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I asked Karpyshyn to elaborate on the pros and cons of working with an established IP versus your own universe: "The biggest positive is the built-in audience. It gives you a safety net, both financially and creatively. We were all Star Wars fans, so we knew what the SW audience was looking for: We understood the kind of emotional experiences that would resonate with the fans. This allowed us to craft the story to hit those emotional triggers - it helped us stay focused."
"In contrast," he says, "working on an original IP like Mass Effect comes with much greater freedom; you can do anything you want - including killing off key characters - and you don't have to worry about stepping on the toes of other projects that may be in the pipeline. However, there is a greater risk, because you're never exactly sure what elements of a new IP will click with the audience."
The limitations of working with someone else's IP haven't hurt Karpyshyn's writing career. Besides writing Revelation and the upcoming Ascension, based in BioWare's own Mass Effect universe, Karpyshyn has also written novels in Wizards of the Coasts' Forgotten Realms setting (Temple Hill and Throne of Bhaal) and, of course, in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Considering that writing in the Expanded Universe is a privilege granted to very few writers, I asked him just what it was he had to do to get his foot in the door: "I actually approached Lucas Books and asked them if they had any openings for me. My experience on KOTOR, plus my two Forgotten Realms novels ... convinced them that I could deliver the quality they were looking for, so they added me to a list of potential authors. When they decided to do a new novel set in the Old Republic, they figured I was the logical choice. That led to Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, and the fan reaction was positive enough that they asked me to write the sequel, Darth Bane: Rule of Two."
For those who don't know, the titular Darth Bane is the old Sith Lord that came up with the "Rule of Two," the rule that shaped the events of the Star Wars movies by only having one Sith Master and one Sith Apprentice (the obvious example being the Emperor and Darth Vader) - pretty important stuff by anyone's standards!
Karpyshyn expressed his surprise over being given such an important character to work with in his first Star Wars novel: "Originally I proposed a much smaller story focusing on an otherwise anonymous character within the Sith ... I didn't actually think they'd let me use anyone as important as Darth Bane except in a minor role. But when my editors saw the proposal, they asked me if I could come up with something that was more epic - they wanted a story that helped change the galaxy forever. Of course, I was thrilled to be given so much freedom, and Darth Bane was the logical choice of protagonist."