As Earth’s populace prepares to be stricken with Star Wars fever over the next two months in anticipation of December’s Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, the publishing industry is making sure we’re fully fortified with tie-in comics, visual guides, and original prose stories as part of the House of Mouse’s forceful “Journey to The Rise of Skywalker” marketing campaign.
One of the more refreshing releases is a Young Adult offering from Disney-Lucasfilm Press titled Star Wars: Force Collector, conjured up by Emmy Award-winning writer Kevin Shinick. It’s an absorbing standalone prequel novel that revolves around an unsettled teenage boy named Karr Nuq Sin who feels drawn to the Force via confusing visions of unknown people and exotic destinations. Joined by a precocious girl at school named Maize and his trusty droid RZ-7, Karr embarks on a planet-hopping journey of discovery to explore his uncanny powers, learn more about the legendary Jedi Knights, and perhaps meet a fabled ancestor he’s never seen.
Force Collector also gives fans a deeper look into an unexplored chapter of Star Wars history while offering a look at the lives of normal people living in a world of Skywalkers and Stormtroopers.
“I wanted to kind of refreshen the nostalgia, but play into it as well,” Shinick tells Inverse “It came to me in the sense that what if you were in that world, live in that galaxy, what was it really like for these people?”
Unfolding just prior to the events in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this canonical prelude breaks through our atmosphere on November 19.
Inverse spoke with author Kevin Shinick to learn about the genesis of this original Star Wars novel, his satisfying collaborations with the Lucasfilm Story braintrust, and how he even got to name a new planet to be forever part of that galaxy far, far away. After the chat, enjoy an exclusive excerpt from Star Wars: Force Collector.
Inverse: How did the plot for Star Wars: Force Collector germinate and where does it fall within official Star Wars mythology?
Kevin Shinick: It was a huge opportunity and a blessing to be able to write this novel. I wrote Chewie and The Porgs, which is a children’s book, about two years ago, and when they asked me if I wanted to do that I said yes, but asked would you consider letting me do more adult stuff. Star Wars is everywhere, but I was trying to think of ways to be new. I wanted to kind of refreshen the nostalgia, but play into it as well. It came to me in the sense that what if you were in that world, live in that galaxy, what was it really like for these people? What was the war like? There doesn’t seem to be a good and a bad, there’s a lot of politics and grey area.
There’s the expression that history is written by the winners, and yet you have Palpatine talking about the Jedi in a way that soils the entire universe against them. Who’s with them, who are against them? Who thinks they’re made up, or criminals? I wanted to discover that world and figure out what the people in this galaxy are thinking. In the divisive world we live in now, with so many people with so many opinions, I wanted to capture some of that but in a galaxy far, far away.
What were some of the more attractive elements of writing these new canonical characters of Karr, Maize, and RZ-7?
Well, anytime you get to create something new for this world it’s really exciting. I always try to bring a lot of myself into these, and I’m sure a lot of authors do. And to be able to write a droid! If you go and read the books and watch the movies I find that everybody has a different take on what their droid is. And that was one of my favorite things, to create something in this canon that was fresh but also my take on the robots of that world.
Were there special considerations for this project as a Young Adult novel versus a kids or adult book?
It’s interesting how they categorize these. I’m noticing some comparisons to Lost Stars with my novel, which is both good and bad. Good in the sense that Lost Stars is an amazing novel, and bad in the sense that I think Force Collector is written for a slightly different audience. Lost Stars is kind of Romeo and Juliet in the Star Wars galaxy, where as I think Force Collector as more of a road trip type story. It has flirtations and relationships with the hope of some angst or romance down the ways, but this is more early on in a relationship. You’d go to Force Collector for self-discovery and scenes or moments in the Star Wars galaxy that you may have known, but are able to now see from a different point of view.
I’ve written Star Wars for so many diverse people. I wrote the Star Wars children’s book, I worked on more adult stuff like the Robot Chicken Star Wars Special, I worked on Star Wars: Detours, which is a family-oriented animated sitcom that is still sitting somewhere. [laughs] Now to do the Young Adult novel, you use the same muscles because it’s so relatable to so many different ages. But there is a slight shift, and I wanted this to be a book for everybody, as best I could. I’d say it’s for anyone sixteen and up. Star Wars: A New Hope WAS a Young Adult story, and I was trying to capture that, something I’d enjoy growing up and something I still enjoy as an adult now.
How was it working with the Lucasfilm Story Group and what guidelines or restrictions did they impose?
It was amazing working with them. They’re such an invaluable group and it’s important to have overseers that know everything that’s going on in the movies, comic books, video games. I’m very grateful to them. However this group does have restrictions or challenges. As with any artist, I found that sometimes it helps you focus to find new ways to be creative and tell things that you want to tell.
Any unusual research employed for your worldbuilding in Force Collector?
The good news is that I could tell my wife that anything I was reading was research. [laughs]. I looked at things that inspired me… movies and books like The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane. I used to host a show called Where In Time Is Carmen San Diego? so that’s always been in my DNA. I’ve always been fascinated by actual history and in some ways I wanted to inspire people with this book to learn about their own history, but to do it by piquing their interest with Star Wars history. History does repeat itself, and you look at the new movies, and in a way people say it’s a rehash, but in a sense, that’s what life does, you find yourself up against very similar themes. If we can rise above it and notice these things, then perhaps we can change our course.
I also got to use the name of the town I grew up in on Long Island as one of the new worlds in the book. As with many towns on Long Island, Merrick derived its name from the Meroke tribe that were there before us. So I thought I’d name this new planet, Merrokia, to pay homage to the heritage of not only that planet, but where I came from. And now as a result of that, my town is doing a Force Collector Day when the new movie is out and I’m going back to speak to high school students during the day and do a reading at the local library. Growing up I used to work at the Merrick Cinema, so I’m going there at night to do a signing in the lobby before the showing of Episode Nine. So it’s all come full circle for me!
Star Wars: Force Collector releases on November 19. Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 below.
The image was not what it seemed, but the pain was undeniable.
It hit him like the opposite of what he imagined hyperspace was like, a blinding white light streaked with black flames shooting directly into his eyes. Even with his lids shut, Karr could feel it burning his retinas. Had he not known better, he would’ve blamed it on a flaw in the lenses of the stormtrooper helmet he’d recently bought—Death Star era, slight carbon scoring, 7.5 grade level in the antique military guide—but otherwise not a bad purchase for fifty-seven credits. Unless, of course, it was responsible for the pain. But he knew that wasn’t the case. Not even brand-new lenses could protect him from this agony.
As the pain bored into his eye sockets, he recalled a warning a pilot gave him once, about never staring directly into a double-haloed Tatooine eclipse.
Good advice, he thought as he began to lose consciousness.
Only he wasn’t entering Tatooine airspace. He was entering the Force.
“Are you okay?” Karr heard someone ask in a tinny voice. Actually, it probably wasn’t a tinny voice but rather a damaged speaker in the stormtrooper helmet. Maybe 7.5 wasn’t an accurate grade for the piece of junk after all.
Karr was lying on his back. The floor was cold, but his face was hot.
“What are you wearing?” This time he could tell the voice belonged to a woman, but he thought that was an odd follow-up question. Usually when people came across him passed out on the floor they’d ask him if he knew his name. “Karr Nuq Sin,” he mumbled out of habit, realizing only a hair too late that wasn’t the question she had asked him.
“What are you wearing?” she asked again slowly, sounding more annoyed.
“Green cargo pants, blue flight jacket, desert boots, black gloves, and a newly acquired Death Star–era stormtrooper helmet. Grade level: seven point—” He stopped himself in light of the new information and reevaluated. “Six point nine.”
“You need to take it off. Now.” Her voice sounded like coins and static through the helmet, but yes. It was definitely a woman. Probably a teacher.
“School policy prohibits any student from carrying a weapon or wearing military paraphernalia,” she added, probably quoting some passage from the code of conduct.
Karr wouldn’t know. He’d never read it.
He struggled to his feet and searched the floor for the black glove that always landed nearby after one of his episodes. He found it and used it to salute her. “No military paraphernalia present, sir!”
“Except for the helmet?” She ignored the incorrect address and took the glove from his hand to inspect it.
“The helmet is an artifact . . . sir!” Now he was pushing it.
Namala Moffat sighed. “Just take it off.” He pulled the helmet loose with a soft pop. Now she could see him for what he really was: a brown-haired, brown-eyed kid with a chipped tooth to go along with the chip on his shoulder. “Where’d you get that?” she asked.
“I got it from Janu Blenn. His great-grandfather was a service fueler in the Empire,” Karr told her.
“Stormtrooper, third class.”
Moffat frowned. “That boy’s shyer than a Snivvian at a market auction. He told you all that?”
Karr just smiled. “In a way.”
In the years since his unusual abilities had surfaced, no doctor (human or droid) had been able to explain them. Episodes of blinding light and searing pain weren’t exactly coveted abilities, but the images that accompanied those things were pretty cool. Most of the time. If he remembered them when he came to.
Karr didn’t feel like explaining all that to the teacher, so he didn’t.
The truth was that, yes, Janu Blenn was incredibly shy, but he was also stubborn. It’d taken Karr five whole days to convince Janu to sell him the trooper helmet after he overheard the boy relay some family lore about how his great-grandfather claimed to have had his mind manipulated by a Jedi. Karr figured he probably made the whole thing up to get a better grade on his history project, since the Jedi didn’t exist during Imperial times, but he had to know for sure. Which is why he was willing to go as high as fifty-seven credits.
Of course it would’ve been easier to just wave his hand and manipulate Janu’s thoughts like a Jedi, but Karr wasn’t there yet.
Soon, he hoped. But not yet.
Which was why he needed the helmet.