Author Claudia Gray discusses the craft and creativity behind Lost Stars, her new Star Wars novel that kicks off the journey to The Force Awakens.
About ‘Lost Stars’
The reign of the Galactic Empire has reached the Outer Rim planet of Jelucan, where aristocratic Thane Kyrell and rural villager Ciena Ree bond over their love of flying. Enrolling at the Imperial Academy together to become fighter pilots for the glorious Empire is nothing less than a dream come true for the both of them. But Thane sours on the dream when he sees firsthand the horrific tactics the Empire uses to maintain its ironclad rule.
Bitter and disillusioned, Thane joins the fledgling Rebellion — putting Ciena in an unbearable position to choose between her loyalty to the Empire and her love for the man she’s known since childhood.
Now on opposite sides of the war, will these friends turned foes find a way to be together, or will duty tear them — and the galaxy — apart?
Interview with Claudia Gray
Lost Stars is the first Star Wars novel to be officially categorized as YA — a genre many people don’t really understand. What do you think YA can offer the story of Star Wars?
If you think about it, the original movie really is a young adult story — it’s about a teenager facing adventure and danger on his own for the first time, while learning about his true powers. It’s also the story of a teenager who’s taking on responsibility beyond her years in a battle against absolute evil, by leading a rebellion. Sounds a lot like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, right?
The core myths George Lucas pulled from when creating the Star Wars universe, from the work of Joseph Campbell, are very often coming-of-age stories. So I don’t think it’s that YA is offering the story of Star Wars anything new so much as I think the YA elements that have always been in Star Wars are finally being focused on in that light.
What was the most exciting part of getting to write in the Star Wars universe? What was the most challenging part?
The most exciting part was getting to create brand-new characters who would get to have their own adventures in this universe. The most challenging part was that I had to make sure my plot lined up with Star Wars canon — and while I knew the major elements, sometimes very small things would catch me off guard! Luckily my editors know to look out for this stuff.
How did you create the characters of Thane and Ciena? At what point did they really come alive for you? Was this different from any of your other writing?
Thane and Ciena were themselves very much from the beginning. They were built around two philosophies of life — one cynical, one idealistic — which gave me a strong starting point. Then I got to work on creating Jelucan, their home planet, and its culture, because that would help establish them in more depth. This part of it, honestly, wasn’t different from my original work at all.
When I first took on the project, I’d expected to have a story dictated to me, but instead, my editor really gave me so much creative freedom with both the plot and the characterization.
Lost Stars exists in tandem with the Original Trilogy — how did you keep track of all of the various events and characters at play? Were there any challenges in syncing up Thane and Ciena’s lives with this intricate timeline?
Well, a lifetime of watching the movies over and over again definitely helped :) There were some challenges; working out exactly what happened around the destruction of the first Death Star was pretty thorny. But I never ran into a problem rewatching the movies wouldn’t fix.
The Battle of Jakku seems to be the first major political event after Return of the Jedi. What was it like to introduce fans to this brand-new material?
Very exciting! And it came about unexpectedly. Essentially, I’d written something in the book about a big, post-Return of the Jedi battle, and only after that did the Lucasfilm team go, “Guess what?” They decided it made more sense to have that battle be the Battle of Jakku, and for the Inflictor to… do what it does. (Trying hard to resist spoilers!)
Lost Stars deals deeply with issues of justice and tyranny, and how good people can serve evil causes. Was this theme something you had in mind from the beginning, or did it develop as the story evolved? Did it ever manifest in ways that were surprising or unexpected?
The concept of the book, as it was first put to me, was “childhood friends turned young people in love, but the idealist joins the Rebellion and the cynic joins the Empire.” Immediately I said I wanted the idealist to be the one who became an Imperial officer, and the cynic to be the Rebel. That let me dig into why good people could find themselves in the service of evil, and even why someone might be a part of the Rebellion without really believing in their philosophy. So dealing with those questions was absolutely one of my goals for the book from the very beginning.
The cast of Lost Stars is mostly made up of new characters, but you also include several famous faces from the movies. Which was your favorite cameo to write?
I’m going to cheat and make it a tie between Grand Moff Tarkin and Mon Mothma. In both cases, I feel like the book was able to show a less formal, more human side to these characters. Since I’ve loved Tarkin and Mon Mothma since childhood, getting to write moments for them was amazingly fun.
Aside from Thane and Ciena, which was your favorite new character to create?
Probably Nash Windrider, Thane’s roommate at the Academy and a good friend to both Thane and Ciena. He’s an Imperial officer from Alderaan, so he’s obviously thrown into profound conflict at the beginning of the war. Where does he go from there? His story wound up being one of my favorite elements of the entire book.
And what is your all-time favorite Star Wars moment?
I never asked myself this and am stunned to realize the answer is, “the garbage compactor scene.” It’s just so great how they’re all completely thrown for a loop, and how Han and Leia go from shouting at each other to desperately working together within moments, and at the end, they hug like they’ve known each other for years instead of five minutes! Meanwhile Luke’s getting crammed down under all that stuff, shouting at the droids.
This is of course a prime piece of evidence for my theory that the entire Star Wars trilogy is fundamentally about RD2D saving the day. All our characters would be dead about eight times over if not for Artoo.
For more information…
Claudia Gray is the author of multiple young adult novels, including A Thousand Pieces of You, Ten Thousand Skies Above You, the Spellcasters series, and the Evernight series. In addition to being a massive Star Wars fan, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and living in her purple house. Find out more about Claudia at her website, and follow her on Twitter @ClaudiaGray for all the latest updates on her writing and general adventures.