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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Author who killed Chewbacca gets second chance with 'Star Wars Episode II'

By Fred Phillips
The (Monroe, La.) News-Star

Considering his last foray into the "Star Wars" universe, science fiction author R.A. Salvatore might seem like an odd choice to write the novelization of "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (Del Rey, $26). The book arrived in stores Tuesday (April 23).

In 1999, he was pegged to write "Vector Prime," the book that introduced the "New Jedi Order Series." In that book, he had the unenviable task of killing one of the heroes, Chewbacca.

When he found that out, Salvatore says he had to be convinced to take the job.

"When they told me to do it, I told them to take their money back," he says. "I want to be remembered for the 'Dark Elf' and 'Demonwars' series, not as 'the guy who killed Chewbacca.' I love Chewie."

Del Rey and Lucasfilms were finally able to convince him they were doing it for the "right reasons." They needed to inject a little reality and suspense back into the "Star Wars" universe. He gave in, and the book became a best seller — despite ruffling a few feathers among fans.

Still, it was a bit of a shock to Salvatore when he got the call from Del Rey to write the novelization of the new movie, which opens May 16.

He says his initial reaction was mixed. He was unsure about returning to the "Star Wars" universe, instead preferring to focus on his own projects.

But the author of the earlier "Phantom Menace" novelization gave him a not-so-subtle wake up call.

"I got a call from Terry Brooks, and he said: 'Are you nuts?' " Salvatore says with a laugh. "I don't think I really got it that George Lucas was asking me to write the novelization of a 'Star Wars' movie. I don't think it clicked."

Surprisingly, he had the same hesitations when asked to write his first "Star Wars" book.

"When I agreed to write 'Vector Prime,' I thought I was doing them a favor," he says. "Then I realized: I'm writing dialogue for Princess Leia. How cool is that?"

One of the challenges of writing the novelization is dealing with fans who know every minute detail about the "Star Wars" universe. Salvatore says his experiences on his own "Dark Elf" series, which has spanned 14 years and 15 novels, have helped prepare him for that.

"There are people who read the books over and over again — and I have a hard time remembering things I wrote in 1990," he says. "It's the same way with 'Star Wars.' The hard-core fans know more about the expanded universe than I did and do. So I just try to tell a good story. If you read the book and enjoy it, then I've done my job."

Salvatore says he would love to be chosen to write the novelization of "Episode III," but he's not expecting the call. He says Lucas and Del Rey want a different author for each book.

But, after many conversations with Lucas while writing "Episode II," he's excited about where the movies are going.

"I'd love to be a part of 'Episode III,' as a co-screenwriter or something else," he says. "I know where (Lucas) is going with it, and I think he's doing it the right way."