The author of the upcoming YA novel discusses the magic of key characters from Solo: A Star Wars Story and more.
Star Wars: Crimson Climb, a new YA novel arriving October 10, follows Qi’ra’s journey from White Worm scrumrat to Crimson Dawn mercenary. In a special guest article to celebrate the book’s release, author E. K. Johnston takes readers inside the making of the untold story with 5 behind-the-pages secrets.
1. Crimson Climb is the most fun I’ve ever had writing Star Wars.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing Ahsoka and Padmé (and company), but there was something really exciting about working with this particular cast. I think it’s that I was very free in terms of the timeline (not the case in Ahsoka where my window was super tight), and I wasn’t inevitably headed for tragedy (THAT WE KNOW OF, I’M WATCHING YOU, CHARLES SOULE). Qi’ra isn’t like any other main character I’ve built a story around. She was never going to do the nice thing or the good thing or the right thing. She was always going to do the best thing for her, and that is pretty great in terms of plot generation and character dynamics. I loved building her a nemesis and setting her up against Dryden Vos, knowing where they’re all headed. Also, I may have put in a little bit of LEGO.
2. It was really important to me that the Force artifact Qi’ra’s after had been made by a Jedi, not a Sith.
I don’t get to play around with Force shenanigans very often, so it was fun putting together something Force-related for Qi’ra to be headed after. Obviously, we see where she ends up in the comics, but it was fun to write that first treasure hunt. I came up with a holocron after thinking “What could a Jedi make that ends really badly?” It’s not a short list, but this one had to be portable, so at least that made it a bit easier. I like the idea of something made for the light side with the best of intentions, but by human(oid) error, it swerves too close to an absolute. It is, theoretically, a Palpatine-killer, but there’d be a lot of collateral damage so it has to be hidden away. I hope someone nice finds it.
3. Don’t tell anyone, but Dryden Vos might be the best character to write dialogue for.
There’s a bit in Mur Lafferty’s Solo: A Star Wars Story novelization where Han sees Dryden and thinks something along the lines of “the man acted like he had read about human emotions from a script and was doing his best to portray them.” He’s just so false, but also so MUCH. Stir in the best of Paul Bettany’s delivery, and it’s a magical combination for writing speeches. I did watch A Knight’s Tale a few times to make sure I got the tone I was after. You know, for research.
4. This book had the MOST PAINFUL character cut I have never had to make.
The folks at Lucasfilm weren’t happy about it either! But unfortunately, a certain character in my first draft had to go due to story conflicts. I ended up needing three people to replace her (Sarkin, most of Corynna’s development, and the Mizi), and I lost my second favorite scene in the whole book, but that’s what happens in a shared universe. On the bright side, I did get to keep the opening scene with Qi’ra and Margo, which has been in my head in some form or another since about three seconds after Solo ended.
5. Emilia Clarke has the best face.
This is just science. I love her stoicism and the little ways her expression breaks down when her characters are under stress. I love the moments when we get her full, genuine smile (not too frequent in her sci-fi/fantasy stuff, obviously, but her rom coms for sure!) And I loved getting to write what was going on inside Qi’ra’s head while she was learning how to control her emotions. From lying with words to lying with Teräs Käsi, she has to nail down everything really quickly. Emilia Clarke is extremely good at her job, and being able to imagine her when I was writing Qi’ra’s (mis)adventures was an absolute gift.
Star Wars: Crimson Climb is available now.