With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker set to bring an end to the newest filmic iteration of the franchise, various books set between that upcoming movie and The Last Jedi are set to fill in the blanks about what happened during the time jump between the two. Authors Delilah S. Dawson, Justina Ireland, Rebecca Roanhorse, Kevin Shinick and Ethan Sacks joined audiobook narrator Marc Thompson and Lucasfilm Story Group member Matt Martin appeared on a panel at New York Comic Con 2019 to discuss their upcoming in-continuity books, hinting at their ties to The Rise of Skywalker and contributions to canon.
The panel started off with Thompson performing a live-reading of Roanhorse's Resistance Reborn. The passage follows Poe Dameron and General Leia Organa rebuilding the resistance, looking at potential new recruits for Resistance leadership. One is a warlord who used to be an Imperial. She was assumed dead following the Battle of Jakku on a ship called the Ravager.
Zay Versio and Shriv Suurgav then make an appearance. They reveal that their mission to seek out potential recruits on a list has had some ups and downs, as many of the people on the list are disappearing. Poe confirms that Maz Kanata has said the same thing, with the First Order being the likely culprits. However, they do bring a familiar face: General Carlist Rieekan, who was a key part of the Battle of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.
Ahsoka Tano voice actor Ashley Eckstein then took the stage as Thompson took his place on the panel. He was then joined by Ireland, Roanhorse, Sacks, Shinick, Dawson and Martin.
The questions started with Ireland and her Spark of the Resistance book, which stars Rey, Poe and Rose. She admitted creating the dynamic between them was daunting, as there was always a void in her head saying, "don't screw it up, don't screw it up." However, she added Porgs because "they make everything ever." She revealed the book would take place in a previously unknown part of space on the planet Minfar, which is home to a population of "murder rabbits," as she wasn't able to use Ewoks, "everyone's favorite murder bears." The First Order then shows up, further complicating the situation.
Ireland described the book as having a lot of "action and banter." She was able to create her own villain, who was inspired by her military background. "He's conceited [and] self-involved," she said. Ireland then described the overall message and theme of the book as "how you can't start a fire without a spark," before going on to further quote Bruce Springsteen's song Dancing in the Dark.
Roanhorse then talked about Resistance Reborn, which is her first experience writing a Star Wars book. She described the experience as "Mildly terrifying." However, she added, "It was great. Lucasfilm folks gave me so much support." Roanhorse described Lucasfilm's advice as "bring your love of Star Wars to the page and people will love it too."
Talking about the plot, Roanhorse said, "We're rebuilding the Resistance. I wanted to bring a lot of the characters from the games, from the comics, old faces maybe you haven't seen for awhile and brand new characters to do this thing. They gave me a lot of freedom to do that, and I went for it." However, the story will have a particular focus on Poe. "The Last Jedi, as we leave that, Poe has royally messed stuff up," Roanhorse said. "His mutiny has gotten a lot of people killed... He's carrying a lot of that shame." Roanhorse then explained that Poe will have to build back the trust he's lost and seek forgiveness.
Roanhorse said people should read the book prior to Rise of Skywalker because of Poe's journey and scenes between Leia and Rey fans "might not get otherwise." There will also be characters in the book who potentially don't appear in the movie.
Sacks talked about Allegiance, which takes place in the gap between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. "General Leia has taken a team with her including Leia and Rose to Mon Cala," he said. "That planet has been a good source of allies when she's needed help before. She's looking for help, basically. At the same time, we have Finn and Poe looking to replenish the supply of weapons. They're on two separate missions, and I can't tell you anything else."
Sacks said his reaction to being approach was excitement. "I saw A New Hope in 1977 in a theater not that for from here," he said. "I must have seen the first movie well over 60 or 70 times. Every time I hear that music it's so special to me... I got to meet Carrie Fisher... Just to be able to try and do justice to her in particular is very, very special to me."
Sacks said he most liked writing for scenes with Rey and Rose. "That was a dynamic I really like," he said. "I liked kind of giving Rose a little bit of an action beat as well."
"When this story opens, Kylo Ren especially is angry," he said, laughing. "He really wants to find Rey and the Resistance and just really hunt them down. So any planet or any people that get in his way or maybe have extended aid to the Resistance, he just wants to make an example of them. There's a very brutal opening to this where there's this planet that's sort of been neutral throughout all the great battles in Star Wars history." The planet, which has hosted people on both sides of various conflicts, is wiped out by the First Order.
The panels attention then turned to Shinick, who expressed his excitement and confusion at the original Star Wars trailer, which he tried to piece together in order to figure out what was happening. "I want to go back and capture that excitement of piecing together Star Wars and not knowing exactly how things line up," he said. Force Cellector, which he compared to Stephen King's The Dead Zone, follows a young force user around the events of Force Awakens going on an adventure to piece together Jedi history using artifacts, which when he touches will allow him to flashback to famous scenes throughout Star Wars media.
Shinick revealed that, at one point, he "indavently wrote a big section of Episode IX," which caused problems with the book and necessitated rewrites. "We pulled back a lot," he said, " but there's enough to the journey of Episode IX."
Dawson talked about Vi Moradi, the Resistance spy who made her debut in Phasma. She reacted to the character becoming a major part of the Galaxy's Edge park, saying, "I did not know at the time she would be a live person running around in the parks and a major character." Dawson went on to gush about Galaxy's Edge: "There's so much detail. So much love in the place."
Attention then turned to Dawson's Black Spire book, saying, "Towards the end of the book, we might find out what's leading into Rise of the Resistance." This led into an explanation of Vi as a key person behind Batuu and the replenishment of the Resistance's ranks after The Last Jedi.
Martin, for his part, revealed that he keeps canon straight mostly through computer. Although he has a lot of information in his head, he still double-checks it. He also talked about the origins of the publishing initiative, saying "This project was actually really cool. We started on it right after Last Jedi [and when] development for Rise of Skywalker was beginning... We kind of look at it as one cohesive timeline. Very specifically that kind of year or so between the films. We know we have this big event which is Galaxy's Edge and the day that Batuu happened, which is roughly halfway through... It was basically just tracking all of these little things that need to happen."
Explaining Lucasfilm's general process for its writers, Martin said the company wants its creatives to "make things their own."
Eckstein then asked the panelists about things they were shocked Lucasfilm allowed them to keep in. Ireland mentioned that she has extensive references to Poe's hair, which Martin remembers having positive notes about. For Sacks, the moment was personal, as he previously did the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge comic. "I co-created these criminals," he said. "This criminal gang. I got to maybe explore them again. It was kind of cool to see them interact with others. It's kind of cool for some other characters."
Dawson talked about Captain Cardinal, who plays a role in Black Spire. "He's one of my all time favorite characters," she said. Roanhorse has a scene where Poe and Finn have "to get out of their flyboy outfits and wear suits. And Finn doesn't know how to tie a tie because he grew up as a Stormtrooper and Poe has to help him do that." She added, "It was a really touching moment for me, and I was surprised they let me keep it in."
Thompson explained his process for how he voices audiobooks, explaining that he writes down descriptions of the characters and then comes up with voices for them. Feedback from the rest of the crew then helps him figure out how to proceed and revise. He says that, within a few days, he's able to switch between the voices of his character's fairly fluidly.
Thompson got his start when his agent asked him if he'd ever done an audiobook. He wasn't a big reader, so he initially thought about declining, but then changed his mind when he found out it was a Star Wars book. "I think I got cast because I come from an animation background," he said. "I think I got cast because I can do the voices, but I really had to learn the art of telling the story."
The host then asked the panelists to give advice to writers. "Drink water change your socks," said Ireland.
Roanhouse said, "Dream big."
"Never give up," said Sacks, explaining he started at 43-years-old.
Shinick said, "Just keep writing, because the opportunity will come by your way, and you want to be ready for it... Just keep on and you'll have a whole archive of things."
Dawson said, "If you start writing, just remember that all first drafts are garbage."
Martin said, "Give your all to everything you're doing work related, because some of your work will not be fun, but I say I got pretty much everywhere that I've got just by working really hard, and I got recognized from it."
Thompson spoke last, saying, "Learn from other people, but don't feel like you have to be other people... Don't be afraid to be yourself."
You can see a recording of the panel from Penguin Random House below:
Updated with video from Penguin Random House.