SO thrilled to have author Trisha Slay here today! Trisha and I share membership in the same region in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Go Southern Breezers!). I knew she was working on a manuscript with ties to the movie, Star Wars, and when I saw that NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY had been published AND that she would be rocking it on a WOW! Book Tour, I jumped on that tour quicker than Luke Skywalker on one of those speeder bikes!
Quick Review: NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY
Erika’s summer starts dramatically when her best friend, Cassie, disappears from their small Ohio town. Dramatically for everyone except Erika, that is. She knows her friend has been planning her getaway—and she knows why. But as the summer progresses, Erika learns disturbing secrets about her missing friend, and she begins to wonder if she knew Cassie at all. When Stars Wars comes to town, Erika yearns for escape into the fantasy on the big-screen. She finagles a job at the Bixby, a run-down local theater so that she can watch Star Wars as much as she likes—and find her own getaway. But as the summer continues, Erika finds much more than she bargained for, hanging out with a ragtag group of theater employees.
She finds herself.
May The Fource Be With Us
Trisha agreed to answer four questions for us, so let’s hope her answers are truthful. I wouldn’t want to pull out the old lightsaber on her–
1. You know the first question I have to ask is about Star Wars as it plays such a huge role in the novel. Were you smitten with the movie? Was there a little of Trisha the Fan Girl in your character Erika?
Although I saw Star Wars in a movie theater during the summer of 1977, I wasn’t truly smitten with it. I remember enjoying the movie (R2-D2 was my favorite character and I loved my Princess Leia bubble bath), but I was only six years old that summer. The Rescuers and Candleshoe are the movies that made the biggest impression on me.
Skip ahead three years and we have an entirely different story. Grandpa Eldon – my best buddy, light of my life and the only man I had ever called Daddy – passed away suddenly in March of 1980. To say I was devastated is a gross understatement, but my mother and I were trying to keep stiff upper lips so that my grandmother would not be forced to deal with our grief on top of her own. It was Gran who took me to see The Empire Strikes Back. That is the movie that changed everything for me. Yoda changed everything. “I love you” and “I know” changed everything. Yes, I was completely smitten with ESB. And yes, there’s plenty of my own fangirly craziness in Erika (though I do wish my own character arc were as exciting, creative and romantic as hers).
2. And now, a writing/marketing question re: using a big movie like Stars Wars. How difficult is it to work with permissions or copyrighted material? What would you recommend to someone who wanted to use a franchise product such as a popular movie?
I should probably start by saying that I’m not a lawyer and I’ve never even played one on TV, so my answer to this question needs to come with one of those disclaimers about not taking my advice over the advice of a copyright lawyer.
When I first dreamed up the concept of this book, I did not want to write it – partially because I was afraid of this whole permissions/copyright issue. During the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, an editor at Random House told me that I really should not worry about “all that stuff.” As long as I did NOT write a story using the Star Wars characters and settings as characters and settings in my story (fan fiction), then I did not need any permissions. After I wrote the book, I also contacted Stephen Sansweet, who is a wonderful human being and the former head of fan relations for LucasFilm. He basically confirmed what the editor had told me. While I do quote the film directly, I’ve used less than 300 words directly from the screenplay (that seems to be the universally accepted limit for quoting other works of fiction) and my publisher noted credit for every character name and quote on the legal page.
Pushing all the legalities aside, I wrote to praise Star Wars and to illustrate the positive, transformative effect the original trilogy had on its fans. If I’d written a dark, ugly tale that depicted teenage lives ruined by Star Wars…well, I’d have much more reason to fear that LucasFilm might just decide to crush me.
3. So, summer of 1977. Did you research the time period to ensure accuracy? It seemed to me that you used dialogue dated from the 70’s. But it also seemed like I read expressions we use today. How important is dialogue when working, say, in the last 50 years or so? And how hard was that, writing the dialogue?
Oh good grief! Not only did I research the summer of 1977, I went a little overboard. Research can be an excellent form of procrastination, you know. I spent an entire day at the Newark (OH) Public Library reading and printing off microfiche newspapers from May – September 1977 (then another day recovering from the headache). I watched every installment of VH1’s I Love the 70’s (Vols. 1 & 2), every episode from the original season of Charlie’s Angels, and all of the ABC After School Specials from the 1976-77 season. YouTube is a great resource to find 1970’s commercials. Then I purchased a stack of books on 1970’s pop culture that I kept on my writing desk. Only about 10% of my research ended up in the final book, but it was all worth it.
I tried to avoid any words or phrases that didn’t exist in 1977, but I’m not going to claim absolute accuracy. As long as I didn’t write any distracting sort of anachronism that smacks the reader in the face and makes them stop reading (I didn’t, did I?), then I think a little creative license is fine. It was relatively easy to write the dialogue…much harder to go through and polish it up!
4. There were so many great (and well-developed) characters in NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY. Do you think you might visit them again? After all, George Lucas made a lot of those Star Wars movies!
Thank you! I truly love my characters. Yes, most of them will definitely be back. This is the first book of a Fangirl Trilogy. However, the next book (tentatively entitled SOMETIMES WE STRIKE BACK) will not pick up at the end of this book or even the next summer. It takes place in the summer of 1993. The main character is the daughter of one of the characters in this book. The third installment will be set in 2009 and will feature Erika’s 15 year old daughter.
Trisha will also be giving away a copy of her novel to one of my lucky commenters! For a chance to win, just leave a comment at this post. And maybe share who your favorite Star Wars character is. (Though I think you should know that any comment that does not say, “Han Solo is AMAZING!” is just crazy.)
(P.S. You can get all the stops on Trisha’s tour, plus everything you could possibly want to know about NOT SO LONG AGO, NOT SO FAR AWAY over at The Muffin where she started her tour. ‘Course, you’ll have to take your chances with the fancy Rafflecopter to win the book. Whereas here, all you have to do is comment. And say something nice about Han Solo.)