Marking today's release of the highly-anticipated novel and game prequel, StarWars.com talks with author Christie Golden about all things Inferno Squad.
Darth Vader may have the 501st Legion for crushing dissent and rebellion, but when the Empire needs a small unit to stop the spark of hope from spreading, they turn to Inferno Squad. The stars of the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II game are now the heroes of a new novel from Del Rey Books. Written by New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden and out today, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad tells the story of the first major mission of this elite team: destroying Saw Gerrera’s surviving Partisans from within. With connections to the films and other stories, this is more than just setting the stage for the game’s main storyline -- it’s part of the larger Star Wars saga. StarWars.com got the inside scoop on the novel from Christie Golden via e-mail.
StarWars.com: Battlefront II: Inferno Squad focuses on an elite Imperial unit, formed right after the devastating loss of the Death Star. Who is Iden Versio, Inferno Squad’s leader, and what drives her to succeed?
Christie Golden: Iden Versio has quite the pedigree -- her father is an admiral and her mother was an artist famous for her Imperial propaganda posters. She grew up thinking that the Imperial way of thinking was completely normal and, really, only the right way to do things. But she’s always had been pushed to excel by her demanding father, so in a way, she can’t ever rest on her laurels and say, “Well, that was good enough.” Because for Versios, “good enough”…isn’t.
StarWars.com: Inferno Squad is formed as a response to the Death Star’s destruction, and after a few missions, it is sent to infiltrate the surviving remnants of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans. Tell us about tying the events of Rogue One and A New Hope together, especially from the Empire’s point of view.
Christie Golden: It was so amazing to see Rogue One and follow that path right up to the beginning of A New Hope. As someone who was in the theaters back in 1977, I certainly was among the many who wondered what had happened before those events. We open with Iden Versio in her TIE fighter pursuing a rebel ship as it hastens back toward Yavin’s moon, and when the debris from the Death Star starts flying, for a moment she’s completely baffled. She can’t even imagine the idea that it’s from the Empire’s most powerful weapon. And that horror, that slap in the face to the Empire really drives the action going forward.
StarWars.com: Iden is joined on Inferno Squad by three other supremely capable warriors. She has a history with Gideon Hask -- who is he, and what does he bring to the team?
Christie Golden: Gideon Hask is a bit older than Iden, but he too trained on Vardos and got to know Iden there. He arrived at a young age, and Vardos is as much his “home” as it is Iden’s. The only family he’s known for most of his life have been the Versios. They’ve been friendly rivals all their life, and it does smart from time to time when Iden keeps excelling. But he also cares about her and, for the most part, sees no shame in being bested by someone who’s just that good.
StarWars.com: Focusing on the intel is the specialty of Seyn Marana, whose youthful appearance belies her capabilities. What is it like getting into her point of view?
Christie Golden: Seyn was really great to write. She’s the youngest of the team, and the least experienced in the field, although she’s excelled in simulations. She’s a genius with an eidetic memory and is the master of 27 languages. Her team doesn’t underestimate her, but others do, and she is quite happy to use that to her advantage. It was fun getting into the mindset of someone who approaches things a bit differently than our other three TIE pilots.
StarWars.com: The team’s technical expert, Del Meeko, seems also likely to be voted most affable. How does he round out the team?
Christie Golden: I’m quite fond of Del. He’s the one who’s going to make the joke that eases the tension, even if sometimes it’s not a very good joke. He’s older than the others, and he’s got more experience but, like Gideon, he recognizes that Iden is someone special. There’s a warmth and a real sense of decency about him. He may not be the strong leader that the driven Iden is, or the laser-focused Gideon, or the brilliant Seyn, but he’s always going to be the one you turn to when you need someone who’s unconditionally loyal, reliable, and trustworthy.
StarWars.com: The novel does more than tie into the characters of the upcoming Battlefront II video game, it also connects into the larger story of the Star Wars storyline. What types of connections might we see in this story, both to the films, and to other stories?
Christie Golden: Hm, trying not to spoil…l do get to bring back a character I’ve previously written, so that was a great deal of fun. And there will be at least one other person that many will recognize. Another thing that was fun to do was to create the character of Iden’s mother. I so loved the Imperial propaganda art that’s been done I decided to make Zeehay Versio one of the artists.
StarWars.com: Many Star Wars stories bring together the team of misfits and rogues, while Inferno Squad is perhaps a little different -- these are the best of the best, loyal, and disciplined. What is it like writing with this type of team, and how do they react when things don’t go as planned?
Christie Golden: That’s a great question! I think the initial thought is how do you go “up” from being the top already? I think the answer is, take them out of their element. We set up that they have been put together for one purpose, and we get to see them in action doing just that. But the main storyline of the book puts this team in a different role -- undercover, where many of their skills aren’t utilized, or if they are, in different ways. And where they have to think on their feet even more than usual. The mark of excellence isn’t how you execute plan A -- it’s how you come up with plan C on the fly and execute that plan.
StarWars.com: Giving the squad its missions is Admiral Garrick Versio, who is Iden’s father. What’s he like and how does that shape his relationship with Iden?
Christie Golden: Garrick Versio is a very cold, very hard man. He does not tolerate failure or weakness -- not in himself, not in those who serve beneath him. And this goes double for his daughter. Their relationship is formal, unemotional, and based on how well Iden does. It’s the opposite of nepotism. And while we’ll get to see what that does to Iden on one level, on another, it certainly has made her truly the best of the best.
StarWars.com: With Inferno Squad’s focus on Imperial protagonists, describe writing from the point of view of loyal soldiers of the Empire while recognizing that in the larger Star Wars story, the Empire is the side of the villains.
Christie Golden: The way we made this work is by pitting these people -- who were born into this life, who are still very young and haven’t really seen much of the universe beyond what the Empire wants them to see -- against the Dreamers, the last remnants of the Partisans; rebels who are just as single-minded of purpose, and as cold and ruthless, as anyone in the Empire. We start off with our team and, hopefully, learn to like them, and when they face the Dreamers, they’re the good guys. Or are they? Things start getting suddenly very gray for a team that’s used to only black and white.
StarWars.com: As a veteran Star Wars author, how did writing Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, with its focus on the ordinary (or maybe extraordinary) fighters, compare with earlier works that used more well-established characters?
Christie Golden: While of course it’s absolutely wonderful to work with the beloved, familiar characters, it’s also great to get your grabby little hands on -- I mean, ah, to be able to break new ground and help introduce the beloved, familiar characters of the future. All characters are unique individuals. You just have to get to know them and be able to show readers just how unique they are.
Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden is on sale now, available in hardcover and ebook from Del Rey, and as an unabridged audiobook from Random House Audio, narrated by Janina Gavankar, who portrays and voices Iden Versio in the upcoming game.
For more on Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, check out Star Wars Battlefront II co-writer Mitch Dyer's article on why it is a perfect prequel.
James Floyd is a writer, photographer, and organizer of puzzle adventures. He’s a bit tall for a Jawa. His current project is Wear Star Wars Every Day, a fundraising effort for a refugee aid organization. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesjawa or check out his articles on Club Jade and Big Shiny Robot.