Hello There! John Jackson Miller Talks Kenobi
John Jackson Miller has quickly become a fan favorite in the Star Wars expanded universe. His first Star Wars novel is Knight Errant, released in 2011, alongside a comic book series of the same name which he wrote for Dark Horse Comics. He’s also been the regular writer of Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic comics since the beginning, and has written for the Star Wars Role-Playing Game. And of course, he’s the man behind the incredible Lost Tribe of the Sith series.
John recently answered some questions I had regarding his newest Star Wars novel, Kenobi.
Be advised, there are Kenobi spoilers!
KA: In all of your Star Wars books thus far, you manage to build an interesting yet simplistic story, which is quite refreshing. Complicated stories can be very frustrating to the reader. How do you feel you achieve this?
JJM: It’s all about structure, and understanding that every character is the hero of his own story, and that they all have their own story arcs. They can and do intertwine, and they need to do so in ways that are important; Annileen Calwell affects Obi-Wan’s life and vice versa. But by concentrating on just a few characters, we’re able to make their individual lives quite a bit more detailed. Orrin Gault, for example, has a host of concerns he has to deal with, but he’s the spokesman for them, so to speak, and helps us keep them straight. Because he’s not one of a cast of dozens, it’s easier for us to know what’s important to him.
From movies and books to comics and games, there are multitudes of references out there that feature Obi-Wan Kenobi. What sets your book apart from them?
I think this is a very personal story, limited in scope — very much a character study of him and three people who encounter him. There isn’t a galactic menace to be stopped or Sith danger in the immediate area: it’s about whether Obi-Wan can shed his impulses for heroics and his desire to act all the time and surrender himself to his new role as hermit guardian. He isn’t a passive player in events, but his options are very limited, and that’s something new to him.
So it’s a different kind of book. I think Star Wars is about more than just space battles and lightsaber duels; at least, this particular time in Obi-Wan’s life certainly is. I was thrilled that we could tell this sort of story.
There are many brilliant things about this book, but one that stood out in my mind are the references to Anakin’s massacre in Attack of the Clones, and how it’s still an open wound to the Tuskens in Kenobi. Was this a recent addition to the book, or was this event always in your mind, and one that you wanted to revisit during the long Kenobi creative process?
That was in the original storyline, which I came up with in 2006 as a possible graphic novel. It fit into a larger ebb and flow of relations between the settlers and the Tuskens over the years; I knew Outlander, years earlier, was another piece of the puzzle. It just made perfect sense that the local Tuskens were in a downward spiral after all that had happened — and by describing how bad their problems were, it helped us to understand them a little better, while also tying things back to Anakin’s story. Ironically, A’Yark and Obi-Wan are both in the jam they’re in because of what Anakin did here in Attack of the Clones!
I loved the moments when Obi-Wan talked to Qui-Gon, but was a bit disappointed that Qui-Gon never responded. Why didn’t he?
Because it had already been established in Dark Lord that Obi-Wan had not heard his master’s voice in years when Qui-Gon speaks to him about Anakin being Darth Vader. By the time of Kenobi, that hadn’t happened yet. The Revenge of the Sith novelization established that Yoda had talked with Qui-Gon and that he would train Obi-Wan to be able to do so; successful communication only comes later, at that pivotal moment.
I had no intention of trying to write around that, because it was perfect for this time in Obi-Wan’s life. This is the time when he is most alone, most needs to figure things out on his own. He’s got to learn to walk again, and can’t depend on Qui-Gon all the time — for company, or as a crutch or a confessor. I also wanted to keep the scope of the story solidly within the realm of Tatooine and Obi-Wan’s own mind — if we had a two-way Mork-Calling-Orson conversation every few chapters, I think it would’ve drawn away from the action on the ground, which was our real focus.
I personally have a strong desire to see more Kenobi books that follow Obi-Wan’s life on Tatooine. Is that something that would interest you? It’s bound to attract the same interest from readers seen thus far for Kenobi.
I had always considered this a stand-alone story, and it is that — it requires no previous knowledge, and it has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. But as I got further into the work, I came to really enjoy the setting, and began to see some other possible story directions for the future. I certainly would be interested in following it up — he’s going to be there for a loooong time — but it would need to make sense for everyone involved. It’s going to be a busy galaxy for the next few years!
One last thing. You made me care about Obi-Wan’s eopie probably more than I should have. I don’t know how you turned a forgettable animal seen in the movies to one I worried about in Kenobi, but you did. Please tell me we’ll see more of Rooh, somewhere.
Heh! Well, we learn in Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi that Obi-Wan gives his eopie to the Jawas in exchange for rides — but we don’t know which eopie. Maybe we’ll get a children’s storybook out of it!
Bryan Dean is the founder and administrator of Knights’ Archive. You can follow him on Twitter at @bry_dean.
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