New York Times best-selling novelist Paul S. Kemp would rather write Star Wars novels that feature minor characters rather than Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, the popular mainstays of the space opera franchise.
“When I signed a deal to do the Star Wars novels, I asked (the editors at Del Rey, which publishes the novels) to get them to allow me and tell a bit of a side story that doesn’t feature any of the main characters. Normally, what Del Rey does is they have a large meta-plot story going on that tends to center around the Skywalkers and Solos or their kids,” explained Kemp, 42, who lives in Grosse Pointe Park with his wife and 6-year-old twin sons.
Using the minor characters gives the author plenty of creative freedom. To date, he has written two Star Wars novels: Crosscurrent and The Old Republic: Deceived. Riptide, a sequel to Crosscurrent, will debut this fall.
Deceived, which recently debuted and currently is on the New York Times best-seller list, occurs 3,500 years before the events of 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope. It is a tie-in to the upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game of the same name.
The structure of the novel is about both of the characters… dealing with the failure of the institutions that have been integral to their lives up to that point,” Kemp said.
Ever since its 1977 debut, creator/auteur George Lucas’ Star Wars saga has become a beloved icon in the American pop culture landscape. In addition to its sequels and prequels, it has spawned numerous merchandise: action figures, video games, comic books, novels, the list goes on.
It was in 1991 when Del Rey’s line of Star Wars novels debuted with Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, which was also the name of the first novel. It debuted in the Top Ten of the New York Times bestseller list and stayed at No. 1 for several weeks. In its first week, the novel sold 70,000 copies and was went back to press for an additional 70,000. Dark Horse Comics later adapted this trilogy.
“It’s a modern myth. Star Wars isn’t about the hyper-drives and the lightsabers. At the end of the day, it’s about a hero’s journey," Kemp said. "Lucas takes that perfectly and embodies that so well across six movies. There isn’t any series in literature or movies that better embody the hero’s a journey: their rise, their fall, and then their redemption. Anakin Skywalker (alias Darth Vader) does this – it’s brilliant. It speaks to audiences in an emotional way. The hero’s journey really touches something deep within all of us. It’s here to stay and will be with us for a very long time.”
Kemp grew up reading the works of classic fantasy authors Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock. He also played the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game and – of course – watched the Star Wars movies.
“I decided that I might give some thought to doing something else. Anyway, I read a lot when I was a kid,” he explained. “I always wanted to try my hand at it, so when I went to law school – with all the free time I had there – I started pursuing a writing career then.”
Kemp broke into print by getting short stories published in various online magazines. From there, Wizards of the Coast – which publishes novels based on Dungeons & Dragons – had an open submissions policy, where writers could send in samples of their work.
Kemp was assigned to write a novella called “Resurrection” in The Halls of Stormweather anthology where Erevis Cale – the star of seven novels – debuted. He plans to return to Erevis in 2012.
Upon graduating from law school in 2000, Kemp has been the in-house legal counsel for Caretech Solutions, a technology company, in Troy.
“The funny thing about this is while I hated law school, I liked being a lawyer,” he said, laughing.
Kemp doesn’t plan on quitting Caretech any time soon.
“I’m able to juggle all of these things. I plan to continue,” Kemp said. “It’s about making the time. I’m in a firm believer in the notion that people make the time to do the things they love.”
For Kemp, the best part of being a novelist is interacting with fans.
“I got emails from readers with some frequency – whether it’s my Erevis Cale novels or my Star Wars novels – who have had significant challenges in their lives,” he said. “They’ll send me emails telling me how my novels got them through a dark point in their lives, or I’ll get emails from soldiers who are reading these things in the field. ‘It’s been a godsend for us because it helps us got through a highly-stressful time… it’s a great escape for me,’ and all that. As much as I love the creative process, turning a blank page into a story I hope people have a lot of fun reading, getting those kinds of emails from fans is the best thing about being a writer.”