Star Wars: A New Dawn – Exclusive Interview with Author John Jackson Miller

Banner announcing the book A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller from DelRey
Banner announcing the book A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller from DelRey

The Star Wars books are canon beginning with A New Dawn.

It’s a whole new ball game in the Star Wars universe as every book published becomes part of the official history.  It begins with the publication of A New Dawn coming out on September 2nd at bookstores everywhere and the first author to enter into the fray is Star Wars writing veteran, John Jackson Miller.  John is a well-respected and talented writer whose list of work is impressive including work for Marvel, Dark Horse Comics, and novels in the Star Wars universe.

His newest book is A New Dawn, a novel set in the time leading up to the events in Star Wars Rebels.  In it, he reveals how two of the main characters in that series meet for the first time – Hera Syndulla, the Twi’lek pilot of The Ghost and Kanan Jarrus, the cowboy Jedi.  The book itself is a page-turner and hard to put down.  It is well-written, well-crafted, with an intricate plot and characters with the kind of detail that brings them to life in your imagination.  Highly recommended!

John was gracious with his time and talked to me by phone for this exclusive interview.  Just from talking to him you can tell that his books are well thought out and that he cares deeply about the work he does.  Below are some of the insights John shared with us about his newest novel.

Preview cover for the book featuring Hera and Kanan
Preview cover for the book featuring Hera and Kanan

One of the aspects of your writing that I really appreciate are the layers of depth you put into your work. A New Dawn was part thriller, part political commentary, part social commentary, part action/adventure, and of course, part science fiction and still 100% Star Wars. Do you have to intentionally plot out all of these different layers? What is your process when coming up with a story?

(Laughs) This is one of the reasons I don’t do seminars like other authors. I have no idea how I get it done! I look at writing like a jazz musician looks at playing music. I don’t do any of the stuff they say in the books you’re supposed to do. I don’t say to myself, “I intend to have 3.5 themes and symbolism in this chapter, this chapter, and this chapter.” I just ask myself, “What is the major question of this story? What is going to challenge this character? What is endemic to the times this character is living in that impacts him?” Everything sort of gels at some point. It’s like being a Cajun cook. I throw everything into the pot and see where I can season it.

I won’t divulge how the book ends, but I was curious about some of the characterization you included for the different characters. I thought it was fascinating that part of Kanan’s Jedi training subconsciously would force him toward excellence even when he wasn’t trying to. How did you come upon that idea?

Well, the thing about being a Jedi isn’t something like being Batman. If Batman didn’t want to be Batman he would just close up the Batcave. But Jedi are Jedi no matter what they do. They still have force powers. It’s still lurking back there in (Kanan’s) physical makeup and how he connects to the galaxy. He can’t help the fact he is doing a job and he can excel at it. Instead, he just has to hide how much he excels at it. It’s like those Clark Kent moments in Kenobi (an earlier Star Wars novel written by Miller) where Obi Wan has to hide he’s actively using the force. Kanan is having to make sure if he wins the football game he isn’t doing it faster than everyone else could. He’s flying explosives back and forth and he delivers it personally so he doesn’t get 10 or 12 flights in a day and people start to say, “Wow that guy is REALLY fast!” It’s so he doesn’t stand out.

Vidian is incredibly evil, but he doesn’t think so. He feels he is being incredibly efficient. When he said that murder should be a tool in every supervisor’s toolbox, it really lets you into his mindset. What was your inspiration for his character?

That’s right. I didn’t want to make him a caricature where he’s obsessed. “You’ve cost me 2.5 seconds!” Efficiency is enough of a guiding principle. He’s done it to his body. Why carry around a comm link if I can just build it into my body? Why bother with a screen when my artificial eyes can just play it back for me? What I wanted to do was illustrate we are in this early period of the Fall of the Republic and the emperor would have gotten a lot of people to buy into his new order. He would have cultivated a bunch of powerhouses who made decisions and co-opted these people and bring them on board. Vidian is someone who is a corporate guru. He’s a corporate fix-it guy turning ailing industries around, but he’s also a little bit of a celebrity. Imagine him having his own business self-help book. When he signs on to the Empire its a big deal. He’s totally in support of the Imperial philosophies. It was really important for me to show it wasn’t just built on the emperor’s deceit alone. He had to have brought in other people. Other people were complicit in it. His way was the right way, even though he’s a Sith lord.

I thought it was intriguing that Kanan goes to a diner on Gorse that resides on Broken Boulevard and the interaction between Kanan and Drakka was reminiscent of the painting “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Was that intentional?

Oh yeah! (Laughs) That is a great, great painting. You’re the first person to get that joke! And of course why not include it since we’re in the realm of pop cultural icons. That’s a painting (the original Nighthawks by Edward Hopper) where they put many pop culture icons before. If Elvis can be the guy working the counter why not stick a few Star Wars characters in there?

John was so open with his time and his answers they can’t all be included in this one post!  Next week, I’ll reveal more of my interview with John including his answers to his favorite video game, sci-fi novel, and comic book as well as his inspiration for writing and the challenges of writing for comic books versus novels.  Be sure to read part 2 of his interview!

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