An Interview with Jason Fry, Author of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS

What has been your favorite aspect of writing about Star Wars: The Clone Wars?

The Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode Guide arranges five seasons of shows (and the Clone Wars movie) in chronological story order, which is the first time that’s been done. That let me look at familiar episodes in a new way—and made me appreciate both the larger stories being told and the themes common to those episodes. For example, the episodes dealing with intrigue in the Galactic Senate were separated in the show’s air order, making them feel like exceptions or changes of pace to the larger story of the war. Writing The Clone Wars Episode Guide, I reviewed those episodes chronologically, and found they were richer and deeper than I’d expected. So that was a lot of fun.

But other things were great, too. I loved delving into the behind-the-scenes lore of the episodes, particularly the in-jokes, homages, and sly references to cinematic history. By accident I watched Season 2’s “Senate Spy” and Hitchcock’s “Notorious” during the same week, which is something movie buffs should do on purpose.

And look, it’s Star Wars—pending your day thinking about humming lightsabers and marching clone troopers and massive starship battles is a pretty great job.

When did you start writing Star Wars books?

My first Star Wars book was actually another DK title—the Star Wars: The Clone Wars Visual Guide, which came out before the movie in 2008. Before that, I’d started writing about Star Wars as a hobby during my off-hours as an online journalist, working for Star Wars Insider and writing “lore” for the roleplaying games.

Fast-forward five years and the Clone Wars Episode Guide is somehow my 17th Star Wars book—with more on the way! For a kid who’s been a Star Wars fan since he gasped at the original as an eight-year-old in a theater on Long Island in 1977, all of this has been a dream come true.

What was the hardest part of this book for you to write?

The tricky things about books like these are the artwork and the design are so dominant and so critical. As a writer you have to swallow your pride a bit and realize your prose takes a back seat to getting those elements right—which inevitably takes some tinkering during the design phase. We went through a few iterations on the Clone Wars Episode Guide before we nailed the format, meaning I was writing for something of a moving target.

But that’s part of the job and part of the challenge, which eventually becomes part of the fun. All books are team efforts, but that’s even more true with visually strong books such as this one. It’s always struck me as unfair that the author is the only person whose name gets prominently mentioned when so many people work so hard to make a book a reality.

This is the first time all of the 100+ episodes are showcased together; looking back, which was your favorite episode to write about?

Oh, there are way too many to pick!

One thing I really enjoyed about the Clone Wars Episode Guide was it forced me to think visually in helping the designers select the stills used to illustrate each episode. There are so many iconic shots from the five seasons of the Clone Wars that came back to me as I was reviewing episodes, and it was really satisfying to hunt those down for inclusion in the book—whether it’s Rex donning his helmet to hunt down a traitorous Jedi in “Carnage of Krell,” or Grievous and Ahsoka crossing blades in “Duel of the Droids,” or the zombie Nightsisters from “Massacre,” or that last moody shot of Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Temple at the end of “The Wrong Jedi.” They’re all great moments that bring back the sweep of the story and the swell of the music, and it was a treat to archive them in this book.

The Clone Wars draw primarily a younger crowd; how do you like book signings with this kind of audience?

Oh, that’s enormous fun. I love it when kids tell me who their favorite characters are, or try to stump me with a Star Wars question, or just want to show off an Ahsoka costume.

Plus I’ve occasionally had parents tell me that one of my books got their son or daughter to love reading, immersing himself or herself in Star Wars and then discovering other authors, settings and stories. That’s just an enormous honor and honestly humbling to think about.

Are there any Star Wars characters that you’ve changed your opinion on as a result of writing this book?

I don’t know that I changed my opinion about them, but for me Ahsoka Tano and Asajj Ventress are the characters who took the most interesting journeys over the show’s five seasons—Ahsoka from brash young apprentice to mature, complex heroine, and Asajj from killer to conflicted victim of the war’s intrigue. It was fitting that those two wound up working together, if only by necessity, in the final arc of Season 5. We know there are several “bonus” episodes of the show in the works, and as a fan I’m really hoping those episodes reveal more about what destiny has in store for them.

I also loved the characters of Duchess Satine and her sister, Bo-Katan. Satine was a fascinating counterpoint to Obi-Wan Kenobi as a character, and once fans got used to the idea of a pacifist Mandalorian noblewoman, I thought her tale made the much-loved history and culture of Mandalore even deeper and richer. And then we found out she had a sister in Death Watch? That might not have quite been “I am your father,” but it was still pretty awesome.

What episodes were hardest to adapt for the Clone Wars Episode Guide?

Oh, boy. Remember Season 4’s four-part arc with the clones fighting the traitorous General Krell on the shadowy planet of Umbara? Those episodes were tense and scary and some of my favorites, but they were so dark that turning them into material for the book was challenging, to say the least. Image after image was evocative and cool, except for the slight problem that what the reader needed to see was basically invisible. We got through it, but if I still had hair I’d have yanked it out.

Somewhat similarly, my favorite episode from the show’s entire run might be “Bounty,” from Season 4, in which Asajj teams up with Boba Fett and company to protect an underground train traveling through crystal caverns. It’s an episode that’s just dripping with cool characters and moody shots and brilliantly paced fights, but it’s really hard to “freeze” that in an image or a page.

But, hey, that’s another reason to go back and enjoy the show, right? If the Clone Wars Episode Guide does its job, you should read about an episode and immediately want to get out your DVDs.

Why is Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode Guide the must-have book for Clone Wars fans?

First of all, because it’s beautiful. For me, the show shattered the limits of what one expected from TV animation—its visual effects, sets, design, lighting and other aspects were really the stuff of feature films. As a publisher, whether the subject is medieval England or undersea life or a galaxy far far away, DK’s books are eye-popping visually and have a distinctive style. So really, this is a perfect match.

Second, because the Clone Wars Episode Guide catches the entire sweep and scope of the show’s five seasons in one volume. You can relive individual favorite episodes or trace the course of the war across multiple seasons, watching characters you cheered or hissed as they grow and change, enjoy victories and suffer defeats.

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