Day 344 – Justina Ireland

Justina Ireland

Justina Ireland wrote the book Lando’s Luck. She was kind enough to answer a few questions via email for 365 Days of Star Wars Women.

When were you introduced to Star Wars? What appeals to you the most about the galaxy far, far away (favorite characters/movies, etc.)?

My first Star Wars movie memory was of the Ewoks! I didn’t really care about the people in the Star Wars galaxy, but I loved all of the furry creatures (Chewbacca, yo).  And I think that is what has always appealed to me about Star Wars: the possibility of it all.  I mean, you can have characters who never speak a single understandable word be fully fleshed out members of the team. How cool is that?

How did you find out you were going to write Lando’s Luck? Were you looking to write a Star Wars book or was it a happy surprise?

It was a couple months before my YA book, Dread Nation, came out and my agent asked me if I’d be interested in writing something in the Star Wars line of books. I said yes, because who wouldn’t want to write a Star War?!? But yes, it was definitely a happy surprise.

What kind of guidelines or guidance did you get from Lucasfilm about the outline of events in Lando’s Luck, especially since this book is part of the larger “Flight of the Falcon” series?

I got the framing story of Bazine looking for the Falcon and that it would be aimed at a middle-grade audience (generally 8-12 years olds) and was told it would include Lando and L3-37.  To which I said “Uh, who?” because this was before Solo came out.  But other than that, I was given a lot of artistic freedom…which is cool. Part of what I love about the Star Wars galaxy is how big and expansive it is.  There’s a lot going on and room for lots of different kinds of characters.

Something for everyone, really.

Did your writing process change much with Lando’s Luck compared to books that weren’t a part of a large film franchise? Any specific challenges with this book? Who was easier to write Lando or L3-37?

This was the first book that I outlined because exploratory writing (also known as “pantsing” in creative writing circles) is generally frowned upon when writing in someone else’s fictional world.  So that, for me, was a challenge because I generally like to feel out a story through the process.  But I do think Lando was much easier to write, just because he’s been in the Star Wars galaxy longer, whereas L3 is a newer character.  I still had a lot of fun crafting her scenes, though.

Star Wars movies are regularly described as movies for 12-year-olds that appeal to people of all ages. But I feel like many adult Star Wars fans skip stories like Lando’s Luck because they are described as books for middle-grade students or younger readers. Do you feel similarly or have a different perspective as an author?

I actually really, really like the Star Wars books aimed at kids! Mostly because I feel like they get to be more fun and don’t have to take themselves too seriously.  I honestly think adults should read more books aimed at kids, because it’s such a nice break from the chaos of the real world and the drudgery of adulthood.  There is nothing that is more purely Star Wars than reading something like Cavan Scott’s fun Chewy and Han adventures or an awesome graphic novel like the Jedi Academy books.  So I really think adult fans should learn to have fun and read some kids books! After all, it’s still Star Wars.

Most descriptions of Lando’s Luck talk mostly about it being a Star Wars story about Lando and L3-37, but there are a lot of new characters in this story like Rinetta Gan, her mother Queen Forsythia Jin, and Zel Gris. Can you describe who these characters are, which one was your favorite to write, and if you think any of them might pop up in a future Star Wars story?

So, one of the things I really wanted to do was to expand the galaxy and introduce new planets and places. I luckily got to do that with Rinetta, Forsythia, and Zel.  They live on the edge of the galaxy and are learning to deal with the impact of the Empire just like a lot of folks.

Forsythia is a queen who values tradition, but her daughter Rinetta understands that sometimes things have to change.  Zel is a Lynna, a feline-like creature with three tails and the ability to shift her colors based on her moods.  They were all a lot of fun to write and were a great foil for Lando and L3.

L3-37, Lando, Rinetta Gan, and Zel. Art by Annie Wu.
I listened to the audiobook of Lando’s Luck narrated by Soneela Nankani (who did an amazing job) but I think it’s important readers know that the print and e-book versions of this book have amazing illustrations by Annie Wu. Did you have any communication with Annie about the illustrations, especially the images of the new characters you introduced in this story?

There were a couple of pictures that my editor asked clarifying questions about and I was happy to provide feedback.  But for the most part Annie did those illustrations based on her reading of the text, and they came out great.  It’s really cool to see a visual representation of things you imagine in your head.

Would you enjoy writing more Star Wars books in the future? If so, are there any specific characters or time periods you’d love to get a chance to write about?

I’d love to write more Star Wars books in the future! And honestly, any Star Wars book would be awesome.  I’m not picky.

For Star Wars fans who have only read Lando’s Luck is there another book or series of yours you feel is the easiest to recommend?

My Young Adult novel Dread Nation is probably most accessible for folks who like strong characters like Rinetta.  It features a zombie-hunting girl in a post-apocalyptic 1880s America.

Can you talk about any projects you have coming up? Will you be at Celebration next year?

Awww, you know the Star Wars galaxy is made of secrets! But! I will be at Celebration, so how cool is that? I’m really looking forward to many Star Wars adjacent shenanigans.

Check out the entire list of women in 365 Days of Star Wars Women in the Women in Star Wars Index. It includes highlights from each post plus notes which posts include new 365 interviews with actresses, writers, artists, and more.

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