John Jackson Miller, author of dozens of Star Wars sagas, goes behind one of the universe's most iconic characters inKenobi.
How heavily are the events of Revenge of the Sith—the destruction of the Jedi, the rise of the Empire, Anakin falling from grace—weighing upon Obi-Wan in this story?
John Jackson Miller: Very heavily. With the destruction of the Jedi order, he's lost the family he had--an entire support system, ripped away. The people will lose a lot to the Empire, but he's already lost a lot. He blames himself for not seeing it coming. And then there's Anakin, who he called his brother, whom he was forced to kill—or so he still believes. He's definitely struggling with that. Was there something he could have done to stop Anakin's fall? Did he in any way cause it?
So he's living with a lot of pain. He isn't a broken man—his inner strength borders on the unreal—but he could certainly use someone to talk to. He tries to talk to Qui-Gon through the Force; he tries to find a friend locally. But most of the burden will be on Obi-Wan to figure it out, himself. He has to learn to cope.
How do these events force him to become “Old Ben,” the crazy hermit?
JJM: Very gradually—and in Kenobi, we only see a short period of time, mostly through the eyes of the others he meets. The local settlers—and a Tusken Raider leader—all see something different in him. Obi-Wan knows he's going to have to go out in public at least occasionally in order to live on Tatooine: What face should he show them? Part of Kenobi is about Obi-Wan figuring out how to play the role, how to settle into the image that he wants to convey.
But he's constantly challenged by the fact that trouble seems to find him—and by his reactions. He wants desperately to do something, even on a small scale, so he's not sitting on his hands for an eternity; it's part of his wiring as a Jedi. And that poses another dilemma for him. Because waiting in hiding indefinitely is, in fact, his mission—and it's one that he could well endanger by acting locally.
Darth Vader and the Empire are presumably eradicating remaining Jedi throughout the galaxy. How is Obi-Wan able to hide his identity?
JJM: Jedi are trained to hide, to be able to blend into the background. But doing that every day, indefinitely, when one is being hunted is a challenge of a different scale. That's where Tatooine comes into play—and Tatooine is almost a character in the novel itself. As Kenobi goes along, it becomes apparent what the residents do and don't know about the events of the galaxy; he has to find that out, himself, in order to know how to act. We discover the state of things even as he does.
Does Obi-Wan struggle with the fact that he has to remain on Tatooine? How drastically does this differ from his former life as a Jedi where there is always the possibility of space travel?
JJM: It is a huge change for him to deal with. He's been near the mountaintop, the pinnacle, the center of events in the galaxy all his life. He's accustomed to knowing what's going on, and to having the mobility necessary to go wherever he is needed.
In Kenobi, he is, as Luke Skywalker later puts it, on the planet that's farthest from "the bright center of the galaxy." Obi-Wan has no starfighter, has no speeder bike—those things in the possession of a drifter might cause unnecessary attention. All he has is the eopie we see him with at the end of Revenge of the Sith. And Obi-Wan has little access to news of what's going on in the rest of the galaxy; he fears to even log into the galactic communications systems, for fear of giving his presence away. He doesn't even know Darth Vader lives.
This is how things need to be, he understands. His mission is to protect Luke, not go adventuring abroad. But it creates a whole new set of problems for him to cope with. Near the start of the book, he's just moved to the house we see in A New Hope, many kilometers from Luke's farm. How can he keep an eye on the place when it's such a long commute? Kenobi shows his struggles to work out solutions.
What does Tatooine’s isolated location on the Outer Rim offer for Kenobi in hiding?
JJM: Exactly that: isolation. The Jedi might be celebrities in the galactic core worlds, but Tatooine's residents are largely concerned with one thing: trying to survive on Tatooine. They're at the very end of the information chain, and that is perfect for someone who doesn't want to be recognized.
A further point was established in a previous novel, James Luceno's Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader--Vader himself is likely not to turn his thoughts much to a planet that has caused him such pain. Obi-Wan doesn't know about Anakin's survival as yet, but certainly it does help make Tatooine a good choice for a hiding place. Not in plain sight—but in the Sith Lord's blind spot, as it were.
The Empire is attempting to spread their power base throughout the galaxy. How immense of an area are we actually talking about here?
JJM: Galactic! There are millions of worlds in the inner regions of the galaxy that have to be brought under control. It's a logistical challenge almost beyond measure—and yet the Emperor believes he has the tools to pull it off. The Outer Rim, where Tatooine is, was rarely touched by Republic power: as we see in the films, it's still far from being completely integrated in Luke Skywalker's time. But it's heading in that direction, and we see some of the first steps in Kenobi.
Obi-Wan's life in this time frame is something readers have been wanting to learn more about for years, and Kenobi only begins to tell that story. But I think it's a very interesting perspective, watching the galaxy change from the furthest reaches. And as Obi-Wan knows, the new hope for the galaxy isn't in the former Republic. It's where he is.