Cataloging A Galaxy: Cole Horton On the New “Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia”

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Cole Horton, former teenage furniture salesman, now has a career in the games industry and an awesome gig moonlighting as a Star Wars expert. Recently, he sat down with Geeked Out Nation contributor Kristin Baver to discuss his latest collaboration, as a co-author on Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia, hitting shelves April 4. The compendium provides an immersive look at the intricate pieces, fine details, and strange factoids that make up a galaxy far, far away.

GON: This isn’t your first time writing a book about Star Wars. Among other titles, you already wrote Star Wars Absolutely Everything You Need to KnowThe title alone sort of begs the question — what was there left to explore after that?

CH: With a galaxy as big as Star Wars and with new stories being told every day, there is still plenty to explore. In Absolutely Everything, we are trying to catch people up on all the really important and interesting facts they might want to know before they see the new films. In The Visual Encyclopedia, we are exploring every corner of the galaxy—many of which have never been a focus before. Fashion, food, furniture—you name it, it’s probably covered in detail in this book.

GON: Tell us about your process for researching a project of this scope. How do you approach something that is intended to be a complete overview of something that is not only so richly detailed and complex but also constantly in a state of flux as new storylines emerge?

CH: For this project, it all started with the images. I first look at the images for each topic and give a lot of thought as to what is most interesting, unique, or what connections exist between those items. In many cases, that means connecting the images to stories that happen outside the films. It is, however, a never ending process. Since everything in Star Wars is connected, each new television episode, film, comic, or novel creates content I want to share in future books.

GON: Personally, I was pretty excited to read all of these factoids that are scattered throughout the text, like the name of Jabba’s rancor and the backstory on Captain Phasma’s helmet. Was there anything that came up in your work on the book that was new information to you? Or were you just trying to cull from the extensive knowledge you already have on the subject?

CH: Since I work full-time on Star Wars projects, I’m mostly pulling from existing knowledge. I stay completely up to date on all storytelling, reading every single book and comic as they come out, in addition to multiple viewings of each television show and film. I log and keep track of interesting facts that could be useful in the future. 

GON: Do you have a favorite section, diagram, or factoid?

CH: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’m particularly proud of the furniture spread. My first job in high school was selling furniture, so I felt strangely prepared to write about furniture in a galaxy far, far away. 

GON: How much say did you have in the planning of the book? Were there items that you definitely wanted to see included or conversely anything that you thought definitely didn’t belong?

CH: This book was unique because we kicked off during Star Wars Celebration London. Tricia (Barr), Adam (Bray), and I got to visit the DK office in London and meet with the editors face-to-face, which is a rare opportunity. There we discussed what we could include, what each of us wanted to write. It was perfect timing.

GON: How did you share creative duties with the other two authors?

CH: Each of us is assigned a set of topics in the beginning. From there, we each race off to research and write. The editors really do all of the coordinating between us, because as authors we are heads down in our individual topics.

GON: Who do you see as the primary audience for something like this? It seems like it really speaks to everyone — fans new and old, and young and old.

CH: I personally write it so that anyone can read and enjoy it. I always try to keep in mind that there are many different types of Star Wars fans out there and for many of them this might be their first Star Wars book. I also try to keep in mind the well-read fan who is looking for depth and new facts. I try to strike a balance between facts for both of these audiences.

GON: As you mentioned, your day job is working on Star Wars games for EA, so I’m sure your combined talents make you the envy of a lot of fans out there. Will you share with us when and how you were introduced to Star Wars and talk a little bit about turning that into a career?

CH: I discovered Star Wars as a kid in the mid-90s, first through the toys and then through the original films. As a young adult, I was part of various fan groups and a volunteer at Star Wars Celebration. There I met people that led to opportunities to write for StarWars.com, which led to writing books. I certainly didn’t set out to become a writer; one thing just led to another. Similarly, I got a “real” job after college doing consumer research and worked hard on that career as well. Only recently did my day job and interest in Star Wars collide.

GON: Do you have any advice for young Star Wars fans who pore over this book, play the EA games, and dream of growing up to be like Cole Horton?

CH: I’m certainly proof that people who love Star Wars books and games can turn their passion into a career. The most important advice I can give is to follow through: If you want to be a writer, start writing about anything. If you want to be an artist, always be drawing. Meet people who do the kinds of jobs you want some day. Make sure you put yourself out there and when you get that first opportunity, deliver on what you promise. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed at first. Be persistent and don’t let the grind hurt your passion.

All images are from Star Wars™: The Visual Encyclopedia published by DK, by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton. On-sale April 4, 2017.

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