Roseanne A. Brown on Rey, trauma, and writing Star Wars

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: EPISODE IX /

Last month, Star Wars released an anthology of stories spanning its many eras and featuring writers familiar and new to fans of a galaxy far, far away. Author Roseanne A. Brown (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin) contributed the final story in the Stories of Jedi and Sith collection, “Through the Turbulence,” one of the first Rey-focused stories told in quite some time. The story takes place between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, pairing Rey and Poe on an important mission at a time when Rey feels lost and uncertain.

The author sat down with Dork Side of the Force to discuss the process of writing Rey, joining the larger team of official Star Wars creators, and the importance of getting inside the heads of our favorite characters to understand how we relate to them personally.


Dork Side of the Force: I was so delighted to get to the end of Stories of Jedi and Sith and find your story there. I’ve read many things from you, and it’s so good to have you in Star Wars.

Roseanne Brown:  Thank you! It’s exacting to be here. Sometimes I still pinch myself like, they actually let me write Star Wars?? Who allowed this?

Dork Side: It turned out so well! So you had the pleasure of getting to write a Rey-focused story, and I know you love Rey as a character. I wanted to talk more about that. What was it like getting to tell a Star Wars story from the point of view of Rey? Because there aren’t so many of them at the moment.

Roseanne: To answer that question, I kind of have to go back to last year when I was first invited to the anthology by the editor Jennifer Heddle. They asked all the contributors, can you list three people who you’d like to write for the anthology — just so we don’t have too much overlap? Or any overlap, actually. And — I’ll be completely honest — I asked for Obi-Wan Kenobi first! But he was already taken.

Dork Side: No!

Roseanne: Like, who does not love Obi-Wan? Second on the list was Rey. I think what drew me to Rey — so, I’m kind of a latecomer to Star Wars. There are some people I know who’ve grown up from it, like, their parents were Star Wars fans … but I didn’t get into it until high school when a friend learned I hadn’t watched any of them, and so made me watch — at the time — all six movies. And I became obsessed. I bring that up because my first Star Wars movie where I was present and aware and into it was The Force Awakens. Because I remember when the prequels were coming out, I was a young child at the time. I didn’t really know what was going on. The Force Awakens was my first time being into Star Wars when a release is coming out, engaging with the fandom in real-time. So that movie has a very special place in my heart. And with Rey, I latched onto her so quickly like as this newcomer into this big sprawling world, and this idea of finding your place, and understanding where you fit within this giant puzzle was just something I related to so deeply. Getting to explore that with her and write that with her, it was so much fun!

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Dork Side: It’s always fascinating to me how different people come into not just discovering Star Wars but kind of like really getting into it for themselves. I was a prequel kid, they came out when I was a child, and my dad’s a huge Star Wars fan. So we watched the movies all the time. But I didn’t really ‘get it’ until much later. And then finally, I think for me it was Revenge of the Sith, I finally watched that on my own and I was like, I get it now. This can be my thing. And all of us have that character we kind of latch onto and are like, I get you — I see myself in Star Wars, in a way. And that’s just super important, for everyone to have that character that they can connect to like that.

Roseanne: Exactly! This idea that the galaxy can be so infinite, but at the same time it can also be just so human. And I think that’s what keeps drawing people to Star Wars, that connection within this epic story.

Dork Side: What was it about Rey that really drew you in?

Roseanne: Specifically within The Force Awakens it was this idea of this girl who is at the center of this huge, big battle that’s pretty much been going on now at this point for two generations before her. And yet what she wanted was just so human — her feelings of abandonment, difficulty connecting with other people. How, when Rey is getting involved with the Resistance and Finn and Poe and Leia, she’s not in this to like, save the world or fix the Jedi or anything. At first, it’s just that feeling of wanting and that belonging. Especially when I was a teenager, when I look back at what was sort of driving me, [there] was that feeling of not knowing where your place was and trying desperately to find it. And as we see Rey grow we see her priorities shift and grow and become more like “typical” heroic traits and driving forces we’re used to seeing in our main characters. For me, that was something so special, especially getting to see a female character having this — I don’t want to necessarily call her selfish, but less like a noble ‘I’m in this to save the world, save the princess!’ type of thing, and just sort of trying to get by. And then finding herself n this great big battle and trying to realize, I can’t just be a bystander, I have to pick my side and pick what I’m going to do.

Star Wars joins Puzzle & Dragons – Sith and Jedi Battle through Exclusive Dungeons. Image courtesy GungHo Online Entertainment.
Star Wars joins Puzzle & Dragons – Sith and Jedi Battle through Exclusive Dungeons. Image courtesy GungHo Online Entertainment. /

Dork Side: One thing I really loved about your story is that it really takes Rey from what we know of her already and kind of takes her back to another moment of questioning what she’s doing and what her relationship to the Force is. It’s really that journey of, you can move forward, but sometimes you’re going to move back a little bit. And you have to keep going, and keep reminding yourself why you’re there and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Roseanne: Yes! That was so important to me to get to write. Because — so after we picked the characters, we were trying to figure out exactly what the story would be, and I just kept thinking, ‘What is there to explore here with this character? What would happen? What haven’t we seen yet?’ And I think one thing that has always fascinated me — and not just with Star Wars but with media in general — is the way trauma impacts fiction. And I remember the first time I watched Star Wars, one thing that always bothered me — and I know this has been dealt with in later works — but in the original movies, was how after Alderaan is blown up, we never see Leia truly react to that. We see her comforting Luke after Obi-Wan has died, and I’m just like, hang on, yes, Luke lost Obii-Wan, that was a big deal. But you just lost your planet, not just your entire family but an entire way of being. Billions of people, species, all gone. Where was the introspection of that? Where was the effect that would have on you? I want to put credit where credit is due, there’s amazing work being done in the wider canon that has addressed that, so many wonderful things focused on Lea. But that was one thing that stuck out to me. So when I was looking at Rey and we focused in on that period right after The Last Jedi but before The Rise of Skywalker, and Rey’s life has changed pretty drastically in a short amount of time. When we see her again in Rise of Skywalker, she’s come to a place where she’s kind of made peace with certain things — we’re told, in the earlier movies. But I really, as a storyteller, I was like okay, but what is the process there? We’re being told this process has happened, but II wanted to dig into what actually that would look like, coming to terms with a lot of things you thought you knew about the world weren’t true, or about yourself weren’t true. Or in the case of what happened with Luke, having wanted something so long, wanting that mentor figure and then losing them so quickly. What does that do to a person?

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Dork Side: And that’s such a huge benefit of having these stories in-between or in addition to the movies. Movies have this certain time frame that they have to tell an entire story in, and we have these books and these stories and these anthologies where you can explore further in-between, or in a completely new story, what is this character feeling? What are they actually going through? And you can dive deeper into their perspective, their feelings. And I’ve just always appreciated that so much, and I’m so glad that you got to do that with Rey, and to really get to explore her mindset in this in-between time more. 

Roseanne: I knew from the start — I love lightsaber battles, do not get me wrong. I love me a good action scene. But I just knew that’s not quite what I wanted to tell with this character. It felt a bit of a risk at the time, I remember being like, ‘Are you sure?’ Like this is more of an introspective story, is this going to fit with the anthology? But no. Jen and the team were so great about being like, ‘No, this fits, this has a place here.’ I’m so grateful I was able to do something a little less ‘pew pew, lightsabers, blasters’ that people might have expected.

Dork Side: It’s good to have all kinds of these stories. You can have the ‘pew pew’ and then you can have the deeper, more ‘feeling’ stories. So you have written many stories outside of Star Wars, all of them so great. And now you’ve finally gotten to join the growing family of people who get to write official Star Wars things. How has that been? What has that been like for you?

Roseanne: It has been overwhelming — but in a good way. I was at Star Wars Celebration back in May, and I’d done a couple small school visits and things. But because my debut novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and its sequel A Psalm of Storms and Silence came out during the pandemic, I had never done any in-person events for those books. That’s a whole series I released under pandemic conditions, so when I got the invite to Celebration, I was like, ‘OK, sure!’ I’d never attended Celebration as just a fan as well. I knew it was like the biggest Star Wars convention, but I don’t think the full scale of it hit me until I was there. I was like, ‘Oh … this is big.’ With Star Wars, it’s one thing to know it’s one of these enduring legacies, one of these franchises that means so much to so many people. But there’s just something about seeing the thousands and thousands of people, and screaming as the actors came on stage, I think that was when it hit me — I’m part of something that’s like, really, really huge. And I’m so grateful because E.K. Johnston took me under her wing and was just like, ‘I’m going to show you how you manage Star Wars.’ And I’m so grateful to her because I’m not sure I would have survived those days without her!

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Dork Side: You really don’t realize how many Star Wars fans and creators there actually are until you’re all in one convention center, and you’re like, there’s so many people here! I don’t know what to do!

Roseanne: And that’s just the people who can afford or have access to Celebration! And with online, people are very vocal but there’s still almost a level of attachment. But when you see them all you’re like, oh, wow. I think our signing for the anthology, they said that they allotted like 200 people in the line. And we ended up going over close to an hour. And that was just for the one anthology. So it was just blowing my mind.

Dork Side: One last question for you. It’s a very important question. If you were to write another Star Wars story, other than Rey, which characters would you want to write another story about?

Roseanne: Okay, I have two here. Number one would be Finn. I love Finn so much. I know that’s very on-brand with the sequel trilogy, but I just love that character so much. I think there’s so much to explore with him. And a non-sequel trilogy character — I loved Rogue OneRogue One was one of my favorite movies. I love Cassian Andor, I’m so excited for the show.

Dork Side: Me too!

Roseanne: I know the show’s about to explore his life before the Rogue One movie, but a book about his youth and growing up and the sort of immoral things he did on the side of the rebels. Thinking about that just makes me like, yes, I want to read that. Someone — even if I can’t write it — someone put that in my eyeballs. Please.

Dork Side: We need it. Desperately. We need more Finn too, I think. We have not gotten enough Finn.

Roseanne: I know, right? Finn, Poe, Rey, I just — I’m really excited to see what’s happening with them in the future because I feel like there’s so much fertile ground there with those three.

Dork Side: Definitely. We need more books, we need more — all the things. Thank you so much for doing this. All these stories in this anthology were great, and to end on yours was such a delight.

Roseanne: Thank you! They actually didn’t tell us the order — I think right before it went to printing we found out it was going to be chronological order. When I found out I was the last one I was like, ‘Oh gosh!’ Because it’s like, you gotta end with a bang right? But people have been very excited because, as you mentioned before, there hasn’t been a lot of Rey content yet. Getting to the end and realizing there’s Rey, they’re so excited, and I think that excitement has just made it so worth it.

Star Wars: Stories of Jedi and Sith is available now wherever books are sold.

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