Interview With James S.A. Corey, Author, ‘Honor Among Thieves: Star Wars’


James S.A. Corey is/are the author(s) of the new Star Wars novel Honor Among Thieves:

When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

We recently spoke about the work involved in capturing the personality of Han Solo, and the turns he could have taken had he not accepted a job from a farm boy and an old man on a dustball planet on the edges of the Empire.

Han Solo is such an iconic character in popular culture, and he has a well-defined point of view and mannerisms. How do you capture those in a believable manner without falling into caricature?

Part of what we did was watch a New Hope and Empire Strikes Back a few times and try to see who Han was at that particular time. Harrison Ford was the defining science fiction actor of the 70s and 80s, and there was actually a lot to work with just in those. We wanted to have Han sound like Han, but also function the way Han functioned in those stories, and some of that turned out not to be obvious until we were looking specifically for how to approach this project.

Then when the time came to write it, we didn’t make fun of the source material. A little genuine emotion goes a long way toward avoiding caricature.

Besides loving Leia, why would a guy like Han want to help the Rebellion or Empire when he makes a living hiding in the shadows? What kind of motivation did you find to set him up on this particular adventure?

One of the things we talk about a lot in this book is the ways that political revolutionaries are like criminals and the ways that they aren’t. In this era, the Rebellion is technically a criminal enterprise. They’re going against the government, they’re breaking the laws of the Empire. There’s overlap between the kind of criminal Han is and the kind that Leia is, but there’s also this great dissonance. But the thing that puts Han where he is — and that ultimately makes him into the man he becomes — is that growing sense of family and connection. He cares about Leia, and he cares about Luke, and there aren’t many other people around that he cares about, so they’ve got weight for him. Even if he doesn’t quite know it yet.

Can you tell me a little about Baasen Ray? He’s a new guy, isn’t he?

He is. Baasen is the guy Han could become if he really embraced being a criminal. He’s got Han’s same disinterest in authority, same cleverness, same just-on-the-edge-of-catastrophe style, but none of the heart. If the book were Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Future would absolutely be showing Baasen to Han.

For an older Star Wars fan like me, the Empire and Rebellion series has been great. That’s not to say that I don’t love the other eras – believe me, I do – but it’s nice jumping back in the saddle with characters that feel like old friends. Do you have any personal preferences? How did you feel about writing in the Rebellion era?

This is our favorite era. It was the one we both bonded with when we were kids, and it’s the Star Wars that feels most like coming home. There’s a power that comes with first experiences that nothing else will ever quite match, you know?

A little mynock told me that there are two writers behind the James S.A. Corey name. What’s it like collaborating as an author? What is your work process like?

We are Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Together, we’ve written five novels now as James SA Corey, and we’re working on the sixth. In broad strokes, Ty goes to Daniel’s house sometime in the late morning because that’s where the good coffee is, we outline the next couple chapters, write them, swap them, each edits the other guy’s stuff, and then we stick them on the back of a master file and do the whole damned thing again. It seems to work all right.