Two weeks ago, Lucasfilm hired Jennifer Heddle to be its new Senior Editor at LucasBooks. In that role, Ms. Heddle supervises the Star Wars adult fiction titles that Random House and Dark Horse publish. To give readers a sense of where Ms. Heddle is coming from as a Star Wars fan and a veteran of the publishing world, I asked her a few questions about her job and her interest in the franchise.
How old were you when you first saw Star Wars? What’s your favorite Star Wars movie?
I first saw A New Hope in the summer of 1977. I was a few months shy of five years old. I remember that my parents went to see the movie by themselves first to make sure it would be acceptable for me. The other part that sticks in my memory about it is coming home afterward and playing in my 3-foot pool in the backyard, pretending that I was on the Death Star as it was blowing up. (What it says about me that I was envisioning myself as an Imperial, I have no idea…) My favorite Star Wars movie has always been The Empire Strikes Back, and not just because it’s when I developed my life-long crush on Harrison Ford. (Although that helps.) It’s the movie where all the different creative aspects are at their peak and come together perfectly – the writing, acting, directing…even some of John Williams’ best work for the series is in that film. It’s lightning in a bottle.
When did you first start reading Star Wars books? What’s your favorite Star Wars book or series?
I first began reading SW books when Heir to the Empire came out. I then read most of the Bantam run, but fell away from the series shortly before the New Jedi Order started. I think part of what appealed to Lucasfilm about hiring me was the fact that I was something of a lapsed fan of the EU and could hopefully therefore bring a fresh perspective to the series. Picking a favorite book is tough, especially since I’m still catching up on everything I missed. I think The New Rebellion by Kristine Kathryn Rusch kind of flies under the radar but is really well done. And of more recent books I love Troy Dennings’ Tatooine Ghost since I’m a big fan of Han and Leia. But for all I know one of the books I haven’t gotten to yet will wind up being my favorite – I really enjoyed Revan by Drew Karpyshyn, for example.
What event in the Expanded Universe had the biggest impact on you as a reader?
Again, this is a tough one to answer. Maybe Chewbacca dying, since I had essentially already stopped reading the books at that point and then when I heard about Chewie’s death I thought, “Well, that’s it for me then.” Of course I now have to eat my words as there have been some great stories told since then!
Will LucasBooks and Del Rey continue to plan nine-book series, or are you moving away from longer story arcs in favor of standalones, duologies, and trilogies?
I think it’s safe to say that for the immediate future we’re going to take a break from long series in order to give the audience a chance to breathe, as it were. But I can’t say there will never be a longer series again. As Yoda says, always in motion is the future.
Are there plans to integrate future EU novels more closely with The Clone Wars animated series?
I think that with the evolving continuity of The Clone Wars, we all feel that there’s a responsibility for us there, to make sure the pieces fit together as much as possible as we move forward. But if you’re asking whether there will be further Clone Wars novels, I don’t think that’s been decided just yet.
With 2009’s Death Troopers, the EU branched out into the horror genre for the first time. Shadow Games, which will be out on November 27th, is set to be the first Star Wars thriller. What’s your favorite genre of fiction, and will you try to bring more of that genre to Star Wars?
Well, my favorite genre of fiction is probably fantasy, and integrating that into Star Wars would be interesting. It’s not that difficult if you think about it, since a world in the GFFA without any tech could probably be construed as “fantasy.” And I’ve always thought of Star Wars, particularly Episodes IV through VI, as “space fantasy” more than anything else. 7 What are your thoughts on a partial or full “reboot” of the EU? Personally? I think that if DC and Marvel can do it, then so can we. And I like alternate history stories. But that’s something that ultimately is not my decision.
You mentioned on Twitter that you’ll be participating in Lucasfilm’s annual trivia night. When it comes to Star Wars lore, do you have a forte? (I won’t ask about weaknesses in case any of your trivia rivals are reading this!)
Great question. My forte is probably anything having to do with the classic trilogy novelizations – character names, lines of dialogue, etc – since I read them (particularly The Empire Strikes Back) over and over and over again. This was in the days before DVD, you understand, and really even before VHS. The novelizations were all I had! My original copy of the ESB novelization literally started falling apart from my reading it so much.
Is there a hazing ritual at Lucasfilm and are you at liberty to discuss it?
Well, first you have to build your own lightsaber, then you’re sent to face the rancor monster deep in the bowels of Lucasfilm….no, actually, everyone here has been really nice. I know that’s the more boring answer, sorry.
Can you share a piece of advice that your predecessor Sue Rostoni gave you?
I’m sorry to say I’ve never talked to Sue! Hopefully that will change in the future. For now I rely on my daily walk past the Yoda fountain in front of the Lucasfilm offices to provide me with a dose of zen.
I’d like to thank Jennifer Heddle very much for talking to me. I wish her luck as LucasBooks’ new Senior Editor for Star Wars fiction!