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Mur Lafferty Chats about the Not-So-Complicated-Motivations of Han Solo, Her Favorite Recent Star Wars Characters, and Podcasting

This interview was done at New York Comic Con 2018 and has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. We sat down with Mur Lafferty for a quick chat about Solo: A Star Wars Story, what it was like writing a film novelization, and the not-so-complex motivations of Han Solo.     Keith Rice: Okay, so Solo: A Star Wars Story, was that your first novelization of a film? Mur Lafferty:  Yes, yes it was. KR: What was the process like? ML:  Well I was flown out to San Francisco to Lucasfilm, I had basically the day with the script and then I went home and started writing.  I came up with a couple of additional scene ideas, and those had to be cleared through Lucasfilm. There was a delay on the deadline of the book which was great for me because I got to see the movie and was able to then tweak whatever I had gotten maybe a little wrong, which helped, because there were a couple of things I’d read in the script that I couldn’t quite picture. It was pretty amazing. KR: Can you talk a little bit about some of the new content you explored? ML:  (SPOILER ALERT – Skip this section if you haven’t seen “Solo”) The movie starts out with Han Solo running away from a deal gone bad.  So, I decided I wanted to write that deal.  Backup, say, fifteen minutes, and that’s when the story starts.  We see Han Solo trying to cheat the people he’s selling the coaxium to so he can steal some of it for himself.  Of course that goes very poorly and then he steals the speeder. I also expanded the scene of him at the academy, working with the Navy.  And probably my favorite scene that I added was L3 merging with the Millennium Falcon from her point of view.  Finally, I threw in this crazy idea to put an epilogue in there about what happened to all the coaxium they stole, where Enfys Nest took it, and Lucasfilm actually approved it, which shocked me to my core! I’m like, okay.  I asked for all of this, all the toys in the world, and they delivered. KR: So, you added canon, basically. That’s amazing. ML:  Yeah, so I got to write the epilogue with Saw Gerrera and Jyn and Enfys Nest. KR: What I does it feel like taking on an iconic characters like Hans Solo? ML:  It was intimidating, but he’s –  I mean, let’s be honest, he’s not a complicated character as an adult, and so he’s not a complicated character as a young man.  He’s, you know… “I’m gonna try to ride my bike down this hill, okay the brakes failed, so lets make the best of it, and turn when we need to turn and okay, we’re going faster now, I just want to try not to crash.”  I mean, that’s pretty much how he approached everything in his life.  And so, just making that a little more naive and a little bit more willing—and removing some of the bitterness of his adult life—that’s how I wrote it. KR: How do you find a balance between your podcasting and your writing? ML:  I usually do not podcast as much as I intend to. So, writing is the priority.  And luckily because the shows are about writing, my listeners understand.  Because when I tell them I actually have a book due and podcasts aren’t going to be coming as often, they understand because they’re writers, or they want to be.  Honestly, podcasting doesn’t take that much time.  It’s all the other things, procrastination, or the things that demand you time from home, or deciding that ten minor emails are more important that your daily writing or something. That’s what I struggle with.  It’s not a time thing, it’s a priorities thing. If I can dedicate an hour or two hours a week to podcasting I’d be fine. It’s just finding those two hours among the maelstrom of procrastination and stuff that is my constant struggle. KR: If you could take on another Star Wars character, who would you want to write? ML:  Completely different from Solo?  Gosh, so many. KR: Who’s your top three? ML:  I really want to write some young Finn stories.  I want to know, I mean, something had to happen in his youth that gave that spark of, “I got to get out of here,” kind of thing.  Gosh, I don’t know.  Everyone I think of has already been done by very good authors, and, you know, Leia’s one of my favorite characters of all time but there’s been a lot of stuff told about her. KR: Yeah. ML:  I guess I’m just going towards the newer ones.  I have to say, Enfys Nest, I love her. I think that there are so many stories you can tell about her.  And I think are a lot of stories you could tell about Qi’ra, after she went to take on the Crimson Dawn.  I think a lot of people – I’m going on a tangent here – I think a lot of people were very confused by Qi’ra’s actions. I heard somebody say she was betraying Han.  And I didn’t see that at all. She never ever, ever, said she would go with him.  She never promised anything.  He just assumed and went off on his own little fantasy world. But I would love to follow her and see a little bit more of her reasoning behind things. I guess my top three would be Enfys Nest, Qi’ra and Finn. KR:  What’s your current favorite podcast? ML:  I’m not listening to podcasts right now. I feel awful, I feel awful. KR:  No, don’t. ML:  There’s so many amazing podcasts I hear about now, but I usually use my audio time to listen to books. KR:  How about this.  If you had to pick a podcast to introduce someone to podcasts, what would you recommend?  ML:  Let’s see.  A friend of mine, Rob Walsh, who now works at Libsyn, Liberated Syndication, one of the first podcast hosts, he did a podcasts called podCast 411, where he’d talk about all the news in podcasting.  And that was pretty cool to watch.  For children’s podcasting one of the first people who did that was Grant Baciocco, was Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd.  He took, just, a very small scripted radio show-type format and made it for kids.  It was very funny and really clever.  Gosh, and you know for fiction, Scott Sigler I believe is still doing a lot of fiction and a lot of keeping up with everything.  He’s putting out a lot of content as well as his books. Check out Mur Lafferty’s Solo Keith Rice is a West Virginia native and a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia with his lovely, if oft exasperated wife and three cats. Keith fosters an enthusiastic appreciation for beer and scotch, collects comics, and most importantly is an avid reader and movie lover. Oh, he’s a pretty big fan of sci-fi and fantasy as well. Drop him a line @Keith_Rice1.

Delilah Dawson talks Kill the Farm Boy, writing with Kevin Hearne, and fairytale tropes

This interview was done at New York Comic Con 2018. We caught up with Delilah Dawson for a quick chat about Kill the Farm Boy, fantasy tropes, Spam Musubi, and drinking with Kevin Hearne.       Keith Rice: you have Kill the Farm Boy out now, and No Country for Old Gnomes is coming out next year? Delilah Dawson:  Yeah – – KR:  So, what can you tell us about The Tales of Pell. DD:  Tales of Pell are like if The Princess Bride got in a car crash with Discworld.  It’s all about flipping fantasy tropes in a loving way, playing with the tropes of Dungeons and Dragons and what happens when a group of heroes gets together.  Kevin Hearne and I came up with the idea at an airport barbecue restaurant in Houston.  He wanted to do an anthology and I was there for it, and then we realized that took a lot of math and author herding.  We’re like, what if we just wrote the book together? Then you each only have to write half a book, which is a really good deal for us.  It’s all about playing with fantasy tropes. There’s a dark lord but his only magic is that he can make bread in various kinds of crusty goodness.  There is a fighter in a chainmail bikini because her real armor is on hold for layaway, which is why she needs the money. There is a bard who is also kind of a bunny rabbit, and the hero turns out to be a goat, because guess what happened to the farm boy? KR:  What was it like writing something like Phasma, and then moving on to this kind of farcical fantasy? DD:  It was refreshing. Phasma, we call it the “Mad Max” of Star Wars.  It’s kind of unrelenting, violent, soul-crushing, it is a sharp book.  And then you move into the Tales of Pell, which is all light-hearted, fun, jokey, a couple of fart jokes. So, it was very freeing, and in troubled times it was really nice to come home and get an email and it’s this hilarious chapter from Kevin Hearne who is really funny.  And it’s all about being lighthearted and loving, and the good guys win.  It was really nice. You know, you come back from a big fight and it’s like that refreshing sip of ale. KR:  After writing Phasma are there any other Star Wars characters you’d like a crack at?  DD:  The great thing about the current Del Rey Star Wars editing team is that they seem really great at matching authors to the characters, the stories that a given author would really be great at telling.  So, I feel like anything they ask me to do, it would be because they thought I would be the best person to write that particular story. I would be totally down for it.  Phasma is great.  Violent women are kind of my modus operandi.  And, you know, same with Bezine Netal in The Perfect Weapon.  The original pitch for that was female James Bond in space.  I was totally there for it. So, yeah, I would love anything that was offered me. You know, I really want to know what happens to Cardinal and to Phasma.  Although I know what happened to Phasma, but we don’t know about “Episode 9.” Cardinal and Bezine Netal are kind of my babies and I want to make sur that their okay.  And if they’re not ok, I want to make sure that they go out with guns a-blazing. KR:  How was the experience co-writing with Kevin Hearne? DD:  It’s like going to the bar with your best friend and laughing your butt off.  Those stories, we did the outlining and story-breaking when we were at a Con together.  We would just go bar-hopping.  No Country for Old Gnomes, that was on Frenchman Street in New Orleans, we’d go into one bar, get a drink, listen to the music, look at the art on the walls and different things would make its way into the book.  And then for The Princess Beard, we were in Seattle and I had never had Spam Musubi, and I was like, “Kevin, we have to go get Spam Musubi.”  We ended up with these two foot-tall hurricanes.  And we’re like, “Oh, and it’s a book that’s got some piracy in it!” So, it was very fitting.  So, just a little bit of, “Oh, buddy, you know what would be fun, ooh, yeah that’s a really good idea, let’s do that.” [Laughs]  We giggle a lot. KR:  What was the inspiration for Kill the Farm Boy DD:  Kevin [Hearne] came up with it, it was his idea for an anthology and I said we should make it into just a book we write together.  I think the actual inspiration was just the trope of, kind of, every fantasy novel ever – a poor white boy from nowhere special suddenly discovers he’s the chosen one with secret powers and is the scion of a generation. We were, like, “Oh, my God, stop.”  Like, we love “Star Wars”, but Luke was pretty whiny at the beginning. Let’s accept it and he could’ve died at any moment. So, we were like, well what if we start off with a farm boy anointed as the chosen one and then he kicks it?  Who picks up and carries the torch of that quest?  How do the people come together to do the right thing?  It was all about lovingly playing with the Dungeons and Dragons sort of dungeon party trope, to tell a more current story that is feminist, that is LGBTQ inclusive, that is diverse, it’s not all just a bunch of white awesome people.  We just really wanted to tell a more kind of fairytale fantasy. KR:  You write Lady Castle and Sparrowhawk for Boom.  DD:  Yeah, pretty much anything that’s a portmanteau or two words thrown together, I will write. KR:  What’s your process like writing comics versus writing fiction?  DD:  100% different.  When I write a book, I mean, granted, properties like Star Wars are very different – you work with committee of people, there are outlines involved – but writing a book for me at home is just, I do what I want, and then I turn it in, and an editor helps make it better. With comics, the idea in the pitch has to be something that would lend itself to a very visual story, and you have to describe the world-building.  You also have to think about length and pacing in a different way. A comic is usually 22 pages, and the ones I’ve written have been four or five-issue arcs, so each issue has to have its own small story that has an ending and then they all have to contribute to the overall arc.  It takes a little bit more advanced planning.  There’s also this wonderful surprise of, you write your pages, you edit them, you get them right, and then one day art just falls in your lap and your like, “Oh my God, this is the thing that I dreamed up except better.”  Because the artists are the heroes of comics.  They do all the heavy lifting.  All mad props to them.  They take our ideas and our words and just make them gorgeous.  You don’t really get that with novels.  You get to see one cover that you might or might not like, but in comics you’re usually involved in the art, and it shows up and it’s like seeing your dreams made real. KR:  Okay, so, if you could pick three books to recommend for fans of Kill the Farm Boy what would they be? DD:  Books for fans of Kill the Farm Boy?  Wow, hmmm, it’s more like, “if you like this book, then you would like Kill the Farm Boy.” KR:  Let’s go with that. DD:  So, Good Omens, Discworld, The Princes Bride. If you liked my Lady Castle stuff, if you like Monty Python. All that sort of stuff would lead you into Kill the Farm Boy.  But, I haven’t really read anything as kind of silly and playful as it in a long time. Check out Delilah Dawson’s Kill the Farm Boy Keith Rice is a West Virginia native and a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia with his lovely, if oft exasperated wife and three cats. Keith fosters an enthusiastic appreciation for beer and scotch, collects comics, and most importantly is an avid reader and movie lover. Oh, he’s a pretty big fan of sci-fi and fantasy as well. Drop him a line @Keith_Rice1.

20 PRH Books Longlisted for 2019 Carnegie Medals for Excellence

The 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction Longlist has been announced and includes 20 books published by Penguin Random House imprints.   Established by the American Library Association in 2012, the Carnegie Medals for Excellence serve as an ALA guide to help adults select quality reading material. Our longlisted nonfiction titles: Our longlisted fiction titles: View the complete longlist here. The 2019 Carnegie Medals for Excellence six-title shortlist—three each for the fiction and nonfiction medals—will be announced on October 24. The two medal winners will be revealed at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards (BMAs) event at American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Seattle on January 27, 2019.

Staff Picks: Haley

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below! Haley, Consumer Marketing Haley is a marketer with the heart of a nerd, writing and running the social media accounts for Unbound Worlds, Penguin Random House’s sci-fi and fantasy site. When not at work, she’s off traipsing through imaginary worlds and trying to find room for her ever-growing book collection.

Edugyan, Robertson Man Booker Finalists

WASHINGTON BLACK, a novel by Esi Edugyan, published by Knopf and Random House Audio, and THE LONG TAKE by Robin Robertson, which Knopf will publish in January in the U.S., have been selected by the judges as two of six semi-finalists for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. Among the most coveted international prizes awarded annually for literary fiction, the nominees were chosen from titles published in the UK between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018. The winner will be announced the evening of Tuesday, October 16. Congratulations to all our longlisted and shortlisted authors and their publishers. Click here for the complete list of Man Booker Finalists.

Congratulations to our 2018 National Book Award Semi-Finalists

Congratulations to our Penguin Random House authors who have been chosen by the respective five category judges as “longlisted” semi-finalists for the 2018 National Book Awards. Wednesday, October 10: The “shortlist” of five finalists per category will be announced. Wednesday, November 15: The five winners will be revealed at the annual National Book Awards dinner. See below for our semi-finalists in each category.

 

Fiction

 

Nonfiction

 

Poetry

 

Translated Literature

 

Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

 

Penguin Random House Ranks #1 on Forbes List of America’s Best Midsize Employers

Penguin Random House is #1 on the newly released Forbes list of “America’s Best Midsize Employers 2018.” Forbes annually recognizes and ranks U.S. employers based on an independent survey that evaluates the attitude of employees toward their own company and the public perception of the company by industry employees. Heralding this year’s list with a prominent feature article, Forbes staff writer Vicky Valet focused on Penguin Random House, noting that “the company is celebrated by its workforce for being an employer that values freedom.” Madeline McIntosh commented: “People are given a great deal of ownership to make independent decisions. If you do the right thing by the books and by readers and by authors, you’re rewarded by being given new challenges.” Forbes further recognized that “the entrepreneurial spirit that shapes the employee experience at Penguin Random House has proven key to the publisher’s recruiting efforts, much of which focus on college campus outreach and the company’s internship program. It has played an important role in retention, too. Access to online courses and a mentoring program allow Penguin Random House’s 5,000 North American workers to take career development into their own hands, as do events like Company Week, an annual series that invites employees and authors to gather for days of panels, presentations and community service. This culture of empowerment—coupled with unique benefits like a sabbatical program, student loan repayment assistance and, yes, free books—helps turn entry-level hires into lifetime employees. ‘So many have risen through the ranks,’ says Madeline. ‘I was an assistant 24 years ago, and I’m not an unusual case.’” Penguin Random House’s commitment to the communities it serves was also acknowledged, including literacy sponsorships and the more than $2 million in creative writing scholarships our company awarded to New York City public high school students over the past 25 years. Looking globally, Forbes referenced our ongoing partnerships with worldwide organizations like Save the Children, and employee volunteers who journeyed to Rwanda in January. In addition, Penguin Random House was on Forbes’ Best Employers for Diversity list for the first time this year, placing at #64 overall for both large and midsize employers. The Forbes feature concludes with these words from Madeline: “We’re not just a bunch of people who like to read. We believe books have the power not just to help people’s days through entertainment or inspiration, but to really change the conversation and the culture at large.” In compiling this list, Forbes worked with market research company Statista, which surveyed 30,000 Americans working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees. All the surveys were anonymous, allowing participants to openly share their opinions. The respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others. Statista then asked respondents to nominate organizations in industries outside their own. To view the complete Forbes list and article, click here.

PRH Summer Giving: We Gift Our Books to Shakespeare-in-the-Park Ticketholders

In the ongoing spirit of us giving back to our communities, Penguin Random House has been a longtime supporter of Shakespeare in the Park, one of the cornerstones of the Public Theater’s mission to bring performing arts to the people of New York City.  Since 1962, over five million people have experienced more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals.  As New Yorkers waited in line this summer for tickets to watch free performances of Twelfth Night at the Delacorte Theatre in NYC’s Central Park, our Penguin Random House employee volunteers cheerfully distributed free books on three different August afternoons. Penguin Random House gift bags and Hogarth Shakespeare totes were filled with such titles as Judy Blundell’s THE HIGH SEASON Christina Dalcher’s VOX (distributed in advance of the book’s 8/21 pub date), Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHTMargaret Atwood’s HAG-SEED,  Edward St. Aubyn’s DUNBAR and Jo Nesbø’s MACBETH.   Volunteers had the opportunity to talk with Shakespeare fans from all walks of life, including an educator from New Jersey who shared that she would assign an acting session from VOX for her class.  A librarian from Yonkers also shared her excitement about receiving a second copy of VOX (she had already pre- ordered one).  Another group of women announced that they would start a book club with all the books they received. Volunteer Matt, Academic and Library Marketing Assistant, Penguin Young Readers, said, “While the perks of a morning in the park and two free tickets to see Shakespeare can’t be understated, what really made this a pleasure was seeing the enthusiastic responses to the books we handed out, as well as the love and recognition of Penguin Random House as an institution.” Penguin Random House imprints continue to publish the full range of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as books inspired by of The Bard’s works, such as SHAKESPEARE BASICS FOR GROWN-UPS  by B. Caotes  and E. Foley, and THE GAP OF TIME   by Jeanette Winterson, a re-telling of Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale  and part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, an international Penguin Random House publishing initiative. Penguin Random House volunteers in action:
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