10 questions with Kristin Baver – author of Skywalker: Family at War

Welcome to the first installment of “10 questions with” a new interview series for 365 Star Wars. Why the new series? Well, I already interviewed Baver for 365 Star Wars Women. I’d also like to do more interviews outside of that project.

Did you approach DK/Lucasfilm about writing Skywalker: A Family at War (SAFAW)
or did they approach you?

It was a really organic process, I think. I’ve been writing for StarWars.com for five
years now, and at Lucasfilm full-time for three of them, so I’ve gotten to know our
publishing team quite well. This idea had already started percolating when my name
was tossed into the ring, and I was beyond thrilled to get the opportunity, but
beyond the name and the construct that it would be biographical, I really got to
make it my own.

Through the process, I realized that this was the perfect project for me because of
my journalism background. You don’t normally think of journalism and fiction
writing going hand in hand, but the research and observation that went into this
book was entirely made possible by my years at the newspaper. That said, it was still
incredibly daunting at the start. But to quote Carrie Fisher, “Stay afraid, but do it
anyway.”

SAFAW is a unique book for Star Wars, as an in-world bio. How would you describe the
book to fans? (how is it different than a novelization of a film, etc.)

Skywalker: A Family at War is a biography of the Skywalker family, treating the
characters and events as entirely real, and following the story for several
generations from Shmi Skywalker to the newly anointed Rey Skywalker. What makes
it unique is that it doesn’t just retell the films, although the events from the
Skywalker saga are front and center in many chapters, but instead seeks to
understand these characters on a human level, pulling in information from
previously published reference books, short stories, novels, comics, and animation
to enrich our understanding. What’s really beautiful about the format is that it
allows us to dig into the psychology and the motivations of these characters, too. So
if you haven’t read all the books and comics, you’re going to learn some new
information here that enriches these characters on screen. But even if you have
been keeping up with every story that’s come out, we’re able to draw some
conclusions and share some insights that are brand new.

What sources did you use for SAFAW? Were any of them new to you?

How much time do you have? I had such a long reading list! To prepare for the project, I read some Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung because I wanted to understand
more of what George Lucas was focusing on when he sat down to create this
mythology. Then I tried to find analogous figures in our own galaxy, which for me
came down to John F. Kennedy and the House of Windsor, with a specific focus on
Princess Margaret. But all of that was really the phase of finding inspiration and
guideposts for the writing itself.

When it came to source material that more directly impacted the text, quite literally,
if a Skywalker family member was mentioned in it, I was reading or re-reading those
portions of the official Star Wars story to make sure we had everything we could
need for this book. The Star Wars reference books and visual guides were incredibly
helpful. I remember digging into Complete Locations for Anakin’s childhood home
and the Lars homestead specifically, because I wanted to know everything there was
to know about where Anakin and Luke spent their formative years (and Shmi spent
her last years.) I was able to get early access to some of the Marvel comics that were
pertinent and coming out before the book but still in production as we were writing,
which was a huge help in Part II for the section that takes place between The Empire
Strikes Back
and Return of the Jedi. I wanted to make sure that, to the best of my
ability, the day the book was published it would be as up-to-date as possible, but
sometimes that simply means making broad observations about the characters that
you hope will hold true even as new stories are told.

But Star Wars is a living, breathing thing, so while I knew that we couldn’t include
everything that had come before it — we would need at least a trilogy of our own for
that — I was quite cognizant of the fact that we’re going to continue to learn new
things about the Skywalkers for years to come, hopefully. There’s another Padmé
novel coming for one, which takes place during the Clone Wars while she was
married into the family. Literally, right around the time I put the book to bed and
finished revisions, we both learned that Hayden Christenson was returning for the
Obi-Wan Kenobi series and saw Luke Skywalker’s surprise return in The
Mandalorian
.

What was the most challenging section of the book to write?

Whichever one I was writing at the time. 😉

I think Part I was the most daunting for me. I wrote it first so I was still figuring out
how to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish with this story, but also there is so
much Anakin lore to draw from. I could have written an entire biography about
Anakin/Darth Vader alone.

Ultimately, his section became more about his solitary journey to darkness and
every step he took to get there. But I kept getting distracted by all these other
amazing characters that are in his orbit and so integral to his story! I remember in an
early draft I had a lot more Ahsoka in the book, but ultimately I had to swing my
attention back to Anakin and how their relationship impacted him, not allow myself
to fall down the (Jaxxon) rabbit hole.

Who is your favorite Skywalker?

It’s so hard to choose, but for me it always goes back to Leia. All roads lead back to
Leia! Her story is so fascinating to me because she has so much responsibility thrust
upon her when she’s still a child and she endures tremendous loss before the age of
20, but she never quits. She is perseverance personified and that strength and
resilience continues throughout her life. Plus, in the context of this book I found a
whole new appreciation for how she handles herself in the most dire situations.

Claudia Gray is the Jedi master of writing Leia, and I was able to incorporate so much
from her books that gives new depth and weight to everything from the destruction
of Alderaan — when she’s not only watching everyone she loves get obliterated but
she’s sandwiched between Tarkin and her biological father with no chance of escape
— to the responsibility she felt to the cause her parents helped to launch right up
through her own capacity for rage and humiliation as exhibited when she’s
strangling Jabba the Hutt, being outed as Vader’s daughter to the entire galaxy, and
enduring the loss of her son.

How long did you have to write this book?

I wrote it in about three months, and then had the chance to go back and revise and
edit after that. But the bulk of the work was really nights and weekends for about
three months last year. It was oddly relaxing and, I would say, cathartic to have a
project like this during the pandemic.

Did working on this project change your attitude about any of the characters or
films you covered?

Absolutely! I’ve seen the Star Wars films – especially the first six – countless times
over the years, but I had never watched them specifically to dig into Anakin’s
emotional state or to try to piece together the timeline of events for Luke and Leia
specifically. I had never really thought about the quick succession in which the twins
both lose everything they know and love, and now I’ll probably never watch A New
Hope
again without thinking about that! And for the sequels, digging into Ben Solo’s
fall to darkness really gave me newfound empathy for the character we see on
screen. There’s so much about Ben in particular that you learn in the books and
comics, so I was delighted that I could weave that into this book, while also
balancing Rey’s journey as the other half of the dyad, and not only her rejection of
her bloodline but her pseudo-adoption into the Skywalker clan through her own
relationship to Luke and Leia.

What was your favorite part of the Skywalker story to write that wasn’t from the
films?

I loved all of the connective tissue — the insights we were able to make in this book.
Even when the events we were discussing take place before our eyes on film, it was
so much fun to examine how the family members were feeling in these moments.
But I have to say my favorite section to write outside of the elements from the films,
strictly speaking, was everything that takes place between Return of the Jedi and The
Force Awakens
.

Do you have a favorite section of the book?

I really love Part II, The Twins. It was a challenge to take something that has been
part of the pop culture zeitgeist for more than 40 years and try to make it fresh and
new, but I am especially proud of Chapter 26, “Redemption,” and how it frames this
incredibly important moment in the Skywalker family history. No spoilers, but Luke
is definitely a Jedi like his father before him.

Can you talk about any projects you have coming up?

Yes! I’ve just finished final edits on the update to Star Wars Year by Year. I picked up
where Pablo Hidalgo left off so those are impressively large shoes to fill. My section
covers 2016 to 2021 and all the biggest news that happened over those years, which means I had to find the words to try to express what Carrie Fisher meant to all of us
as fans and the Star Wars franchise.

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