Star Wars is one of the most beloved franchises in the sci-fi & fantasy genre—and with nine films, five television series, dozens of novels, and countless video games released to date, the limits of its universe seem positively endless. We wondered: what's it like to go from fan to creator? We asked five authors of recent Star Wars novels to tell us about the thrills, challenges, and surprises of writing within the universe.


What is your personal story with Star Wars? Did you grow up watching the original films? Get hooked by the novels? Get into Star Wars later in life? Connect with a particular character or story?

I started with the original Star Wars in 1977 (before it was retitled A New Hope), on its second night in the theaters, and I loved it from the start. The Star Destroyer that filled the screen and just kept coming – I’d never had a sense of sheer size from a movie before.

I probably saw the movie 18-20 times during that first run, and have been hooked ever since.

What’s your background in writing, and how did you make the leap from whatever other work you were doing to Star Wars? Did you ever write Star Wars fan fiction when you were younger (or read it)? For an average Star Wars fan, the path to writing a Star Wars book might seem hard to imagine—how did you find your way?

I had been writing professionally for nine years, and had published ten novels and numerous short stories, when in November 1989 Lucasfilm and Bantam Books offered me the opportunity to continue the Star Wars saga, taking it into the unexplored part of the timeline beyond Return of the Jedi. It was the chance of a lifetime, and I was honored and delighted (and more than a little nervous) to accept.

And no, I never wrote or read any fan fiction. Though of course that sort of thing wasn’t nearly as widespread back then as it is now.

Most of the books take place in different time periods and locations, and there’s a lot of different information associated with both time and place throughout the Star Wars universe and its history. How did you research the existing lore for the scope of your book(s)—and what kinds of lore were important?

For my previous books I relied on Lucasfilm’s Holochron database, websites like Wookieepedia, and the assistance of friends who had read more extensively than I had. For Thrawn, of course, I also had to take into account the Star Wars Rebels storyline and to make my novel mesh as smoothly as possible with what the fans would see on screen. Fortunately, everyone at Lucasfilm was wonderful about helping me tweak the references and adjust occasional plot points as necessary to make sure everything matched up.

How is writing a Star Wars novel more complicated than a reader might imagine? How do you ensure that the details of the book remain consistent with the larger universe? How do you know when you can insert a new idea/character/significant event into the universe and when it might cause a problem? Is there a process for that/person you can talk to? Examples/details would be great.

Every universe, whether cinematic or literary, has a particular “feel” to it. Star Wars is no exception. The challenge for the writer is to understand that essence, capture it, and create a story that carries that same sense. That means the details have to connect, the characters have to ring true, and the worlds and technology have to fit. Familiar faces like Han, Luke, and Leia have to evoke echoes of their movie personas, and new characters have to fit into the tapestry as if they’d always been there, just lurking a bit off-camera.

As for consistency and the dangers of contradiction, Lucasfilm has an extraordinary team in place to cover that exact issue.

What was the most thrilling or unexpected part of writing a Star Wars book, in general or in comparison to other writing you’ve done? Was there a particular character you always wanted to work with, or an aspect of the universe you wanted to explore?

In the case of Thrawn, the most exciting – and challenging – aspect was the fact that the characters and story line are now part of the immense tapestry that Lucasfilm is in the process of weaving in the GFFA. That means that, while the book is strongly influenced by the events of Star Wars Rebels, it also may influence other bits and pieces of the saga down the road.

Still, at its deepest core, there is really very little difference between writing a Star Wars novel and writing any other novel. In both cases, the goal of the storyteller is to create an exciting saga with characters the readers care about, put in some twists and turns and surprises, and then bring it all to a satisfying conclusion. If Thrawn succeeds on all those levels, then I’ve done my job

Written by Timothy Zahn:

  • Thrawn (Star Wars)

  • By: Timothy Zahn
  • Narrated by: Marc Thompson
  • Length: 16 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 13,999
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 13,146
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,118

In this definitive novel, listeners will follow Thrawn's rise to power - uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Nice To Have Thrawn Back, But...

  • By Michael Hicks on 09-06-17
Narrated by:
5 out of 5 stars
  • Star Wars: Heir to the Empire (20th Anniversary Edition), The Thrawn Trilogy, Book 1

  • By: Timothy Zahn
  • Narrated by: Marc Thompson
  • Length: 13 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,616
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 11,673
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,661

Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights. But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords - the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn - has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • At last!

  • By Jt on 10-25-11
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Star Wars: Specter of the Past: The Hand of Thrawn, Book 1

  • By: Timothy Zahn
  • Narrated by: Marc Thompson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,436
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,189
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,187

The Empire stands at the brink of total collapse. But they have saved their most heinous plan for last. First a plot is hatched that could destroy the New Republic in a bloodbath of genocide and civil war. Then comes the shocking news that Grand Admiral Thrawn--the most cunning and ruthless warlord in history--has apparently returned from the dead to lead the Empire to a long-prophesied victory.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Zahn is simply the best.

  • By Ezekiel on 10-03-13
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Star Wars: Outbound Flight

  • By: Timothy Zahn
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
  • Length: 6 hrs and 18 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,056
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 884
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 877

The Clone Wars have yet to erupt when Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth petitions the Senate for support of a singularly ambitious undertaking. Six Jedi Masters and 12 Jedi Knights, including Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, and 50,000 men, women, and children, will embark on a mission to contact intelligent life and colonize undiscovered worlds. But the mission is secretly being orchestrated by an unlikely ally: the evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great story, enlightening for fans.HATE ABRIDGED

  • By Preston on 09-05-12
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars


What is your personal story with Star Wars?

I saw Empire Strikes Back at a drive-in-theater, and those AT-ATs stomped their way right into my heart. I’ve been enveloped in the Star Wars universe since!

What’s your background in writing, and how did you make the leap from whatever other work you were doing to Star Wars?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, honestly, and you’re darn tootin’ that I wrote Star Wars fan-fic back then. Friends of mine used to have a notebook we passed around and used for a kind of continuous shared storyworld thing. It contained a lot of SW fan service, but also mixed in stuff from other storyworlds, too, stuff from comics and video games. I think a lot of authors begin with fan-fic, and maybe a little part of our hearts never leaves it.

Eventually I figured I’d better find a way to make money at doing it—so, I first jumped into freelance writing pen-and-paper RPGs. I did that for over a decade, mostly full-time. Eventually I decided I’d never realize my true goal—being a layabout gadfly who is drunk on his own prose (and probably absinthe), so instead I decided it was high-time to just be a regular old novelist.

I’d gotten about 15 novels on the shelves before one day I innocuously tweeted about wanting to one day write a SW novel, and as it turns out, I possessed The Force for the span of time it took to compose and post that tweet, because it worked.

How did you research the existing lore for the scope of your book(s)—and what kinds of lore were important?

It makes for fun research because it’s like, “OH NO, I HAVE TO WATCH STAR WARS: REBELS. WHAT WOE, WHAT MISERY.” Then I’d mainline three hours of it. Because it’s awesome.

How is writing a Star Wars novel more complicated than a reader might imagine? What was the inspiration behind Sinjir Rath Velus, and how did it feel to introduce one of the first gay characters into Star Wars canon?

It’s complicated because there’s a lot of juggling going on. And sometimes you’re juggling things in the dark because this is a very live, very active storyworld. It’s not segmented like a lot of other narrative properties – it’s all engaged and moving forward and backward in time simultaneously, so there’s so much going on behind the scenes that you don’t even know about. A lot of times you just try stuff and hope it sticks.

Sinjir is a character I adore. He’s fun to write and is a character I care very much about, and I’m glad to have been able to write him.

What was the most thrilling or unexpected part of writing a Star Wars book, in general or in comparison to other writing you’ve done? Was there a particular character you always wanted to work with, or an aspect of the universe you wanted to explore?

I got to write Jar-Jar Binks, so that’s something.

Really, there’s no end to the awesome of getting to carve my own small space in the Star Wars universe. I’d live here if I could. And I’d still love a chance to write some post-ROTJ Luke Skywalker.

Hint, hint, Lucasfilm. *stares*

Written by Chuck Wendig:

  • Aftermath: Star Wars

  • Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • By: Chuck Wendig
  • Narrated by: Marc Thompson
  • Length: 12 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 10,466
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,866
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 9,847

The second Death Star has been destroyed, the emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. Devastating blows against the Empire and major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over. As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance - now a fledgling New Republic - presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy's scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy's strength is unfolding.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Disappointing and Frustrating

  • By Jason on 09-08-15
Narrated by:
4 out of 5 stars
  • Star Wars: Life Debt - Aftermath, Book 2

  • By: Chuck Wendig
  • Narrated by: Marc Thompson
  • Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,827
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,347
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,322

Set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the never-before-told story that began with Star Wars: Aftermath continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig's New York Times best-selling trilogy.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Huge improvement over "Aftermath", but not perfect

  • By Sara on 07-18-16
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Empire's End: Aftermath

  • Star Wars
  • By: Chuck Wendig
  • Narrated by: Marc Thompson
  • Length: 15 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,823
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,402
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,389

Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times best-selling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • meh

  • By RC on 03-09-17
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars


What is your personal story with Star Wars?

I was 7 when the original Star Wars came out, and I feel like that ended my brief relationship with reality. From that moment on, I was into scifi, fantasy, anything speculative and dramatic. When the prequels came out, I stood in line five hours for The Phantom Menace. I owned a lot of the Legends books and collected them very seriously until about 2000 or so. Star Wars has been so much a part of my life that it's honestly hard to separate out from the rest of it.

What’s your background in writing, and how did you make the leap from whatever other work you were doing to Star Wars?

I began as a fanfiction writer. (Not first for Star Wars, and not primarily--but yes, SW fanfic did happen.) Finally, in 2006 I made the shift over into original fiction, breaking into the then brand-new young adult market. It honestly never occurred to me to try to write an SW book, though. I even knew an editor there, but it simply didn't ping on my radar, ever. When I got the email that led to Lost Stars, I was honestly stunned. But also excited.

How did you research the existing lore for the scope of your book(s)—and what kinds of lore were important?

This is where a lifetime of serious, devoted geekdom pays off. You do not want to know how much I didn't have to look up for this. That said, of course writing a professional tie-in requires more attention to detail. There was a lot of rewatching of movies for tiny things, like, "what shape are the windows on a star destroyer?"

With Bloodline, the process became trickier, because the book serves as a prequel to The Force Awakens -- which I hadn't seen yet! While I got to edit the book post-release, I had to complete the first draft with only minimal information about The Force Awakens. That said...I think Lucasfilm would've given me more info if I'd asked. But I insisted on knowing only what I had to know; as a fan, I wanted to go into the movie unspoiled. Happily, my editors and story group worked with me to make sure that I kept things on track.

How is writing a Star Wars novel more complicated than a reader might imagine?

Outlines and books go through both the editors and story group. While I'm at the outline stage, I'll go ahead and ask whether a character who does X or Y might be someone from the existing lore, or whether I should create someone new. We work together a lot at the beginning to make sure the general parameters are in place. Still, sometimes, we run into snags! With Lost Stars, I had Darth Vader's flagship, the Devastator, in one location...and promptly got a note saying, Nope, that ship isn't there. I said something like, "It's an imaginary ship in our heads, so it could be anywhere?" But not in this case! Other canon had already done something with the Devastator in that window of time, and that's that. I'd never been in a situation like that before! Fortunately, it's usually not too hard to work around.

What was the most thrilling or unexpected part of writing a Star Wars book, in general or in comparison to other writing you’ve done? Was there a particular character you always wanted to work with, or an aspect of the universe you wanted to explore?

Princess Leia had been my hero since I was a little girl, so getting to write Bloodline was just incredible. But I'd have to say, the most thrilling and unexpected part has been learning just how many people Star Wars books reach. I've received multiple tweets and emails from people who say, "I haven't read a book in ten years," or even "Lost Stars is the first book I ever finished." To be able to reach people who are usually non-readers, and have them share in the joy and escapism of books--in all honesty, it's an honor, and one I didn't expect.

Written by Claudia Gray:

  • Star Wars: Bloodline - New Republic

  • By: Claudia Gray
  • Narrated by: January LaVoy
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,031
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,409
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,389

From the New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars: Lost Stars comes a thrilling novel set in the years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • fantastic

  • By Amazon Customer on 05-08-16
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Star Wars: Lost Stars

  • By: Claudia Gray
  • Narrated by: Pierce Cravens
  • Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,412
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,997
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,990

This thrilling young adult novel gives listeners a macro view of some of the most important events in the Star Wars universe, from the rise of the Rebellion to the fall of the Empire. Listeners will experience these major moments through the eyes of two childhood friends - Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell - who have grown up to become an Imperial officer and a Rebel pilot. Now on opposite sides of the war, will these two star-crossed lovers reunite, or will duty tear them - and the galaxy - apart?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Cure for the Aftermath Blues

  • By Matt H. on 09-18-15
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars


What is your personal story with Star Wars?

My introduction to Star Wars was watching the original trilogy on videocasette. I never played with the toys or read the comics when I was little, but the films were more than enough--as a small child, I used to rotate through them, watching a few minutes every day after school as if they were serialized! (The one "extra" I did have was the picture books; many years later I was astonished to realize that the Return of the Jedi Storybook was written by, of all people, the great science-fiction writer Joan Vinge.)

What’s your background in writing, and how did you make the leap from whatever other work you were doing to Star Wars?

I came to writing Star Wars through video games; I was hired as a writer at game developer BioWare as the company was staffing up for a project called Star Wars: The Old Republic. Working on that game opened the door to writing Star Wars comic books, which in turn opened the door to novels. I love all those media for different reasons--there are stories that are best told as games, or comics, or novels, and jumping between all three means I don't have to limit myself. The funny thing is, I never went looking for Star Wars work--it just happened to be where I found myself as I sought opportunities to write worthwhile stories. Over the years, we turned out to be good to one another.

Fan fiction was never really part of my literary life, though I've worked with Star Wars game writers who had their start there. I largely skipped over the non-film Star Wars experience--as important as the films were to me as a child, I didn't actively seek more stories in that universe until I began working in that realm professionally.

How did you research the existing lore for the scope of your book(s)—and what kinds of lore were important?

Working on the games and comics beforehand gave me a good grounding in the overall sweep of the Star Wars galaxy, but there's so much depth that one could research indefinitely and still find more material to draw from. My general approach is a safe, conservative one--I try to find places, times, themes, ideas, and so forth that are relatively undeveloped (which means those elements are fresher for the audience and simpler for me) and then look for natural links to what other authors have already done.

In Battlefront: Twilight Company, for example, I spent a bit of time early in the process confirming that there wasn't extensive material surrounding the non-elite infantry of the Rebellion. I knew broadly the sort of story I wanted to tell--an unglamorous story of front-line grunts--but the particulars were dependent on what already existed. And of course, Lucasfilm and Del Rey Books were enormously helpful in finding specific places to build in ties to the growing new canon.

How is writing a Star Wars novel more complicated than a reader might imagine?

The Story Group folks over at Lucasfilm and Del Rey Books editorial are invaluable in this regard--not just because they're enormously knowledgable about the content, but because they're more interested in adapting than gatekeeping. When Everi Chalis, one of the Battlefront: Twilight Company characters, turned out to have overlap with A New Dawn's Count Vidian, the reaction wasn't, "That's already been done, find something else." It was, "Can we build on this? Can we create a connection between these two?" Which is how Chalis ended up as Vidian's protege in the realm of galactic logistics.

What was the most thrilling or unexpected part of writing a Star Wars book, in general or in comparison to other writing you’ve done? Was there a particular character you always wanted to work with, or an aspect of the universe you wanted to explore?

For me, the most exciting part of working on anything Star Wars is the opportunity to reach such a large and passionate audience. Everyone knows Star Wars. Everyone loves Star Wars--people who would never play a video game or read a science-fiction novel have strong opinions about Wookiees and the Force. That means that telling a Star Wars story is a rare privilege and responsibility--I'm thrilled to have so many fans emotionally invested in my work, and I owe it to them to do right by such a wondrous creation and make sure my story is worth their while. How can I not seize a chance like that?

Written by Alexander Freed:

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • By: Alexander Freed
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
  • Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,103
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,872
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,867

As the shadows of the Empire loom ever larger across the galaxy, so do deeply troubling rumors. The Rebellion has learned of a sinister Imperial plot to bring entire worlds to their knees. Deep in Empire-dominated space, a machine of unimaginable destructive power is nearing completion. A weapon too terrifying to contemplate...and a threat that may be too great to overcome.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Better than the movie!

  • By Acts238preacher on 12-19-16
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Battlefront: Twilight Company

  • Star Wars
  • By: Alexander Freed
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
  • Length: 13 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,890
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,713
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,714

A companion novel inspired by the hotly anticipated video game Star Wars: Battlefront, this action-packed adventure follows a squad of soldiers caught in the trenches of the ultimate galactic war between good and evil.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The War in Star Wars

  • By jordan on 11-10-15
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars


What is your personal story with Star Wars?

I joke that I don't remember life before Star Wars, but the first thing I can recall is The Story of Return of the Jedi, which was a recording on actual vinyl! Specifically, I remember Carrie Fisher's voice (I imprinted, obviously; Leia has been my favourite ever since), and the Darth Vader breathing effect, which terrified me because it's terrifying. In any case, it was enough to hook me for life.

What’s your background in writing, and how did you make the leap from whatever other work you were doing to Star Wars?

I started publishing fanfiction online in 2003, but never wrote any Star Wars fic. I didn’t read much Star Wars fic either…and I didn’t read EU novels, though I did do a lot of what I now realize is Live Action Role Playing in the back yard. After my first novel came out, I asked my agent if he thought we could try for a Star Wars book, and we did!

How did you research the existing lore for the scope of your book(s)—and what kinds of lore were important?

Well, lightsaber lore was important, but I can’t tell you why because it’s [redacted for spoilers].

How is writing a Star Wars novel more complicated than a reader might imagine?

The complicated part of writing a Star Wars novel is that it is, in a way I can’t specifically articulate, not at all like writing fanfiction. You work with the story group, who keeps you on track. AHSOKA originally had three endings (the last chapter, then a two-part epilogue), which became two endings, but there were elements of the part that got cut that show up in the published book.

What was the most thrilling or unexpected part of writing a Star Wars book, in general or in comparison to other writing you’ve done? Was there a particular character you always wanted to work with, or an aspect of the universe you wanted to explore?

It is not super connected to the book itself, but I really, really love seeing people in costumes, especially families, which was something I never had the opportunity to do before the book came out. I also really loved writing Bail Organa and Alderaan. And, of course, there was Ahsoka herself. She is such a marvelous character, and getting to fill in some of the gaps in her story was amazing.

Written by E.K. Johnston:

  • Star Wars: Ahsoka

  • By: E. K. Johnston
  • Narrated by: Ashley Eckstein
  • Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,001
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,342
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,330

Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars and before she reappeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa - and the Rebel Alliance.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • The highs were high! But the lows, very low.

  • By K Michael on 11-03-16
Narrated by:
4.5 out of 5 stars