Novels,  Prequel Trilogy

Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow author talks about her love for Padmé’s handmaidens and more



“E.K. Johnston has been all over the place promoting her latest Star Wars novel, “Queen’s Shadow” […]

Having just got home from a jam-packed couple of months, we caught up with E.K. in Toronto at Comicon where we discussed Padmé, the Handmaidens and much more!


Warning, spoilers for “Queen’s Shadow” are ahead!

[…] Padmé has been accused of having poor judgment when it comes to men, do you agree or disagree? Obviously, we’re talking about Anakin here.

I think with Padmé, she has this really obvious “oh no he’s hot” moment when they meet in “Attack of the Clones” And because everything is a secret, and everything is very glamorous and high stakes, they don’t have a lot of real conversations that we get to see on screen. Something is always going on or they are always at risk of being caught, or someone is catching them, but they don’t care, there’s always a twist to it.

I think her biggest flaw in her relationships are also some of her biggest strengths. That’s one of things that makes her so interesting and what makes her great is because she cares so much but at the same time, cares too much, especially for Anakin.

When he goes off the deep end, she’s there for him no matter what, and goes after him because she cares so much for him.

People often point to the scene in “Attack of the Clones” as a weak moment for Padmé, after Anakin returns from Tatooine.

There’s two moments really, and that one in “Attack of the Clones” she’s kind of in shock and doesn’t really know what to do. One thing I got do a little bit with the book was dig into her motivations for that and explore the reasons she’s so disconnected in those scenes. One of the reason’s in my head is that she has emotionally distanced herself from Tatooine.

She can’t get involved in local politics on Tatooine even though she wants to, so she sends Sabé and Tonra instead. But even then, she pulls them back so that she’s not involved at all.

By the time “Attack of the Clones” comes around she’s built this wall between her heart and this planet she cares so much about. And the one person that’s managed to break through that wall is Anakin so unfortunately, it’s a little backwards.

It’s probably not her greatest moment as a human being but I think it’s very understandable. Something terrible has just happened, actually three terrible things have just happened in a row, and she can only really deal with one of them. I think that’s very normal.

It’s really those scenes that make Padmé and Anakin somewhat relatable. We can’t be a Queen or a Jedi, but we’ve all been in relationships, facing tough decisions.

I feel like these two characters have very specialized backgrounds but zero experience in inter-personal relationships, in those specific kinds of inter-personal relationships.

Anakin’s only real example is Obi-Wan Kenobi who is a terrible example, and Padme’s only example is her friends. She’s quite good at being friends with people, but all of her friends work for her, so she doesn’t have a lot of completely separate relationships. 

You’ve mentioned the original working title was, “Queen’s Hands” so the Handmaidens were part of this story from the beginning. Was including the handmaidens a must-have?

Even if Lucasfilm had of said “no Handmaidens” (which they absolutely did not) I would have still included friends in the book and just called them “Senatorial Aids” or something.

In the “Ahsoka” book she starts off isolated and then accidentally makes a whole planet full of friends. I think Padmé in the same way, just in a more professional setting, is always going to attract people who are inspired by her because she’s a deeply inspiring person.

This book was very much a love letter to me and all of friends in fandom back in 1999. We all loved those girls (the Handmaidens) so much back then and just never stopped loving them.

What was it about the Handmaidens that you and your friends picked up on that so many didn’t?

I think what it was for me and a lot of my friends in the fandom was that we had Leia, who was functionally the only girl in the universe. And then if you read the books you had Mara who was often the only girl in the universe. And then when “The Phantom Menace” rolled around, we had this Queen and her 6 or 7 friends, and they were all really talented.
Based on limited information we knew we had these girls that were running the planet, are multi-talented and cross-trained to do a bunch of things, and at least one of them, Sabé, is willing to take a blaster bolt if she must.

So, because of the power of fandom, we built this community around them. In a similar way we’ve been building stories around random background characters since the beginning.

Because these were the first group of girls that we got, we really latched onto them a big way. […]

The details you provided for the Handmaidens was incredible, especially Saché who for me was so brave and strong. 

Basically, all we knew was that Saché and Yané stayed on the planet after the war. There’s that scene in “The Phantom Menace” where they are planning the invasion on the hood of a landspeeder and Panaka says, “almost everyone’s in camps…I brought back as many of the leaders as I could” So I thought it made sense for Saché and Yané to be there and really lean into the fact that they’re 12-years-old and no one will really pay attention to them. Except droids analyze patterns which is how they catch Saché.

The idea of Saché being a hero of Naboo in her own right, as well as being one of the Handmaidens, is what led her to becoming a politician, because she already had this background. She may have still gone into politics without that happening, but it definitely shaped her relationship with not only the Royal Guard but reinforced her feelings about Naboo, and what she’s willing to go through for the planet. […]”

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