So You Want to Be A Star Wars Author? – Exclusive Interview With Adam Gidwitz

Adam Gidwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of The Grimm Trilogy – A Tale Dark and Grimm, In A Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion.  Before Adam was a renowned writer, he was a teacher for second grade at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, NY.  And before that, had found his love of literature through a trip to London where he writes on his website is where he discovered he could pursue writing as a career.  Adam has a passion for storytelling and fairy tales in particular and he was able to add his own unique contributions to the Star Wars universe.  He was kind enough to answer some interview questions for us about his writing and his new book.

Adam Gidwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grimm books and the newly released So You Want to Be A Jedi?
Adam Gidwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grimm books and the newly released So You Want to Be A Jedi?

Adam, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. It’s always a treat to go picking about inside the mind of an author!  Your first sentence in the introduction asks us if we, the readers, are surprised to find you writing this book, so let me ask you the same question. Were you surprised to be asked to write this book?

Yes! I was. I was thrilled, of course. But I was surprised. What made them think of me, I wondered. Then I heard the story. They had chosen Tony DiTerlizzi for the wonderful picture book The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight already. And they had chosen Tom Angleberger to retell The Return of the Jedi. Both authors were asked who else they might call, and I showed up on both of their lists. I guess Tony and Tom like the dark fairy tales I write. They also like the enormous checks I will now be sending them every month for the rest of their lives. Just kidding.

Tom wrote the Origami Yoda series and Alex has been to every Star Wars Celebration except one and wrote Star Wars fan fic of her own. How much of a Star Wars connection did you have before this book? What is your first Star Wars memory?

I am definitely less of a Star Wars expert than those two. There’s no question about it. My earliest Star Wars memory, actually, is playing with that wonderfully large Rancor toy at a friend’s house. I always wanted to go over there, and the first thing I always wanted to do was play with the Rancor. Which doesn’t mean that I wanted to retell Return of the Jedi. But I would have enjoyed writing that scene. The breath. I would have spent a lot of time on the Rancor’s breath.

I really enjoyed your explanation in the introduction about how Luke is an empty vessel so we can put ourselves in his place, and then you actually go on to write Luke’s part of the book from a 2nd person point of view. It reminded me of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I loved as a kid. Was that series of books an inspiration for you or were you inspired by something else? What was the biggest challenge in writing from this point of view? Only Luke’s story is told this way, was there a reason you didn’t either do it all from Luke’s point of view?

I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure books—to a point. The concept was so cool. But the stories generally stunk. I would usually be on page 3, and then make some choice (like, “Jump in the water with the sharks”) that would result in “Turn to Page 97. You die.” Not satisfying. I wanted to make the world feel rich, and the experiences feel real. What makes you a part of the story is not you getting to choose which page to turn to (which always felt like a cheap gimmick to me, even as a kid). It was immersing you, as the main character, in situations that you really believed you were a part of. That’s what I tried to do with So You Want To Be A Jedi? I want you to feel like you’re on Dagobah, being trained by Yoda, and that you’re fighting Vader on Bespin—and when Vader offers you the chance to rule the galaxy with him, as father and son, I want you to really pause, really consider it. Because he is your father, after all, and you’ve spent your whole life trying to follow in his footsteps. I mean, Luke has. See? It’s easy to lose yourself in a story as good as The Empire Strikes Back, isn’t it?

Do YOU want to be a Jedi? Maybe reading Adam's book will help you learn how
Do YOU want to be a Jedi? Maybe reading Adam’s book will help you learn how

I have to ask – are you a Jedi? How did you come up with the lessons between chapters? I think my favorite one was Lesson Mu.

I’m not a Jedi, but I do practice Japanese martial arts, I meditate (some), and I am a major fan of the great works of Chinese Taoism. In fact, I have Yoda tell Luke a parable from Chuang-Tzu, the fourth-century BCE Taoist writer. Did you like Lesson Mu? Yeah, that’s one of my favorite ones, too. I won’t give it away, though. Your readers are going to have to go get it.

Speaking of Lesson Mu: one of the most intriguing parts of the book was the story Yoda tells to Luke before he reveals his true identity. What inspired you to write that story? It seems very Brothers Grimm in the sense that the first two brothers come to a pretty nasty end.

Yes, the story is absolutely inspired by the Brothers Grimm. I wanted to give a nod to two things in doing that: First, George Lucas always described Star Wars as a fairy tale. He said he set out to write a fairy tale when he began it, and his interest in the theories of Joseph Campbell, which are based on mythology and folklore, only strengthened Star Wars’ connection to fairy tales. But I also wanted to give a nod to my previous books. I think intertexuality is fun. And kids do, too.

Yoda using the Force to lift Luke's X-wing out of the swamp
Yoda using the Force to lift Luke’s X-wing out of the swamp

That story was something new you were able to add to the Star Wars legacy. What was your favorite addition you made to the Star Wars universe?

I think my favorite addition wasn’t so much an addition as an elaboration. I spend more time discussing the Force, and what it’s about, than the film does. Yoda’s philosophical exploration of the Force is one of my favorite parts of the book. That and the raging Elephoth, of course.

Alright, just a few fun questions to finish things off. I asked these of Alex and Tom, so I was curious what you’re answers would be. What is your favorite book or author? When you are writing do you have any favorite “go-to” items (favorite food to snack on, favorite place for take out, favorite spot to write, etc.)? If they make a movie about your life, who would play you (assuming it was filmed now instead of twenty years from now)? And if you could decide to build any Star Wars attraction at a Disney theme park, what would it be?

  1. Roald Dahl is my favorite author. Matilda first, The BFG
  2. Favorite writing food: almonds. I hide them behind the computer so I don’t eat them too fast and get a stomach ache.
  3. If it was filmed 20 years ago, it would be Harrison Ford, obviously. Oh, who am I kidding? It would be Harrison Ford now, too.
  4. A Force Machine, that would let you use the Force like Yoda can. Not exactly sure what the mechanics would be, but it would be awesome.

Thanks so much Adam for taking time out of your busy day to share your thoughts with us. And thank you for adding to the rich tapestry that is the Star Wars universe!

Make sure to pick up Adam’s new book So You Want to Be A Jedi? as well as Tom’s book Beware the Power of The Dark Side! and Alex’s book The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy all out today at your favorite bookstore or online.  You can follow Adam on Twitter (@AdamGidwitz) or on his website (www.adamgidwitz.com)

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