Unless you’ve been living on Jakku for the last year, you probably know that Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the biggest bad guys in Star Wars right now. This genius Chiss officer is like the Sherlock Holmes of military strategy — using his skills of deduction to predict his opponent’s next move, and then wipes them off the board in a trap his enemies don’t see until it’s too late. He’s been the brains that have been thwarting Hera, Kanan, and the rest of Phoenix Squadron in the just-finished third season of Star Wars Rebels. And now, the story of Thrawn’s rise to power in the Empire is ready to be revealed in the novel Star Wars: Thrawn, coming out April 11 from Del Rey. Who better to pen this tale than the man who created the character himself, Timothy Zahn? StarWars.com called up the author, for whom Thrawn is his eleventh Star Wars novel, and got the scoop on the new book and the Grand Admiral’s appearance on Rebels, including the season finale, “Zero Hour.”
StarWars.com: Grand Admiral Thrawn was revealed as a character for Star Wars Rebels at Star Wars Celebration Europe last July, and as part of that, they also announced that you would be writing a Thrawn novel, to come out this April. What was it like to be part of that process? How did that feel?
Timothy Zahn: It was exhilarating, exciting, humbling, slightly terrifying. There’s a part of me that still in the core doesn’t quite believe this is happening – it feels almost unreal. It’s had a year or so to work its way through, I’m sure it will feel real at some point. The chance to not only write a new Star Wars book, not only about Thrawn, but then adding in that he will have been seen now by an entirely new audience. There’s been a segment of the population that began with the classic trilogy, there’s another segment that began with the prequels, and with The Clone Wars, and now we have now an up and coming generation that has found Star Wars by Rebels. Some of these people have read the books, others have not, and he’s being introduced to millions of people who have never heard of him before. It’s extremely exciting.
StarWars.com: Thrawn is a creation of yours from almost thirty years ago. And now we can see Thrawn on our TV screens — that’s got to be pretty mind-blowing as an author?
Timothy Zahn: It is. [Heir to the Empire, which introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn] came out in 1991 — it was probably finished around 1989 or 1990 — so getting close to 30 years. When you’re writing something, you’re always trying to do the best you can — make the most vivid characters, the best story, but you never know in advance what is going to connect with the reader. I thought Thrawn was a cool character, unlike anything we had seen in the movies, and I’d hoped he would resonate with the readers, but there was no way of knowing in advance. The fact that he has survived almost 30 years and the acclaim seen at the London Celebration when they showed that trailer showed that there were a whole bunch of people who very much still remembered him and were excited to see him coming to the screen.