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Author behind Star Wars novels meets fans in Prescott

"Star Wars" novelist Alan Dean Foster signs a book at Peregrine Book Company on Saturday, Jan. 23. (Jason Wheeler/The Daily Courier)

"Star Wars" novelist Alan Dean Foster signs a book at Peregrine Book Company on Saturday, Jan. 23. (Jason Wheeler/The Daily Courier)

Science fiction novelist Alan Dean Foster, a Prescott resident, made an appearance at Peregrine Book Company on Saturday, Jan. 23, to answer questions and sign some books. However, before answering questions, Foster spoke a little about his novelizing the original "Star Wars," the sequel book, "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

The chance to novelize "Star Wars" came when he was working on original material and a "Star Trek: Log," based on the "Star Trek" animated series, Foster said. Del Rey had bought the rights to novelize the film and asked Foster if he'd be interested in turning it into a book. After saying yes, Foster had to be vetted by George Lucas' lawyer Tom Pollock and then met Lucas at Industrial Light and Magic, then in Van Nuys, California.

"I drove over there and couldn't find any place to park in the warehouse parking lot because it was full of these big pieces of plywood sitting on sawhorses and on top of the plywood were these endless rows of cobbled together plastic landscapes which turned out to be pieces for the trench run at the end of 'Star Wars," he said. "They were outside because they had no room in the warehouse for them."

Before he met Lucas, a guy with a beard showed Foster a device that he said looked like it was out of a Transformers movie. The guy happened to be John Dykstra and the device was the first computer controlled camera in cinema history, he said. Then he talked to Lucas and was eventually shown dailies of TIE Fighters attacking the Millennium Falcon. Foster said he was "enormously impressed" because they looked like real ships in space and the material wasn't even finished yet.

When he was writing the original book, he had a two-book contract for the novelization of the film and a sequel, "Splinter of the Mind's Eye," Foster said. The only requirement for the sequel was to write something that could be filmed on a low budget, he said. He did so by writing all the action underground to minimize set costs with the only change Lucas made was to take out a complex battle in space in the beginning.

Foster spoke about what it takes to novelize films. As an example, he brought up how he was able to do so with "Star Trek into Darkness," noting they sent him the film in segments. He had the film on one side of his computer and his manuscript on the other. That wasn't done with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," he said.

"I didn't get to see 'The Force Awakens' on my computer and you can't blame them. They try so hard to keep things secret and private," Foster said. When he did see it, he loved it, he said. "It's fun. It's not Kafka on screen and it's not meant to be. It's a popcorn movie and the idea is you go and for two hours you forget about the real world."

One person at the Q&A asked Foster about his writing process. There is no waiting for inspiration to hit, Foster said. Rather, he goes online to read news, then sits down to whatever he's working on and does nothing else until he's written something. Even if it's one page, at least it's one page, he said.

"Any artist who waits for inspiration to hit is going to be a failed artist. Writer, painter, composer, I don't care," he said. "I will not go through a day, seven days a week, without having written something. The only time I don't write anything is when I'm traveling."

Follow reporter Jason Wheeler on Twitter @PrescottWheels. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2037, or at 928-642-5277.

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