Interview: Sam Maggs talks Merrin, Battle Scars, and expanding the Star Wars universe

Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars. Image courtesy
Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars. Image courtesy /

Today, Star Wars Jed: Battle Scars by Sam Maggs was officially released to the public.

Cal Kestis and the Mantis crew are back — and this time, they’re about to face a major threat not just tot themselves, but also to the entire galaxy.

Dork Side of the Force sat down with the author to learn more about her journey to becoming a Star Wars writer and why the story of Battle Scars means so much to her. Plus, there’s another character she would love to write a story about someday … if anyone ever lets her. (Please let her. Please.)

Here’s the interview.

Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars. Image courtesy
Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars. Image courtesy /

Dork Side of the Force: First of all, how are you? How are you doing? You’re less than a week out from this book finally coming out into the world. Are you OK? Are you hydrating? Are you sleeping? Is everything going OK on your end? 

Sam Maggs: It’s really exciting, honestly. I mean, it’s a combination of exciting and nerve-wracking because you know,  the book has been just close to my chest for such a long time and I haven’t been able to share it with anyone — except for my wonderful editor Tom [Hoeler] pretty much. And now it’s out there and at that point you know, the book doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to readers, to you guys, which is really, really exciting. Also a little bit nerve-wracking, but it’s been really great. I’ve been doing a lot of interviews. Right after this chat I’m getting on a plane to go to Emerald City Comic Con, which is one of my favorite conventions in the country. We’re giving away early copies tomorrow, which is gonna be really neat. So yeah, I feel good, I feel like I’m doing well, but I could always be hydrating more. So this is a really good reminder and I. appreciate it.

DSOTF: I think we all could be hydrating more. That’s why I ask because like, you know, nothing wrong with being reminded to stay alive, I guess. OK, so wow, this is great that you’re at this point. We’ve done a whole book. It’s it’s not quite out yet, but it’s — we’re getting there. We’re so close. You are a fan of so many things, as so many of us are, and your parents were Star Wars fans — there’s so many things that you love, and it truly is a dream for so many people who are so invested in pop culture to be able to tell stories in the universes they love. As you do. How have your fandoms inspired your stories and your journey? Was there a point, I guess when you know, you’re a fan of all these things and you’re doing the things. Was there a moment where you were like: “This is the path I want to go down. I would like to take my love of stories and my love of these universes and combine them”?

SM:I mean, I think for so many people who are big fans, big fangirls like I am of genre media and these universes that we love, it is always a big dream to be like, oh my gosh, one day I would love to be able to create something for this universe or, you know, to get to play in this sandbox, to be one of, you know, as we used to call it on the Stargate forums back in the day, to become. one of like the powers that be. To get to play with these characters we love so much and a lot of us do it in an equally valid way, which is through transformative fan works like fanart or fanfiction, and which, you know, I still love and think is super valid, although I can’t obviously read Star Wars fanfiction anymore! But I I don’t think it was so much like, oh, I meant to follow this path as like … this is a real dream and it would be amazing if one day this worked out. And I kind of did everything I could to put myself in a position where I would end up either getting approached or like you know, knowing the right people or putting the right work out there that would be noticed by folks who are in charge of doing the hiring for projects like these.

I think my fandom inspires my work in a lot of ways because I spent so long thinking about — as I think a lot of fans do — a lot of what inspires transformative fan works like fanfiction is looking at the stories that we love and being like “Yeah, but I’m not seeing this kind of story. I’m not seeing more female characters in leading roles. I’m not seeing queer romances, I’m not seeing XYZ” and putting that into their fan works. And that I think has really informed my canonical storytelling in all of these worlds, which is like when I was growing up, what didn’t I see that I wish I had. And I think that more female protagonists, obviously, more complicated, complex, morally grey female characters is a big one. Queer relationships between women, a huge one for me, cooperative relationships between women, you know, all of these things that we didn’t really — teams of women stuff we didn’t get to see that I was always like, man. It would be awesome if we had that. I think that really informs my current work in a lot of ways, certainly informs Battle Scars.

DSOTF: It sure does. And you know what? You did it. You had this dream. You knew what you wanted to see and — without spoilers — I will say: Merrin: A Star Wars Story is a great book. 

SM: Oh my God, thank you so much.

DSOTF: This is not the first time you’ve written Star Wars stories. You’ve written for Star Wars Adventures, and you wrote the Star Wars short story that is my favorite pun of all time, which is “Luke on the. Bright Side.”

SM: It’s funny … when the proofs came in for that book, initially it was the first time I had seen the rest of the stories that were going to be included in Stories of Jedi and Sith. And everyone else had picked like a very serious title for their story. And I remember emailing my editor and being like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Like this was mostly a joke. We can totally change the title. Like, don’t even worry about it.” She emailed me back being like, “Don’t you dare!” And I was. like, OK, yeah, alright, we’ll keep it. So I’m glad you appreciate it.

DSOTF: And this is why editors exist, because they just let you do the things and they don’t let you back down, you know.

SM: So true.

DSOTF: You’ve written all these stories. Stories are all stories, but a novel — it’s a big thing. It’s a big story. It’s the first time you’ve done that for Star Wars. How did writing the Star Wars stories you’ve written previously prepare you to take on this new endeavor, which is writing a whole big novel?

SM: Oh yeah. I mean, I think it really helped situate me into, like, the tone of what most of the Star Wars media writing projects live in. You know, it helped me to get familiar with what Lucasfilm and the Story Team is really looking for when it comes to tone, theme, you know, character development, those sorts of things on these external media projects. So that was really, really nice because I felt like I was a little bit grounded when I came into Battle Scars.

What was particularly challenging for me about Battle Scars is that this is, you know — Star Wars Adventures and Stories of Jedi and Sith are both all-ages books, but, you know, primarily aimed at. a younger audience or readable for a younger audience, as is a lot of my previous work in prose fiction. I’ve written for adults a lot in video games, which is my day job. You know, I’ve written for Call of Duty and I’ve written for comics, I’ve written for Critical Role, which is a more adult property. But for novels, I’ve written middle-grade — but this, Battle Scars, was my first adult novel. And so I think I. That was what was sort of most nerve-wracking for me. And it was the thing that my editor at Del Ray — my editor, Tom, who’s wonderful, was the most encouraging about it. He was like, “I know you can do this. I picked you for this project for a reason.” And so it was nice having that background on the other projects, knowing that the Lucasfilm team at least already knew my work and was supportive of me going into a kind of project in a medium that was, in a way. I mean, I’ve written novels before, but this was sort of in a way, fresh.

DSOTF: A lot of authors who end up writing Star Wars novels start. In the realm of, maybe they’re doing comics, they’re doing short stories, and it’s fun to see them go from one thing to another and try out different things. I think it’s just really, really cool that y’all get to do that.

SM: I feel really lucky to be sort of in that group of incredibly talented folks like Mike Chen and Delilah Dawson and Claudia Gray and Beth Revis, and these writers who I’m such a huge fan of myself. It feels a little bit surreal. Frankly, I feel really lucky.

DSOTF: Battle Scars is pretty unique as far as Star Wars books are concerned, in that we don’t get a lot of books featuring video game characters that are set between two games. One that hasn’t come out yet. What was it about this project, whether it be the time period or the characters, that made you really jump in and be like: “This! This is a thing I want to do, I would like to write this story please”?

SM: So many things about the Mantis crew just made it real Sam Maggs bait. Besides the fact that as we sort of touched on earlier, Merrin is the kind of character that we almost never get to see in media generally. Like we don’t get a lot of POV female characters who are real sort of antihero. More like kind of like evil bad girls. You know, we’re not allowed that a lot. And the fact that we didn’t get to see a lot of her in Fallen Order, that she shows up right at the very end, left me chomping at the bit for more from her. And I remember finishing playing the game and almost immediately going on Twitter and tweeting like, “Let me write the main book!”

I think like a lot of people who played the game, where most people probably fell in love with her, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I want more. I want to know more about her background. I want to know her story. I want to know how she feels. I want to know how she feels about being like … an evil witch who joins the like … the U.S.S. Goodie-Goodie.” It’s a lot. And so Merrin was a big reason, obviously, but also I’m a big fan of sci-fi stories about, like a, rag tag space team, I love found family. I love “small family on rickety ship in space take on big evil organization too big for them” stories. One of one of my favorite sci-fi tropes, frankly, which I think they do so well in Fallen Order, and they set up so well and also just — the cast of characters itself, like, obviously I love Merrin, but the way that BD and Greeze and Cere and Cal play off of each other –I just wanted to hang out with them more. You know, like, that’s how I felt. I was like, I don’t know what my friends are up to now after this.

And that’s really what did it for me. I mean, I’m a Star Wars fan, you know, Star Wars is wonderful at creating characters and characters that you care about, but there was something about this crew in particular that I was like … oh this, this is it. Like there’s so much potential here and I I really want to be a part of it. The game was so fun. It helps. It was a blast to play.

DSOTF: It was. I remember finishing it because I finished it before this book was announced and I was like, Merrin is so cool and the game ends and I’m just like I need more. And you gave us more!

SM: Well, and being a game writer made this particularly appealing to me too. It was like, oh, I want to write Video Game: The Book, you know? And I I had a lot of fun with that, especially in writing the action sequences because they’re so fun to play in the game. And I really, really wanted the action sequences in Battle Scars to feel like the way it feels when you’re playing Cal in Fallen Order and Survivor. I obviously take some liberties with the fact that this is a book and I get to like, make Cal ride on the back of a bounty hunter who’s flying or whatever. But like for the most part. I obviously you know, I played the game, I beat the game, all that stuff, but as I was writing actively, I always had YouTube videos open of Cal’s move sets and his actions because I wanted the moves that he executes in the book to match as closely one to one as possible to the gameplay because I wanted people who played the game to, you know, read about Cal’s actions to be like, oh, oh, I recognize that. I can do that. I did do that! And I wanted to sort of canonize the fact that these aren’t just like buttons that you press on the controller. These are Cal’s moves. This is his move set, this is what he does, you know. So that was really, really fun.

It was one of the things I was most nervous about going into writing the book was the action sequences, but it was the thing that I consistently got the most positive feedback on through every iteration as I was drafting, from both my editor and from Lucasfilm, which was great. The feedback that I did get a lot of the time from [Lucasfilm] was like: “This is too violent.” And I often had to. be like, have you played the game? And they’re like, yeah, but that doesn’t really happen. And I’m like … it happened. I did it. And they’re like, you know, hand waving. It was like, OK, OK, OK. So I toned the video game violence down a lot in the. Call sections, not so much in the Merrin section. That felt important. To me, for her character, so.

DSOTF: The book really does feel like a video game, but because it’s a book, it’s able to kind of expand on the story so much more and like, Fallen Order is a great story and it’s kind of like we’re getting the sequel. But you get so much more, you get, you know, in the characters’ heads and things like that and everything from the action to the dialogue too. Like you really do, there are moments in this book where you do feel like you’re hanging out with the characters because they’re just, they’re standing around and they may be talking about something or planning something, but you’re there. You did a great job.

SM: Oh, thank you so much. That means so much to me. I really appreciate it.

DSOTF: Most, if not all, writers who get to play in this universe have a dream character or story that they’re like. I hope someday to write this thing, if you haven’t already, do you have a character, a story, an era you want to touch? Something in Star Wars that you want, for a time, to be yours?

SM: Oh my gosh, Bo-Katan – I would love to write her so much. I feel like it probably will not happen because I’m sure they have like, a million things in the works for her, but like … I love Katee Sackhoff, like my my OG pick for Captain Marvel. Like I just I love — I love that character. It would be so fun to explore the Mandalorians further through like her perspective. But if I’m being totally honest with you, I just want to write more Merrin! Maybe Merrin comics or something would be amazing, but like I just, I think we deserve more Merrin.

DSOTF: Oh, we definitely do.

SM: I feel like maybe if I say Bo-Katan in these interviews enough someone at Lucasfilm will have to let me do it.

DSOTF: I want someone someday to write like a Bo-Katan and Satine like coming of age novel like they’re still in that era where they’re still figuring it out and before the Clone Wars, things like that. I’ve wanted that for so long and like maybe you won’t get to write that one, but I hope because I don’t know if anyone will. If we’re being honest. But I hope you got to do something because she‘s my favorite character, so I need.

SM: I’m obsessed with her.

DSOTF: I know it would be so great.

SM: Well, fingers crossed. With our powers combined, yes.

DSOTF: We’ll make it happen.

SM: Thank you so much. I’ll keep you posted.

DSOTF: Good, good. This has been really, really fun. I love hearing about your experience working on this book and getting to know these characters — it just comes through in the way you talk about this story, how much you love it, and it also comes through in the story itself. And I cannot wait for everyone to be able to read this book and experience it for themselves.

SM: I had so much fun writing it. I’m so glad you had fun reading it, and I I can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world!

Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars is available now wherever you get your Star Wars books.

Next. Review: Merrin gets the spotlight in romantic and electrifying Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars. dark

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