Resistance Reborn has a unique place in Star Wars novels: situated between The Rise of Skywalker and The Last Jedi, it’s one of the closest moments the canon has come so far to telling new stories set in the thick of the Sequel Trilogy.
With about a year between Episodes VIII and IX and no time at all between VII and VIII, the novel is a chance to see what the Resistance heroes are up to—especially Poe, who gets top billing in this story of a mission to find more allies for General Leia’s bedraggled freedom fighters. It’s the first Star Wars novel from acclaimed writer Rebecca Roanhorse, who sat down with Den of Geek to talk about the book, especially Poe Dameron’s starring role.
Resistance Reborn will be available Nov. 5 from Del Rey.
Den of Geek: You’ve been on a meteoric rise, from a Nebula win in 2017 to a series of award-winning novels. How do you feel?
Rebecca Roanhorse: It’s pretty exciting. It’s a little bit exhausting. But it’s all good! I’m fulfilling dreams I didn’t even know I could dream, so I’m feeling pretty great.
What was your history with Star Wars before working on this novel?
Star Wars has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I used to sneak into my brother’s room and steal his action figures and take them on adventures. I would put them on leaves and float them down the gutters on adventures, and have them fight earth worms. And of course, I loved the movies. But I was not a dedicated fan until now. Getting to explore and know the expanded universe and the novels in that universe, the games and the comics and everything, allowed me to fall in love with the franchise all over again.
What is at the heart of the way you write Poe?
Poe is a guy with a supreme arrogance because he’s good at what he does. But he totally misjudged a situation that got a lot of people killed. He messed up! He has to deal with that. He has to struggle with coming to terms with who he was in the beginning of The Last Jedi when he’s flying in and talking smack to the First Order.
He thinks he has this incredible idea that’s going to bring everybody down. While he successfully destroys the First Order ship, he gets everybody killed. And later on when he leads the mutiny, he gets so many people killed again. So who is he? And how is he going to rise to be a leader again that the Resistance needs, carrying this sort of shame? Carrying this sort of humbling moment?
They need leadership. There’s no space for Poe to sit in a corner and feel sorry for himself. Yes he messed up, but he’s got to get his act together and help keep everybody alive.
The excerpts have focused on Leia and Poe. Talk a bit about the heart of that relationship.
Leia’s job, particularly in this book, is to help the people around her rise. I wrote Leia as a woman who is burdened with grief. She’s been through so much, even in just the last couple of movies. She’s lost so many of her old friends. She’s lost her brother. She’s lost Han. It’s war for her, and she’s living through this generational war.
And of course her son is compromised as well. What that must feel like! What you must carry! But she’s not the kind of person to wallow in her sorrow. She needs to rise. She is a hero. She knows what’s at stake, and she’s fought her whole life for it. So now it’s her job to help people like Poe get over his problems and deal with it. She’s going to do it in the way Leia would do it. She’s going to put him in situations where he is going to rise to the occasion.
And I think it’s the same with Rey as well. She is probably going to have a gentler hand with Rey, but certainly she is always an inspiration, she is always the model of how to keep moving forward, how to not let your losses, your sorrow, your grief, and your PTSD destroy you.
What do you think is at the heart of Rey’s characterization?
I write her as a young woman with a sense of longing, a sense of desire to be part of a community, a family. These are things that come up in my fiction in general, so Rey was a perfect fit for that. She’s thrown in over her head, but also has the innate ability to rise to the occasion, and I think that’s what makes her such a great character.
Is Rey progressing in her Force powers in this book? Where does it fit in her Jedi journey?
Most of Rey’s journey is going to happen in the movie. That’s not really what the book is about. While Rey is certainly a part of the book, the book is focused on Poe and what’s going on with him after his disastrous actions in The Last Jedi, and how he needs to make amends for that and how he’s going to come back into the fold.
You brought in some characters from around the Star Wars world, such as Zay Versio and Shriv from Battlefront II. Was that your idea or developed in concert with other Star Wars story experts?
I think that’s my idea. The folks at Del Rey and Lucasfilm had an idea for what they wanted for the book. They give you a paragraph or two of the themes we want to focus on and where they want the book to go. And then it was up to me to take that and interpret that the way I want. Now that I think about it, I think they said they wanted a mention of Zay and Shriv in the book. But I took that and ran with it, as people will see. I watched all the Battlefront II narrative footage and fell in love with it, particularly with Shriv. I really wanted to bring him into the book very strongly.
I also read the Poe comic books and loved Black Squadron, and wanted them in the book as well.
This book really is the Resistance being reborn. We’re going to bring all these threads together from different properties, different characters that may seem obscure to people who have only seen the movies, but are really beloved by people who are into the larger franchise. And they all have to come together and first the First Order.
A recent excerpt of Resistance Reborn introduces Teza Nasz, an ex-Imperial turned warlord. Is this a brand new character? What was on your mind as you were developing her?
This is a brand new character! In my mind, she’s a black woman. I wanted someone who was a badass. Part of bringing this world together is to — one of the controversial moves someone can make is to bring in some ex-Imperials. Because the Resistance has been devastated, and they need leadership.
There are a lot of Imperials floating around out there who maybe never bought into the First Order for one reason or another and have gone off the map, particularly after the battle of Jakku, which is something that Teza is. Of course there’s going to be conflict when you bring in an ex-Imperial. There’s going to be old grudges. There’s going to be a really interesting dynamic to that.
One of the larger themes of the book, particularly when you talk about Poe, is everyone is capable of redemption. You shouldn’t give up on anyone. No one is there to be thrown in the bin. You can prove yourself and you can come back from some of the things you’ve done.
I’m excited for people to meet Teza. She’s got a bit of an attitude. She’s going to challenge the patience of a lot of the Resistance folks, and I hope she becomes a character a lot of people love.
What is your writing process? Do you outline or write a certain number of pages a day?
This was a pretty short process actually. They gave me about four months to write the novel. In comparison I think I took three years to write Storm of Lightning [editor’s note: her first published novel] but that’s a bit different. It took maybe nine to ten months to write Storm of Locusts. So four months, and I was on tour for Storm of Locusts while writing this. So it was a very truncated time frame, so I had to be very disciplined.
I wrote a very extensive outline, because you have the folks at Del Rey and at Lucasfilm giving you feedback. Probably a 5,000 word outline, then it had to make the rounds and everybody had to buy into it. Then you try to stick to your outline as much as possible. Which as writers often we veer off! There’s the original idea and once you get into it you go “What about this?” And go that way. But I tried not to do that, because that would all have to get approved.
I had word count goals every single day. I would give myself days off when I was traveling but then I would have word count goals every week. And you have to hit them. Or else; you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you’re so far behind that you’re completely overwhelmed. And this is not a project that you can turn in late.
It was quite a process! I learned a lot about myself and about writing and about the Star Wars universe.
What did you learn about writing?
Ironically I did all my doubting at the beginning. I was like, the universe is so huge, it’s so beloved by fans, I’m going to get it wrong! That sort of thing. I was doing a massive amount of research, reading expanded universe books, watching the games, reading the comics. I re-watched all the movies. I think I was so afraid of getting it wrong. I wanted to get the voices right; Leia’s, Poe’s, Rey’s, all those voices matter.
People are attached to those characters. I wanted to do them justice. But then once I started writing, all the doubt went away. Once you give yourself permission to do it it just sort of became real and they followed the path they are meant to follow. So maybe I learned about get your doubts and insecurities out of the way first, and trust yourself that you can write the story.