Not many authors would laugh it off when they are told you won't read their book. But Matthew Stover does. Stover wrote the novelization for "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (Del Ray, $25.95), and, being a "Star Wars" fan, understands that some people don't want to spoil the experience of seeing the sci-fi saga's final chapter when the film opens May 19.
At a book signing earlier this month in Barnes & Noble, a good-natured Stover talked about "Star Wars" and writing.
I'm one of the people who won't read your book until after May 19. Do you hear that a lot?
Yes, I do. There are a lot of fans who have been living by the motto "Spoiler-free until Episode III," and that's fine. In fact, that's part of the way I wrote the book. I really tried to minimize the spoiler impact. After all, we know basically what will happen. We've known for 28 years how this film will have to end. But the really cool things in this film are how it works. Mr. Lucas, as we know, is one of the great visual film artists. I didn't even go into a lot of visual aspects of how things are going to work or look. I did as much as I could from the inside of the character's head, writing about how they feel.
My goal in writing this book was to produce a companion piece. I didn't want to simply translate the script into prose.
Did you feel a lot of pressure writing this?
It almost killed me. Harold Bloom, the great critic, talks about something in religious writing called the anxiety of representation, where people who are writing about spirituality and God, if they actually believe in God, become unctuous and tense because they don't want to say the wrong thing and have God be angry with them. It was a very similar sort of feeling because "Star Wars" means so much to me. I so very much wanted to make this just as good as it could possibly be, to do justice to how I feel about "Star Wars" as a mythic phenomenon.
Did you work with George Lucas on this book?
He had a vast amount of input. I was working directly with his script. The book, after it was finished, was line-edited, word by word, by Mr. Lucas. For a regular "Star Wars" novel, what we call the extended universe, he was more of a hands-off guy, leaving those things to the folks at Lucas Books and Lucasfilms Licensing. They are very very good at managing the franchise. They take care of continuity issues, they make sure no one kills off Luke or Han or Leia.
How did you feel about getting the script early?
I was excited. I was curious to see how Mr. Lucas was going to bring it all together. I wrote to my editor right after I read the script and said people are going to see this film and they will go back and watch Episodes I and II and they will realize that all three films are really one long, single piece of art. They will realize the first two films are better than they thought.
What's the difference between writing your own fiction and a novelization?
Writing this novelization was the hardest work I've ever done. It's my seventh novel -- I've written four books of my own and three "Star Wars" novels. When you're writing your own book and you come across a scene that's not working right, you can change it and make the characters do something else. When you're writing a novel based on George Lucas' film, the characters have to do what they do in the movie, regardless. So it was very difficult -- but very rewarding.