The second instalment in Chuck Wendig’s trilogy set after Return of the Jedi, Aftermath: Life Debt follows Norra Wexley and her team as they search for the missing Han Solo. We talked to Wendig about writing the novels, integrating his original idea with the existing Star Wars universe, and the effect of The Force Awakens on it all.
What was the scope of the original Aftermath pitch?
Chuck Wendig: As in, how far did it go? It was a pitch for one book, but had a smaller pitch nested in it that talked about the direction of the overall trilogy.
What things about the state of the universe were you told versus how much you got to create?
Wendig: I got to make up quite a lot, thankfully. I was given things I wasn’t allowed to write about, which framed my approach—I knew I had to color within a certain set of lines, so to speak.
How much of this trilogy was written before The Force Awakens came out?
Wendig: All of the first book and some of the second, if I recall.
Did you worry about losing some of the dramatic tension since Temmin is clearly alive (as X-Wing pilot Snap) in The Force Awakens?
Wendig: Not really. Fiction is at its worst when it hangs on OH GOSH WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES. That’s how you get silly cliffhanger TV shows and fake drama. We as people are more than our deaths, and characters are the same. It’s not about how or when they die, but what happens to them and how they change. There’s a great deal of narrative tension in who Temmin Wexley is and who he becomes and how he gets there—and how it all affects him in the end.
How hard is it to balance the stories of the original characters with familiar ones?
Wendig: Not hard. Star Wars is a galaxy of many voices and characters and it’s a lot of fun to see them play together.
The dynamic between the team is so much fun and nuanced — what was your favorite bit to write?
Wendig: Really, anytime I get the whole crew together, it’s great. But there are some scenes just between Sinjir and Temmin I really like. The way they interact, snarking at each other but also really learning to become friends? It’s cool.
You had said that the first Aftermath book wasn’t originally going to bring “the big three” in, but the Han and Chewie scene from that book really leads into Life Debt. How did that evolve?
Wendig: That interlude was given a green light after most of the book was written, and we decided then it would help us to inform the second book more completely. Tease it a bit. That first book presages a lot of the things to come, some of them in the interludes.
The book ends with a pretty clear mission for the team. How long did you know you were building up to that story for the finale?
Wendig: Actually, my initial pitch had them in that role of “Imperial Hunters” already — but we decided that it was best to build into that a little more. It’s classic Star Wars, I think, to see how a team comes together.
Mr. Bones is great, but so are IG-88 and Triple-Zero. Why do you think murderous droids so much fun?
Wendig: I don’t know what it is! It’s true too of murderous AIs (GlaDOS, HAL, Typhon from my own ZER0ES novel). Bones for me is a little more interesting because despite being murderous, he’s also a bit sweet? He’s very loyal and is a genuine friend to Temmin in his own mechanical droid-like way.