Author Dan Wallace talks to StarWars.com about creating a lost chronicle of the galaxy's greatest heists and schemes -- penned by the scoundrels themselves.
Han Solo. Lando Calrissian. Doctor Aphra. In Star Wars, we love our smugglers, scoundrels, and adventurers -- those who take chances, who live by their own rules, and who make their own luck. After all, who else could've made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? Or would've even attempted to? Surely not a Jedi.
That's why we're excited to pull back the curtain on Star Wars: Smuggler's Guide, coming October 30 from Epic Ink in a deluxe edition (featuring lights and sounds!), with a standard edition on the way in the future. Written by Dan Wallace and fully illustrated, Smuggler's Guide includes a treasure trove of stories and insights from the galaxy's most notorious; in other words, it's a collective journal that has continuously changed hands over the generations, documenting the thoughts and secrets of some legendary pirates and rogues. And now it's ours.
StarWars.com caught up with Wallace to discuss how Smuggler's Guide carries on a Star Wars publishing tradition, writing in the voices of Star Wars's shadiest, and why we love smugglers and their ilk so much.
StarWars.com: The setup that your book is essentially a lost smuggling journal that has passed through the hands of everyone from Hondo Ohnaka to Han Solo is really clever. Where did the idea come from and how, as the writer, did you figure out how to structure and craft something like this?
Dan Wallace: Smuggler's Guide is part of a tradition of similar books dating back to 2010's The Jedi Path. With each book we've switched up the approach to the "in-universe" narrative, creating a handbook for newly-minted Imperial officers and a top-secret scrapbook of rebel documents. Smuggler's Guide is fairly unique because it's one continuous chronicle, which has been passed from one author to the next as various underworld factions fight for possession of its secrets.
I started writing the book by first making a list of all the underworld figures I knew we couldn't get away with not including -- star characters like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, of course, but also less famous faces with shady pasts like Dexter Jettster, Bib Fortuna, and Star Wars Rebels' Cikatro Vizago. I then cross-referenced this list against my research into the nature of Star Wars criminal activity. Note that the book, despite its title of Smuggler's Guide, has a scope that encompasses gambling, piracy, ship-jacking, con artistry, gladiatorial combat, and a host of other sketchy trades.
StarWars.com: It also has to be quite a writing workout, because you're jumping from voice to voice.
Dan Wallace: The best part of working on these books is writing in the voices of the characters. It's fun to switch from a cocky Han to a preening Hondo Ohnaka, and then invent an all-new voice for a ruthless star pirate plundering the Seven Sectors. In the book, the illusion of multiple authors is enhanced by the designer's choice of distinct lettering styles for each writer as well as idiosyncrasies in the way information is organized on the page. Since that's the kind of thing you'd expect to see in a real-world journal by multiple authors, we strove to achieve a similar level of immersion.
StarWars.com: The handwritten notes add another layer to the experience; I love, for instance, how you're reading one smuggler's entry and inventory list for some stolen loot, and then there's a scribble underneath: I knew Plug-Eye Maygo ripped me off! - Sana Starros. How did you decide when and where you'd add these, and which character would be writing them?
Dan Wallace: The original notion that these books could contain marginalia -- that is, the short dashed-off comments scribbled in the corners -- ended up being one of the best-received elements of The Jedi Path. We wanted to do something similar with Smuggler's Guide, but faced a challenge in that it's a passalong narrative in which the pool of available authors shrinks as time moves forward. On page 1, I could use anyone as a marginal commentator, but by page 160 only the log's final owner still had a voice. Sometimes I'd find the perfect place to insert an aside from Sana Starros or Platt Okeefe, only to curse in frustration once I realized they'd passed out of the book's chain of ownership.
StarWars.com: The Dryden Vos/Beckett/Han section does a lot to fill in more of their perspectives and details on things we see in Solo. Without spoiling it, what can you tell us about writing these entries, from ideation to working with Lucasfilm?
Dan Wallace: Solo obviously had a huge thematic impact on Smuggler's Guide. During early planning, I went to Lucasfilm to read the script for Solo and get better acquainted with its characters. Sometimes this resulted in rewrites. In my first draft I included names and situations from the latest Solo script revision, only to learn that details had changed by the time I wrote my second draft. But overall I was happy to work with Tobias Beckett. As a bandit leader who's bold enough to execute a full-on "Great Train Robbery" heist, he's the kind of figure who springs from Star Wars' primal DNA.
StarWars.com: This has essentially been the Year of the Smuggler in Star Wars. Why do you think that particular type of character has proven to be so popular, more than 40 years after the release of A New Hope and when we first met Han Solo?
Dan Wallace: I think it's as simple as the fact that not everybody considers themselves a good guy or a bad guy! Look at the Jedi and the Sith: there's a reassuring moral clarity there. Same thing with the Rebellion and the Empire. But a lot of people aren't quite sure where they belong, and secretly wonder if they belong anywhere. That's why it can be satisfying to cheer for the scoundrels. Let's hear it for Han, Lando, Maz Kanata, Doctor Aphra, and all the other rogues in the ranks of the unaffiliated!
Smuggler's Guide deluxe edition arrives October 30 and is available for pre-order now.
See more of Smuggler's Guide in this week's episode of The Star Wars Show!
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.