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Star Wars: The Force Awakens has received an official novelisation from Alan Dean Foster.

Do we know if this novel was based solely on the screenplay or was Foster privy to other restricted sources of information (such as a preview screening of the film or interviews with the screenwriter and Director)?

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@Martha - Hence "preview screening" – Valorum Jan 5 at 15:55
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Abrams was still editing the movie well into November. I estimate that Foster would've needed to finish writing by July, at the very latest. But I don't actually know any details, hence comments, not answer. :) – Martha Jan 5 at 16:00
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@Martha Editing, sure, but that one terminal cancer patient saw it a couple weeks before he was "done," so not being done does not preclude the author from seeing any of it. – Dave Johnson Jan 5 at 16:25
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@DaveJohnson - Plus there are "rushes" and "storyboard animatics" he could have seen very far in advance of the film being released. – Valorum Jan 5 at 16:32
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Oh look, a downvote. People hate self-answered question, despite them being explicitly encouraged by the site – Valorum Jan 5 at 16:51

According to this interview with Yahoo Movies;

Foster based the novelisation largely on the Kasdan screenplay:

What level of security was required for you to access the script? In my imagination, it involves a flash drive that self-destructs after two hours.

They didn’t say that, but then, that would be part of the secrecy! [Laughs] No, there are a couple of systems that studios use now to send stuff like that. It probably makes the encryption at the NSA look amateurish. It was sent in pieces to me via email, and it was very, very secure. I used the same system when I did the novelizations of J.J.’s two Star Trek movies, so it was quite easy.

He didn't get to see the film in advance but he was shown some of the props, concept art and set photos

Were you at least shown the film in advance?

No, I just saw it on Saturday morning, the day after it opened. Unlike the two Star Trek films, I didn’t get to see the film while I was writing, which was a shame — it would have made the novelization even better. It always does! I did get to see a fair number of still photos of the settings and the characters in costume. I really made a case for that. I told the studio, “The screenplay describes Rey’s scavenger outfit as being a certain way, but it would be useful if I could see the thing instead of having to invent it — pun not intended — out of whole cloth.” They relented, so I got to see pictures of devices and sets. For example, the descriptions of Maz Kanata’s cantina in the book reflects the images I saw, some of which were completed and some that weren’t.

He didn't speak to Jar Jar Abrams during the writing of the book, not even once.

Did you have any direct contact with J.J. Abrams during the process?

No, I’ve never met J.J. and vice versa. Doing a small film is a 24/7 project, and a film like this more like a 25/7 job. I’ve been on sets with directors making nine figure-plus films and you’re lucky if you can get a midnight meeting with them while they’re eating dinner…. I’m sure we’ll bump into each other one of these days, and talk about anything other than Star Trek and Star Wars.

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For the record, until I researched this I had no idea Yahoo movies still existed, let alone produces original content like interviews... – Valorum Jan 5 at 16:33
    
Damn. This doesn't address the only thing I actually can't confirm - the oft-guessed idea that he used EARLIER script version. I could not find official confirmation on that, other than the date of the interview I used in my answer – DVK-in-exile Jan 5 at 16:38
    
@DVK - The novel seems pretty true to the WGA leaked script. I guess when/if we get hold of other versions of the script, it should be pretty straightforward to work out which version is the closest. – Valorum Jan 5 at 16:43
    
if I had a week more of vacation, my main issue would be digging into the whole bloody "Starkiller eats the sun" crap. Unfortunately, Real Life takes precedence – DVK-in-exile Jan 5 at 16:45
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+1 just for "Jar Jar Abrams". :-D – ceejayoz Jan 5 at 18:49

From http://makingstarwars.net/2015/06/alan-dean-foster-on-what-materials-he-used-to-write-star-wars-the-force-awakens-novel/

Have you seen any of the movie, or did you work from the screenplay alone in writing the novelisation?

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Just the screenplay, plus some concept art and production visuals. I really wanted to have access to the latter so that if I describe something, or someone, in the book, it matches what actually appears on the screen. You know how fans are. If I give someone sideburns and in the film that character appears without them, it will give rise to 468 blog entries.

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Ironic, since the discrepancies plot wise were far far bigger than the frigging sideburns – DVK-in-exile Jan 5 at 16:20
    
Having not read the book, what were some of the major discrepancies, out of curiosity? – Doc Jan 6 at 4:49
    
@Doc - please see my comment under Richard's answer. The stupid "did the Starkiller eat its own sun" was IMHO the biggest one. – DVK-in-exile Jan 6 at 5:13

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