If you haven’t taken it yet, now is your chance to get back into the (new) Star Wars expanded universe with Star Wars: Aftermath and Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure. If Leia’s adventure set between Episodes V and VI caught your attention, it’s all because of the talent of Jason Fry and Cecil Castellucci. We got a chance to talk with Cecil, a YA author, Star Wars geek, and punk rocker who leapt at the chance to bring one of her favorite idols from childhood to life in the new EU.
Speaking with Castellucci, whose work as a YA author stretches over a dozen books, ranging from her new Tin Star series to DC comics Minx series called the Plain Janes, the excitement and energy in her voice when talking about imagining Leia’s life post Empire Strikes Back is the same energy she brought on stage to her band Nerdy Girl, where she named the sides of their 10 inch Vinyl “Luke” and “Leia.” It’s probably why she got the job to write this book, she says. “I think they wanted someone who was fluent in writing young adult fiction, but was also a massive Star Wars fan. My Star Wars fandom runs pretty deep, and I think they could google my name and there’s tons and tons and tons of things about Star Wars.”
And being a huge fan, that excitement and pressure fans feel for their next favorite story (cough cough Force Awakens) winds up circling back in Castellucci’s own work. She laughs as she explains her biggest motivator was really her 7-year-old self. “I didn’t want to mess it up for her! I didn’t want me at 7 to be mad at me now.”
“That made me take this very seriously, because Leia is such an important character not just in the Star Wars series, but she’s one of the pillars of kickass women in everything! To get her right, I just wanted to think about what she was dealing with after Empire, with things in shambles, Han frozen, and the trauma of Alderaan still fresh. Dealing with that, I wanted to get a little glimpse of how she becomes who she is.”
Castellucci’s excited to see how far things have come for geeks and geek girls—her aforementioned punk band, Nerdy Girl, played in a world where Riot Grrl music was exploding in the early 90’s, but didn’t really have a big sense of popularizing geekdom that was slowly growing at the same time. But being in Nerdy Girl sort of smashed the two worlds together, and gave her a way to say how she felt about being a geek that was true to both sensibilities.
“It was a big badge for me, where I could say, here’s my identity, here’s who I am, I’m gonna dork out, collect action figures, bring it onto your stage and I’m gonna own it a hundred percent. That was absolutely a huge part of my identity, that I’m making a declaration of who I am, how I’m going to make my art, and that I’m going to be nerdy and I’m not going to be quiet about it.”
And now as a fan and a writer Castellucci really sees fandom and the traits it embodies as going hand in hand with growing as a writer. “It influences you and makes you grow. The point of being an artist is to learn and to grow and to hone your craft. Every time I write a book, it’s never perfect. It’s a document of where you are in your practice at that time. It’s why I try to issue small challenges to myself, making Year of the Beasts a hybrid novel or First Day on Earth having chapters so slim some are only a sentence long.”
“To do all that, you get nourished by the things you’re reading as much as the things you’re writing, and you get to go ‘oh I didn’t even think you could tell a story like that!’ and it’s so exciting to get to learn while reading other people’s work.”
As Castellucci moves on to other projects, she’s excited to just keep jamming out on feminist stories, finding cool challenges for herself and her writing, and writing stories she hopes one day, adults at dinner parties will remember as the stories they read that helped define who they would become. Just like her and Star Wars.
Featured Image via Disney Lucasfilm Press