Star Wars: Master & Apprentice: A Peek Inside with Author Claudia Gray

StarWars.com

It’s been twenty years since we first met Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but there’s still more to be explored in the story of Jedi and Padawan.

Star Wars: Master and Apprentice cover.

To celebrate the arrival of Star Wars: Master & Apprentice, the new novel out now, StarWars.com recently sat down with bestselling author Claudia Gray to get a glimpse at what this novel has in store for readers, from the Padawan problems of their early relationship to a deeper look at the treasured lore at the heart of the Star Wars saga.

Note: This interview does not contain detailed spoilers regarding the plot of Master & Apprentice, but it does shed light on its characters. Tread carefully!

StarWars.com: To begin, I’ll ask about your short story – also entitled Master & Apprentice – for the anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. When you wrote that piece, did you anticipate an entire novel about Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi?

Claudia Gray: When From a Certain Point of View came up they asked who I’d like to write about in A New Hope. I told them Qui-Gon! Though he wasn’t in the film, of course, I said I could show them how it might work. Though I didn’t anticipate writing a novel at that time, I had been saying to Lucasfilm Publishing that I would love to write about Qui-Gon in case there was ever a chance. I did not expect this book-length story to come along so quickly.

StarWars.com: Up until this point you had written stories in the original and sequel trilogy eras. Princess Leia was a central character in a number of your stories. Now you were moving into the prequel era with Qui-Gon. Is he a close second to Leia as your favorite character?

Claudia Gray: Well it’s all very hotly contested! Qui-Gon is certainly one of my favorites. We get so little of him in the films. It seemed there was so much more to tell with this idea of a Jedi who was not in lockstep with the Jedi Council. As the events of the prequel trilogy go on, we realize that the Jedi have sort of lost their way. Where does that leave Qui-Gon? It was a fascinating viewpoint to try and portray, if we could do it.

StarWars.com: Readers spend a lot of time with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan together. What was it like exploring the ups and downs of their relationship?

Claudia Gray: It was one of the things I wanted to get into the most. It’s interesting to see Obi-Wan when he doesn’t have it all together yet. In the films he is much surer of himself. But what does that look like when you’re 17? He and Qui-Gon have different ways of doing things. It’s not a natural fit, and they have to work on it. Yoda reminds Qui-Gon that if he wasn’t having trouble with his Padawan then something would be wrong. Taking an adolescent through these big life changes is a little rocky. But that rocky patch has gone on a bit too long with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and their relationship is in peril.

StarWars.com: How did your understanding of these characters evolve throughout your writing process?

Claudia Gray: Young Obi-Wan does things by the book. Some people interpret that as a lack of courage or originality. But of course that isn’t the Obi-Wan Kenobi we all know. So what beliefs drive him in that way when he’s young? He follows the rules because he’s convinced they’re the right thing and represent real wisdom. They’re valuable teachings that are both procedural and spiritual.

With Qui-Gon, I became interested in his self-doubt about whether he was failing Obi-Wan. It’s his role to teach him. Qui-Gon is someone who takes that responsibility and wouldn’t blame the student. He’d look for the answer in himself first.

StarWars.com: This reminds me of the moment in The Phantom Menace when Obi-Wan apologizes for his forwardness, to which Qui-Gon responds that his Padawan is a “much wiser man” than himself.

Claudia Gray: This book was an opportunity to layer in more depth around those brief moments we see in The Phantom Menace.

StarWars.com: The issues of slavery in the galaxy have a major role in the story. How did this topic come to be included?

Claudia Gray: In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon is both very compassionate and at the same time can tell Shmi Skywalker, “I didn’t actually come here to free slaves.” The Jedi have a mandate to follow. They work within parameters. With the kind of power they have, to rule directly is too dangerous. So we wanted to see Qui-Gon dealing with his feelings about slavery. He questions why the Republic hasn’t done much about policing it. It’s a question that I myself ask, too. At this point the Republic is past its prime, and from The Phantom Menace on those cracks will start to show.

Author Claudia Gray.

Claudia Gray

StarWars.com: Of course, we also have Rahara Wick and Pax Maripher, two characters that have a fresh dynamic in the form of an escaped slave and a person raised by protocol droids. Where did that inspiration come from?

Claudia Gray: The germ of it probably came from the TV show Elementary. You have Sherlock Holmes, and a female, more no-nonsense Watson character. It started there, but then Rahara and Pax came into their own forms. I needed one to have slavery in their background to show what the impact of those practices could be. Rahara’s personality grew out of that. Pax was a know-it-all, but then I wondered why he was like this? As he grew up, his only patterns of behavior were set by characters that behaved like C-3PO! I had so much fun writing Pax and I hope the readers enjoy him. I also love the idea of having them be jewel “thieves” (they’re not quite thieves) in space. You should just have glamorous jewel thieves in everything.

StarWars.com: Rael Averross is a new example of an independent-minded Jedi. We’ve seen other examples of this from Count Dooku to Anakin Skywalker and of course Qui-Gon. What makes Rael stand out?

Claudia Gray: Rael was Dooku’s apprentice before Qui-Gon. He became a Jedi Knight not long before Dooku took on Qui-Gon as a new Padawan, so Rael became a friend and informal mentor to the young man. Rael is also a character that hints at some of the issues that Anakin will have later. He was 5 years old when he joined the Order, considered too old by some. Rael can’t fully acclimate to the life of a Jedi like those who don’t have any memories before the Order. So he doesn’t try to fit in. He defines himself more and more by what he isn’t. That defiance can work constructively, but it does skirt him towards the dark side. He has an oppositional mindset. Of course, Dooku cultivates that to the max.

The Phantom Menace - Qui-Gon with Anakin

StarWars.com: It’s the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace this year. This book is among other new stories that point to the prequel trilogy era. How does it feel to contribute to this era?

Claudia Gray: If readers are able to see more layers in The Phantom Menace, more depth in the characters and their interactions, then I’ve done my job. I just want to add things, but at the same time make the additions feel like they could’ve always been there. Hopefully it feels like a natural part of Qui-Gon’s journey.

You can order your copy of Star Wars: Master & Apprentice now.

Lucas O. Seastrom is a publicity writer at Lucasfilm. He grew up on a farm in California’s Central Valley and is a lifelong Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan.

Star Wars: Master & Apprentice: A Peek Inside with Author Claudia Gray

This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: An Indian Epic, a Return to the Prequel Era, and an Unforgettable Book No One Remembers

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Upon a Burning Throne, by Ashok K. Banker
Ashok Banker is a huge bestseller in his native India, and is making his U.S. debut with this ambitious epic fantasy inspired by the Mahabharata itself. The Burnt Empire exists in a world where demigods and demons walk the earth alongside humans. After the emperor dies, the empire is thrown into chaos, as two heirs each seek to prove their worthiness by sitting on the Burning Throne, whose deep magic destroys the unworthy. Both princes—Adri and Shvate—pass the test, but yet more chaos is unleashed when a third claimant appears: the daughter of the demonlord Jarsun. When his offspring is denied her chance to prove her worthiness as well, Jarsun declares war, vowing to destroy the Burnt Empire in revenge. Adri and Shvate find themselves co-rulers of an empire roiled by sedition and stressed by invasion in this sprawling tale of conspiracies, battles, and demonic magic.

Fire Season, by Stephen Blackmoore 
Your friendly neighborhood necromancer Eric Carter returns in fine, dark form in the fourth installment of Blackmoore’s smart urban fantasy series. As the novel opens, Los Angeles is literally burning with impossible fires. During one of the hottest summers on record, someone is killing off mages with fires that never go out (and shouldn’t be able to burn in the first place. Carter is being framed for the serial killings, and he thinks he knows who’s behind it—not everyone has a vengeful Aztec god in his rear-view mirror, after all. But some parts of his theory don’t quite add up, giving Carter the sinking feeling there’s more going on than he suspects. Which is always a dangerous thing when your day-to-day dealings include magic, the undead, and angry gods.

Winds of Marque: Blackwood & Virtue, by Bennett R. Coles
Coles launches a new series with a story of swashbuckling officers in His Imperial Majesty’s navy chasing down a nest of pirates—in space. The Big Ship Energy is real: these deep space vessels are propelled by solar sails. Second in command Liam Blackwood is still smarting from being passed over for promotion when the HMSS Daring gets a new captain, Lady Sophia Riverton, and new orders to infiltrate and destroy the pirates threatening the empire’s supply lines, even as it gears up for war with an inhuman enemy. Assisted by his petty officer and possible love interest Amelia Virtue, Blackwood is forced to act when his new his captain begins making questionable decisions and laying the grounds for a mutiny. It should go without saying that fans of Aubrey Martin and Temeraire will enjoy sailing acros the stars with the crew of the Daring.

Amnesty, by Laura Elena Donnelly
In the wake of a successful revolution, the once-glittering city of Amberlough struggles to rebuild itself in the final volume of Lara Elena Donnelly’s Nebula Award-nominated decopunk trilogy. Now that the oppressive Ospies have been removed from power, the regime that replaced them is seeking retribution from all who may have betrayed the city. This includes Cyril DePaul, who self-interestedly worked both sides of the conflict in an effort to save his own skin. His only remaining allies are a bitter ex-lover and his distant sister—and even in the wake of drastic change, Amberlough remains a dangerous, decadent place, awash in crime, deception, and—hopefully—a chance at redemption.

No Country for Old Gnomes, by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
If the second book in Dawson and Hearne’s gleefully parodic Tales of Pell series is not the surprise that Kill the Farm Boy was, it is every bit as delightful. As the tidy, cheerful gnomes prepare for war against the well-armed, voracious Halflings, one gnome finds his life upended by a Halfling bomb. Offi Numminen stands apart from others of his kind, incrementally less cheerful, and favoring cardigans with a distinctly goth appeal, but he goes from outcast to last hope when he finds himself the leader of a band of misfits headed off on a journey to the Toot Towers to set the world right again. The quest won’t be easy, but it certainly won’t be harder than pulling his band of malcontents together and making them work as a team. Once again, Dawson and Hearne balance their whimsical, affectionate ribbing of fantasy conventions with a deep love for the genre and the tropes they’re subverting.

Perihelion Summer, by Greg Egan
When twin black holes enter our solar system and knock Earth’s orbit out of whack, Matt Fleming reacts by creating the Mandjet, a floating, self-sustaining environment designed to withstand the climatic disaster that ensues. Struggling against government incompetence and his own family’s reluctance to admit what’s happening even as the summers turn brutally hot and crops fail worldwide, Fleming and the others on the Mandjet chronicle the collapse of civilization and the new reality of a world where all of the rules of nature and survival have been rewritten. With the scientific rigor that is Egan’s forte, this chilling what-if scenario serves as both a thrilling apocalyptic tale and a dire warning about the costs of inaction in the face of looming catastrophe.

Master & Apprentice (Barnes & Nobel Exclusive Edition), by Claudia Gray
Claudia Gray returns to the Star Wars galaxy with a real treat for fans who might feel forgotten in the era of Rey, Kylo Ren, and Finn: an all-new adventure featuring Obi Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. The story opens with the pair at a crossroads: Qui-Gon struggles with worry that he has failed his Padawan, as Obi-Wan frets at Qui-Gon’s consideration of an invitation to join the Jedi Council—thus ending their partnership. In the midst of this doubled-edged doubt, the Jedi are called to a distant planet to assist with a political dispute that quickly spirals into danger. As Qui-Gon experiences visions of disaster, Obi-Wan’s begins to suspect he can no longer trust his Master. The Barnes and Noble Exclusive edition includes a double-sided pull-out poster.

A Time of Blood, by John Gwynne
The sequel to A Time of Dread and the second book in John Gwynne’s Of Blood and Bone trilogy, A Time of Blood continues a richly detail and action-heavy epic saga. Drem and his allies saw terrible things at the battle that ended the last book: men transformed into monsters and a demon returned from the dead. They are now being hunted by the demon’s most loyal priestess, Fritha. Elsewhere, the half-breed Riy hides out in the forest, concealing her identity, and the threat she poses to the pure-blood warrior angels. The dark is rising, and the heroes have to save themselves before they can save the world.

Nest of the Monarch, by Kay Kenyon
The final volume of Kenyon’s crafty alternate history trilogy featuring super-powered spies in World War II-era Europe. Psychic spy Kim Tavistock is in Germany, posing as the wife of a British diplomat, on her first offical assignment for British Intelligence. Kim’s handler—and father—Julian hopes she’ll be able to use her talent to make people “Spill” their secrets to her will reveal valuable intelligence about the weapons the Nazis are developing. But Kim, shocked by the racist and Semitic actions she witnesses in Berlin, winds up helping a Jewish resistance fighter named Hannah Linz. Together, the two become embroiled in a German plot involving vampiric psychics, as Kenyon builds the series to a rousing climax, never losing site of the strong-willed, stout-hearted woman at its center.

Atlas Alone, by Emma Newman
Emma Newman’s fourth book set in the Planetfall universe is another inventive and emotionally wrenching affair. As a passenger onboard the spacefaring vessel Atlas 2, Dee was one of the few who witnessed the nuclear strike that killed millions on Earth. Angry and deeply traumatized, Dee seeks both to uncover who was responsible and to escape her suffering within an immersive game that applies real world physicality to a virtual setting. Invited to test a new build of the game by a mysterious guide, Dee enters a play session unlike any she’s ever experienced. When she kills another player in-game and a man winds up dead in real life—a man with possible ties to the nuclear launch, no less—Dee becomes a suspect. As she doubles down on her investigation, she makes a chilling discovery that changes everything she thought she knew about her life—and the colony planet she’s headed toward. Made up of standalone novels that share a setting and a commitment to delving into their characters’ psyches, the Planetfall series stands with the best science fiction of the last decade.

The Master of Dreams, by Mike Resnick
Genre veteran Mike Resnick delivers the first book in a new trilogy that doubles as a romp through all your favorite stories. A man named Eddie Raven and his girlfriend Lisa wander into a fortune-teller’s shop in New York, and into a violent shooting that leaves Lisa injured. Eddie hears a mysterious voice that orders him to run. He does, and soon finds himself the owner of an all-too-familiar bar in Casablanca—except this one is populated not by Nazis and ne’er do wells, but by monsters. Sooner than he can figure out what’s going on, he’s following a yellow brick road and helping a young Kansan girl find a wizard; then he’s in Camelot with someone named Arthur. As Eddie reels and struggles to adapt to his shifting reality, he must figure out why the Master of Dreams is chasing him through twisted versions of famous stories, and find Lisa before it’s too late.

All My Colors, by David Quantick
This twisting puzzle of a book from Veep and The Thick of It screenwriter David Quantick stars Todd Milstead, a failed writer who could be generously described as a jerk. Todd’s got a great party trick, though; an eidetic memory that allows him to quote chapter and verse from texts he read decades earlier. The ability leads to a mysterious discovery when, at a dinner party, he recites extensive quotes from a bestselling book only he seems to remember—as far as everyone else (from his wife to his local bookseller), the titular All My Colors. was never published. With his marriage and finances in turmoil, desperate Todd hatches a plan, retypes the  the novel from memory, and sees it become a massive hit. Even after all his success, though, Todd is still the same man. He’s obsessed with his now ex-wife, and hires a private investigator stalk her and her new boyfriend—a guy who oddly doesn’t seem to appear in photographs. Things only get stranger from there, as Todd discovers there are consequences to his act of “victimless” forgery.

The Unicorn Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman 
Who better to edit an anthology of unicorn-themed stories and poems than SFF Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle, whose novel The Last Unicorn may be the definitive unicorn story? Following up their World Fantasy Award-winning collection The New Voices of Fantasy, Beagle and co-editor Jacob Weisman bring together 15 tales offering unique and unexpected twists on the unicorn myth. The contributors include heavy-hitters in the world of SFF fiction: Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jane Yolen, Garth Nix, Carrier Vaughn, and Beagle himself, just to name a few. Their stories run the gamut from the gentle, to the horrific, to the surprisingly gritty and realistic.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, Vol. 13, edited by Jonathan Strahan
The thirteenth volume of Jonathan Strahan’s Year’s Best series is also his last with Solaris; next year he launches Year’s Best Science Fiction with Saga Press. He goes out on a high note with a wonderful lineup of contributors, including Elizabeth Bear, Daryl Gregory, and two 2019 Hugo Award nominated novelettes: Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing and Zen Cho’s “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” originally published on this blog.

What are you reading this week?

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