Recently, I got the privilege of talking to one of my favorite Star Wars authors, Claudia Gray. For those of you that do not know, I write book reviews for all of the Star Wars novels that I read. Claudia’s novels always score very high, with Master and Apprentice receiving the highest score I’ve given a book so far. You can check the list of all by book reviews out here.
A quick note before getting into the actual interview; my technology failed during the interview, so I wasn’t able to record it. This means that her responses may not be exactly word for word, but I did the best that I could. Enjoy the interview!
Christian Corah: Before you were a writer, you spent some time as a Disc Jockey (DJ). Do you have any fun stories about that time in your life?
Claudia Gray: Well, there are actually three kinds of DJs. There are the DJs that are in the clubs, the radio personalities, and the ones that simply announce what song is coming up next. Unfortunately, I was the third type, so there weren’t many exciting stories! It was a job that I did for two years in high school, so I never thought it would be a major part of my life. But I did learn a lot about country music during those two years!
Christian: Do you have a favorite book that you have written or are they all your favorite, like pets or children?
Claudia: Yeah, I must say that they are kind of like pets. However, while I may not actually have favorites, there are some that I remember more fondly than others. The writing process for them is just easier. A Thousand Pieces of You was like that for me! Then there are books like Bloodline. While it wasn’t a long process, it was difficult because I only had 40 days to write it.
Christian: There is something unique about your writing style. I can’t quite identify exactly what it is, but I’m always aware when I’m reading a Claudia Gray book. How would you describe your writing style?
Claudia: I really try to put myself into the universe that I am writing about. I want to immerse myself into what it feels like to live in the same place my characters live in. That is one approach that I take when doing my writing.
Christian: Are you caught up on any of the Star Wars TV shows?
Claudia: Yes! I have the most familiarity with The Clone Wars and absolutely loved the final four episodes of the last season! I love that I can sit down and binge The Clone Wars and essentially call it work. While I have seen some Rebels, I have not seen it all, but have enjoyed it so far. The Mandalorian has been excellent and I am highly anticipating season two!
Christian: How did you get started writing about Star Wars?
Claudia: They actually approached me with the idea of doing a young adult novel. Up until this point, this wasn’t really a concept in Star Wars. It mostly just went straight from novels being for children to adults. So, I was glad to start bridging that gap.
Christian: Since Lost Stars was your first Star Wars novel, was that a story that you have been wanting to tell for a while?
Claudia: No, they actually came to me with that prompt. We don’t really have too much freedom regarding pitching new ideas. They originally wanted a story of two young people who grew up with each other during the time of the Empire. They wanted a man with an angrier personality who joined the Empire and a woman with an angsty personality who joined the Rebellion. However, I pitched that the man should be the Rebel and the woman should be in the Empire. Pretty much at that point the story was mine to do what I wanted with!
Christian: Lost Stars was received very well as a Star Wars novel and many consider it one of the better stories. While Thane and Ciena’s story did have some closure, there is still room for more. Is there anything you can say about a potential sequel?
Claudia: They have not approached me about a sequel, but it is definitely something that I want to do. I have some ideas going on in my head about what the story could look like. I’ve even thought about physically preparing for the story. It just needs to be the right time for it to happen. Lost Stars essentially followed the storyline from the beginning of the Original Trilogy to the Battle of Jakku. While a sequel may not follow a strict timeline like Lost Stars did, it may reference what is going on in the galaxy. It isn’t like I can make something Canon for that period of Star Wars and have Jon Favereau and Dave Filoni have to follow my novel! But TV shows like The Mandalorian can help set a framework of the galaxy for the time period after The Battle of Jakku that could serve as reference points for a future Lost Stars sequel. So, I couldn’t really have written the sequel right away, but the right time may be coming.
Christian: In addition to writing compelling stories, you seem to place an emphasis on adding to Star Wars lore. Considering your short story Master and Apprentice, you made it Canon that Qui-Gon could appear in his physical form in the Force. What brought you to that conclusion?
Claudia: It just made a lot of sense to me. It seemed that when Qui-Gon first communicated with Yoda, it was one of the first times that he had used that power. This means that he may be able to learn more about it during the afterlife. Since we know that Obi-Wan, Yoda, Anakin, and Luke can appear in their physical form, I came to the conclusion that Qui-Gon must have learned this power as well.
Christian: Are there other pieces of Star Wars lore that you were glad to add through your writing?
Claudia: A couple of my favorite pieces come from Master and Apprentice. I really like the idea of the jewel thieves in the story. Conceptually, it’s just cool that ordinary rocks on one planet can be another planet’s jewels. Like one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
Obi-Wan mentioning that he, and Jedi, never expect to fight someone else with a lightsaber was also pretty significant. They basically just used the lightsabers ceremonially at the time. There just hadn’t been Sith for so long to fight. While there were Sith at the time, the Rule of Two was present and they were in hiding. So, this type of combat was not something they trained for or expected. This made the Duel of the Fates especially interesting. Contrarily, this was exactly what Darth Maul was preparing for: combat with Jedi. While Qui-Gon seemed rather lost at some points during the duel, Obi-Wan did not. And this makes Obi-Wan eventually winning the fight even more impressive.
In Bloodline, I also got to establish some of Leia and Han’s relationship. It made it Canon that they didn’t just stop talking after Return of the Jedi. It may not exactly be “Star Wars Lore,” but it is one of my favorite additions to Star Wars.
Christian: You mentioned specifically that Jedi only used lightsabers for “ceremonial reasons.” In Dooku: Jedi Lost, Cavan Scott uses that exact same wording. Is this something that you two discussed?
Claudia: Yes, I have worked closely with Cavan Scott. We really got to know each other through the preliminary stages of Project Luminous. And we were actually writing Master and Apprentice and Dooku: Jedi Lost around the same time. So, we did discuss how our stories could be connected. I was pretty excited when I read his book and Rael Aveross showed up!
Christian: You also seem to place an emphasis on fixing things that Star Wars fans have a problem within the movies, like plot holes or confusing plot points. What are the favorite parts that you did fix?
Claudia: In Empire Strikes Back as the Rebels are evacuating their base on Hoth, we never know what happens to the tauntauns! This is why I had Thane release them to go back into the wild where they could live safe and happy lives. This kind of appeased some of my childhood concerns for them from when I first watched the movie.
In A New Hope, something that I wish I could have fixed was them having the medal ceremony at Yavin 4 at the end of the movie. It just makes no sense that they would stay there! The Empire was far from being completely destroyed, so it was highly likely that they would still be coming for them. Also, since the Death Star had just been destroyed, there was almost certainly debree raining down on the moon. I wanted to fix this plot point in Lost Stars, but there was unfortunately no room to do so since it was already Canon that it was Yavin 4. I even tried suggesting that they could have been at a planet that looked a lot like Yavin 4, but they wouldn’t go for it.
Christian: As you’ve written multiple books about Leia, it is clear that her character holds a special place in your heart. What did you think about the revelation that Leia actually went through training to be a Jedi?
Claudia: I actually really liked it! It made a lot of sense to me that she would have at least gone through some training to be a Jedi and that she would have eventually made a decision not to continue that pursuit – which is eventually what happened. I was hoping to maybe even include something like that in Bloodline, but I wasn’t able to. So, I really liked that this part of Leia’s life is now Canon! I was just surprised that her training lasted long enough to potentially be a Master.
Christian: Do you think there is room for you to write a third Leia novel?
Claudia: I definitely think so! I have pitched a lot of ideas for Leia’s youth specifically. If the stars align, I will be open to further exploring Leia’s story!
Christian: What are your thoughts on the sequel trilogy?
Claudia: I really liked the first two movies, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but wasn’t a huge fan of The Rise of Skywalker. They just didn’t quite bring the story to a good ending. However, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t parts of the movie that I really enjoyed. There was about 90 minutes of the story that I really enjoyed with an extra hour that seemed to be too much. There were just so many new characters and arcs that I wish they would have explored more. Lando’s arc could have gotten more attention, Jannah’s story was pretty exciting and I wish Finn would have done more with that, and Zorii and Babu Frik were also new characters that I loved that I wish I could have seen more of. It seems that the content included in the movie could have been expanded to even five whole movies. It was just a lot to fit into one.
Christian: You mentioned Jannah having an interesting story arch. Is that a story that you may want to tell in a novel?
Claudia: I will say that they have not reached out to me about that, but it is a story that I wouldn’t mind exploring!
Christian: What did you think about the ending of The Rise of Skywalker when Rey took the Skywalker name?
Claudia: I really liked it! It wasn’t as much Rey saying she is a part of the Skywalker family, more so a final defeat of Emperor Palpatine by rejecting his family name. It also got me thinking about what would have happened if people were asking about her and Finn’s last names in The Force Awakens. Because Poe Dameron was the extent of Finn’s family, he may have taken Dameron as his last name. Then including Rey, her family was basically Finn at the time so she may have also taken Dameron’s name! Then they would have just all been Damerons! I find that pretty amusing.
Christian: Being a part of the creation of the High Republic must have been very exciting! What was your favorite part of the process?
Claudia: I really can’t say much about the High Republic as they want to keep most of it a secret, but I can say it was very exciting and it was good to work with all of the other authors!
Christian: A lot of your novels seem to have themes of romance in them. How do you feel the concept of romance fits into storytelling and Star Wars?
Claudia: I think it is very important. Some people don’t think that it is “real storytelling,” but if you asked storytellers from the 1920’s they would emphasize the importance of romance. It isn’t just something you throw into a story; it is a very important piece of the whole. And I think romance certainly has a place in Star Wars. I think a big reason why some fans don’t think romance fits with Star Wars is because of Anakin and Padmé’s relationship in Attack of the Clones. It just wasn’t received very well. This was pretty detrimental because it was such an important piece of the story. We were really supposed to buy into Anakin’s character because of it and start to like his character despite his eventual turn into Darth Vader. This was done much better in The Clone Wars. While their relationship was further developed, we also got to see Anakin serving as a hero which was important to his arc. But because the romance wasn’t received well in the movie, this is a reason why romance is frowned upon. But Leia and Han’s romance works well in the original trilogy, so it can be successful. But this could be because they were already established characters before their true romance began.
Christian: I became a fan of yours through Star Wars and have read all of your Star Wars novels, but I have yet to dip my toes into your other work. Because you have written multiple other series, it is difficult to decide which to read first. For Star Wars fans, which of your series would you recommend we read first?
Claudia: The first I’d probably recommend is The Constellation series, this starts with the book Defy the Stars. It is a science fiction story. It follows Noemi Vidal who is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis. The planet is essentially fighting for their own independence. This series also includes the character Abel, a sophisticated mech prototype. Abel is probably my favorite character that I’ve created!
Another series Star Wars fans may like is my Firebird series, which starts with the book A Thousand Pieces of You. It is also a science fiction story that follows Marguerite Caine who has a machine called the Firebird that allows her to enter different dimensions. She does this by having her consciousness transfer into different versions of herself in other realities. She can only enter other realities where she is alive and oftentimes her life is very different!
Christian: Thank you so much for your time! Are there any upcoming projects (or previous ones) that you want to plug?
Claudia: I have my first graphic novel coming out soon! It is called House of El and will hopefully be coming out in January 2021, but that could change due to a lot of things being pushed back right now. It follows the story of two teenagers, Zahn and Sera, on the planet Krypton. Through an exciting adventure, these characters form a society forbidden bond that endures past the end of the world.
I want to again say thank you to Claudia Gray for making this interview happen. I had a lot of fun talking and geeking out for an hour! May the Force be with you!
If you have any questions about the interview, feel free to contact me on Twitter!