Author Claudia Gray discusses writing Leia throughout her life in her new Star Wars novel, Leia: Princess of Alderaan.
Released in celebration of last week’s Force Friday, Leia: Princess of Alderaan looks back to a pivotal time in the Princess’ past. While fans know intimately her work within the Rebellion, and later the Resistance, the story of how Leia became a leader of the anti-Imperial galactic forces has been untold.
Until now, that is.
Claudia Gray follows up her exceptional Star Wars novel Bloodline — which tackles Leia as a world-weary senator in the New Republic — with this origin story of family, intrigue, and hope. In an exclusive guest post, Gray explores her journey backwards in time with Leia, and how she uncovered the princess we all thought we knew.
Claudia Gray on ‘Leia: Princess of Alderaan’
With the publication of Leia: Princess of Alderaan I’ve now written two novels about Leia Before.
Bloodline took place a few years before The Force Awakens, and tells the story of how Princess Leia became General Organa — why she founded the Resistance, and why she saw that war coming before almost anyone else did. When I wrote it in late 2015, I didn’t imagine that I’d be writing another Leia-centric book anytime soon. They all dealt with Leia as an adult, with even the earliest stories in my head focusing on her post-Episode VI.
But life had other plans, or at least Lucasfilm’s publishing group did. They wanted to tell one of the first big stories of Leia’s life — maybe the most important one since her eventful birth.
How did Leia Organa join the Rebel Alliance?
The answer to this may seem easy, since we’ve known about Bail Organa’s role in the Rebellion for decades. Yet even back in Episode IV, there were hints that the story might be more complex. By the events of A New Hope, Leia is already a key leader in the Rebel Alliance, even though she’s only nineteen years old.
How did that happen? I knew only one thing for sure: She didn’t start small.
With Bloodline, I needed to imagine an older, wiser Leia — one who’s learned the limitations of politics and diplomacy. One who enjoys an unconventional marriage with Han Solo that requires significant compromises for them both. One who knows that battles can be one, but the greater war for justice never ends. She’d still be intelligent and humane, and she’d still have her hot temper.
But she wouldn’t be as sure about right and wrong being as simple as black versus white.
For Leia: Princess of Alderaan, I had to take all that… and rewind to before the beginning of the story as we know it. This Leia would already be courageous and smart, outraged by Palpatine’s wrongs and eager to join the fight. But this would also have to be a version of the princess who’d never yet been in battle.
She wouldn’t have commanded soldiers, much less seen any of them lose their lives. She wouldn’t have learned to endure the risk and suspense of working clandestinely in Palpatine’s police state. She wouldn’t have faced mortal danger. For this book, I had to ask how those events might’ve unfolded, and how they transformed her from a relatively sheltered royal princess to the gutsy woman we meet in Episode IV.
On a personal level, it was interesting for me to write Leia both at an age only slightly older than I am now, then at an age only slightly older than I was when I was when Episode VI came out. For the older Leia… let’s just say that Star Wars hasn’t spent much time looking at the galaxy through the viewpoint of a forty-something woman. It’s fresh ground to cover, which for a writer is always exciting.
But it was even more special to touch base with young Leia. When I was just a couple of years younger than her, I had a huge Return of the Jedi poster up on my door. It showed the moment Luke and Leia swing from Jabba’s sail barge to freedom. To me it looked like the ultimate adventure — a moment of pure courage.
It inspired a hundred daydreams, little bits of plots I would cook up to imagine more exploits of the Star Wars heroes I loved. They’re so vivid that I still remember many of them.
Bits of those daydreams have worked their way into my professional Star Wars books. If I could go back in time and tell my thirteen-year-old self that Leia would actually, canonically do the things I dreamed of her doing…
I first wrote, “it would overwhelm me.” The truth is it overwhelms me right now, today. Leia’s adventures have always been special to me. So it’s been a pleasure and an honor to create more of those adventures—and to expand her story both backward and forward in time. Princess Leia’s been with me every step of the way.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan is available now everywhere books are sold.