Nothing can top the excitement for a Star Wars fan of going to a theater to see a new Star Wars film. But many fans look forward to the books that are released surrounding new Star Wars films almost as much as they do the film itself.
DK is one of the main publishers that produce Star Wars reference books for readers of all ages worldwide. So far I’ve interviewed six women who work on these books at DK for the 365 Star Wars Women Project. I’ve highlighted some of the information I discovered through these interviews for this article.
The women I spoke to at DK were primarily editors and producers but many of them have written Star Wars books as well. The stories of how they became Star Wars fans and their early Star Wars memories were similar to the stories from actresses, writers, and fans of the saga I’ve spoken to over the last year and a half.
Senior Editor Ruth Amos remembered her brother sneaking up behind her doing Darth Vader breathing in her ear to scare her growing up. Project Editor Shari Last was so obsessed with Return of the Jedi she has memories of rewinding a battered old VHS tape in her house over and over again. One of Senior Producer Mary Slater’s first memories is of losing a Hoth Leia figure in the supermarket (she hopes in the freezer section).
When Managing Editor Sadie Smith first saw A New Hope she, “left the movie theatre goggle-eyed and in awe of the story and the characters and creatures I had just been introduced to. It left me wanting to know more about this weird and wonderful universe.”
Something that came across again and again was how much of a team effort creating these books is and how much non-writing work goes into the production of these books.
Emma Grange: “In the process of getting a book to print there are a lot of planning meetings to agree on styling, tone of text, and addressing comments from licensors, before finally sending the approved files off to print.”
Mary Slater talked about spending large parts of her day at DK working with printers around the globe, the creative team on book specifications, cover finishes, and scheduling, as well as helping the Sales team cost new projects.
All of these women work in the Licensing Division of DK which handles books related to several film and entertainment subjects in addition to Star Wars. But even if you just count the Star Wars books currently on their plates, none of these women are working on just one project at a time.
Sadie Smith manages a list of around 25-30 books a year split between Star Wars, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Disney titles.
Mary Slater’s works in progress list had about 200 titles on it when I spoke with her. These WIPs included a mixture of brand new and older titles that were all printing in the next year.
Jennifer Murray had the best answer to my question about the number of books she usually worked on at any given time. “I’m going to answer that,” she said, “by asking how many hairs does a Wookiee have?”
One of the things I was most interested in discovering was how DK prevented leaks since their visual encyclopedias and guides for new Star Wars films usually release the same day the films hit theaters. I was also curious how they create many of these books without seeing the finished films first.
Ruth Amos shed some light on the timeline and explained how their books are often produced at the same time the films are in production. In the case of The Last Jedi: “A very select few at DK were given access to the script, from which we planned and wrote our books, in close collaboration with Lucasfilm.”
Jennifer Murray talked about the thrill of being in secret rooms set up at DK for security purposes and the need for secure methods of file transfer. Emma Grange mentioned the challenge of knowing the ending of Rogue One many months ahead of the film’s release in her interview and how the reshoots of that film affected the Rogue One Visual Guide.
One of my favorite sections from these interviews involved discussing each women’s favorite books or sections of books they had worked on.
Ruth Amos and Sadie Smith both mentioned their favorite spreads from the Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia. Amos loved the Culture chapter, which included everything from toys and musical instruments to art and fresh food while Smith enjoyed the Aquatic Creatures spread.
From the Rogue One Visual Guide Emma Grange loved the “splash spreads” that contained single images. “Gareth Edwards’ cinematography is so luscious that it’s fantastic to see the scenes given such space.” She also highlighted the cross sections by artist Kemp Remillard from the Rogue One guide. “It was so exciting to see these evolving as the book progressed and all the tiny details: look out for the coffee cup in the tank and the stormtroopers stashed beneath the cargo shuttle, for example!”
Shari Last pointed to Star Wars Maker Lab as one of her favorite projects while Emma Grange talked about the challenges and fun she experienced working on the LEGO Star Wars Ideas Book.
Each interview also contained fun tidbits of information such as how the LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia isn’t quite as in-world as other DK reference books, which books were designed text first, layout second, and which book used a higher than average quality paper to make sure the images in the finished product looked their best.
You can read all of the individual interviews by clicking on the links below.
Ruth Amos – Senior Editor
Emma Grange – Senior Editor
Jennifer Murray – Senior Pre-Production Producer
Sadie Smith – Managing Editor
Mary Slater – Senior Producer
Shari Last – Project Editor
You can see all of the 365 Days of Star Wars Women posts here.
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