I'm a huge fan of Jyn Erso, so when the powers that be announced that we'd be getting a prequel YA novel about Jyn called Rebel Rising, I was incredibly excited. But when I found out who would be writing it, I was, quite simply, ecstatic. I've been a fan of Beth Revis for a long time, since her debut novel Across the Universe. Beth was kind enough to sit down with me to discuss Jyn Erso and her journey through Rebel Rising (Disney Lucasfilm Press, May 2, 2017).
Tell me about your Star Wars history. Are you a fan of the franchise?
Beth Revis: Absolutely I am! Growing up, my brother's name was Luke and I had hair long enough for Leia buns. We had one Darth Vader sword to play with. My parents naively thought we'd share, and we did ... we took turns walloping each other with the red plastic until it had white bend marks in it from the abuse. I grew up in a very rural area surrounded by both fields and trees. A lot of our summer was spent running through the forests, pretending we were on speeders and being chased by stormtroopers through Endor.
What was it like to get into the head of a character who already exists?
It honestly felt like writing a biography about someone from the future. I couldn't ask Jyn how she felt or what something was like, but I had all these mounds of evidence to examine based on what I knew from the movie and from both the past and future of the galaxy. It was fairly easy to guess, based on what she said and how she interacted, the big moments of her life — she lived with Saw, she broke with Saw, she was on her own. It was filling in the small, quiet moments that were difficult.
In a lot of ways, Jyn is like a tapestry. On one end, there's Catalyst, and on the other end there's Rogue One. My book had to fill in the hole in the middle, but still connect with the strings from either side.
Was knowing how Jyn's story ends difficult for you while writing? Was it constraining?
Not at all — it actually made it easier to shape her as a character. You really know someone when they're in those do-or-die moments like Jyn was in Rogue One, and because I saw her character in such a raw, real moment, it was far simpler to go backwards and show how such a person was made.
I found the Saw/Jyn relationship heartbreaking (but no spoilers, of course) in Rebel Rising. Can you tell me a little about how and why you developed it the way you did?
I honestly feel there was no other possible way for it to develop, given the type of person Saw was. He's clearly irrationally paranoid in Rogue One, and that doesn't happen overnight. He clearly felt something deeply for Jyn, and Jyn felt something deeply for him, but there was a break, one that Jyn didn't look back from. Add to that Saw's past, and what happens to people he loves in times of war — specifically his sister, Steela — and they were doomed from the start.
You cover so much of Jyn's life in this book — it spans the years from the prologue of Rogue One to her internment in the Imperial prison. What was it like to follow and develop a character over that span of time?
Definitely a new experience for me! Typically in my own works, I write about maybe a year of a character's life, at most. This was far broader in scope, but at the same time, I love the way it leaves little openings. There are moments where I had to say something like "this thing happened, and then a few years passed, and then this other thing happened." In those years I had to gloss over, there are still possibilities for more Jyn stories to be told, and I love that. I want that, as a fan.
What do you want readers to take away from this book about Jyn?
It's a recurring theme throughout all of Star Wars, but I hope it doesn't sound like a cliche when I say, "Hope." Jyn is a character with one of the darkest lives and darkest fates of any other — I'd argue that her life is even darker than Anakin/Vader's, because Anakin made the choices that put him on the dark path, and Jyn was thrust into it by twists of fate. But despite this horrifically unfair life, Jyn still had hope. There was always a strand of it, running through her as bright as a kyber crystal.
Jyn is also the most "real" character in Star Wars in that she's not inherently special. She wasn't born with the ability to feel the Force, she's (for the most part) not surrounded by important characters, she's not a princess. She was never going to be a Jedi -- or a Sith. She's just a person. And despite that, she still fought and stood up for what was right and made a difference. That's a powerful thing. Of course we want to see the Jedis fight the Sith. But we also need to see the regular people stand up in the face of the Empire -- because that's us.