Claudia Gray is no stranger to the world of Star Wars books, having penned four previous novels and even one Manga series entitled Star Wars: Lost Stars.
With Lucasfilm Publishing’s new focus on “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” inside of the Star Wars: The High Republic era, Gray was an obvious choice to add to the new, highly-coordinated world. In this exclusive interview, Gray discusses the challenges of writing a novel without the typical Star Wars reference points, as well as why her main character, The Jedi Reath Silas, is more Hermione Granger than Anakin, Luke, or Rey Skywalker.
How did you become involved in Star Wars: The High Republic Into the Dark?
Claudia Gray: Well, Mike Siglain (the head of Lucasfilm publishing) had first talked to me about taking part in a large, multiplatform narrative back in 2015–even before TFA came out, I think! But the particulars didn’t start coming together until a good while later. I found out Daniel Jose Older would be one of the other authors involved, and since we both live in the same city, we met up to talk, though at that point the conversation was just, “What do you think this is going to be?” As we finally all got together at Skywalker Ranch that first time, we started unfolding the narrative, and very early on we decided that Charles would take the first adult book, I’d be on YA, Justina (Ireland) would go for Middle Grade, etc.
You’ve written many books in the Star Wars galaxy. Did you approach your latest differently due to when the story takes place?
Gray: Well, the easiest thing about writing the High Republic is also the hardest thing about it: You don’t have as much SW canon around you. This means you don’t have the same resources to draw from–watching movies for the visuals and hearing character voices, online art (even blueprints!) for spaceships, etc. On the other hand, you get to make it all up with your friends! So yes, the approach to the material had to be very different.
There seems to be a lot of coordination between the books, comics, tv, and films as of late. Were you made aware what other writers were up to in their books/comics?
Gray: Oh, on the publishing side we worked together throughout. We discuss things on the Slack channel, share outlines and scenes and rough drafts, etc. It would be impossible to weave the stories together as much without deep, ongoing cooperation.
How would you compare Reath to other young Jedi that we have seen before?
Gray: Reath isn’t a prodigy in the Force–and given Anakin, Luke, and Rey, a lot of the movies’ time has been spent on prodigies who are so tremendously gifted in the Force. Reath, on the other hand, is Force-sensitive enough to be a Jedi, but only just. He has to work a little harder to overcome what he sees as his shortcomings. His Master knows that’s going to be his strength, though–Reath has more resilience than some of his peers. Also, Reath’s a bookish guy, somebody who would be happier in the Jedi Archives than in a lightsaber duel. I modeled him on Hermione Granger: Reads all the books, loves the research, is a huge nerd really–but when there’s real trouble, there’s nobody else you’d rather have by your side.
Does living in New Orleans help inspire your fiction?
Gray: I’ve yet to write anything specifically set in New Orleans–some ideas have come to mind, but none of them have hit that critical mass that turns a concept into a book. That said, this is a wonderfully artistic, easygoing, vibrant place; it’s a city where creativity is understood and supported. I love that about it.
You have a love of classic movies: do you have a favorite classic sci-fi film that you would recommend to readers that deserves more love/attention?
Gray: Stuff from the 1970s and 80s is classic now, isn’t it? Argh, mortality. Anyway, from the 1970s, I’ve always really loved Time After Time, which gives HG Wells a real time machine…and a troubling encounter with Jack the Ripper, which only gets worse when both men are deposited in 1970s London. Scary, funny, and romantic by turns–it’s fantastic.
From the 1980s, two movies I really love are: (1) Enemy Mine–about a human and an alien, soldiers on opposite sides of an intergalactic war, who wind up marooned together on a desolate world. You may think you’ve seen this story before, but you haven’t; it’s so openly emotional, so in-depth about the experience, that it winds up feeling very new. (2) Starman–Jeff Bridges got his first Oscar nod for playing the title character, an alien who has taken his form from a dead human, much to the terror and bewilderment of that man’s widow, played by the amazing Karen Allen. If you haven’t seen Bridges’ work in this, you owe it to yourself to check this out.
You have written a number of book series such as the Firebird, Evernight, and Spellcaster. Any new books coming soon?
Gray: My very first graphic novel, House of El: Book One–The Shadow Threat, just came out from DC! It’s the first in a trilogy, and working on that has been a tremendous learning experience. My next non-SW novel should be my first for adults, a Jane Austen-Agatha Christie mashup called “The Murder of Mr. Wickham.” No official release date yet, but it should be along sometime in 2022…
Star Wars The High Republic: Into the Dark and DC Comics House of El Book One: The Shadow Threat are currently available at finer book stores and comic shops everywhere.