Christie and I traded emails about names of personnel on Omen, and Troy was a great help about not only the Fate of the Jedi/Crosscurrent overlaps, but about writing in SW in general. He's a class act.
JJM and I also traded a few emails. I believe I sent him descriptions of a few things as they're presented in Crosscurrent, and he did the same for me.
It was a great experience all around.

The Star Wars Expanded Universe is just as old as the original Star Wars films themselves and every author who has contributed to the Expanded Universe for the last thirty or so years, has, is some way, left his or her mark on our Galaxy Far, Far Away; what do you think your mark will be? Or to put it another way, what do you think Star Wars fans will remember you for in another 30 years time?
I'll tell you what I hope they remember -- Jaden Korr. Meaning, I hope that Crosscurrent and its sequel elevate Jaden, in the minds of the SW readership, to something more than a more or less anonymous Jedi who you could play in a video game.

It has been recently announced that you will be writing both a sequel to Crosscurrent as well as a tie-in novel for LucasArts' forthcoming MMO videogame The Old Republic, what can you tell us about either of these novels?
Not much, I'm afraid. Sorry about that. Believe me, when I'm able to discuss things, I will. J

You maintain an online presence with both a website and a blog. You contribute to the latter on a regular basis, just how important is your blog to you and if so, in what ways?
I enjoy interacting with fans on a more or less direct basis, and the blog allows for that. My posts consist not only of writing-related material, but also political observation, family stuff, humor, etc. I really enjoy the give and take with fans.

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?
Since this is a Star Wars site, let's stick with that: Anakin Skywalker. And I'd ask: What the flack were you kriffing thinking?

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



Crosscurrent will be published in paperback in the US on 26th January by Del Rey and in the UK on 4th February by Arrow Books.
You can also follow Paul's writings on his blog at
http://paulskemp.livejournal.com[External site - opens in a new window/tab].

© 2010 swbooks.co.uk


1 comment


Matt James (20th January 2010)

Excellent interview, Paul!  I can't wait to check out your new novel.

Comments are now closed.

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