‘Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy’ is the new book by Amy Ratcliffe celebrating 75 of the inspiring female characters from the Star Wars galaxy. The book is published by Chronicle Books and it is released today, 30th October 2018.
Amy is well known in Star Wars ‘fandom’ via her role as Managing Editor at Nerdist, her writing for StarWars.com and co-hosting the ‘Latte’s with Leia’ podcasts. Jedi News recently got the opportunity to speak to Amy about the book.
Hi Amy, thank you for joining us to chat with Jedi News. How are you?
AR – Lovely! Thank you so much for chatting with me!
Your day job is Managing Editor at Nerdist, what does the job at Nerdist entail for you?
AR – My average day encompasses a variety of activities: working with my co-workers to edit and fact check stories, sourcing stories, communicating with our freelancers, keeping tabs on entertainment news, looking at analytics, and writing whenever I can. Mostly it’s keeping an eye on the schedule and opportunities to fill in gaps with stories to engage our audience.
We all know that you’re a huge Star Wars fan, but what are your first memories of Star Wars?
AR – I first saw the original trilogy in the late ’90s when they were re-released in theatres as the special editions. But! My first ever memory was actually from 1991 when I rode Star Tours. I was visiting Disneyland with my family and rode the attraction with my cousin and had no idea what it was about it, but I vaguely recall the trench run.
Well I need to ask, how did this ‘project’ get started?
AR – My editor at Chronicle Books emailed me about a possible Star Wars project focused on highlighting and celebrating female characters in the galaxy. It was out of the blue, and I sort of didn’t believe it was real at first. Happily, it wasn’t some elaborate prank. I talked it over with my editor and submitted some samples. I’m so grateful they decided to move forward with it!
Once you had the ‘green light’, were you daunted by the task ahead?
AR – Oh, I was incredibly intimidated. I’ve dreamed of writing a Star Wars book, and I can’t imagine a more exciting title to start with but I was definitely worried about getting everything wrong. The book had to come together quickly, too. I broke the 75 characters down on a spreadsheet and figured out what I needed to do each day; that really helped me stay on track and not feel like I was flailing.
The book is excellent, it just oozes quality from the picture of Rey on the cover, the design, the feel and the presentation of it. I bet you’re please with the end result?
AR – I was so thrilled when I saw the finished book. Between the stunning illustrations by 18 different artists, to the practically glowing cover, to the layout of each character – I think it’s something truly special and so visually appealing. I’ve never seen another Star Wars book like it.
How much influence did you have on the layout and design?
AR – The wonderful and talented folks at Chronicle Books worked with Lucasfilm on layout and design, and they absolutely crushed it.
I know you have an affinity for Ahsoka and I do think she is a very positive character that has helped to open the Star Wars galaxy to a new and broader audience. What were the qualities that you see in her that inspire you?
AR – I’ve really enjoyed watching Ahsoka grow up over the years, from The Clone Wars to Rebels. It’s always a joy to get to see a character’s arc unfold over so many years. I admire much about her, but I always go back to how impressive it is that she always puts others first even when it means putting herself at risk. She left the Jedi Order, but she never stopped being selfless. It’s remarkable.
When you sit down with this book, you start to realise how many prominent female characters there are in the Star Wars galaxy. Some of the list may be obscure to some, but this book will hopefully encourage those fans to seek out their stories in whatever medium they are carried in. Who decided the list of characters for the book?
AR – Coming up with the list of characters was a collaborative process with Lucasfilm and Chronicle Books.
It’s great that you got to some lesser known characters like Asajj Ventress, Doctor Aphra, Camie Loneozner and Rae Sloane to name a few, but were there any characters that didn’t make it in to the book?
AR – Since we didn’t have infinite pages, some characters inevitably didn’t make it in, but I’m happy with the final list of characters. And hey, hopefully we can do another volume or something one day!
One thing that stood out for me was each narrative isn’t just about the character, but it also gives behind the scenes information about the actor or author that has brought them to life. What made you decide to go with this format instead of a it being more like a character reference story?
AR – We didn’t want the book to read like a “she did that, and then this, and also don’t forget this other cool thing.” Instead of reading like an encyclopedia entry, we wanted the profiles to show off personality traits and key moments and to be a celebration of the character, which is definitely influenced by behind the scenes details.
I think that the format used was brilliant and some of the pieces taught me some things I didn’t know at the time. Were there any characters that you didn’t have a great knowledge of that you had to research and now see them in a different light?
AR – Thank you! I really appreciate that. I didn’t know about a few of them, like Lina Graf from the Adventures in Wild Space series. I got my hands on those books and quickly inhaled them. They’re junior novels, and I hadn’t got around to reading them (shame on me). The research taught me I shouldn’t be sleeping on any of the books, even if they’re targeted at young children.
I love the fact that Aunt Z from the new Star Wars: Resistance series is featured in there. The developments of the series have been a well-guarded secret, so did you have to beg, steal or borrow the information from Dave Filoni for her character?
AR – The Star Wars Resistance characters were, I believe, the very last entries I completed. Not much information was available publicly about the animated series, but Lucasfilm was ridiculously helpful in providing whatever information they could about the new characters. I was able to get an idea about what they did and who they were.
I must admit to having a slightly emotional moment when I saw that you had included R2-KT. For those that don’t know, this character was created in memory of Katie Johnson, daughter of Albin Johnson who is the founder of the 501st Legion costuming group. Katie sadly lost her battle with cancer at the age of seven, so the astromech with pink plating being included was very special. I know this will bring a smile to many faces, I can only imagine how proud Albin must be, but who’s decision was it to include her in the book?
AR – R2-KT was part of the book from the beginning. Katie’s story is such a touching one, and I hope Albin will be pleased to see this tribute to her and her droid in the book.
We dare not forget the amazing artwork that is in the book. Did you get to brief or guide the artists on what you from them or were they, pardon the pun, given a blank canvas? 😊
AR – Ha! My editors at Chronicle really worked with the artists on divvying up characters and working with Lucasfilm to give them guidance. They were kind enough to let me make a few suggestions about story beats I mention in the profiles – like showing a teenage Phasma on Parnassos – but I was pretty hands-off with that part. I was thrilled when my editor would share roughs of the art with me!
Now I must apologise, but I’m going to put you on the spot. Do you have a favourite piece of artwork in the book?
AR – I can’t choose! The artists all did such an incredible job capturing likenesses and personalities. Like, Ciena Ree’s ambition and pride radiates off the page. I love seeing all the different artists’ styles come through, too. We get to see the characters as we haven’t before. I keep flipping through and looking at the illustrations!
I’ve got say, I struggled to find a favourite, but if pushed to decide I’d go with the picture of Oola. It’s so accurate to on screen actress, Femi Taylor, but there is a simplicity and cleanliness to picture. At this point I must give my apologies to all the other artists!
From what I can tell you were a little on the busy side at New York Comic-Con. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but I managed to keep up to date with the proceedings online. How were the launch events for you?
AR – New York Comic Con was quite the uplifting weekend. Everyone I spoke with was so kind and supportive of the book. Plus I got to meet some of the artists for the first time! It was an absolute privilege to talk to so many Star Wars fans and gush about our favourite characters. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
So, after this what are you up to next?
AR – Right now I’m focused on Star Wars Celebration Chicago in April. I can’t wait to host the Behind-the-Scenes Stage again and hang with my Star Wars family.
Amy, I know you’re very busy and Team Jedi News would like to thank you for taking the time out to chat with us. It’s been a real pleasure and we wish you every success with the book and the day job at Nerdist and hope to speak to you again soon!
AR – It was delightful to chat with you. Thank you again!
Team Jedi News would also like to extend our thanks to the Abrams & Chronicle Books and Chronicle Books teams for helping arrange this interview and advance copies of the book.
‘Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy’ by Amy Ratcliffe, published by Chronicle Books was released on 30th October 2018. It is available in hardback format from all good bookstores on the high street and via Amazon and other online retailers with a RRP of UK £21.99/US $30.00.