“It’s All in Black Spire“: Delilah S. Dawson on Her New Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Novel

The author talks to StarWars.com about Resistance agent Vi Moradi and building the backstory of Disney Parks’ new Star Wars-themed land.

Whether you want to know more about the Resistance before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, or more about Batuu in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, you can get your fix through a great story with the new novel, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Black Spire. Written by Delilah S. Dawson and now available, Black Spire tells the story of how both the Resistance and the First Order first come to Batuu and encounter the thriving, if not a bit seedy, community at Black Spire Outpost. With Vi Moradi now a main character to interact with at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Black Spire has the Resistance spy sent on a mission to establish a hidden camp and recruit potential allies to rebuild the Resistance after the losses at D’Qar and Crait. But things go awry quickly even before she lands, and she has to scramble to avoid the scum and villainy of Batuu — or even turn them to her side before the First Order closes in on her. StarWars.com caught up with Dawson to discuss Vi Moradi, working with Disney Parks on building Batuu, and more.

Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire (Star Wars) book cover

StarWars.com: Black Spire picks up after Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with Resistance spy Vi Moradi being sent on a mission to establish a new camp on some remote planet called Batuu. What was it like getting to tell more of Vi’s story?

Delilah S. Dawson: Publishing in general makes no promises, and quite often a writer will begin a beloved character’s story knowing full well they’ll never get to finish it. That was definitely the case with Vi, and I’m so grateful I was chosen to fill the gap between her story in Phasma and her story at Galaxy’s Edge. I know her inside and out, which makes her a joy to write. I always know exactly what she would say, and I know her backstory. I admire her combination of competency, wry humor, and ability to keep going even when things seem impossible.

StarWars.com: Your first Star Wars novel, Phasma, introduced Vi Moradi and you hinted back then that she would be taking a larger role. Now that fans have had a chance to interact with her on Batuu in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, can you tell us how your character came to be an integral part of the Galaxy’s Edge story?

Delilah S. Dawson: From our first round table meeting to outline Phasma, we knew we needed a plucky Resistance spy. I wanted to write Vi a little like a female Poe Dameron, cocky and strong, but I also wanted to honor the broken body underneath. After seeing the toll spying has taken on James Bond in Skyfall, I wanted to see more of that in Star Wars — Vi has a tragic backstory, she’s been tortured multiple times, she’s been in situations that have caused her physical and emotional damage…but she’s still cracking jokes and helping people and knitting ugly sweaters. That spy became Amaka Moradi, who I envisioned as Danai Gurira with a closet full of wigs and colored contacts. [Later, her name was changed to Vi.] I had no idea what a big role she would play!

StarWars.com: Black Spire takes place primarily in and around Black Spire Outpost on Batuu, around the same timeframe as Galaxy’s Edge. What was it like working in a place with its own characters and culture that was going to be a real-world themed-land, as well as a setting for your story? How did the collaboration work with Disney Parks and Lucasfilm as both your story and the theme park were being crafted?

Delilah S. Dawson: It was an enormous responsibility and a pure joy, and they gave me a lot of runway to contribute my own vision to the lore. I was given a dossier on the park, from maps to art to character backstories, and I was told which characters to treat lightly (because another writer was fleshing them out) and which characters I could take liberties with. It was especially fun to give voice to Oga Garra and help establish the elusive cantina owner and local mob boss. I begged to see the park during construction so I could describe it more clearly, but since we couldn’t logistically make that happen, I had a call with the Imagineers and a long list of questions that I followed up with several emails. I was truly fortunate to visit the Disneyland Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort before it opened to the public, and then I had six days to turn around an edit with those added details gleaned from the experience. Those little touches of gold in world building mean a lot to me. I have synesthesia, so my senses get crossed up, and I love to give the reader a full sensory experience that weaves sight, sound, smells, taste, and texture.

StarWars.com: You really do a great job of capturing the total experience of Black Spire — sights, sounds, smells, and more. You also delve into the history of Batuu with a journey to the ruins outside the outpost with a very Indiana Jones-type feel. What was the process of building up the ancient past and their connections to the characters of the present?

Delilah S. Dawson: Hey, thanks! This part is kind of funny, actually. I’m a very linear writer — I draft straight through, beginning to end — and when it was time to introduce Vi to the ancient ruins, they couldn’t give me a finalized map. Rather than waiting, I just left “[TK]” [Editor’s Note: publishing notation meaning that the text is “to come”.] in the doc and kept writing the next scene. When the map finally came through, I had to go back in and write the entire scene. Visitors will be able to walk Vi’s route through the ruins as part of the queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, although of course all the booby traps have already been removed by our plucky band of Resistance fighters. I really enjoyed building up the myths around Black Spire and attempting to capture the magic of the space.

StarWars.com: In the excerpt from Black Spire released earlier, it is revealed that General Organa dispatches Vi to recruit new allies and build a new hidden camp for the Resistance, but she’s not being sent alone — she’s sent with Archex, the man formerly known as the First Order soldier Cardinal, who previously tortured her for information about his rival, Phasma. Who is he now and what’s their relationship like?

Delilah S. Dawson: I don’t want to give too much away, but Cardinal is an incredibly special character for me. He was designed as Phasma’s foil; where she is out for Number One, nearly a sociopath, Cardinal is a good egg who firmly believes that the First Order wants to save the galaxy. When he realizes, thanks to Vi, that he’s dedicated his life to a farce, he basically tries to commit suicide by Phasma. And then Vi saves him and drags him back to the Resistance, and that’s where we pick up: with a good man who doesn’t know how to go on. During his journey with Vi, Cardinal must find his purpose in life and decide whether he can remain neutral or if the Resistance is worth fighting for. We learn more about his backstory and see some of his own skills come to life. And he has one strong tie to Galaxy’s Edge that I’m really proud of, so you’ll have to read it to see what he contributes to the marketplace.

StarWars.com: If Cardinal is the good egg caught up in the First Order and now adrift, then who is Wulfgar Kath and how does he connect to Cardinal?

Delilah S. Dawson: Wulfgar Kath is a very bad man. Let’s just leave it at that.

StarWars.com: With Archex going by Cardinal and Vi being nicknamed Magpie by Leia (and given another avian code name by the First Order), is there a bird theme with your characters? What’s that about?

Delilah S. Dawson: You could definitely say that birds are a theme in my body of work. In my Shadow series (written as Lila Bowen), every book is titled for a different bird, starting with Wake of Vultures. I have a vulture feather tattooed on my arm and a peacock feather on the nape of my neck. So it makes sense that my mind goes there. Vi’s code name makes sense, as she’s a pilot and must be swift, nimble, and fast. And with Cardinal, we needed a name that matched his bright red armor, which we decided on before I knew about the Praetorian guards or Sith troopers. My Star Wars bird obsession began with the Millennium Falcon and Ebon Hawk and continued when I named Bazine Netal’s ship the Sparrowhawk. Oh! And since you’ll be sure to see ibises at Galaxy’s Edge in Orlando, I gave them a Star Wars name: pipa birds.

Fans at Dok-Ondar's at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

StarWars.com: Vi interacts with several of Black Spire Outpost’s key movers and shakers, whose establishments theme park guests might visit in Galaxy’s Edge. What was it like building scenes with Oga and her goons, Dok-Ondar, and other noteworthy Batuu denizens?

Delilah S. Dawson: It was an interesting challenge! Oga, for example, plays a big part in Black Spire but is never seen in the parks; she’s the silent mastermind of the town. I loved giving her a voice and designing her lair, and I especially liked giving her a disheveled tooka cat, as every good villain needs a pet. And I liked taking a throwaway line about her shooting her Wookiee boyfriend and turning it into a plot point in Black Spire — and telling the story of the broken banister across from the cantina. Mubo, the little Utai droid builder was a delight to capture. I wasn’t able to spend much time with Dok-Ondar, but I’m pretty sure my words can’t come close to describing the wonder I felt in his Den of Antiquities. For each of the shops and restaurants you’ll visit in Galaxy’s Edge, I got to introduce the proprietor and goods, at the very least, and I hope readers will be as excited to see them in the flesh as I was. That’s one of my favorite things about the book — it answers questions you’ll have walking around the land. Why is that tree covered in ribbons? Why is there a blaster mark on that tank above the cantina taps? Where does Savi get the parts for his lightsabers? What is the story of the actual black spire the town is named after? It’s all in Black Spire.

StarWars.com: If you lived on Batuu, what would your typical days be like? Who would you hang out with?

Delilah S. Dawson: I would work in Bina’s Creature Stall and help people select the perfect pet. When I visited, I bought a puffer pig, and it is honestly the best money I’ve ever spent. It makes the most wonderful noise, and I squeeze it at least once a day and smile. I would eat at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, talk to Cookie and try whatever new thing he’d created — gluten free, of course. And I’d stay out of Dok’s way, because nobody wants to be on the Doklist.

StarWars.com: Several other authors have written about Batuu and its residents in their Star Wars stories — did you work with any of them on getting the same look and feel to the places and characters?

Delilah S. Dawson: Most of my information came directly from the Imagineers, but I did chat with my friend Zoraida Córdova, author of the YA book Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – A Crash of Fate, as I was writing. Her book was due before mine, so she was already done with her first draft while I was just beginning my work. We just wanted to make sure we didn’t step on one another’s toes. Zoraida and I will actually be signing our books together for the first time at Launch Bay Cargo at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando on August 28, and I can’t wait!

StarWars.com: Lastly, you’ve mentioned in the past that part of your writing process is listening to a playlist of songs on Spotify that sound like the book. What songs helped to inspire and shape Black Spire? Are there any particular songs that fit with certain characters or scenes?

Delilah S. Dawson: My playlists definitely don’t drill down to scenes or characters — that might pull me out of the drafting process while I was in a flow, which would hinder the work. They’re more of an overall feeling, which is why the Phasma playlist is mostly the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack, Star Wars movie soundtracks, and, strangely, the song “Houdini” by Foster the People, which was my intro song. If Phasma is Fury Road meets Star Wars, then Black Spire is Brooklyn Nine-Nine meets Star Wars — it’s a plucky band of misfits who come together to help people while also acting as their own group therapy session. Of course, it’s also got the typical Star Wars adventures and goes to some dark and violent places, since the First Order is involved, but the heart of the story is Vi Moradi building a family — and a home.

Listen to Delilah S. Dawson’s playlist here!

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Black Spire is available now. In addition to her signing with Zoraida Córdova on August 28 at the Cargo Launch Bay in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, Delilah S. Dawson will be on tour on the East Coast of the US in early October.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland® Resort is now open. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida on August 29.

James Floyd is a writer, photographer, and organizer of puzzle adventures. He’s a bit tall for a Jawa. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesjawa or check out his articles on Club Jade and Big Shiny Robot.

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