“So this is how Padmé books are revealed. With thunderous applause.
Some of the biggest news to come out of the Lucasfilm publishing panel at San Diego Comic-Con was that we’re getting — finally — a Padmé Amidala novel: Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, coming March 5, 2019. (And it did indeed receive a raucous ovation when announced.) Set after the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the Young Adult novel follows the former queen’s transition to senator as she navigates the treacherous world of politics with the help of her loyal handmaidens. For the Padmé faithful, it promises to offer some previously unknown insight into her evolution between the films; plus, more Amidala, a modern Star Wars icon, is always a good thing. While details about Queen’s Shadow are still under wraps, StarWars.com had a quick chat with Johnston following the publishing panel about why she loves Padmé and what we can expect from the book.
StarWars.com: I know you can’t say much about Queen’s Shadow, but what can you tell me about your Padmé fandom?
E.K. Johnston: Well, it’s funny, because my favorite character in Star Wars is Leia. But Padmé is my doctor, which is a Doctor Who fandom thing, where like, the doctor you love the most is your doctor. And Padmé, for Star Wars, is my doctor. She’s the character that got me back into Star Wars when I was 14. She’s the character that’s helped me make all of my friends in Star Wars. I was 14, and she was 14 [in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace], and I thought we would get along pretty well once I learned to be a super spy like the rest of her friends. And so, I really wanted more of that story. When they were like, “Hey, do you want to write this book?” and I was like, “Do I get the handmaidens?” and they were like, “Yes!”, we just rolled from there. So it’s fantastic to take these super-smart, super-fantastic girls, and just write their stories and their relationships and all that kind of stuff. […]
StarWars.com: Without spoiling anything, what do you want people to learn or understand about Padmé that they might not have before?
E.K. Johnston: I think a lot of what Padmé does in the movies goes on inside her head. So her brilliance and her political acumen, you don’t necessarily see it play out in the movies. Because she’s so smart, she doesn’t explain what she’s doing. Getting to kind of get inside her head a little bit, and write from the perspective of inside her head, you sort of see how smart and how talented and how deeply compassionate she is. In a dress that weighs 80 billion pounds or in a suit for sneaking around or whatever, she has it covered because she knows herself and she knows her friends so well.”
UPDATE. From Syfy Wire:
“[…] “I just remember when I was 14 The Phantom Menace came out and I absolutely loved it. I loved Padmé. Because she was 14 and I was 14. I thought, ‘I feel like we would be great friends.’” [Johnston] says. “I loved the girl gang that came out of this story. How you have these girls who are really good at fashion and espionage and hand-to-hand combat. And they can fly ships. And they can shoot people. But they can also read body language really well and infiltrate meetings and they’re completely invisible. I loved that idea of a character. So when they asked, ‘Do you want to write a Padmé Amidala book?’ I was like, ‘How many of the handmaidens do I get?’” […]
“There’s this distance around Queen Amidala that there can’t be around Senator Amidala. She has to be much more approachable. Amidala herself is not one person. She’s always been two people. So, the other part of the book is where Sabé fits into the new organization and what the handmaidens are going to do. Again, they’ve been like running a planet as 14-year-olds, what are they going to do now that they’re moving on to the next stage of their lives.” Johnston pauses here and considers the group of young women she’s talking about. “The handmaidens, for me, have always been the epitome of [hope and working together] because they’re these girls who are the best of friends, in this slightly complicated friendship. They know that someday they might have to take a bullet for Padmé. And Padmé knows that someday they might take a bullet for her. And that, I believe, probably makes a friendship a little weird.”
“I think of it sometimes in terms of Frodo and Sam. The relationship between them. That was my approach to writing the dynamic. You have these two people whose bond is just incredibly difficult to explain. And people will spend decades theorizing about it.”
The relationship between the handmaidens and Padmé sounds like it will be central to the story of Queen’s Shadow. There’s a deep mythology around Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars films, but she’s not someone that we know as well as her daughter, Leia. “In the movies [Padmé’s], for the most part, professionally un-crackable.” Johnston says, “And a lot of that is a team effort. All of the handmaidens are involved. It’s a very long con, they’re always on camera, they practice so much that they very rarely relax, even when they’re just with their own personal guards. You very rarely catch them — even if it’s just like Padmé and a couple of handmaidens–in an unguarded moment because they just operate on a really high-level of ready-to-go-ness. Being able to break into a few of those moments was fun.” Johnston’s information understandably gets vaguer from this point on. The book isn’t out until March of 2019, after all. “A couple of the characters get isolated. Or they’re in different situations and then you get to sort of play around with who they meet and how they interact with who they meet.”
What she can say is how wonderful it was to be able to write these characters at all. “It was just such a gift to write super intelligent, highly competent girls.” Johnston continues, “I love reading [about] stoic female characters who have a ton of emotions going on, they’re just not showing them to you right now. Padmé and Sabé have mastered that as pre-teens and now they’re 18 and they’re really good at it. Learning that they’re going to have to start letting people in and that they’re going to have to sort of adapt if they’re going to do the sort of large scale thing that they want to try… it was really fun to write that.” […]”