An Interview with Sean Williams, Author, “Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance”


Australian novelist Sean Williams was a Star Wars fan from the time he was a young boy. Little did he know at the time that he’d grow up to write some of the most compelling Star Wars fiction in print. Fans  have thrilled to his tales of the New Jedi Order and renegade Dark Side apprentice Galen Marek. Now, with the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance, Williams is set once again to bring readers a new tale in the ongoing Star Wars saga and give them their first taste of the action to be found in the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG.

Hey Sean, first and foremost, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions for our readers. I’d like to start with a simple one. Can you introduce yourself?

I’m a full-time writer from Australia–a small city called Adelaide, specifically, where I’ve lived most of my life. I’ve been writing since 1990 and have published 35 novels, 75 short stories, and 5 collections, covering science fiction, fantasy and horror for adults, young adults, and children. (Plus the occasional poem.) Six of those novels have been in the Star Wars universe. I also sit on a lot of committees and judging panels, but the writing is the fun part.

A follow up: let’s talk Star Wars geek bona fides. What’s the geekiest Star Wars thing you can tell me about yourself?

A lot of people would say that writing for Star Wars is geeky enough! I’ve been a fan ever since Episode IV came out: I was ten at the time, the perfect age to have your mind blown. I didn’t become a collector or a costumer, but I did see the movie numerous times, read the tie-ins, listened to the soundtrack until I wore out the vinyl, etc. The ten year-old in me gets very excited every time I sit down to write a new book in the GFFA. In my heart, I’ve never really grown up.

I understand you were at one time a supporter of SETI@Home. Are you still doing this? Do you think we’ll encounter intelligent alien life in your lifetime? How much has Star Wars influenced your interest in SETI?

I still support SETI@Home, but I think the chances of us directly encountering intelligent alien life in the next century or so is very unlikely. There’s a chance–maybe a good one–that we’ll find evidence of another civilisation somewhere out there, but the distances are so great and the energy requirements so huge that I can’t imagine us shaking hands any time soon. That is a source of great sadness for me: numerous science fiction narratives, not just Star Wars, have primed me to assume that such an encounter was inevitable. As I get older, the odds seem to shrink. But who knows? The one true thing about the universe is that it will always surprise us.

How did you get involved with the Star Wars saga? Can your recall first thoughts when you were told you’d be writing a Star Wars book?

I’m not sure I thought anything terrible specific: the delight and excitement was so overwhelming. Of course, I was nervous, too–the pressure to do a good job was, and remains, huge. But my agent had been working towards the possibility for a while, so I’d had time to get used to the idea. I had written a space opera series with Shane Dix (Evergence) and it was partly this that got us into the Star Wars fold. Our three books in the New Jedi Order series were immense fun to write–the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship with a saga that just keeps on getting more interesting.

I’ve noticed that a few of your Star Wars books have to do with rebels or outsiders of various sorts. Do you enjoy writing about these characters? Do you relate more to a guy like Starkiller more than a conventional hero?

I do indeed enjoy writing characters who are on the brink of something–be it a new journey, a new sense of self, or a new relationship with the Force. You can see that most clearly in Fatal Alliance; every character in that book is primed for an epiphany, and whether they get one or not is the meat of the story. Starkiller, too. Moral ambiguity is something I find endless fascinating. As soon as I read the outline of the Force Unleashed game, I knew I had to write the novel.

You were the first author to ever have a video game tie-in novel to debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. With the release of Fatal Alliance, you’re now helping to usher in the new lore for the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG. That must be an incredible privilege and responsibility. Can you talk about that?

It is an enormous responsibility, and a very difficult one to realize. The idea behind the book was to capture the flavour of the MMO without giving away any of the character arcs of the game, while at the same time creating a novel that worked in its own right. We went through lots of story ideas before hitting on the right one. But that had its advantages, too. For the first time in Star Wars I could come up with characters of my own, and I had a whole new galaxy to play with. In that sense, I was the first person to engage with the game as the world will see it in the months to come, as a player as well as an author. There’s no way I could settle on just one character class, so I wrote six of them, and each was a joy in its own right. I think that shows in the book.

Without giving away any surprises, what do you think readers will most enjoy in Fatal Alliance? Did you end up with a favorite character by the end of the novel?

Favourites are very hard to pick, but if I had to I’d settle on Eldon Ax, a Sith apprentice with a family history that would make anyone shudder. (She has adventures ahead of her that would be exciting to tell.) Or Larin Moxla, a trooper who has had a tough run but never let it beat her. If I had my way, she’d be running the Republic armed forces within a decade–and maybe she will. Anything can happen in the Old Republic!

Fatal Alliance, with its mysterious “treasure” being sought out by several strong factions, reminds me a bit of a heist movie or crime novel, although I can’t put my fingers on which one that may be, exactly. Were any of these an influence on you?

All of the above, plus a spy novel, and other types of novel, too. It’s written as a thriller, first and foremost, and draws on every element that would make the story more, well, thrilling. It has a large cast that converges in complex and unexpected ways. All the main characters are the heroes of their own story, even (perhaps especially) the ones whose agendas and even identities are hidden until the very end. I wanted to surprise the reader in every chapter, but without doing so in a lazy, fabricated way. Everything in the novel fits together and makes sense, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the beginning. And in that sense I guess it has most in common with a mystery novel, one containing many mysteries that unravel as the pages turn.

What are you doing next?

I’m working on a new science fiction novel called Twinmaker and the next book in the Troubletwisters series, which I’m co-writing with Garth Nix. (As I type, I’m on a flight to London to promote book one.) Meanwhile I’m while waiting to hear about The Force Unleashed III. Fingers crossed this will happen soon . . .