Best-selling author (and Western North Carolina fixture) Beth Revis has never, she says, lost her cool in front of her agent. But last spring, when that literary agent let her know that film and TV production company Lucasfilm wanted her to write a young adult novel based on the Star Wars universe, Revis couldn’t help herself.
“She said, ‘Have you ever heard of this? Do you have any interest?’ and I was just screaming on the phone,” Revis remembers. “I told my agent, ‘Yes, of course! I’ll do it for free.’ And she said, ‘Don’t talk to them until I get the contract!’”
Revis says she doesn’t know how Lucasfilm selected her to write Star Wars: Rebel Rising, a novel depicting the early life of Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso. But for many familiar with YA science fiction, the local author seems a natural fit.
“Her die-hard sci-fi fans are most assuredly crossover Star Wars enthusiasts, too,” says Amy Cherrix, an author, editor and bookseller at Malaprop’s. The local bookstore will hold a launch event for Rebel Rising on Thursday, May 4 — a signal date for Star Wars fans, who have adopted it as “May the Fourth Be With You,” a day to celebrate all things Star Wars.
Cherrix is thrilled that Malaprop’s will host the release, which will feature a costume contest, prize drawings and other fun activities, along with books based on the far-flung franchise. “To be able to do that while also celebrating an incredibly talented local author at your community bookstore makes the event so much more fun for everybody,” Cherrix says. “It just really feels like the ultimate hometown Star Wars party.”
It’s a celebration now, but creating a backstory for Jyn Erso presented Revis with some new challenges.
“I always wanted to write for Star Wars,” she says, and confesses that some of her earliest memories are of “putting my hair up in Princess Leia buns and beating my brother with a plastic light saber.” But the prospect of actually creating Star Wars canon — new aspects of the beloved universe that creators working after her will have to take note of — was, she says, “amazing and terrifying at the same time because I don’t want to let anyone down.”
Revis took the challenge seriously: After meeting in San Francisco with the Lucasfilm writer group, “I came home immediately and wrote until my fingers fell off,” she says. Revis had two months to create a draft, but she finished it in just one.
As Revis worked, however, she took pains to research the history, the settings and all the tiny details of Republic and Empire life that previous writers had established over the franchise’s 40-year history. At times, Revis says, it was like writing a historical novel — or the story of a real person. “It almost felt like I was writing the biography of somebody who happened to live in a galaxy a long, long time ago.”
Nevertheless, Revis sees Jyn Erso as an authentic YA protagonist. After all, her story — that of a rebellious soul coming of age under a totalitarian empire — dovetails with Revis’ other books. Both her generation sci-fi trilogy Across the Universe and her contemporary novel A World Without You, about a family dealing with their son’s mental illness, depict teens in dire situations tapping into their resiliency.
“Dystopian novels are never about the darkness, but about the people who fight the darkness,” Revis says. “And that’s something that’s very true of YA — and of Star Wars.”
WHAT: Beth Revis launches Star Wars: Rebel Rising
WHERE: Malaprop’s Bookstore, 55 Haywood St., malaprops.com
WHERE: Thursday, May 4, 7 p.m.