While StarCraft II fans are still waiting for Blizzard to finish the Heart of the Swarm expansion, fans of this strategy series can still get their fix with StarCraft II: Flashpoint, a new novel by writer Christie Golden. Though as we learned from talking to Golden, Blizzard takes a very hands-on approach to the StarCraft novels as well.
EGM: For those who haven’t read it yet, what is StarCraft II: Flashpoint about?
Christie Golden: This book is a twofer. It bridges the gap between StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, picking up immediately after the end of the first game and leading the reader directly to the second. So from a “what happened in between” standpoint, the events are key. Also, I’m giving the fans something they have wanted to see: what happened between Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan in the ten precious days they had together before everything exploded. So it takes place in two times: between the events of the two games, and in the past.
EGM: Who comes up with the ideas for these books? Do you think up a story and then ask Blizzard if it’s okay, do they come to you with a plot, or do they come to you with something like, “We want something that will set up this expansion”?
CG: Currently, Blizzard gives me a very detailed outline. I take a look at it, offer any comments that strike me upon reading it, and if there are any real issues or conflicts, we work through them together and get a solution everyone can be excited about. I like working this way because they have a much better handle on what’s coming down the pike, and I know right from the get-go what they want to see. So it’s a more efficient use of time.
EGM: How often, when you’ve been working on a StarCraft novel, has someone at Blizzard said, “Okay, so you know this part of your story? You can’t put this in the book, and I can’t say why?”
CG: I’m very happy to say that’s never happened because we usually nip this sort of thing in the bud in the outline stage, first of all, and if I want to make a major change while writing, I always run it by them first. From time to time, something has changed when they get the first draft, but they always tell me why if I have to make alterations. I am on a “need to know” basis about some things, but never about anything that affects the content of my book.
EGM: Besides the StarCraft books, you’ve also written a bunch of World of Warcraft novels. In terms of creative freedom, is one easier to deal with than the other?
CG: I think there’s more leeway with World of Warcraft, because it’s simply such a vast world. Also, W.o.W.’s goal is to provide a more flexible environment for the player, whereas StarCraft is more linear. I don’t feel creatively restrained at all doing StarCraft though; it’s simply another type of project. I can be just as creative with it.
EGM: You’ve written a lot more novels set in other people’s universes, as opposed to completely original tales. Why is this?
CG: Well, not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty good at it. I think writing in a shared universe is more difficult than writing your own fiction. You have to do all the same things you would do if a book was original — have good pacing, interesting characters, a gripping plot, understand point-of-view shift, and so on — and you have to make it “feel” right, not only to the creators of the game/movie/show but to their legions of fans. Many authors can write terrific novels in their own worlds, but don’t have the “ear” to write well in a shared universe. Authors who can do that are appreciated, and I’m very fortunate.
Also, for some reason, my own work just hasn’t caught on as I would have liked. But I’m going to keep trying.
EGM: Obviously, writing a story in someone else’s universe means getting their approval for everything. But does it put certain restrictions on you that actual foster a certain level of creativity?
CG: It can. It’s like writing a sonnet versus a free-flowing poem. You have to make it a great poem first, then it has to meet the rules of a sonnet. It does add an extra level of challenge, but that can be stimulating.
EGM: I read Karen Traviss’ first couple Gears of War novels because I’m a fan of the game. But I read her latest Halo novel because I’m a fan of her writing. Have you had people do the same for you, Warcraft fans who aren’t into StarCraft but have read your books because they like you’re writing style?
CG: Yes, and I appreciate the open-mindedness of such readers. It doesn’t happen a lot — more often I get people reading my original work because they like my tie-in work, rather than someone picking up Thrall [her 2011 W.o.W. novel] because they liked my Star Wars work — but it does happen.
EGM: If you had your druthers, what other games would you like to write stories about?
CG: I got to write in the Fable universe recently, with my novel Edge of the World [a prequel to Fable: The Journey], and that was a tremendous amount of fun. I’m a big fan of BioShock, and I would really enjoy getting my grubby little paws on Rapture.