Star Wars: The High Republic‘s newest young adult novel Out of the Shadows is almost here! It takes place after an attack at the Republic Fair, and follows an unlikely group who find themselves on a mission investigating unusual activity in the Berenge Sector.
We got to chat with the author behind the story, Justina Ireland. Read our interview with her below!
Nerds and Beyond: First of all, congratulations on Out of the Shadows! This novel really shines in The High Republic campaign. In a universe that’s already so big and continues to grow, what was the process like when writing it? Were the other authors who are a part of this campaign involved?
Justina Ireland: Every book is different, and it will probably come as no surprise that all of us (me, Claudia, Daniel, Charles, and Cav) talk almost daily. But our chats during this book were super important, especially with Cav as he was writing The Rising Storm almost concurrently.
I mean, at the end of the day, when I sit down at my computer, it’s really just me and the story. And usually that’s fine, but in the year of our Pandemic, 2020, writing was incredibly difficult. I’m an extrovert, which is something of a rarity among authors, and not traveling or meeting with other writers was harder than I thought it would be. My battery? Drained. So being able to chat with the other authors daily was pretty much a lifesaver.
Nerds and Beyond: This novel focuses heavily on the characters and their growth throughout the story. What was it like expanding on characters you’ve written before like Vernestra and Imri? And what was it like writing the new characters we meet?
Justina Ireland: Characters are supposed to grow, otherwise what’s the point? Seriously. I’m not the person I was in high school, which is a good thing! A day without growth, or learning something new, or discovering something awesome is pretty much a wasted day.
The best characters, the ones we know and love, grow and change throughout a story. Just ask Luke Skywalker.
Nerds and Beyond: I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and I love how this new era is giving us some incredible and unique characters. To be honest, my favorite out of all of them is Vern, who doubts herself even though she is somewhat of a prodigy. What made you want to go in that direction with her character?
Justina Ireland: I’ve always pretty much hated the idea of the prodigy who knows everything and never has a doubt. It’s unbelievable. It’s as tired as the pretty girl who doesn’t know she is pretty trope. Good looking people know that they won the genetic lottery and prodigies have doubts, because they are smart enough to know what they can do is considered outside of the norm and bound to be challenged. Ever met someone incredibly smart? They are usually wracked with doubts. So when I wrote Vern I just wanted to write her like any other incredibly smart teenager.
Nerds and Beyond Recently, Disney and Lucasfilm have taken steps for inclusivity. What made you want to include Slyvestri’s sexuality and relationship to Jordanna in this story?
Justina Ireland: I write books, not corporate policy, so I happily cannot speak to the first part of the question, LOL.
But I will say this: why is this a question we’re even discussing? When was the last time someone said, “You made your couple heterosexual and extremely attractive, what was the reasoning behind that?” Romance in a YA is normal and almost de rigueur. And love is love.
I think people like to forget that once upon a time interracial relationships were met with the same kind of resistance and vitriol as queer relationships (and in some families, still are!). Hate has no place in any fandom, which should be a celebration of a shared love of media.
I don’t have time for small minded people. And no one else should, either.
Nerds and Beyond: This book has four different narrative points of view: Vern, Sly, Reath, and Nan. Was there any particular character you enjoyed writing the most? If so, why?
Justina Ireland: Everyone has their joys, to be honest. Reath is such a cinnamon roll, and Sly is just an average person put in an incredibly awkward situation, and Vern is really the Jedi of my heart. Nan was great because we really haven’t gotten to see the Nihil through the eyes of a younger member of the rank and file.
I dunno. I guess the real answer here is that if it isn’t fun to write it won’t be fun to read.
Nerds and Beyond: While Out of the Shadows is one of many books in The High Republic campaign, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Did you find it challenging to write about the events of other books without giving away too much?
Justina Ireland: Nope. That is called “mad skillz” by the kids. Well, at least the kids who lived through the nineties, which I guess at this point is the olds.
Either way, not hard at all. The thing about working on Star Wars is your brain is always sifting through what you can say and what might be a spoiler, so writing the same way isn’t too hard.
Nerds and Beyond: Without spoilers of course, can you give any hints on what’s next for Vern, Sly, Reath, and Nan?
Justina Ireland: Adventures! Challenges! Drama! And maybe some heartbreak. Such is life.
Nerds and Beyond: What do you hope you can bring to the Star Wars universe with this book as well as your other books?
Justina Ireland: Some fun and a fresh perspective, which is what every writer probably aims for.
Nerds and Beyond: And finally, what do you hope readers take away from Out of the Shadows?
Justina Ireland: Just have a good time, friends. It’s Star Wars, it’s supposed to be fun.