S.T. Bende is the author of several Star Wars books including The Tiny Book of Jedi, The Tiny Book of Sith, and stories from 5-Minute Star Wars Villain Stories, and Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy Stories. She answered a few questions via email for this interview.
What is your first memory of Star Wars?
Full disclosure, I’m a convert—I didn’t see my first Star Wars film until I was an adult. I would have loved to have known the Skywalkers and their adventurous found-family earlier, but when I finally met them, I watched Episode IV, V, VII, I, II and III over the course of one very eye-opening weekend. The Saga was definitely a hit.
A few years later, I was at my first Star Wars Celebration (Anaheim, 2015). I was at the Episode VII panel—the one you had to sleep in the basement of the convention center to get into. (Laugh along with my adventures here: https://www.stbende.com/confessions-of-a-star-wars-fangirl/) When the lights went out, the Imperial March came on and thousands of fans illuminated their lightsabers and swayed them in time to the music. There was so much excitement; so much love; so much pure joy, that I couldn’t help but tear up. It was an incredibly moving experience, and it was the moment I truly understood just how much Star Wars means to the community that loves it.
What are some of your favorite Star Wars stories and characters?
I love the podracing scene from Episode I. Seeing Anakin use his passion to help his new friends is so touching—and it shows us that at his core, Anakin is someone with a deep desire to fight injustices and solve problems. I also love seeing Leia evolve over the course of the Saga, while always staying true to who she is. Sabine’s arc in Star Wars Rebels is beautiful to watch. And of course, I have loved learning more about Darth Maul through the course of Rebels and Clone Wars. His final battle with Kenobi breaks my heart and fills me with hope, all at the same time.
What are some of your favorite Star Wars books?
I adore Tom Angleberger’s The Mighty Chewbacca and the Forest of Fear. I love libraries and librarians and all things literary, and the concept of a book bounty hunter is absolutely brilliant. Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy is pure genius. It’s such a great point of entry to bigger Star Wars books for kids who prefer a more visual approach. E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka made me cry for all the best reasons. Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is beyond inspired. And all of Claudia Gray’s books offer such beautiful insight to beloved characters—Leia, Princess of Alderaan made me fall even more in love with the entire Organa family.
How long have you wanted to be a writer and what was your journey to get there? Related to this – how do you describe the kinds of writing you do to people (and/or what projects do you think you’re most known for?)
I’ve always looked for creative outlets, and writing has been a really fun experience. I write YA Fantasy, Middle Grade Adventure, and Licensed properties. My YA readers know me for my Norse-myth based urban fantasies. And my younger readers know me from my 5-Minute Star Wars stories, and my Frozen II book!
What was your first Star Wars project? Was writing for an IP like Star Wars a goal of yours? A happy surprise? Do you know if there was a particular book of yours that caught the eye of Lucasfilm?
I am a huge fan of podracing. If given the opportunity, I would happily write an entire series set in that specific corner of the galaxy. I was thrilled when I got my first chance to write for Star Wars—not only because I got to write for Star Wars!, but also because I got to write about podracing. My first Star Wars project was the Prequel Trilogy Stories storybook. One of my stories was set in Episode III, and the other was the podracing scene! I’ve gotten to work on several Star Wars projects since then, but that first podracing story will always be my favorite.
I’m a big Disney girl, and writing for one of their IPs (especially Star Wars!) was a dream come true. I’ve loved having the chance to work on different IP projects set within my fandoms, from Jedi and Sith to princesses and snowmen—and I hope to add Marvel superheroes to that list someday! It’s a huge honor to get to contribute to the worlds I love. I still have to pinch myself every time I start a new project.
My YA Fantasy, Perfekt Order, helped me get that first podracing story. It’s an urban fantasy, where an ordinary girl discovers her new boyfriend is actually the Norse God of War. Action, adventure, science and chaos ensue.
What have been some of your favorite Star Wars projects you have worked on over the years? What are some challenges (or rewards!) of doing IP work in addition to writing your own stories?
My favorite project was my very first podracing story. I also loved writing the Episode I and Episode V books for Disney’s Wonderful World of Reading, and writing the character cards that went along with all of the books in that series. (Giving a shoutout to Gasgano was a definite moment!) And any time I get to type “Luke Skywalker,” my heart beats just a little bit faster.
Compared to writing original stories, IP work is very structured. It’s much more specific in terms of where stories/characters can go, because it has to fit into a particular licensed universe. But IP stories are a wonderful opportunity to share my fandoms with readers. It’s a huge honor to get to write someone’s bedtime story (or any time story!), and I try to infuse all of the love I feel for these characters into every single page.
Are there any Star Wars characters you have not had the chance to write for yet but you’d love to?
I love the Bad Batch. If they ever got their own books, I would jump at the chance to write them. And I’d love to do a rhyming book. Love, love, love. Just putting that into the universe.
Can you talk about your most recent Star Wars books (The Tiny Book of Jedi and The Tiny Book of Sith) – how that project came to you, what kinds of books they are, etc?
These are the cutest books I’ve ever written! I was over the forest moon when the team at Insight Editions asked me to work on them. They’re very tiny books that are packed with pearls of wisdom from the Light Side and the Dark Side. My editor was a dream to work with, and she gave me a lot of flexibility in choosing the quotes we highlighted in the books. I hope you love them as much as we do!
What Star Wars stories (films, books, TV series, games, etc.) are you looking forward to the most in the next few years?
Anything Lucasfilm Animation puts out is an automatic hit with me. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next! On Disney+, I’m really excited for Season Three of The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ahsoka. I’ll be watching all of the slated films. And I can’t wait to keep learning about the High Republic through the books and comics.
Can you share any upcoming projects?
I have a few licensed projects that haven’t been announced yet. I’m in love with all of them . . . and not talking about them is so hard! I’ll also be releasing a really fun YA Fantasy in August. It’s called Shieldmaiden Squadron, and it’s essentially what would happen if Vikings met Legally Blonde. Keep an eye on my website and Twitter for more info!