Behind the Book: Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

The Star Wars fandom can rejoice! Claudia Gray, author of Star Wars novels Lost Stars and Bloodline, has returned to that universe once again, with Leia: Princess of Alderaan which describes how a young Leia first becomes involved in the Rebellion. This Young Adult novel is Leia-centric, focused on the character in her younger years before Han Solo and Luke Skywalker entered her life. Her passion, dedication and the pull of responsibility are just getting honed in this precursor to A New Hope, and the novel in paperback November 6, is sure to excite Leia fans of all ages and genders.

Evernight, Firebird, Constellation, Spellcaster and Star Wars— you truly are the master of multiple genres. How does writing in Star Wars canon differ from creating your own series?
The main difference is that with my original work, the world building is all up to me–but the world of Star Wars is already out there, deeper and more developed than anything I’ve done on my own. The world’s greatest designers have already invented planets, ships, creatures and thousands of years of history. It’s a luxury to be able to call upon that when writing Star Wars books.

How do you do research for novels set in an established universe?
Being a big old nerd who already knows a lot of this stuff just through being a fan–that really helps. Beyond that, I’m able to call on my editors and the whole crew at Lucasfilm to ask questions or look at material that feels important to the story.

bookcoverLeia: Princess of Alderaan is not your first foray into the Star Wars galaxy. What makes it different from Lost Stars or Bloodline?
It’s a true young adult novel, for one–Lost Stars really is only YA in its first half, before the characters age into adulthood. Princess of Alderaan is firmly focused on the coming-of-age experience for Leia, as well as some of the people around her. Also, while Leia was the main character in Bloodline, in that book, readers spent time in the POVs of several other characters, getting a wider look at what was going on in the galaxy in the years before The Force Awakens. Princess of Alderaan stays with Leia the whole way, showing us only her understanding of people and politics—which expands over the course of the book, as she learns more.

What was your favorite part about writing about Princess Leia? Did you struggle with capturing the character?
She’s got such a tremendous spirit, and she never backs down. It’s great to get inside the head of someone who’s so driven and determined, while still remaining warm and human, too. As for struggling with the character–since I’d already written Bloodline, it was easier to get inside Leia’s head the second time around, even though the two books portray very different periods in her life.

Growing up, were you a big Star Wars or Princess Leia fan?
Of course! I turned 7 in 1977, which means I was at the prime age to see Star Wars and be enamored with it for life—and I am. My Princess Leia doll, sadly, is no more, but you’d better believe I had her.

Other characters from the Star Wars universe have cameos in this book. What made you choose those particular characters?
It’s mostly a question of asking which people Leia would’ve interacted with at that point in her life. Obviously Bail and Breha Organa are around, and it seems natural that Leia’s long friendship with Mon Mothma would’ve begun around the time Leia becomes aware of the Rebellion. When she and Tarkin meet on the Death Star, they obviously know and dislike each other, so I wanted to show the origins of that animosity. Really the only one I reached for was Moff Panaka—Captain Panaka, in The Phantom Menace—but I felt like it worked for the story to have Leia unwittingly cross paths with someone who’d known her birth mother.

It’s always intimidating to take on a fandom when adding to the canon. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to take on Princess Leia’s backstory?
Well, honestly, it was Lucasfilm coming to me and saying, “Would you like to take on Princess Leia’s backstory?” Generally they propose the basic premise, and as the writer, I get to come up with the actual story. But I’d expressed interest in telling more Leia’s stories, so they knew that this was a subject that would appeal to me. She’s always been a heroine to me, just like to so many other people in the world, so it’s a privilege to get to tell even some small part of her history.

Is there any advice you’d give to young girls aspiring to be Princess Leia?
Be brave. Stand up for what you believe in. Come through for your friends, and they’ll come through for you. Don’t assume anyone’s going to do the hard work for you. Always keep your sense of humor. I can’t help with the “being a princess” part, though. You kids are on your own there.

(And I think Leia’s just as great a role model for young boys!)

What can we expect from Claudia Gray next?
I have two books coming out in April 2019—Defy the Fates, the final book in my YA Constellation series, and Master and Apprentice, my fourth Star Wars novel, which tells the story of Qui-Gon Jinn and his young apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s going to be quite a month!

Claudia Gray High ResClaudia Gray is the author of Star Wars: Bloodline and Defy the Stars, as well as the Firebird series, the Evernight series and the Spellcaster series. She has worked as a lawyer, a journalist, a disc jockey and a particularly ineffective waitress. Her lifelong interests include old houses, classic movies, vintage style and history. She lives in New Orleans. You can find her at claudiagray.com, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Pick up the paperback version of her latest book, Leia: Princess of Alderaan, November 6, at your local Half Price Books or at HPB.com.

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