The following is a short snippet from our full interview with E.K. Johnston on a bonus episode of The Living Force Podcast.
The Living Force: I want to ask what was it like for you when you found out you were going to be writing another Padme book? Walk us through that.
E.K. Johnston: It was pretty exciting! The plot of Queen’s Peril was actually the book that I pitched to Lucasfilm way back. They were like, ‘Do you want to write Ahsoka?’ and I was like, ‘Yes.’ Then they were like, ‘Do you want to write a Padmé book?’ and I was like, ‘YES.’ And then they were like, ‘Do you want to write the Padmé book that you proposed in the first place?’ and I was like, ‘I do, actually!’
So it was kind of like an escalation. But this is the book I pitched, well more or less because there had to be some changes because there have been movies since then. This was sort of like my dream project I suppose, for lack of a better word, that I had been thinking about and all the way through Queen’s Shadow I was leaving myself space for it just in case. Then I got to write eventually so it was pretty fantastic.
TLF: Speaking of Queen’s Shadow, in that book, you did a really incredible job of making Padmé a powerful protagonist without resorting to assigning to her all of these traditional masculine characteristics. Can you expand on if that was your intentional goal, and why is that important to you personally as a storyteller?
E.K. Johnston: It was definitely very intentional on my part. I have written now, several different heroines in various different books and the one who gets the most criticism is the one who does magic by embroidery and weaving because she doesn’t ever punch anybody. The thing that she embroiders pulls a gigantic bird down from out of the sky to attack the bad guy, but she’s kind of passive and to me that was done on purpose.
There are two ways to throw down a government. You can light the building on fire or you could be the termite, and this character is the termite. I love writing the termite characters because they get these sort of interesting ways in. Padmé functions more on the termite side in Queen’s Shadow. She can’t just sort of swan in and do stuff anymore. She has to become part of the machine. I wanted to give her as many tools to work with as I could. Because frequently we disparage the feminine, I wanted to have everything that we’ve ever made fun of a teenage girl for doing and wanted them to use it.
TLF: Absolutely! And on that, in Queen’s Peril, you really take a lot of the characteristics of the other handmaidens like Yané and Sabé and Rabé, and really root their power in the art they do before they get into Padme’s service. What was it about that art that drew you to them specifically?
E.K. Johnston: It kind of came the other way around. I had to introduce five characters and make them different from each other all at the same time. I wanted to make sure they all had a function in the story first. I literally wrote down all their names, and then I wrote down what they needed to do, those became the five parts of the book plus Padmé. So the way I usually describe it is say that Padmé looks at a dress and is like, ‘How am I going to wear this?’ Sabé looks at the dress and says, ‘How am I going to duplicate this?’ Rabé looks at it and thinks, ‘What are we giving away and what can we get back with this dress?’ Saché looks at the dress and thinks about what other people will see when they look at her, Eirtaé is the engineer so she makes them work physically, and Yané is the maker so she’s the one who actually has to make the dress. So I have these six pieces, and their character really kind of grew up around that.
TLF: Now anyone that follows you online knows that you are an outspoken lover of Episode I, and this book is full of so many additional elements and characters from that movie. What do you think makes Phantom Menace itself such an impactful addition to the Star Wars franchise?
E.K. Johnston: This is my opinion. I have both been in arguments and have also been told that this is a non-problematic opinion, but when I was fifteen, it was my fifteenth birthday the day that Phantom Menace came out and I thought that it was awfully nice of George Lucas to make me a Star Wars movie.
But the thing was, in The Phantom Menace, Anakin is a side quest and Padmé is the protagonist. I think for me, that’s why that movie has always resonated. You’ve got the politics, you’ve got this girl and all of her friends. I’ve seen a lot of movies where a group of girls did stuff. So we got this movie with this girl who is fantastic, all of her friends are fantastic. She’s speaking in public and she’s talking back to the Jedi and she’s overthrowing a government kind of by accident and taking her planet back with an act of profound humility when she goes to Boss Nass. Just this idea that that’s the movie that I always watched. When she goes to Tatooine, she spends almost the entire time she’s there getting her foot out of her mouth. She eats a lot of crow, she grows as a person, she manages to not deeply insult anybody and it’s very much a change for her but it introduces Anakin, not centers him. And it introduces Shmi Skywalker who I would argue is a bigger influence on Padmé’s mindset in The Phantom Menace than Anakin is, until the end.
So the idea of that being the movie I watched, and I think that people have been warming up to that read of it a little bit in the last few years which is nice, but it’s definitely always been one of my favorites because it’s got everything I love. Girls doing stuff, politics, lightsabers, and a car chase!
You can listen to our FULL interview with E.K. Johnston here!
For more Queen's Peril action here at Youtini, be sure to:
- Order Queen's Peril and Queen's Shadow if you haven't already
- Visit the Official Book Profile to leave your own ranking and review.
- Tune in to our Queen's Peril roundtable episodes near the end of June!