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Exclusive Interview: “Wastelanders: Star-Lord” Writer Sarah Cawkwell


Written by noted comic book scribe Benjamin Percy, Wastelanders: Star-Lord was originally presented as a 10 episode audio drama with The West Wing‘s Timothy Busfield voicing Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Groundhog Day‘s Chris Elliot as Rocket Racoon, and Ugly Betty‘s Vanessa Williams as Emma Frost.

But some people prefer to read stories themselves. It is for them that we present the following email interview with writer Sarah Cawkwell, who adapted Percy’s original script into the new novel Wastelanders: Star-Lord (paperback, Kindle).

In this Q&A, Cawkwell discusses how she got this plum gig, and what it took to convert the script into a novel.

Sarah Cawkwell Wastelanders Star-Lord

To begin, what is Wastelanders: Star-Lord about, and when and where does it take place both in relation to our reality and the relevant comic books?

The story follows the tale of an older Peter Quill and Rocket who, through an unlikely series of adventures, are set on a mission to find an object of great interest (and, incidentally, also of great power). This goes as well as you expect and they end up crash-landing on an Earth 30 years after villains have taken control.

Given the fluidity and flexibility of various comic book realities, it’s easiest to visualize it as 25+ years to the “present day.”

Wastelanders: Star-Lord is an adaptation of a scripted podcast, which was written by Benjamin Percy. What was it about adapting that podcast into a novel that not only made you want to do it, but made you think you’d be a good person to do it?

This was a moment of near-perfect serendipity. I’d listened to the Wastelanders podcast series a while back and loved them. I had also just wrapped up a short story for Aconyte and was getting ready to pitch some new stuff for them when they offered this to me “as they felt I was a good fit.” I mean, let’s see: Marvel fan? Check. Familiar with the source material? Check. The decision-making process for me took roughly two seconds. I was both honored and excited to be given such an amazing opportunity.

In adapting Benjamin Percy’s script, you obviously had to flesh a lot of it out. But did you do more than that? Like did you also add any plot points or other major elements?

Right from the start, I wanted to keep things as close to the original as possible because Benjamin’s original script is so utterly glorious. As such, I fleshed things out around what already existed. There were no major elements added because it’s such a good framework to start with. I added a few little bits and pieces of my own, but absolutely nothing that altered the direction of the tale. For the sake of reading, it was necessary to juggle some of the scenes round a little to provide a better flow.

So in prepping to write Wastelanders: Star-Lord, did you look at any other novels that were adaptations of podcasts or radio plays to get a sense of what to do, and what not to do?

I didn’t read anything new when preparing to do this because I didn’t want to have too much unconscious external influence. I wanted to keep the focus on the script and add to it, not detract from it.

On the other hand, I’m a huge, huge fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, which of course started its life as a radio play before it popped up in book form.

Speaking of which, adapting scripted podcasts and radio dramas into novels isn’t uncommon. I recently interviewed Willie Block and Jake Emanuel about the novelization of their podcast The Edge Of Sleep. But not every book of a podcast gets the full written treatment. A bunch of the Star Wars audio dramas — including Cavan Scott’s Dooku: Jedi Lost and Sarah Kuhn’s Doctor Aphra — were simply printed as scripts. What do you think a novelization of a script adds that just reading the script does not?

Podcasts and radio plays are just one medium, and while they are fantastic in and of themselves, turning them into fully-fledged stories allows for people to experience it in another form. For some people, reading printed scripts isn’t a fulfilling experience. As an amateur dramatist, I can gel with that as a concept, but I’d still rather read a story.

There are undoubtedly people who’ve listened to the podcast of Wastelanders: Star-Lord who are wondering if they should read this novelization or not. What would you tell them, keeping in mind that if they don’t like your book, they’re allowed to come to your home and take whatever they want out of your fridge?

I would tell them that the novelization isn’t an attempt to change the podcast. It’s an attempt to inject a new angle and element of enjoyment into an existing work. I remain proud that I have been able to work on the project and it is one hundred percent a labor of love. I’m more than Just Someone Writing a Book: I’ve been a Marvel fan for more years than I care to admit and I care. I wrote this entire book with a smile so wide I was in danger of acquiring a flip-top head.

I would also welcome them to the contents of my salad tray, though I take no responsibility for any sentient lifeforms they find therein.

So, is there anything else people need to know about Wastelanders: Star-Lord?

I’d say that people should remember that there are references to comic-history Star-Lord more than there are from the MCU. There’s so much depth and background in Marvel that you can’t provide exposition for every character who shows up. If you have minimal knowledge of the wider Marvel comics and want to know more about some of the other characters who show up, I heartily recommend reading up on them, because man, some of those guys are cool.

Sarah Cawkwell Wastelanders Star-Lord

Finally, if someone enjoys Wastelanders: Star-Lord, which of the other Marvel Comics novels would you suggest they check out?

I’d absolutely recommend The Phoenix Chase by Neil Kleid [which you can read more about here]. I only read it because I wanted to affirm my personal dislike of Quentin Quire, and now that illusion is shattered into a billion pieces. Not to mention who couldn’t love stories that feature those good ol’ space pirates, the Starjammers?



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