The authors behind the latest book in the illustrated series talk about writing the next chapter in the Starspeeder saga.
The latest in the Jedi Academy series will transport readers and Padawan learners to Jedha City for new adventure in the Starspeeder family saga.
This time, the focus is on star pupil Christina Starspeeder, in Jedi Academy: Revenge of the Sis, the new book by Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Amy Ignatow hitting shelves in March. Told through a mix of doodles, drawings, journal entries, and comics, the story takes on the trials of starting a new school and meeting new kids and famed Jedi Masters.
StarWars.com recently sat down with the authors to talk about the importance of female characters who are multi-faceted and formidable, the humor in duck-faced selfies, and the transcendent power of truth in storytelling.
StarWars.com: This is the first time Christina Starspeeder of Naboo has the spotlight without sharing the story with her brother, Victor. How would you describe Christina and why was it important to you to shift focus to her trials and tribulations at the Jedi Academy at Jedha City?
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: We learn so much about Victor in his story arc, and his sister is seemingly unflappable. But the family dynamics that affect Victor will also affect Christina, so this new story arc will help us scratch below the surface to discover what we can find. We also get to explore the greater galaxy with Christina as she travels with her mentor, Skia Ro, in that time just after her graduation from the Coruscant campus.
StarWars.com: When we begin this tale, Christina is worried about leaving her brother and they're both still wrestling with the Starspeeder family drama of their father becoming a Sith. For fans of the series and newcomers alike, where does this fit into the timeline with the other Jedi Academy volumes and the greater Star Wars galaxy?
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: The volumes that were created by Jeffrey Brown take place about one-hundred years prior to the events of The Phantom Menace. When I was asked to create a new story arc starting with A New Class, I moved time forward enough so that Jeffrey’s students would be out into the galaxy doing their things but many of the same faculty and staff would still be around.
StarWars.com: These middle grade readers are packed with comics, doodles and journal entries to move the story of Christina's Jedi apprenticeship along. How do you decide the proper mix of journal entries, social media tidbits, and straight comic panels to tell this story? Can you give an example of why one format would be better to explain a plot point or moment over the rest?
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: This is something that Jeffrey Brown set up perfectly and I pushed it further along with the addition of the click-bait articles and Stargram, and now Amy even more so with the addition of Galactic Zoology Today, a news site that Christina is obsessed with. Each artifact moves the story along in some way, though they do offer pieces of levity and references to the greater Star Wars universe. When we use the comics, we are showing what is actually happening at that moment. But with the journals and doodles, we can really get into that character’s brain and psyche. Oftentimes, there is a sharp contrast in how something happens and how one perceives it to be -- in real life and in these books. There is a rhythm to deciding which pieces go where and how many comics pages do we utilize versus how many journal pages, etc.
I’m also a big fan of the page-turn in comics -- when the panels are leading up to an explosive action sequence and then you turn the page and to reveal a double-page spread with action!
StarWars.com: Jarrett, you joined Jedi Academy with #4, A New Class, back in 2016. Tell me about your experience as author and illustrator for the first three books you helmed in the series. How did things change with Amy co-writing this latest book?
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: It certainly was tricky because Jeffrey did such an outstanding job with those first three books. As intimidating as it was, I knew that the only way it would work would be for me to make it my own. I brought in an entirely new cast of characters and my sensibility. With Amy, we really wanted her distinct voice in this. So while I outlined the story, the sharp dialogue and laugh-out-loud character traits are all her. When reading Christina’s journal entries it will feel like an entirely different person from Victor because an entirely different person wrote those lines.
StarWars.com: Amy, what's it been like tackling this project, helping to bring a female character front and center in the series?
Amy Ignatow: Really fun! Jarrett had already established Christina Starspeeder as a really smart, really competent Jedi-in-training and making her fallible and more interesting was a pleasure. It’s important to have female characters that are both multi-dimensional and [tough].
StarWars.com: What was the most challenging part of co-authoring? What comes first, the words or the illustrations?
Amy Ignatow: Jarrett wrote a very detailed outline of the plot, down to which pages would be written as journal entries and Stargram accounts. I wrote the book according to his excellent directions, and then he created the art. Because I’m also an illustrator, I could give clear art directions when needed and I trusted him to come up with visuals that would punch up the words. He did not disappoint.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: What’s funny is Amy and I each think the other made this process super easy for the other one.
Amy Ignatow: This is very true. I’m kind of curious to see what other things Jarrett can do that I find difficult, like bowling or lithography or baking.
StarWars.com: Jarrett, the series is a departure from your graphic memoir, Hey Kiddo, in tone, but both share honest depictions of emotions, anxieties and self-doubts, which is especially important in teaching young readers that they're not alone in how they feel. Why do you think this truth in storytelling transcends stories set in our world and in a galaxy far, far away?
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: I love that you noticed that! What a unique opportunity for me to express some of those more complicated realities about life via Star Wars. Young people need to know that they are not alone no matter what they are going through. It could be something as complicated as a father turning to the dark side or the more everyday worries one has about where they fit in with a social circle.
StarWars.com: She's such a relatable character from her anxieties about starting a new school to getting starstruck in front of her master, Skia Ro. And every time she tries to help it all goes sideways. Did your own experiences in middle school help shape some aspects of this story?
Amy Ignatow: Nope, I was a typical middle schooler -- just really confident and popular and immediately good at everything. Please just believe me and understand that there is no need to ask anyone from my time in middle school to verify that. Next question.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: I, too, had a flawless middle-school experience that did not at all involve getting braces and glasses within a week of one another, constantly getting picked last in gym class, and tripping flat on my face in front of the entire class.
Amy Ignatow: My dude, you just wrote an entire memoir about your childhood. We’ve all seen the haircuts.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Hey, watch it! I went to college with one of your very oldest friends and she’s my Facebook friend…
Amy Ignatow: She is a notorious liar who is not to be trusted and I love her very much but don’t believe a word she says and perhaps remind her that I, too, have blackmail material. NEXT QUESTION.
StarWars.com: There are plenty of sly Star Wars references -- trash compactors and womprats! -- mixed in with humor that every kid can get behind -- an accidental fart joke while trying to speak to the Wookiees. Tell me about your own Star Wars fandom. How did you craft this story so it speaks to both kids who are fans and kids who have never seen Star Wars?
Amy Ignatow: We had a copy of A New Hope that we’d recorded off of television that I probably watched hundreds of times as a kid, so writing this with Jarrett (and spending hours looking stuff up on Wookieepedia) was a joy.
But the beauty of Star Wars is that it isn’t all about womprats (although I would for realsies watch that National Geographic special until my eyeballs fell out). It’s a story of Good v. Evil, of family, of friendships, of doing what is right versus doing what is easy, and I think anyone can relate to those things. You might not be a Padawan, but everyone knows what it’s like to start at a new school.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Funny enough, I did not see A New Hope until my freshman year of college. My grandparents took me to see E.T. when it was released in 1982, and four-year-old me left the theater in tears, terrified. There was no family outing to see Return of the Jedi that next year. At any rate, I missed out and I have been making up for lost time ever since. That being the case, I do approach these books with the non-Star-Warsian kid in mind. The relatable problems get written first, the lightsaber action gets layered in afterward.
Amy Ignatow: I didn’t see E.T. until last year. My mother (not a native English speaker) told me it was “about a spaceman” and for YEARS I assumed it was about astronauts.
StarWars.com: OK, last one. What are you most excited for readers to discover when they pick up this title in March?
Amy Ignatow: That the farts of dweebits made the entire planet of Belkadan uninhabitable. I’m not sorry. This is important information.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Porg snacks.
Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them!