Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff recently granted us an interview via email, about her, her collaboration with fellow author Michael Reaves, and about Star Wars in general, mixed in with insight about writing for the franchise.
Mrs. Bohnhoff has enjoyed an extensive career; her print publications include six fantasy novels and a lot of short fiction in Analog (“I’m a member of the dreaded Analog MAFIA—Making Appearances Frequently In Analog”), Interzone, Amazing Stories and a number of anthologies.
Her favorite among those is her first novel THE MERI, which is in reprint from Sense of Wonder Press and MR. TWILIGHT, which was her first collaboration with Michael Reaves. She also has three eBooks published through Book View Cafe—one is science fiction and two are fantasy/magical realism. Book View Cafe is featuring the most recent (A PRINCESS OF PASSYUNK) right now on Wednesdays. The other two titles are TACO DEL AND THE FABLED TREE OF DESTINY and LALDASA: BELOVED SLAVE. And yes, they’re available through Amazon for your Kindle :=). Her work with Michael Reaves has carried over into the Star Wars Expanded Universe with the novel CORUSCANT NIGHTS III – PATTERNS Of FORCE, and the upcoming novels SHADOW GAMES and CORUSCANT NIGHTS IV – JEDI DAWN (tentative title).
She’s also a musician, singer and songwriter (along with her husband, Jeff) and both have five CDs of original and parody (filk) music out there. The two all original albums are MANHATTAN SLEEPS and MOBIUS STREET and the three parody albums are RETRO ROCKET SCIENCE, ALIENS ATE MY HOMEWORK, and GRATED HITS.
And now, the interview…
Mrs. Bohnhoff, thank you for granting this interview and for your time! For those in our audience that may not know much about you, would you mind telling us a little about yourself?
I’m a full time writer/editor and a musician (some of your readers may have heard me singing on the YouTube video “Midichlorian Rhapsody.”) I’m married to the wicked genius behind the lyrics and arrangement for Rhapsody (as well as all our other music), and we have three fantastic children who are talented in both music and writing. In fact, if you check out the YouTube video of “Wastin’ Away Again on Tatooine” you’ll hear our 17 year old daughter singing lead. Our son is one of the voices on “Rhapsody” and sings lead on a couple of the songs on GRATED HITS. Jeff and I (and sometimes the kids, too) perform our music at science fiction conventions all over the country, and have been doing that since 1995. Jeff’s nickname, by the way, is Chef Jeff Vader, All-Powerful God of Biscuits. I mention this because of the Vader connection. He started out as Jeff, God of Biscuits—thanks to a routine by comedian Eddie Izzard—and when Eddie did the “Deathstar Cantina” skit, he became Jeff Vader. (He really does make a stellar biscuit.)
But enough silliness. I had my first science fiction story published in Analog in 1989 and that started my writing career. I sold my first novel, THE MERI, in 1992 and just kept writing. I strayed from straight SF into fantasy and horror and magical realism, but SF is my first love. I started writing with Michael Reaves in 2005 and we’ve been working together ever since. (We also collaborated on BATMAN: FEAR ITSELF.)
In addition to your busy schedule, you make time to post a regular Star Wars themed blog over at the Book View Café. Is there any particular reason for doing that from an author’s standpoint (keeping the mind/craft trained; letting off steam/therapeutic reasons) or is it simply done as a hobby?
I mostly did it to have a place to engage with readers and fans. Several of the Book View Cafe writers have written Star Wars novels and I wanted to let the Star Wars fans know we were there. But, it also allows me a forum for thinking out loud about the craft of writing in the GFFA and writing in general. Plus I get sometimes valuable feedback from readers.
How was the Star Wars universe introduced to you?
I remember standing in a very, very long line to see the very first Star Wars movie. I saw it in a big domed theater in Sacramento and I was hooked from the moment that first Imperial battleship sailed over my head and the subsonics shook my seat. I think everyone in the theater ducked. Then, of course, I fell madly in love with Luke Skywalker and wanted to be Princess Leia and wondered what she saw in Han Solo. When I went to Empire Strikes Back, the air conditioner in the theater had died. The scenes on Hoth were refreshing; the ones on Dagobah were too too real. Anyway, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen those first three films. We own them, of course, and watch them at least twice a year. So, getting to write in this iconic universe is something special.
Can you tell us how the collaboration between you and fellow author Micheal Reaves works? How do two different minds come together to create a novel?
Michael and I have a very similar “voice.” When we were working on MR. TWILIGHT it was so seamless there were times neither of us could remember who’d written what. He has certain words he loves and I can spot a Michael moment once in a while, but the nature of the writing process is that by the time the book gets to the copy editing stage (which is where we are now with SHADOW GAMES) it’s hard for us to tell our work apart. For PATTERNS OF FORCE and SHADOW GAMES, though, we’ve had a similar process: In both cases, we started with a basic idea that Michael had proposed and brainstormed the outline for the book, throwing ideas back and forth by phone, email, Skype, iChat — whatever worked — until we felt we had a solid proposal. Once our editor and the folks at LucasFilm weighed in, we discussed how to address their questions (and there are always questions) then redrafted the outline and worked with the editors until everyone was happy.
In PATTERNS OF FORCE, Michael sketched the first couple of chapters and suggested setups for several more. I did the first draft of the manuscript, sending him chapters as I went. We’d discuss, edit, rewrite, etc, then move on. With SHADOW GAMES I started drafting from the beginning, working back and forth with Michael on groups of chapters until we got all the way to the end. Then Michael did a pass for continuity and tone and made sure everything is Star Wars-ish (I’m also a child of Star Trek, so I may inappropriately “cross the streams.” Michael’s written in the GFFA for a while and makes sure I don’t blunder into the wrong universe. :=)
We just work together very well. He’s also very much the Jedi Master to my Padawan, which is why I entitled my blog A Padawan’s Journal.
Your latest work STAR WARS: SHADOW GAMES had an interesting twist – the fans decided the title! How far along were you when the title was decided? Did that affect how you and Mr. Reaves approached the novel?
The title really didn’t affect the novel at all. We had that pretty clearly in our minds and knew the title was temporary from the beginning. The final title wasn’t chosen until after we’d turned in the finished manuscript. I think it’s a suitable title and fans will understand why when they read the book.
One reason many fans are excited about this novel is because of the appearance of Dash Rendar and Han Solo. Can you tell us how much of the story will be devoted to their interaction?
Let’s just say I think fans who’ve wanted to see them interact will be very happy. I can also say that writing interactions for these two guys was the most fun aspect of the project for me.(Dash gets really testy when Han is around for some reason.) I love Han Solo’s “voice.” Because I’ve seen the movies so often, I “hear” Han’s voice when I write dialogue for him. So, when I realized that I heard Dash’s voice just as strongly, I was hopeful it meant I’d “captured” it, as they say. I can honestly say that writing Dash Rendar was a real pleasure. I’ve become very fond of the character.
Also on the horizon is the forth novel in the Coruscant Nights series, tentatively titled JEDI DAWN, to be written by you and Michael Reaves. Not much is known about it; can you give any details?
Yes, but then I’d have to give you a mind wipe. I can tell you that we’re working on it and that the opening of the book is drafted. Other than that, alas, I can say nothing. It does, of course, feature Jax Pavan and my favorite droid, I-5YQ.
A final question… what are your feelings regarding working for the Star Wars franchise?
I’m honored to be here, actually. And I’m especially pleased to have a chance to write an iconic character like Han Solo. Fans and writers alike joke about writing media tie-in books—the idea being that they’re somehow less finely wrought or less “deep” than other genre fiction. But they certainly don’t have to be. That’s one of the reasons Michael and I get on so well writing together—we really are fascinated by, for example, the philosophies and beliefs surrounding the workings of the Force. We’re both more interested in creating characters the reader can connect with emotionally and maybe less interested in writing space chase scenes (though I’ve been told I write a mean action sequence :=)) And the folks at Del Rey and LFL allow us to do those things as long as we abide by the laws of the universe George Lucas created.
Having said that, it does have its challenges. In some areas the canon is so set that you can’t deviate from it a hair’s breadth, in others it’s more shadowy and the writers and our advisors at LucasFilm are all scratching our heads. For example, we wrote one location into SHADOW GAMES that I picked specifically because of its physical properties and its reputation as being—shall we say—not quite “by the book” when it came to Imperial Protocol. When I went to research the details of those physical properties, I found practically nothing. So I asked our liaison at LFL and he didn’t know either. We independently found one source of information—a comic book that used the location. But the drawings were just vague enough that the most critical question I had about the place remained unanswered. So, I winged it with the full knowledge that my ad libs are going to go up on Wookieepedia and into the collection of Star Wars lore. That is a humbling thought. It makes me want to get it right.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that writing SF and fantasy is easy ’cause you don’t have to do research. It ain’t so! As I type this, I sit surrounded by Star Wars official guides—guides to alien species, vessels, weapons, locales. I have a beta encyclopedia in HTML on my computer. I’m on a first-name basis with a Wookieepedia webmaster and Facebook friends with Dan Wallace, who co-wrote the Star Wars Essential Atlas. I guess that’s another positive aspect to writing in the GFFA—you have a huge support network.
Hmm. Maybe I should find a way to put the fans to work…
Mrs. Bohnhoff, again, we are honored and thank you for this interview, and wish you continued success!
Thank you and you’re most welcome.
Star Wars: Shadow Games is slated for a September 2011 tentative release. Coruscant Nights IV: ‘Jedi Dawn’ is set for a November 2012 tentative release.