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Song of The Dark Crystal: J.M. Lee Talks About Creating the Prequel Universe

Naia and Kylan continue their adventure to stop Skeksis in his sinister plan.

J.M. Lee released his second young adult novel Song of the Dark Crystal to serve as the prequel story to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal.

Here’s the synopsis of the novel:

The second original companion novel to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal follows Naia and Kylan as they seek help from the Gelfling clans to prevent the Skeksis from implementing the next stage of their sinister plan. Kylan of Sami Thicket is a skilled song teller, but singing the tales of long-gone heroes won’t help his friends as they journey into dangerous, unknown lands. After uncovering the betrayal of the Skeksis Lords, he and his friend Naia are on the run, pursued by the Skeksis’s underlings and outcast even among their fellow Gelfling.  But Kylan knows the truth must be told, no matter how difficult the telling. Maybe there’s use for a song teller after all…

LRM had a phone interview earlier this month with J.M. Lee on the development of this universe.

The hardcover novel is available today for retail price of $17.99 in bookstores everywhere today.

Read our conversation below:

LRM: Tell me on how this project originated.

J.M. Lee: A couple of years ago, the company sent out a call for submissions to write a prequel for the Dark Crystal film. I’m a really big fan of the Dark Crystal. I wrote my submission and a couple of years later–here we are with book two. That’s just a snapshot on how it lead to be. [Chuckles]

LRM: Explain to me about the plot of this book. What do you want to bring in that’s new and what did you want to keep?

J.M. Lee: There are a few things that book two improved, and expanded on the Dark Crystal mythology. First of all, this is a prequel. It takes place many years before the film. It gets to explore many things that weren’t in the film. It showed what the world looked like, what the people looked like and the events leading up to the film.

LRM: How much extensive research or extensive new material you had to create for this book?

J.M. Lee: There was a lot of research that went into the project. There were plenty of publications that expanded the world of the Dark Crystal. There are graphic novels. There are comics. There are a lot of research to be done to make sure [the legitimacy] of this book series for young adults into cannon. It had to be researched to have everything make sense.

LRM: Did you have someone to assist you? It seems like there’s a lot of information to keep everything together.

J.M. Lee: There are a lot of information. Being a writer, it’s part of the job. has a lot of material that was organized by the Jim Henson & Co. leading up to the project. Everything was already organized and prepared to read. It was very helpful and convenient to the project.

LRM: What was your initial reaction when you discovered that you won that project?

J.M. Lee: I was very excited. [Laughs] I think the shock came later. I was very excited to have won the project, but then I was, “Oh! Now I have to write it.” There was always that pressure to write it, although the fan platform was very expectant and lively. I appreciated to have that chance to flex my creative muscles to on what story I can come up with for the Dark Crystal.

LRM: How did you approach on writing the new books for the series? How long did it take you? What kind of outline did you go through with your ideas?

J.M. Lee: For the first book, the outline of concepts was pretty involved for everybody who was participating in the project. Grosset & Dunlap and I spent a lot of time to agree on the direction of the first book.

For book two, we still have a collaborative process. Since we all worked together on the first book, some concepts for the Dark Crystal came together much more quickly. We knew the trajectory of the books and we knew on where we wanted to take it. The process was more with writing the outline and making sure the points we wanted to make. It all came together pretty nicely.

LRM: Does the company have an option to further expand it into other medium outlets? Can they make this into a TV show, movie or something else down the road?

J.M. Lee:  Well, we do have two more books planned to be coming out. That’s the direction that we are planning to go with the young adults novel line.

LRM: Tell us more about the plot of these books for those who haven’t read it yet.

J.M. Lee: Song of the Dark Crystal is the second book of planned four book series. It takes place years before the plot of the 1982 film, The Dark Crystal. It follows the story of two characters who discovered that there’s something not right in their world. They are trying to unravel that mystery. They must figure out what they can do to save the world.

LRM: How much time did you dedicate on writing this book? Did you spent months on putting everything from pen to paper?

J.M. Lee: I’m a pretty quick writer. The outline actually takes a few months. Once the outline looks good, manuscript took the course over a summer. It was a pretty seamless project itself, because of all the planning beforehand. The writing of the novel was pretty straightforward and easy.

LRM: Are you promoting this book before you are getting started into the third book? Or do you already have the outline of the third book practically done?

J.M. Lee: The third book is in outline stages right now. I’m just working on [promoting] book two before to see on where the rest of the series would go.

LRM: Do you have any other upcoming projects beside The Dark Crystal for yourself?

J.M. Lee: As of right now, my current projects are the The Dark Crystal series and I’m also working on the Boxcar Children Great Adventure 75th anniversary with Albert Whitman & Co.

LRM: Before I let you go, did you always wanted to be an author, and did you always train for this type of writing?

J.M. Lee: At a very young age, I knew I always wanted to write whether it’s writing comics or short stories. I wasn’t sure until I started writing novels that is where I wanted to devote my time into this. Writing The Dark Crystal married two things that I loved — writing and The Dark Crystal. It was the two beloved things from my childhood.

LRM: Terrific. Thank you for making this conversation. I really thank you for writing these books.

J.M. Lee: Thanks. Thank you for your time.

Song of the Dark Crystal is now available in bookstores.

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