We set a course for the remote outpost planet of Batuu and hitched a ride with imaginative and charming author Zoraida Córdova to chat about her new book Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – A Crash of Fate.
Zoraida is the award-winning author of the Brooklyn Brujas series and The Vicious Deep trilogy. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, and Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft.
A Crash of Fate sees childhood friends Izzy and Jules reunite on Batuu after 13 years apart. Let’s just say, a lot can happen in 13 years… and in the hours following their reunion.
Are you ready for a whirlwind adventure set in a galaxy far far away? Of course you are. Saddle up, enjoy the interview, and be sure to grab a copy of A Crash of Fate when it hits shelves on August 6!
We are just days’ away from A Crash of Fate’s release. How do you feel?
I feel both terrified and excited. It is a very strange combination of those two emotions. A Crash of Fate is my 11th published novel, but it is my first Star Wars novel. I write young adult fantasy and also adult romance, so I’ve had several stories out in the world since 2012. I know that I’ve done short fiction for Star Wars, but the novel is a completely new experience.
Very exciting. A Crash of Fate is, broadly speaking, a Star Wars story set in Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu which is now located at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in California and soon-to-be at Walt Disney World in Florida. Have you been to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?
I have not been yet. It is a grave sadness in my life, but I will remedy that as soon as possible.
So, if you haven’t been to Batuu, how did you get inspired and immerse yourself in life on the planet to enable you to write your book?
So, there are several authors that are writing for Galaxy’s Edge or are writing Galaxy’s Edge books. Delilah Dawson, George Mann and a few of the others; Louis Anders also has a book that is partially set on Batuu. We all received documents online that we could access, which included blueprints and supplementary material, character sketches, these gorgeous illustrations of the world and what it is supposed to look like, and what it would look like while it was being built. We got to see what the imagineers and everyone involved with the theme park was able to create. It was really beautiful. In that sense, we get to see all of the work that’s going on behind the scenes, and then I get to imagine myself and to imagine my characters running around the planet, the outpost, and, you know, having shenanigans.
Wow, I didn’t know it involved some special invitations for behind-the-scenes looks and that so many authors were involved with that process. That is very cool.
Yeah, it was a really collaborative process when it came to developing the story. I had my pitch which was sort of like, or I describe it as, the movie Before Sunrise-meets-Star Wars, which is goofy in its own way because it’s a romantic indie movie from the 90s. It is a love story that takes place in 24 hours, so my challenge was making that work with the material that I had.
How did you originally come to write Star Wars stories? I know that you authored different adventures in the Star Wars universe previously, so how did you arrive there?
Well, I don’t know if this is how I got involved with Star Wars but basically I tweeted out into the world, “Somebody let me write. I wish I could write a Poe Dameron YA [young adult] novel where he goes around kissing his way through the galaxy.” I definitely did not use the word kissing (laughs). It is a world that I’ve loved since I was a kid. And so later that day it could’ve been a coincidence or something, but later that day I got an email with an invitation to be part of the anthology. Obviously, it’s not Poe Dameron, but…
Later that same day?!
Yeah! I think one of the editors had read one of my teen novels, and I do write YA fantasy, so I think that she sort of just pulls together authors that are in the zeitgeist as well as those who are doing different things. I was really honored that I was considered when they needed someone to write a YA romance for Star Wars.
Fantastic. Congratulations! Now, let me take us back to A Crash of Fate. A Crash of Fate introduces us not only to Batuu, but also to new and engaging characters. What brief introduction can you give our readers about your protagonists in this book?
Well, my protagonists are Izzy and Jules. Izzy is an aspiring smuggler. She used to live on Batuu, and one day when she was five years old after spending an amazing day with her best friend Jules, her parents decided to take her away without explanation and they end up spending their entire lives running from planet to planet. Izzy doesn’t really ever understand why, it just sort of an unspoken secret, and she knows that her mom has a shadowy past.
Then one day Izzy has to come back to Batuu to complete a job. Jules never left Batuu. Jules is a starry-eyed farm boy, which is, you know, something that we love in Star Wars, and he is at a crossroads in his life – he just quit his job and he’s trying to figure out what comes next for him. Because of the presence of the First Order and the hidden Resistance, the dynamics on the Outpost have changed a lot, and Jules is forced to work that day. He then runs into Izzy again after 13 years of separation, and they sort of pick up where they left off, but it’s a little different because they have had entire lives and he had always promised that he was going to leave and he never left, and she always imagined that she would come back and she never did, until that moment. So it is sort of like best friends seeing each other after a period of separation and what that actually means for them.
I read that Star Wars and family is very intertwined in your life. In what ways did these two themes shape the development of your story?
Well, I would say, unlike Izzy, my mother never had a shadowy past (laughs). I think that the way that I structured Jules’ and Izzy’s families is that they are sort of foils of each other. Jules and Izzy are both orphans, but Jules had a very cohesive family; his parents worked really hard; they came to Batuu like everyone else essentially as immigrants or settlers to this planet. Izzy’s family is a little bit more broken.
I always like to look at the way that families shape people. You look at any character and the thing that defines them is their upbringing, right? So, one of the biggest questions that we try to answer when we’re writing books and is, “How does nature and nurture affect the behavior of your characters?”
Izzy and Jules both have different kinds of family structures, but at the end of the day, they’re both still really good people. And so you make your decisions based on the way that you were brought up and based on the things that you actually want. And so, for me, it’s always about, especially with the characters and young adult novels, why do people make the choices that they do? Why would Izzy try to help Jules instead of making a run for it the way her mom had? That’s very tempting for her. Or why would Jules live pretty wholesomely in an outpost that is essentially the wild west instead of making morally gray decisions like everyone else – why does he choose to be a good guy?
So, I didn’t take any inspiration from my actual family members, but I grew up in a very tight knit household. I’m very close with my cousins and my uncles and my little brother. I like to look at family dynamics in that way and just explore them through fiction.
Family is obviously a big theme in this book. Another theme that I was really taken by was perspective. Readers get intimate insight into of the inner workings of Izzy and Jules in each of their chapters. Can you tell us a little bit about how you decided on the format of the book and the back-and-forth chapters between these two characters?
I needed Izzy and Jules to have their own perspective chapters because the story takes place in 24 hours. The dramatic irony is really pivotal to the experience of the reader. Obviously I can’t control that, I can just try to and hopefully it works when people are reading it.
It would’ve been a very different novel if it had been in third person and only from one person’s perspective. I like the immediacy of first person. I like the immediacy of present tense. And because the novel does take place in a day, essentially they have to have that shift of going back and forth so that you see everything that they’re doing in that day; everything matters from the moment that they see each other; from the moment that Izzy steps on the planet. From the moment Jules wakes up that morning. Everything is important and it’s just this domino effect.
If it were written in any other way, I don’t think it would have been as immediate. So, I did think about that choice. I actually drafted a couple of the chapters in third person before I started and I kept switching back to that first alternating perspective. And you know, Star Wars is about points of views and so, you have to see what Jules and Izzy are doing and thinking, especially about each other, since it is a romance.
I loved what you did with the back-and-forth perspectives in this story. Reflecting on it, I do think, boy, it could be difficult to adopt this style and make sure you’re not repeating the same events from a different perspective and that you’re still propelling the story forward.
I’m glad you noticed that because sometimes I felt like I had to backtrack a little bit. You sort of need to remember where people are, but for the most part everything that they do has an effect on each other. It was a lot of fun and I definitely outlined both of their stories, put them side-by-side, and then wrote it that way, jumping back and forth.
Before I interjected (pardon my enthusiasm), you were beautifully leading into my next question. Like every good Star Wars story, A Crash of Fate is jam-packed and full of adventure, but it is also a romance story. What inspired you to write a romance story in this setting?
This is going to sound super twee, but I think that romance and love – or just love – is a very big and important part of Star Wars. We would not have Star Wars if Padmé and Anakin didn’t fall in love. If that tragic love story hadn’t happened, the Star Wars universe wouldn’t have happened. I think that all of the couples that have existed in this galaxy and all of the storylines are a really big important part. Like, why do we have hope? Why do we choose to fight for things? Hope and love to me are very intertwined.
And it’s not just romantic love. It’s the love of your planet, the love of your people, the love of all of these things. That all creates a reason to fight and to rebel and to resist. So, you’re torn between these two sides. The inspiration for me was asking myself the question, “Why would Izzy and Jules choose each other in a time where the galaxy is in disarray? But the galaxy is always going to be in disarray, so why not choose each other?” They’re on an outpost of a planet that has the presence of the two very dramatic sides: the Resistance and the First Order. They’re watching this outpost slowly change and over time they have to choose sides between these two things. So, when you’re watching your world begin to fracture and change, what are the very human characteristics that remain? Which side do you choose? And, if at all possible, do you choose each other?
There is this great momentum in the book that feels like the reader is moving with and yearning alongside the characters; ever in pursuit of something more. In light of all the questions you just raised, what, in your view, are Izzy and Jules really striving for?
I think that what they’re trying to find is a sense of home. That home doesn’t necessarily have to be Batuu. Izzy’s home has always been her ship and Jules’ home has been Batuu and he loves the Outpost, imperfect as it is, as corrupt as it could be, there’s still a balance there. However, they’re still missing something, even though they go through the motions for the most part. It’s a story about destiny and fate and, and maybe that’s what the Force is; it is a force driving these two people back together.
The Star Wars universe is very immersive and it feels familiar despite hosting lots of fictitious content. The human element in A Crash of Fate – the characters’ histories and their emotional journeys – is contrasted nicely with the fiction that is Batuu and it’s non-human characters. How do you make galaxy life and fictional characters so relatable?
I approach it the way that I approach all of the fantasy that I’ve written. No matter what kind of trappings you have, fantasy trappings, science fiction trappings – lasers and, blasters; warships and banthas and other creatures – aside from all of that, when you strip all of these things away, at the end of the day, you still have very real wants and desires and emotions. People still need to make a living. All these very human characteristics. Like, what are the things that people want?
When you tell a story, no matter what genre it is, you have to figure out the thing that people want and what drives them; what makes them get up every morning; what makes them leave their home to seek something else out. For instance, you walk down the street in New York and people are going to work and everybody is so different and everybody has such different desires, but at the end of the day we’re still all trying to fulfill the most basic needs, right? Food, shelter, love, family, and that’s no different from a galaxy far, far away.
There was like a line in one of the earlier chapters that mentioned something like “investments, family and the future.” I thought, “Gosh, I can relate to these things!”
(Laughs) Yeah, I think depending on how you’re gonna live, it can be relatable. Though, hopefully not like Jules who is basically having a quarter life crisis!
It is great fun to see this well-known and well-loved universe blended together with new content. How do you find the appropriate balance in reflecting on the old and introducing the new?
I think that there’s so many possible things in the galaxy and there’s so many parts that are untouched and unknown and have yet to be discovered. It’s like the ocean, right? There’s so much in the ocean that we haven’t even begun to fathom. But when it comes to Star Wars, every single author contributes [in their own way] to the Star Wars universe. Rebecca Roanhorse is going to bring her own perspective. Claudia Gray is going to bring her own perspective. I’m going to bring my own perspective.
So we’re all adding to Star Wars in a way that only we will be able to do in that very specific voice. I rewatched so many of the movies; there is so much that already exists, but I kept thinking, “What about this planet? What about creatures that look like this?” And it’s a matter of just imagining the wildest thing and seeing if it fits and if it doesn’t fit, if it is too strange, if it is too human or too much like modern earth. Then I would be told that it doesn’t work, and that is fine, but it is just a matter of being able to try and create.
It sounds like you are given a lot of like creative freedom to incorporate as much or as little of the universe that you want.
Yeah. I think Star Wars does a very good job at that and that’s why they have such a great pool of authors because everyone is expanding this galaxy that we love so much.
There are so many Easter eggs in this story, which follows on from our discussion about picking and choosing items from the Star Wars universe. Some of my favorites are Jules finding a fighter helmet from Clone Wars, recognition of the various languages (like Huttese, Twi’leki and Basic), and some of the characters stumbling upon a couple of games of Sabacc. How do you choose what to include and what not to include?
First of all, if I could have included all Star Wars Easter eggs, I would have. There were some instances where I would receive a comment from the editors saying, “You really love Naboo but we already have a couple of Naboo references.” That’s totally fine; it is just trial and error.
I think that the way that I decided is within the context of Batuu as a theme park. Even though it’s a planet that is new to Star Wars fans and Star Wars lovers, it should still feel like a place that you know. So, because it is an outpost that people just stop by and refuel – or they’re there to hide from something or somebody, or if they’re there to settle – people are bringing parts of the galaxy to Batuu. That’s what makes it so cool.
Batuu is a place built on the ruins of an ancient civilization. There are these fantastic, petrified trees that create the spires all around the outpost. Because the place is built on ruins, history is living with the present. So, what does that look like when people bring things from the rest of the galaxy? When people come to hide out? When you have a junkyard where things are reused all the time? Nothing ever goes to waste on Batuu. It is fun to just see those things that would exist in this civilization.
Obviously I could talk to you forever about A Crash of Fate, but my lucky last question is: What do you hope your readers get out of the book? Are there any key takeaways that you want to highlight?
I hope that people enjoy it. I think that it is very different for Star Wars because it doesn’t have a tragic ending (laughs). For a tragic ending, you should read Lost Stars [by Claudia Gray], then read my book. Lost Stars was such a great book and it is the original young adult romance of the Star Wars universe. So, I did have the option whether to go with a happy ending or a tragic ending and I think I’m just too nice, so I went with a happy ending. (Laughs)
To go back to your question, I hope that the takeaway is that people want to know more about this planet; that they want to experience it. For some people who can’t go to Galaxy’s Edge, the books are going to be the first introduction to this world. Hopefully once you’re there, you’ll be able to see and think, “Oh, this scene takes place at this Cantina. This is where they visited Volt at the creatures stall.” All I really want is for people to enjoy it.
– End of interview –
Pre-order your copy of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Córdova from Amazon today and save up to 45% off the hard-cover price. Your use of this Amazon link helps support The Disney Blog. Thank you.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Córdova will be released on August 6, 2019. If you would like to learn more about Zoraida and her past, present and future projects, check out her website at http://www.zoraidacordova.com/ and follow her on Twitter: @zlikeinzorro
Photo Credit: Sarah Younger.