Though the new Star Wars YA novel Force Collector is part of Disney and Lucasfilm's "Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" publishing initiative, author Kevin Shinick was as much in the dark about the upcoming film as the rest of us. Last year, after Shinick, who's also a TV producer, writer, and actor, turned in his draft of the book — the tale of a young man coming to terms with his confusing connection to the Force — he got a mysterious call from the Lucasfilm Story Group.
The keepers of canon in all things Stars Wars alerted Shinick that he had unwittingly woven a portion of his tale a little too close for comfort to director J.J. Abrams' plans for The Rise of Skywalker, which opens December 20 and is set to close out the Skywalker Saga of movies.
"The great thing about the Story Group is that their eyes are on everything," Shinick tells SYFY WIRE of the team that oversees continuity in Star Wars film, television, books, comics, video games, and so on. "Right before Christmas of last year, they called and said, 'We have a problem we didn't foresee happening. J.J. just handed in his script, and it seems you just inadvertently wrote a big section of Episode IX.'"
Though they wouldn't elaborate on plot details, Shinick says, "there was a big section in which [Force Collector's main character] went to a specific planet that they were like, 'Yeah, that entire section has to come out.' It shifted the story a little bit, but luckily it did not change the arc of it all."
The book (on sale November 19) is actually set about three years prior to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, aka Episode VII, which came out in 2015. It is a time when the Jedi Knights have long disappeared and are widely believed to be nothing more than a myth. The book's young protagonist, Karr Nuq Sin, struggles to deal with the painful visions he experiences when he comes into contact with anything associated with the Jedi Order, though he isn't completely sure they ever even existed.
Most members of the benevolent mystic organization were wiped out during Order 66, the Empire's extermination protocol that was seen in the film Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Karr's skeptical friend Maize describes them as, among other things, "missing laser-sword goons," "telekinetic laser knights," and "intergalactic crime-fighting sorcerers."
Karr and Maize, along with Karr's trusty droid RZ-7 (aka Arzee), embark on a mission to uncover the truth about the Jedi and how, if at all, he might be connected. They travel to worlds familiar to longtime Star Wars fans, including Jakku, where they scope out the stranded Millennium Falcon three years before scrap collector Rey commandeers the ship in The Force Awakens. Onboard, Karr has visions of Luke Skywalker beginning his Jedi training under Obi-Wan Kenobi as seen in the very first Star Wars film, 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope.
"You have a completely original tale, with Karr and Maize and Arzee and all this stuff, but when he touches these objects and he gets these visions, you get a chance to flash back to some of the greater or maybe lesser-known Star Wars moments," Shinick says. "So in some ways, it's the perfect book if you know nothing about Star Wars, and it's the perfect book if you know everything about Star Wars."
Other figures from the canon who show up in the book include Maz Kanata, the smuggler queen first seen in The Force Awakens, and Nabrun Leids, a gas-mask-wearing smuggler briefly seen in the famous cantina sequence in A New Hope.
As the journey progresses, Karr learns to control his visions and begins to piece together the truth about the Jedi. "I wanted to create [a] story about someone who really didn't know everything we know," Shinick says. "We all know this saga frontwards and backwards. But I thought, what if you lived in that galaxy? Would you know what was going on? How relevant would it be to your life?"
Though there is much Star Wars history woven into the tale, Shinick created his main cast with influence from his own personal experiences. The book is dedicated to Shinick's grandmother, Josephine Viola, who inspired Karr's own loving grandmother.
"She was the one I would go off and see Star Wars with and that I could talk about with for hours on end," he says. "I think back now and that poor woman listened to me talk incessantly, and she must have had such patience." And Karr's home planet, Merokia, is named as an homage to the Meroke, a Native American tribe that originally inhabited Shinick's Long Island hometown, Merrick.
Shinick — who has also written for Marvel Comics (including the Superior Carnage miniseries in 2013), was the head writer on Disney XD's Spider-Man animated series, wrote the Star Wars children's book Chewie and the Porgs, and is a longtime contributor to Adult Swim's stop-motion pop culture parody Robot Chicken — hopes this isn't the last time crafting Karr's adventures. "I have more stories to tell with him," he says. "Whether we do another novel or a comic, or who knows what."
For now he's looking forward to finding out exactly how his original Force Collector draft intersected with The Rise of Skywalker. "There are certain speculations that I can make based on what's in my book and the characters I could and couldn't use, but I really don't know enough," he admits. "I'm going to be front and center, just like you, excited to find out how this all winds up."