Emma Mieko Candon likes to write stories that pull from her love for ‘90’s action movies. Being a fan of film franchises like The Mummy and Star Wars, she likes stories that can be quippy and fun, but she also cleaves on philosophical angst. As a new author on the scene, she wants to write action adventures, filled with a lot of queer people of color and an underlying current of a fraught metaphor.
Readers will be able to get a taste of Candon’s writing in her new novel, Star Wars: Visions – Ronin. A continuation of the Star Wars: Visions short film, The Duel, Candon was first approached with the possibility of writing a Star Wars novel, while shopping around her manuscript, The Archive Undying.
“My agent was like, ‘Oh, hey, so Star Wars is looking for somebody of Japanese ancestry. Do you want me to put your name in the hat?’” she recalled over a Zoom interview. “And I was like, ‘I don’t think that’s a serious question, but yes I do.’ She knows how deep into it I am, and so I think she sent them the first chapter of that manuscript.”
As it turns out, it was a serious question. Sometime after Candon sold The Archive Undying is when Disney circled back to her, offering her the opportunity to write a continuation of The Duel. Even though it involved putting the work for her debut novel on hold, it all worked out as the pandemic affected the supply chains and release dates of upcoming novels. It also gave her editor the opportunity to go on paternity leave. As she remarked, “So it [was] just very well timed for us — go do something else for a bit. So I got a new book, he got a new baby.”
Candon has been a fan of Star Wars since she was seven years old, when she came across a showing of The Empire Strikes Back, while on vacation with her family. The film enchanted her, as she was not able to tear herself away from it. From there, it’s been a deep dive into the remainder of the original trilogy, pouring through novels from Star Wars Legends, and being delighted when new films started being made. “It meant I had more opportunities to buy very stupid merch,” she noted.
Even though she’s very familiar with this franchise, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been terrified about the book’s upcoming release. The Archive Undying is slated for release in 2023, making Ronin the first novel penned by Candon that readers will have access to.
“I certainly had those [thoughts] while I was drafting or revising and thinking about, ‘Oh my god, people are going to see something I wrote,’” she explained, “because I’m kind of terminally shy about that, or I have been. Now I can’t be anymore quite in the same way, but I have… It’s a real struggle to get me to share my writing with anybody. I think my wife took it as a sign that her courtship was working when I let her read my stuff.”
She also was never that into writing fan fiction like her friends, and was instead off and writing her own original material. It was why she was never used to receiving feedback prior to her pursuits of becoming an author. She’s in a place now where she understands that her writing won’t please everyone, and that what’s important is the audience who will like it.
“Some people like it, and that’s the most important thing,” she commented. “It’s working for somebody, and because nothing pleases everybody, but if it’s working for people who I know are the kind of readers or creators whose work I really enjoy or who really like the same kinds of things that I do, then I’ve done my job and I’m very, very happy to learn that I actually have done that.”
The Duel was pre-selected as the film that would get the novel treatment when Candon came aboard. She finds it to be a very good choice, in that director Takanobu Mizuno was influenced by the tradition of Jidaigeki period pieces. Akira Kurosawa, whose films were what inspired George Lucas to even make Star Wars to begin with, often centered his work within this genre.
That’s why when Candon requested a dialogue with the creative team as she was developing the novel, the studio notes she received instead already aligned with her vision, because she understood the influence the film was drawing from.
“It was so clear to me what their inspirations were that I just went to what their inspirations were myself and used that to extrapolate and build,” she explained. “So none of their notes were ever contradictory on the level where it’s like, ‘Well, how are we going to fit this in?’ It was just like, ‘Oh, okay. That makes sense. That fits really well with this.’”
With the moral ambiguity surrounding the character of the Ronin, Candon found it all the more appropriate that his story draws from Jidaigeki. She explained how characters in this genre are never really good or evil, but are more nuanced and are told more from a socio-political lens. As she elaborated, “They are more emotionally messy, people are doing things that they think are good and that have consequences and their relationships to those consequences often colors what the story is, because someone can be doing things [like] committing cruelty and be okay with that, because they think the good thing is worth it.
“And other people in the same story can be pursuing good things and commit cruelty and then go, ‘Oh, I’m not okay with that,’” she added. “‘So what does that mean about my pursuit of this thing? Can I still do that? Must I, should I?’ That’s a lot of the kind of story that this genre that, again, The Duel is based on, and that Star Wars itself has that direct lineage to, is trying to wrestle with.”
Anytime Candon is writing a new book, she always strives to learn something from it. For writing Ronin, she valued learning to examine relationships between characters and making them more palpable for readers. She also appreciated having guard rails on this project, as she found them very helpful, and she is thinking about doing the same for herself for future ones.
“It was a real pleasure to work with something somebody had already established,” she said. “So you had to keep consistent emotionally as well as within the socio-political talent. It’s such a unique thing that it’s hard to say, like, and this is how I’m going to carry it over into other projects, because it was a really weird thing that I got to do. They’ve not done it before. I hope they do something like it again, I would love to see them do it; not just with Japanese culture, even though Star Wars has that really direct relationship, but with other cultures. I want to experience that. I want to be enriched by that. It’s so gorgeously cool.”
Candon explained how she wrote Ronin for fans of Star Wars who never really got to see their existence acknowledged. While she commends the newer Star Wars stories for enhancing their diversity, she believes there is still a ways to go. With Ronin, as she explained, “I did my best to use this opportunity to make it a gift to people who, like me, have that relationship with Stars Wars, where they love it, but the moments when they do feel a little seen are very, very special. I tried to put that into the book as much as possible, because I’m also there. I’m also hoping for Stars Wars to be like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re here.’”
With that said, Candon also hopes that readers take away the understanding that they are a person in the world, no matter how much their relationship to others, themselves, or greater forces changes. She wants readers to both beholden to understand what they want that relationship to be and to go for it.
Star Wars: Visions – Ronin is now available wherever books are sold.