StarWars.com talks with the writers joining the luminous ranks for the most recent books in the new era of storytelling.
Phase II of Star Wars: The High Republic, the storytelling initiative set during the prime of the Jedi Order, is barreling toward an explosive turning point. As stories across novels, comics, and an audiobook converge on the desert moon of Jedha, there’s no better time to catch up with some of the authors and architects of this exciting new era of Star Wars.
Told through two waves of books and comics, Lucasfilm Publishing’s creative director Michael Siglain tells StarWars.com that he recommends release order for the phase, which begins with Path of Deceit and ends with The Edge of Balance: Precedent. But Siglain also emphasizes that reading at your own pace and preference is just as important, and there is an official guide to the in-universe chronological order as well. “I think once the phase is over, folks will get the clearest picture of just how everything connects,” Siglain says.
The newest authors to join The High Republic — Lydia Kang, Tessa Gratton, Zoraida Córdova, and George Mann — continue the conversation in this exclusive roundtable interview with StarWars.com, all about the Jedi of this era, what’s to come in the next stories, and more.
StarWars.com: Tessa and Lydia, welcome to the galaxy far, far away! What were you most excited to play with in the Star Wars sandbox?
Tessa Gratton: For me, it was definitely the Force. I've been interested in the Force my whole life. It's basically like the magic system of the galaxy far, far away, and I love thinking about how it works and how it doesn't work. We haven't had a lot of delving into that outside of some very specific areas like Jedi versus Sith. Luckily I was able to dig right away into different Force philosophies, and how different people think the Force may or may not work, in writing Path of Deceit.
Lydia Kang: I was hoping: Am I going to be able to create species? Am I going to be able to create planets? The whole idea of worldbuilding when you're writing fiction is a very different experience in the Star Wars universe, because when you're creating something, it has so much more meaning because of where it's happening.
The other thing I was really excited about was knowing that I was going be able to work with [Lucasfilm]. I was really excited to find out what kind of comments would happen in my manuscript, and to be able to ask questions and get answers. And that has been just incredible because I know how much work they do.
StarWars.com: Tessa, only a handful of authors get to explore romantic feelings from the Jedi point of view. Did you find that a challenge when you were writing Kevmo?
Tessa Gratton: I love a kissing book. I wish there was more kissing in Star Wars, and this was my opportunity to make that happen. I do think that the entire question of attachments when it comes to the Jedi is maybe one of their fundamental flaws as a group, because you have to be in a relationship to exist in the galaxy. As soon as you exist, you're in a relationship with things.
The Jedi have that line between relationships with the Force and with other people, and what becomes a dangerous attachment. I really was excited to push at that gray space with a young Padawan and explore what kind of intriguing emotions might make him approach that gray space both on purpose and by accident. I really saw it as an opportunity more than a challenge.
StarWars.com: Kevmo is adorable. I just have to add that.
Tessa Gratton: Thank you!
StarWars.com: In Path of Deceit, we really get to know the Path of the Open Hand. They might not have the firepower of the Sith or the Nihil, but the Path and the Mother in particular are a match for the Jedi. What do you think makes them so dangerous?
Tessa Gratton: Other than the Nameless, of course, which are a direct threat to the Jedi, I think it’s really two things. First, most of them are true believers, and that gives them a drive where they're willing to do anything to win. They'll throw their lives on the line if they're told to do that by their leader. And the second thing is, I think that the Path of the Open Hand’s biggest strength actually mirrors the Jedi's biggest weakness, which is passion. That’s something that the Jedi do not know how to deal with, and that’s the sharpest blade that the Path of the Open Hand has. So they're perfectly matched to be a nemesis for the Jedi.
StarWars.com: Zoraida, let’s talk about Convergence. We’ve had some amazing protagonists in The High Republic. How did you want to set Gella apart from the ones we’ve met before?
Zoraida Córdova: In Phase I we had so many badass Jedi. When I looked at Gella for Phase II, I started thinking about being the best that you can be in the Jedi Order. What does that actually look like? And how does that come forward with somebody like Gella, who is looking for her place in the galaxy? If we look at the idea of perfectionism, it can be a bad thing, because you're chasing something that isn't actually attainable. I’m a perfectionist, too. Maybe I self-consciously put that into Gella’s personality.
What sets her apart is the way that she interacts with all these other people. She gets to see firsthand what it means to fight for your home, what it means to have to put your people or love first. And then you have the antagonism, which is playful at first, from Axel Greylark. Gella comes face to face with the idea that maybe not everybody loves the Jedi, and she’s trying to understand why that is. How does everybody in the galaxy view the Jedi Order in a different way? She gets to see that from E’ronoh and Eiram and this young representative of the Republic.
StarWars.com: The book opens with an action scene in space. What's your favorite space battle in Star Wars? And did it inspire those opening scenes?
Zoraida Córdova: The opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith is a really great space battle, but I am particularly fond of the Matthew Stover novelization of that battle. We get to see the narration from Obi-Wan and Anakin's point of view. I kept going back to that novelization because when writing space battles—it's one thing to look at it, right? But it's another thing to read it and imagine it and try to figure out a different way to describe the same action. That's a challenge that I really, really love.
For me it was important to have it feel like everything that happened in those first opening chapters is the only possible outcome. If chapter one is the thing that tips the next domino, there's only one possible outcome, and that is to break the ceasefire. It shows how fragile peace is when it isn’t tended to. And I think that that's what this initiative really shows.
StarWars.com: George, Quest for the Hidden City is a middle grade book that has some scary monsters, but it's not too scary. What do you think is the key to making monsters for readers of that age?
George Mann: There's always a risk as an adult when you're writing for kids that you talk down to them or you patronize them. That's something I try not to do. When I was a kid, I was a big reader, and the books that I enjoyed the most were challenging reads. Sometimes I'd have to look up words or they would tackle real-world themes. They weren't oversimplified for me.
So the approach that I took with Quest for the Hidden City was to plan the story like any other Star Wars story. The same sort of monsters, the same sort of adventures, the same sort of scary incidents. The trick in making it suitable for middle grade is to then write it from the perspective of the kids. For me, that's the fundamental difference in writing for different age groups. I wanted to write a book that was kind of a monster story, creating these monsters that were kind of like spooky bat things, and then see that through the eyes of Rooper and Dass.
StarWars.com: Next up is The Battle of Jedha. Can you tell us how Jedha in the High Republic is different than the city we saw in Rogue One?
George Mann: It’s going to seem familiar, because Jedha is an ancient city and there's a long tradition of the way Jedha works. At the time of Phase II, there's a lot of division amongst the different Force sects. It goes back to what Tessa was saying, it's kind of how we've approached the Phase; there are lots of different ways to engage with the Force, and we see a multitude of them on Jedha. That's causing some friction. It's resulted in the formation of the Convocation, which is like a Force council, with different factions coming together to try to smooth the waters. They’re preparing for this big Festival of Balance, which is intended to be a big celebration of the Force that brings everyone under one roof.
There are some bad feelings toward the Jedi. They're not quite welcome, or at the least they're not special. They're just another Force faction on Jedha; they don't have any temples there at this moment. They have a history with Jedha, but currently they're just the same as any other sect. And then you bring in Eiram and E’ronoh to use the Jedi's neutral ground for this peace treaty. It’s pouring more oil on the fire of this tempestuous melting pot that's already there on Jedha.
StarWars.com: Phase II feels like it’s on a collision course for Jedha.
George Mann: It was a lot of fun to pull the threads from all the different stories into the battle, and then let them go again to take those different threads into the other books. It was a lot of juggling, but it was a lot of fun.
StarWars.com: Coming up after that is Cataclysm. Lydia, the protagonist Axel Greylark is obviously a scoundrel. What do you think it is about him that makes him likable despite his questionable decisions?
Lydia Kang: Oh, Axel. He’s a very imperfect person, but none of us are perfect, right? We all make mistakes. I think we have that commonality with this very imperfect person, but Axel just does it with a lot more flair and style that’s so enjoyable to watch.
But on top of that, it's clear when you're reading Convergence that Axel has some hurts within him. He doesn't really want to show it, but they're there. And because he has that—everybody loves a rogue, right? To quote a certain movie, I know there's good in him.
Lydia Kang: You're always hoping that the light side will outshine the dark side and you're going see them do better. So that's always the hope, and there's the tension. That's why you can't look away when he's doing things that he really shouldn't be doing.
StarWars.com: I couldn’t help noticing that Zoraida laughed when you said there’s good in him.
Zoraida Córdova: I keep hearing “I can fix him,” which has been great.
StarWars.com: Is Axel Greylark a character that you created and handed off, or did you and Lydia chart his path together for the two novels?
Zoraida Córdova: It's kind of a blur. We were texting furiously—not angrily, but very quickly—with each other during the drafting phase, so we could line things up.
StarWars.com: Is there anything else you can tease about Cataclysm?
Lydia Kang: It's already been teased before, but Master Yaddle does show up in Cataclysm, and I'm so excited for everybody to see what happens with her.
Kyong Greylark, who is the one of the two chancellors of the Republic, is going to have a bigger part in this book. In a lot of ways, we go bigger in this book as far as the two chancellors, and in a lot of ways we also go smaller. I spent a lot of time with Kyong Greylark in this book, and I really enjoyed being able to get to know her better. I can't wait for people to read more.
StarWars.com: Michael, all of the authors we’re chatting with today are part of the YA anthology planned for next year. Is there anything you can mention about that now?
Michael Siglain: The short answer? No.
StarWars.com: [Laughs.] I had to try!
Michael Siglain: What I can say without giving too much away is that all the stories in this anthology connect to inform, enhance, or tease one of the three phases of High Republic storytelling. You'll see some of your favorite characters in there and you'll also see some all-new characters in there. I can say that Zoraida’s takes place before the events of Convergence. And I can say that Claudia Gray’s takes place one day after the fall of Starlight Beacon.
You're going to see a lot more about this early next year and certainly at Celebration. We are moving the on-sale date for this to September 2023. It gives us a little more breathing room after the end of Phase II, and moves it a little bit closer to Phase III as we kick it off in November 2023.
StarWars.com: All right, now it’s time for the lightning round! First up, favorite Star Wars: The High Republic character?
Tessa Gratton: Marda Ro.
George Mann: Burryaga.
Zoraida Córdova: Axel Greylark.
Lydia Kang: Kyong Greylark.
George Mann: Mine changes every time someone asks me.
Lydia Kang: Mine, too! I think last time I said Geode.
Zoraida Córdova: Also, Elzar.
StarWars.com: Favorite Star Wars book, any era?
Tessa Gratton: Out of the Shadows.
Lydia Kang: Light of the Jedi. That was the first thing I read in The High Republic. I really didn't know much about it, and I opened up those first couple pages and I was just blown away.
Zoraida Córdova: Lost Stars. I reread that book every couple of years. It's still just one of my favorites. Second favorite is Dark Disciple, the Asajj Ventress novel.
George Mann: It's going to sound like I'm just picking my mate, but I think Dooku: Jedi Lost [by Cavan Scott] is probably one of my favorites.
StarWars.com: Which color lightsaber blade would you choose?
Lydia Kang: Green, because it’s my favorite color.
Zoraida Córdova: Blue.
Tessa Gratton: Purple.
George Mann: Red.
StarWars.com: Nobody has ever said red when I’ve asked that question!
George Mann: I’ve got a hidden dark side.
StarWars.com: Which Star Wars era would you want to live in?
Zoraida Córdova: Around the time of Attack of the Clones.
George Mann: About the same time of The Mandalorian.
Tessa Gratton: Do I get to have money? Probably the High Republic.
Lydia Kang: I was going to say the High Republic, too. We're meeting people and the galaxy’s starting to connect, and it's not as oppressive, shall we say, as other eras. I would pick the High Republic for the sake of comfort.
StarWars.com: Let’s say you have your own ship. Which Star Wars character would you pick for your co-pilot?
George Mann: Silandra Sho.
Zoraida Córdova: Oh my God, I just forgot his name. “Alright, alright, alright.”
Michael Siglain: [Laughs.] Leox.
Zoraida Córdova: Leox!
Tessa Gratton: Leia Organa.
Lydia Kang: I would definitely want Chewie. Like I need a big, hairy, scary person because it is so easy to take me down.
StarWars.com: You’re very practical!
Lydia Kang: I'm extremely practical! I'll just hide behind him. Nobody's gonna mess with us.
This conversation was edited and condensed for clarity.