Spanning the gap between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, a new tie-in novel plunges into the aftermath of the 2017 film and begins the process of refortifying the rebel forces leading into the Skywalker Saga's grand conclusion.
Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, written by Hugo- and Nebula Award-nominated author Rebecca Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning), kicks off right after the events of The Last Jedi, following General Leia Organa, Poe Dameron, Finn, and Rey as they endeavor to resurrect and rebuild the Resistance in the wake of their defeat at the hands of the First Order.
With Resistance Reborn, Roanhorse pulls in shards from the entire Star Wars universe, including characters that had previously only been seen in the Star Wars Battlefront II video game and the original Star Wars trilogy, smoothly wrapping up several plotlines from other ancillary novels, and creates the perfect primer for Episode IX. (For a detailed breakdown of the new novel, check out our deep dive here.)
SYFY WIRE spoke with Roanhorse on what it takes to tackle a Star Wars novel, how she put her personal stamp on this story, playing with Star Wars action figures growing up, keeping Star Wars weird, and the satisfaction of delivering fans something new to love in the galaxy far, far away.
What was the most beneficial advice you were given to gain courage and confidence to tackle a Star Wars novel?
Getting the gig is one thing, but getting the confidence to actually write a Star Wars novel is on a whole other level. Fans are so invested in it, and you don't want to let them down. You want to write something that a large swath of fans and people enjoy; you can't please everyone, clearly.
I talked to Daniel Older, he's a friend of mine, and he wrote Last Shot. I asked him how he did it. He said, "Look, they read your stuff, they know who you are, they know what you write, and they hired you for a reason. They don't want you to write everyone else's Star Wars, they want you to write your Star Wars. Do what you do best and bring that to Star Wars."
Being of Native American descent, what personal knowledge of indigenous people were you able to work into the novel?
Well, I added certain characters like the Agoyo siblings. "Agoya" means "star" in the Tewa language, and that is the language of my mother's Pueblo, so that was a little shout-out to my Pueblo heritage. And I think generally themes of resistance resonate in indigenous communities, so I definitely felt comfortable writing a story about the little guy against the big odds.
When you approached your research process, what were your go-to reference guides in the Star Wars Universe?
Everything! I just became a sponge. I watched all the movies — well, maybe not the prequels. I watched The Last Jedi maybe 20 times. I read the Poe Dameron comics, the Aftermath Trilogy, Bloodline, Twilight Company, and just really tried to immerse myself in the expanded universe and everything that it had to offer. And then, of course, Lucasfilm has story group people who are absolutely awesome. They told me to not get caught in the minutiae of how a ship works or specific technical details work. There are people who do that for a living, and you can rely on them.
What are your deepest and earliest connections to the Star Wars franchise, and how did you honor those in Resistance Reborn?
My brother and I collected all the Star Wars action figures, and I can remember saving up the proof of purchases to send off for Boba Fett, because you couldn't buy him at the store. We had the Millennium Falcon and all the Star Wars toys back then, and I would take them and create adventures for them. I had Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys, and I'd create space stations and planets. Then I'd take them out in the rain and float them down gutters and they'd fight earthworms.
In a way, writing this story felt a lot like that! Now I get to do it for real and create the adventures with these characters that I love or have discovered a new love for diving back into the EU after all these years. For me, it was really rediscovering the wonder and the joy of Star Wars, and I say that in all sincerity. So this was sort of the adult version of playing with action figures.
What were some of the important themes and concepts you wanted to bring into your story to prime people for The Rise of Skywalker?
When Del Rey Books and Lucasfilm gave me the gig, they told me the themes they wanted me to focus on. One of them is rebuilding leadership, this idea that the Resistance is completely decimated and they've lost so many people. So not only are they rebuilding ships and supplies, but also people and leadership. And Poe, dealing with the repercussions of his behavior in The Last Jedi, and that he basically led a mutiny and his decisions got people killed and he has to wrestle with that. And then I think a third theme is Leia handing off her life's work to the next generation.
This is a war, a generational war, and it is devastating. Someone like Leia has lost her home planet, her husband, her son in a way, and her brother. Just think of the mountain of grief that must be on her shoulders all the time, and yet she goes on and she still fights. I really tried to feel the burdens of those two characters in that situation and hopefully bring that to the page.
The book is brimming with so much Star Wars lore and love. Was there anything in your original outline or draft that was cut that you wished you could have left in?
Not really. Lucasfilm and Del Rey gave me a lot of freedom to write what I wanted to write. Some of the things I thought would not make the cut definitely made it in. At one point my editor told me, "We like to keep Star Wars weird, so feel free to create a spa planet." I know, the scene with Poe helping Finn tie his tie, I wasn't sure they'd let me keep that in, but they loved it. So no, I got to keep pretty much everything I wanted.
What new parts of the book did you create that will live on in the official Star Wars canon?
Well, I got to create new characters from scratch, which was fun. Like the ex-Imperial Teza Nasz and the son of the Phantom Squadron pilot Pacer Agoyo. I got to take Battlefront II characters like Shriv and Zay and really flesh them out a bit and bring them to new fans that were not familiar to the gameplay, so that's pretty cool. I don't know anything about the next movie. They did not share any of that with me. I really hope that I got to add to Poe's story as well.
I'll be honest, I was not a huge Poe fan coming into this. I love a Jedi. So he wasn't my focus before, but coming out of it I absolutely love him. This was my chance to get to know him and spend some time in his head and figure out who he is. I don't know what they're going to do with him in the next movie, but hopefully what I wrote for him carries on and helps his overall characterization.
How did you approach the fan-favorite character of Wedge Antilles and his scenes with his wife Norra to keep his spirit intact yet add to his legend?
I've always loved Wedge from the beginning. I'm a huge Wedge fan, and I'm not sure exactly why, but he always appealed to me as this hero in the shadows, in Luke's shadow, always there and always willing to fight. And I read Aftermath, Chuck Wendig's trilogy that has some Wedge in it, then I just went from there. I imagined him as this war veteran that has survived so many battles and his friends did not, and thought about what that must feel like.
Speculation is that Wedge might pop up or make a cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. How did you navigate around his character, not knowing his fate on the big screen?
Well, I kind of just left him there in the end. I didn't want to give the impression that he was going to be in the movie, because I don't know if he will be or not. But we wanted to make him part of the Resistance and part of the fight in Resistance Reborn. But certainly it leaves on a note of he and Norra going to go do the real thing and sort of spread the good word and do what they can in their own way, but they are not a core part of the group anymore at the end of the book. But I did love writing Wedge on the planet Akiva with Norra and that whole sequence.
When Shriv and Zay form Dross Squadron and bolt off for Bracca, that is one of the most dynamic segments of the book and plays like a mini-movie within the overarching plot. Can you take us through how those chapters were imagined and executed?
Yeah, I love Zay and Shriv too and love them for their squadron. I really wanted to create a squadron. And you'd be surprised how many there are and how many names are already taken! So I threw around the idea that they were the dregs, and thought it really fit Shriv's personality that he would come up with something like Dross Squadron. I guess in a sense he has his own story, and I wanted to take what Battlefront had done and play with his personality a little bit. He's certainly comic relief to a degree in the story because of his attitude.
But it's more than that. He's got his own arc of "What is leadership?" and the idea that not everyone is cut out to be a leader, but you'd be surprised what you can do on an individual level for people relying on you. And I wanted to talk about Zay a bit too, and have Shriv be something to just enjoy in the story as just a great addition.
Are there any easter eggs you hid in the book that fans missed that you can hint at?
I did put in a lot of stuff, small-type things. [Laughs.] Oh, I do have a Lord of the Rings reference that people can look for that I thought was kind of fun. My editor caught it, but I haven't heard anyone online call it out or anything. There is a Faramir reference in there, and I'll leave it at that.
Without reading the script for The Rise of Skywalker or knowing any specific plot points, how were you able to "stick the landing" on Resistance Reborn and let it dovetail nicely into the next film?
All praise for landing the story should go to my editor Tom Hoeler, and he has read the screenplay and knew where we needed to end up. So without explicit direction, he would nudge me here and there. He'd say, "Let's emphasize this, let's not emphasize that" sort of thing so it would fit well into the upcoming movie.
The whole thing feels so surreal. I want to always shout that "I wrote a Star Wars book, can you believe it?" Growing up with it as a kid, this is the sort of thing that does not seem like in the realm of possibility in my life. I feel like I gave people something to love and something to get a little bit of that magic back for fans going to see the next movie. That's the best part. That's the reward.