Star Wars Author Claudia Gray Discusses Storytelling And Fanfic
Today USA Today revealed the cover of Star Wars: Bloodline, a new adult novel to be released by Del Rey on May 3, 2016. Author Claudia Gray penned the YA novel Lost Stars, released by Disney Publishing as part of The Journey To The Force Awakens program. The book was well-received by Star Wars fans. You can read an excerpt of the novel at USA Today.
Part of the magic of Star Wars for so many people is that it inspired individuals to tell their own stories. Kenner learned early on that the action figures and toys were a path to creating adventures outside the movies. Roleplaying games gave fans an avenue to deepening their connection to the galaxy far far away. A generation of filmmakers from J.J. Abrams to Joss Whedon admit to being inspired to their careers by Star Wars, and Lucasfilm has sponsored several officially sanctioned fan film contests. Artists like Phil Noto are celebrated for their fan art as well as for their licensed material. In the early years of the franchise, fanzines, which included fanfiction and fan art as well as opinion and discussion material, helped keep Star Wars in the public consciousness, and fanfic writers crossed over to work as professionals creating licensed stories.
Somewhere along the way, though, fan endeavors in prose became something that industry and fandom looked down upon. This was a gendered response – fanfic, like cosplay, is associated more with women. Even trooping as part of the 501st was considered in a different light than cosplaying. As I explained in my recent piece for PopSugar, women were relegated to a corner in fandom until they almost disappeared. During my oral histories of women in Star Wars fandom, I met women like Tish Pahl, who beta-read for Tim Zahn. Star Wars author Aaron Allston celebrated fanficcers, Lucasfilm editor Jen Heddle has Tweeted about her participation in fanfic, and even king of canon Pablo Hidalgo of the Lucasfilm Story Group has a fic or two out there on the internet.
There is simply no better way to learn how to tell a Star Wars story than to do it. Is there a difference between writing a novel that is unpublished or writing a novel that is shared online, either in a serial format or in one lump sum? If we celebrate Phil Noto for his fanart and Josh Trank gets a call from Hollywood based on his efforts in a fanfilm, then women should be given the same due for sitting down and perfecting their craft.
Part of artistry is perpetually honing the craft, whether filmmaker, writer, or visual artist. It is true for J.J. Abrams, who explained the invaluable help of Lawrence Kasdan in growing his storytelling chops during his 60 Minutes interview in December. I learned much of what I know about storytelling by writing fanfic, talking with my fellow fanficcers – who are some of the smartest critics out there – and by listening to the advice of Star Wars authors. When I saw StarWars.com’s new series that will feature authors interviewing authors, it felt like the good old days when Matthew Stover or Michael Stackpole would share their writing wisdom with fandom. Better yet, Cecil Castelluci interviews Claudia Gray, who I believe will be considered on par with Stover when the dust settles. StarWars.com is still lacking gender parity for female contributions on the blog side – two of seventeen featured bloggers are women – so it was nice to see the ladies kicking off this series!
Here are some of my favorite excerpts, including the authors acknowledging their fanfic roots:
Cecil Castellucci: How did writing this canon book differ or was the same from when you’ve written fan fiction (for other fandoms) in the past?
Claudia Gray: Except for the “being wrong” thing mentioned above — in all honesty, it didn’t feel that different at all. I mean, I had a deadline. The love scenes were tamer. And the length and parameters were much more set in stone. But other than that? It felt very similar. I mean that in a good way, because I do love writing fic.
Cecil Castellucci: Was there anything in the book that you were scared to write? Or that you had never written before? What was it and how did you manage to get it done?
Claudia Gray: People have asked so many times if writing an SW novel scared me! I probably should have been nervous, shouldn’t I? But I was so exhilarated to get to tell that story that the idea of getting intimidated didn’t even occur to me until much later–thankfully, after the book was done. But in terms of the types of scenes, etc.–there wasn’t that much that was hugely different from stuff I’d written before, whether in professional fiction or fanfic. Then again, spend 20 years writing fanfic and ten years writing professional fiction, like I have, and you too will have written pretty much everything under the sun! (Or, for Star Wars, sometimes under the suns.)
Following The Force Awakens, no doubt some of you will be bitten by the fanfiction bug. My old fics are getting read in numbers I haven’t seen since… well, the Clone Wars (as in, the real-world prequel era days). Take some time to learn from those who have gone through the process before you, and celebrate whatever way your imagination is inspired. If you want to hear more about the writing process from Claudia Gray, I interviewed her about Lost Stars in the most recent issue of Star Wars Insider, #163. I also put my storytelling chops, earned by studying it so I could be a better fanfic writer, and outlined the Hero’s Journey elements found in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s prequel trilogy arc.
Star Wars Insider is available on newsstands and comic books stores now, or subscribe online.
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