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Earlier this year, I was given the unique opportunity to have a one on one interview online with bestselling author – and friend – Drew Karpyshyn. Circumstances related to my personal life led me to cease writing temporarily as I relocated this blog, and as such the posting of this was delayed again and again, along with other works that I had long been planning to post.
Istuion: “So, Drew, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I guess the main thing I want to get across to my readers here is the man behind it all. The Drew Karpyshyn behind the well reputed name. I know – as some of my readers will undoubtedly know – that you grew up in Edmonton, in the province of Alberta, Canada. We know of your many contributions to the world, from your books to your writing for some of the greatest video games our generations have seen. I guess what I really want to know is what made this all happen for you. What built you into the writer you are, while also getting an idea of who you are away from the books.
The first question I have for you today, and perhaps one of the more important of those I have for you, would have to be; What events – from your childhood and teenage years – do you feel begun the shaping of the Drew Karpyshyn that many young minds aspire to follow in the footsteps of?”
Drew: “I guess I’m really just a product of the late 70’s and 80’s. Movies like Alien and Aliens, Terminator and Blade Runner – not to mention the Star Wars trilogy – were very popular during my teen years, and I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. These got me interested in sci-fi and fantasy.”
Istuion: “Excellent. I think most of those movies were pretty epic for my generation too. I don’t know that Star Wars will ever not be cool though.
Moving on to the next question though, what do you remember about your first job writing for BioWare and how would you say you feel about its impact on your career as you look back now?”
Drew: “Actually, when I first started they were nearing the end of Baldur’s Gate 2. Most of the dialog and characters had been written; I really just did some editing and clean up on a few of the sections, as well as the manual. It was really a learning process so that when I started working on Throne of Bhaal I understood how BioWare did things. Obviously that was key to my entire video game writing career.”
Istuion: “I can imagine that it would have been an amazing experience. BioWare is no small fish when it comes to video games.
So, of all the novels you have written, and the games you have written for and/or worked on, which would you say had the most profound affect on your writing career as a whole?”
Drew: “I think the first Star Wars novel, Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, has had the biggest impact. That was the first novel to hit the NY Times bestseller lists, and it opened up a huge audience to my writing.”
Istuion: “That it did. After reading Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, I was given a lot of insight into the Sith that I had never bothered to look into before. Up to that point the only Star Wars author on my map was Aaron Allston, who I’d spoken to for the first time about 6 months before our first contact.
Baldurs Gate and Neverwinter Nights, two of the most popular and highly acclaimed fantasy rpg’s in existence. What do you say when someone approaches you and asks how it feels to know you helped to shape something on that grand a scale?”
Drew: “All I can say is that I’m proud of what the team accomplished, and it’s nice to know that I was part of something people cared so passionately about.”
Istuion: “I suppose while we are discussing things people are passionate about, the next question that comes to mind must head in the direction of KOTOR… What would you say drove you to want to write for Star Wars, and in the capacity you begun writing for them in, as the lead writer for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which became the 2003 Game of the Year, also known to be the first Lucas Arts venture you undertook?”
Drew: “I’ve always been a fan of Star Wars, but it was really my job at BioWare that got me interested in writing for them. When we got the contract to make KOTOR I was picked to be the lead writer, and in doing the research for the game I learned a lot about the Old Republic time period of the Star Wars universe. After that, it just seemed like a natural progression to write the Bane novels.”
Istuion: “You have now written three Darth Bane novels. The one we spoke about when we first begun to correspond around the start of this year, and the latest, is titled Star Wars: Darth Bane – Dynasty of Evil, the conclusive chapter in the trilogy, which was released in hardcover from Del Rey books on the 8th of this month. Following its predecessors Darth Bane – Path of Destruction and Darth Bane – Rule of Two. How much freedom were you given when it came to the shaping of not only the time and events, but the characters of this series that tells the tale of the largest, and single most crucial change in the path of the Sith Order?”
Drew: “I’ve been lucky, because no other author is working in the Bane time period. Obviously I have to make sure I don’t violate any of the established canon of the Star Wars universe, but for the most part I’ve been given total freedom. That’s not to say my editor doesn’t make suggestions and comments on my work; but she usually lets me take things in the direction I want.”
Istuion: “It must be good to know they have that much faith in your ability. Star Wars only take the best, this much we all know. George Lucas would not be the man he was today if he had let just anyone work on his Galaxy Far Far Away. If you could offer one piece of sound advice to an aspiring science fiction writer – but not necessarily to get into Star Wars – what would it be?
Drew: “Just be patient. It took me 10 years before I started selling my work. Writing is hard, and it takes a long time before you develop your style to the point that people will pay you to write.”
Istuion: “Perhaps a very daunting path, but obviously for those people with the talent, a worthwhile one. I’m curious to know though, as a science fiction writer, I assume you would also have been – or perhaps still are – a science fiction fan. What books, movies or shows affected you the most and led you to want to write the stories you are so well reputed for?”
Drew: “Honestly, I read more fantasy than science fiction. That’s one of the great appeals of Star Wars; it combines the best elements of both genres. So I think my biggest inspirations have been the Star Wars trilogy and well known fantasy authors like Tolkien, Terry Brooks and George R. R. Martin. I also enjoy reading Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay, plus I’ve read most of Stephen King’s early work.”
Istuion: “Brilliant. I’m a bit of a Tolkien nut myself. As a Star Wars fan though, I am curious to know – and I assume my readers are also – where Drew Karpyshyn thinks he would be in the Star Wars Galaxy. What would you be Drew… Jedi Knight or Dark Lord of the Sith, Mandalorian Bounty Hunter or Kaminoan Cloner; and what would make you so?
Drew: “In real life I’m pretty boring. I don’t have the discipline to be a Jedi, and I lack the ambition to become a Sith. I’d probably be a Bounty Hunter so I could set my own hours and be my own boss… but I probably wouldn’t collect many bounties. Seems kind of dangerous to me.”
Istuion: “Hahahaha, great answer! I heard a rumor recently that you’re also working on the new MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Is there any truth to the rumor?”
Drew: “Yes. Now that I’m living in Texas and I’m done with my share of the writing on Mass Effect 2, I’ve become a part of the MMO team. I’m actually really very impressed by the quality of the stories we’re putting into this game.”
Istuion: “So, on a more personal note, I hear you’re quite the billiards player? I also heard that your billiards team was the namesake for one of the more popular KOTOR characters. What can you tell me about that?”
Drew: “Yes, you heard right. My team was made up of 4 players with the last name Harrison, and 1 with the name Karpyshyn (me). So with 4 H’s and 1 K we were going to call ourselves the HK-41’s. But we decided HK-47 sounded more intimidating because of the well known AK-47 rifle, so we became the HK-47’s. Several years later, when I went to work for BioWare, I tacked the name onto the homicidal Hunter-Killer robot assassin who joined the player on his quest.”
Istuion: “My last question is simple. If I gave you one paragraph to freely describe yourself, your career.. and the gift you have given the world with your writing. What would you say?”
Drew: “I doubt I’d need a full paragraph; I’m a simple guy. I’m just glad people enjoy the stories I tell, and I hope my fans will continue to enjoy my work.”
Istuion: “Well, thank you immensely Drew, for the time you’ve given to this interview, and for your patience and understanding, especially in regards to my recent health drama. It’s been a pleasure.”
Drew: “It’s been a real pleasure. It’s nice to work on something “informal” as a break from all my projects. I hope your readers enjoy learning a little bit more about the man behind the books and games. Thanks for the opportunity.”