The Star Wars: The High Republic authors talk about their longtime friendship, collaboration, and getting emotionally invested in stories yet to come.
Long before Cavan Scott and George Mann were Star Wars authors, they were just two friends who shared a love of science fiction and fantasy stories. From the online forum for Doctor Who to the pages of Star Wars: The High Republic, the duo has shared exciting career breakthroughs, personal highs and lows, and acted as sounding boards for the other’s work. And they never take themselves, or each other, too seriously.
In a new StarWars.com series celebrating the release of Phase III in Star Wars: The High Republic, which officially kicks off with Scott’s Star Wars: The High Republic comic relaunch from Marvel and Mann’s novel The Eye of Darkness, we listen in as the two writers reflect on being invited to join the then-codenamed Project Luminous, their latest releases, and beard envy…
Cavan Scott: George, I think you were the first person I ever told about what became The High Republic.
George Mann: Even before [your wife] Clare?
Cavan Scott: Yeah. We were at San Diego Comic-Con and we were sharing a room. I had just gone off to breakfast with [Lucasfilm Publishing creative director] Mike [Siglain] where he first invited me onto the “All-Star Initiative,” which became Project Luminous. I couldn't tell Clare because she was in a different time zone and she wasn't up yet. And I had to tell someone because I couldn't believe what I just said yes to. So, you were like the fifth Beatle of The High Republic from day one, really. I didn't know the other writers at that point.
George Mann: I remember you saying there were some other people on it. “I don't know who they are yet.”
Cavan Scott: “And I hope I like them.” I think I said that, as well.
George Mann: I think you did. Look how that turned out. [Laughs.]
Cavan Scott: I know! And then we got you involved. Right from the off Mike said that I could mention it to you, and I think it was always there in the back of his mind and definitely the back of mine that, if it did expand, you would come on board.
George Mann: I'd already done Myths and Fables by that point. Mike talked to me early, as well, to put a Drengir story in Dark Legends. I think that was actually the first piece of High Republic fiction to be published kind of clandestinely in that Target [edition] book.
Cavan Scott: What was it like when you finally got the call? Because by that point, we'd been underway for a good while.
George Mann: Oh, it was a huge honor. I mean, I’d been following what you guys had done. I had been reading the manuscripts before they were released. I was up to speed and I was thoroughly enjoying it as a fan of Star Wars and a fan of a lot of the writers involved. I remember calling you. I had just got off the phone to Mike and it was the same conversation in reverse, wasn't it? I don't think I'd even left the computer to go and [tell my wife] Fiona what happened. I think you already had an inkling what was coming anyway, didn't you?
Cavan Scott: Nothing. [George laughs.] Nothing! I know nothing about most things, to be honest.
George Mann: Something about The High Republic felt like that expanded universe, that chance to create new characters and add something back to a story that gave me so much pleasure over the years as a Star Wars fan.
Cavan Scott: So, your first experience of a High Republic event would have been [Star Wars Celebration Europe] earlier this year in London, right?
George Mann: Yeah. I wasn't sure what to expect because, although you'd kind of told me all about the experience in Anaheim [at Celebration 2022]…I kind of thought, well, it's not going to be the same in the UK. We're not quite the same [as an] American audience. We don't show our appreciation in the same way. We tend to be sarcastic. [Laughs.]
Cavan Scott: Really?
George Mann: Yeah, exactly! But then…I couldn't get over the fact that people recognized who we were. I mean, we're authors. We're not on TV, we're not in movies. But they knew our faces. They were seeking us out. And then the audience for the panel when we first announced The Eye of Darkness and the titles for the Phase III books. And the cheering. You couldn't hear! It was kind of Beatlemania for Star Wars.
Cavan Scott: Which Beatle are you in this scenario? And please don't say I'm Ringo. Although, to be honest, I love Ringo.
George Mann: George [and] Paul.
Cavan Scott: Of course. It’s your names, isn’t it?
George Mann: I'm two of the Beatles. So that leaves you as Ringo, I'm afraid.
Cavan Scott: Well, everyone loves Ringo.
George Mann: Now you've got [Marvel’s Star Wars: The High Republic] comic launching a week before [The Eye of Darkness] novel hits. So, we're kind of going in hand-in-hand, as it were.
Cavan Scott: Literally. We are going to do it hand-in-hand. It’s the only way. [George laughs.]
George Mann: I mean, there's a certain amount of pressure involved. You want it to be a great platform for everyone else's stories that come afterwards. And you want the fans to respond well and enjoy the stories. That's certainly how I feel. What about you with the comic? Presumably you're happy to be getting back to some of these characters.
Cavan Scott: It is great to come back to not just Keeve and the bond twins [Terec and Ceret] and some of the other characters we had from the original [Star Wars] Insider stories, but …for me, the thing I think I'm most excited about for [Eye] is seeing Avar. Obviously, I was involved heavily in her arc in the first phase and seeing where she started, where she sort of left Light of the Jedi and ended up at the end of the first phase of Marvel, a very different character. A broken character, by that point. So, to see what you're doing, it's a weird feeling because you do sort of get a little bit protective over some of these characters, you know? And I mean, I think across all the writers now, we obviously all trust each other. But I was particularly glad that you were handling that storyline and I'm very excited for people to see where she's going and where she is at the beginning of that book because, you know, I did leave her in a pretty bad state for you.
George Mann: Yeah. And she continues in that state for a while. It's been interesting seeing some of the early reactions. One of the things that people are saying is how dark the book is, how somber the tone is, initially. It's still an adventure story and there's hope running through it because Star Wars is about hope. But it's dark.
Cavan Scott: The first few stories of the phase are dark. You know, Starlight is gone, [Marchion] Ro is triumphant, and these Jedi have to earn that hope again. I think that's the interesting thing. When I launched the Marvel comic originally with the dedication of Starlight Beacon, the Jedi…had no one to push against them. Everyone respected them because of what they stood for. But now we’re seeing them have to learn what that means. For some of the Jedi, they're questioning, and for other Jedi, they're seeing it as the opportunity to go, “No, this is a chance to show the light because we're in darkness. So we need to be lighter than ever.” I think that's where we see Keeve at the beginning of this series. She spent the entire first phase plagued with doubts about herself. This is a girl — now a woman — who questioned her right to be a Jedi and then has found herself promoted. She didn't think she should have been a Knight, let alone a Master. And she's always got Avar in the back of her mind. Avar was a hero. Avar was the person she looked up to and she saw what happened to her. [Keeve] doesn't want it to happen to herself, as well. So, yeah, it's really exciting to be back at the beginning, but I think it was tough writing those first couple of issues because Keeve is not the Keeve we know. She has been under the cosh for a year now and she's struggling.
George Mann: Well, I think that's the thing. The Jedi have been properly challenged in a way that they're not used to. Like Avar…at this point, she's thinking about how far she's fallen. But she starts Eye of Darkness and it's almost the opposite journey to Keeve. It's all the way back from that doubt. And realizing, actually, I need to be a part of something bigger. That's what the Jedi are, you know?
Cavan Scott: Their arcs have always mirrored each other and been inverted from each other. That was always the plan with them.
George Mann: There's a kind of a trajectory there for the whole of the Jedi at the start of this phase, which is, you know, that they're not as together as they were both individually and as a unit, as an Order. That's what they have to learn; to push and pull in the same direction and recognize that there is hope and they have to carry that hope forward into the future.
Cavan Scott: So far, so bleak. Let's talk about fun stuff. What did you have the most fun with in writing either Phase II or especially Phase III?
George Mann: Well, I'll give you an answer to both. Because the difference, I think, with Phase III, is getting my hands on those characters from Phase I, and being able to get really under the skin of Avar and Elzar, Bell and Burry, and Marchion Ro and Ghirra, and explore what this has done to them. [I] feel like I'm adding something to the character, deepening the characters as the story progresses. It's playing with the toys out of the toy box and it's like you're a kid again with the action figures. What was different about Phase II was it was more about invention, from my point of view, adding characters and situations and story elements and being a bit more inventive. How about you? Flip the question.
Cavan Scott: I wrote a scene today for something and it was one of those moments of joy because I was writing Elzar. I love writing Elzar Mann. He's in a very different place at the beginning of this phase, but I got to write a scene with him today where he's enjoying banter with someone that he's very close to. And, of course, that's how I started writing Elzar in The Rising Storm when you saw him and Stellan. It’s seeing these people starting to form new relationships and getting past what they've been through. I think from Phase II, the joy was the Jedha crew and Tey and Vildar and, again, you know, the banter and the back and forth and the snarky comments. I definitely didn't want to give them up and leave those two behind. And Matty either.
George Mann: That's how I feel about the Pathfinders. I don’t want to leave them behind. But there are some characters that have carried through like Porter [Engle] from both phases. And Azlin [Rell] is another one. He's a dream character to write.
Cavan Scott: Another character that I managed to have a hand in ruining. [Laughs.] People seem to think it's something I choose to do, but it's the jobs I'm given. It's like I'm a hit man for these characters and I have to pull them apart so that people can put them back together.
George Mann: People are starting to say the same thing [to me]. “Oh, what are you doing?” We're not wantonly putting them through terror and danger. The story demands that the characters go through this to be the story that we want it to be, to come out the other end — or not, as the case may be.
Cavan Scott: What's the most lighthearted part of Eye of Darkness you want people to look forward to?
George Mann: I think it's probably Porter's reintroduction to the story. He brings a lot of fun with it and a lot of great action sequences. Some good banter, I think. And KC the droid is back as well, traveling with Avar. And Elzar, he's having a hard time with things, [but] he's still bantering with people. He's still Elzar. And one of the things that people do, certainly my experience is [they] either hide or get relief from the darkest moments through humor. So, I think it's always important to try and capture that. What about you?
Cavan Scott: We have a returning Hutt from Phase I, from Daniel [José Older]'s run of High Republic Adventures. I've loved writing her. She's in charge of the sector and she's been a joy to write. An absolute joy. She has her own little band of ne'er do wells and a very scary enforcer.
George Mann: I've seen some of the pages you've written and you can tell…just the joy in the pages, it’s clearly from the joy you feel as you wrote those characters. People see that.
Cavan Scott: I wrote it split into a slightly different structure. Every four months you get a big epic with [artist] Ario [Anindito] coming in and those moments are huge and it always is amazing. But [artist] Jim [Towe] is bringing something very different, as well, and the dynamic of the team on the page has been lifted by the newcomers. And we definitely felt that with the art team as well. It's what I love about comics. I've already got the team in The High Republic story architects and writers, but then I have my own little team within the comic as well. And it's always what they bring — surprises you never know are going to come, ideas that come in from someone else that totally changed the course. There's going to be a lot to love.
George Mann: I felt like that working on The High Republic comic as well, The Nameless Terror. Collaboration has been a big part of what we've done, you know, particularly entering into Phase III. A big part of what I was doing with Eye of Darkness was helping set up stories that play out over other people's books. There’s a lot of back and forth with the rest of the team….I can't remember what our first collaboration was. We met in 2010, didn't we?
Cavan Scott: Mhm.
George Mann: On the Doctor Who forum, for those who don't know the backstory.
Cavan Scott: We were helping each other with each other's projects. It's quite a lonely job being a writer sometimes and one of the worst things for me is getting to that point where I'm stuck and I've got no one to talk to because I come from a background of script writing and comics and audiobooks and things like that. Quite often I would get stuck and I'd say, “George, can we have a call?” And what would actually happen is that I would solve the problem just by talking at you for a bit. And I think it works the other way as well. It's a sounding board. Because you usually know what you've got to do. And sometimes you need a little push and a question. “Why are you doing that?” Because usually that question is what you don't want to ask yourself.
George Mann: It's either asking the difficult question or it's encouraging you to trust your gut, And, yeah, it goes both ways. But that very much became us referencing the same sort of influences, weren’t we? Films and TV and books and different media.
Cavan Scott: We were literally separated at birth, I think. I mean, George is obviously not younger than me in any way whatsoever…We grew up on the same things, the same mythology and folklore of monsters. I don't think we've written anything together in the High Republic.
George Mann: Not yet.
Cavan Scott: Actually, talking about not yet: what can we tease people about that you're up to now? I mean, specifically, in The High Republic not generally in your life.
George Mann: [Laughs.] Yeah, drinking tea and writing Tears of the Nameless, which we announced early on at Celebration. That's been my deep-dive recently. Just before the call, I was worried about coming on the video because I'd made myself cry writing the final pages.
Cavan Scott: That bad, eh?
George Mann: Pretty much. [Laughs.]
George Mann: I mean, I'm not going to lie. It's quite a dark book, but in a different way to Eye of Darkness. It is starting to move more towards the end game. So, it's knocking down a few of those things that have been set up. But I can't really say much more than that at this stage. How about you? You're working on the comic, obviously.
Cavan Scott: Yes, I am. I'm working on a couple of other projects in The High Republic, one of which is more of an adventure. It's darker, more dramatic, but it's fun. And I had so much fun writing that. And it does encapsulate some of the scenes that I've been waiting to write ever since we started this. And that's actually one of the things I think I'm most excited about now this minute, because obviously the stuff that's coming out [this month] we wrote a while ago, you know. But when I write some stuff that's nearing the end of the phase and I'm writing scenes for Keeve that I've had in my head from the moment we first created her and the things that I've been writing towards all this time, you know, deeply impactful things about her life and her future and just her character…It's far more emotional. And like you, I mean, obviously I was joking about crying about the state of the writing, but because these characters do affect you, and I found myself doing it the other day, you know, you're writing this and you're so into it that you inhabit those characters for a minute.
George Mann: Absolutely.
Cavan Scott: I think that's the job.
George Mann: That is the job. And it's part of the joy of writing them.
Cavan Scott: And I can't wait — I can't wait! — for people to see Phil Noto's cover for issue five. I can't talk about it because it's so spoilery. But I shared it on the writer’s Slack and it is one of those images that I've been waiting to see. Every day I was checking my inbox going “Has Phil done it yet? Has Phil done it yet? PHIL! Do it now!” And then when it arrived, it was everything I wanted and more. I think people are going to go wild.
George Mann: You know, I can't wait to shave this beard off. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have a superstition when I'm writing the end stages of a novel, I grow a book beard. I don't shave while I'm writing and then once the book’s handed in, I let myself shave. I don't know why that is now, but I've done it for years. So, I am looking forward to it.
Cavan Scott: The funny thing is, George, I’m the same about The High Republic. I've been growing a beard since 2018. [George laughs.] And as you can see, it's growing ever so well. So 2025, it's coming off! I'm going to look so fresh faced and young. I'm always jealous of beards. There's a lot of beards in The High Republic. You know, Charles [Soule] has now got one. Daniel [José Older] has got one. You…
George Mann: Elzar’s got a good one!
Cavan Scott: Yeah! And I'm sitting here still, you know, with a face as smooth as a baby. Ridiculous. Ridiculous!
George Mann: No comment.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.