Interview: Cavan Scott and George Mann on ‘Star Wars: Life Day Treasury’

Star Wars: Life Day Treasury is a collection of eight short stories offering a glimmering source of hope for the holiday season and, at long last, winter has begun to arrive—serving as the perfect backdrop to revisit the Life Day Treasury.

George Mann and Cavan Scott were kind enough to join us to discuss the making of the Life Day Treasury, the stories that didn't quite make the cut, and co-writing the stories together.

Wealth of Geeks: Now, Cavan, I think you were the one that originally pitched this idea to Del Rey and Disney Books. What sparked the idea of this treasury for you?

Cavan Scott: I think it was more of a nag than a pitch. I've been nagging them for years to do something along the lines of a Christmas short story collection. I'm a huge fan of Christmas, as my family have to endure for more months of the year than they probably should. I've worked in the past on projects, George has as well, that surround Christmas for different properties. I just knew that Star Wars needed one and we had Life Day.

I knew obviously, it would give me a chance to hopefully write something with Lumpy in it. So I sent this pitch to Mike Siglain, which basically started with the words “Ewoks in the snow.” And it went from there. Of course, George has been working on the myths and legends and fables books. And so Mike, as he is known to do sort of, you know, decides to put things together and [he] came up with the idea of us working on it together. Which was amazing. Because writing a Christmas book in Star Wars is fantastic and then you get to write it with one of your best friends as well. You can't ask for more.

George Mann: We've worked together on lots of other projects before that as well, haven't we? So we knew we could, we'll be able to work together. Basically, it's an excuse to have fun. Like, let's do Christmas and Star Wars and have some fun and write some stories together.

Scott: Exactly.

Life Day Treasury Ewoks
Courtesy of Disney Books

Wealth of Geeks: George, you've had a lot of fun with the Myths & Fables. There was an interview where you talked about seeding in little Easter eggs into the stories for both casual and serious Star Wars fans. Did you do something similar to that with the Life Day Treasury?

Mann: There's probably a few bits and bobs in there. But, more than kind of with those other ones, with this one we just sat down and went, “What are the classic kind of Christmas stories that we'd want to hear or want to tell? And how can we do a Star Wars kind of take on that?”

So you know, the classic ghost story, the Santa Claus type story, the Christmas romance, holiday romance, you know, stories inspired by the winter truce, the Christmas truce, during the First World War. Things like that. So we kind of just, together, generated this big list. And then of course, Cav just sat there and went, “Lumpy. Lumpy. Lumpy.” And we kept playing “Christmas in the Stars” constantly while we were brainstorming.

Scott: Every phone call and Zoom call would start with Anthony Daniels wishing everyone Happy Christmas. I felt like that got us in the mood. And also drove George slightly mad.

Mann: I'm sure people will pick up little Easter eggs. And there are bits in there that both of us will then and already have taken forward into other stories as well. So Cav's referenced one of the locations that we used, that we created for one of the stories, “The Kindling,” in some other work that he's already done. I'm sure there'll be other little bits.

Scott: At the time we were doing this, I was also writing the Rising Storm, I think, and Tempest Runner. So yeah, little moments from this book have sort of leaked into that one into those two as especially so. There will be more to come as well.

Wealth of Geeks: Excellent. With The High Republic there are so many new characters. What led to using Stellan Gios for this particular story?

Scott: I think that was a request of Mike, right from the beginning. He wanted a Batman on patrol in Gotham story. Those were his desires in the brief. And that was our brief for Grant Griffin on the art and he absolutely did a Batman Jedi cover. That's the sort of cross between that and a Christmas in New York kind of story. Stellan, obviously, when we were writing this hadn't made his first appearance in Rising Storm yet.

I was in the process of writing him for that book and it was so good to be able to write him during happier times. Because I was putting him through so much on Valo, that to actually have him enjoying the Coruscant Solstice, which is their version of the midwinter festival on Coruscant, was so wonderful. To actually have him not having to have the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders, but actually just a very small crisis to deal with. And to be able to get over it with a bit of a festive finesse.

Life Day Stellan Gios
Courtesy of Disney Books

Wealth of Geeks: Did either of you rewatch the '78 Holiday Special? Was that part of the prep for Life Day Treasury?

Mann: I tend to dip in most years anyway, so it's kind of that fresh in my mind. But I did kind of, not the whole thing, but I kind of dipped in and watched bits of it just to help get in the spirit.

Scott: I watched a bit of it for reference to a story that hasn't made it into the… I don't even know if I can say this. But there's a couple of stories that have made it into this edition. For one of those, I definitely had to go back and rewatch a part of the Holiday Special to make sure I got something right. So yeah, there was definitely a reference point. I wanted to make sure when we got to write in Chewie's family that we at least went back to the source material for what it is and get some of that in there.

Wealth of Geeks: Were there any stories that you wrote or planned out that didn't make it into this Life Day Treasury?

Scott: Yes.

Mann: Yes. As you'll have seen with the previous Myths & Fables books, we've always approached it in terms of, let's do extra stories and then pick a selection for the main book and see what happens with the others. So yeah, there are a few extras.

Wealth of Geeks: Life Day, obviously, is a placeholder of sorts for a Christmas-like holiday. But there are so many more traditions in this galaxy far, far away. Where did you draw your inspiration from when coming up with these new holiday traditions?

Scott: A lot of it is from our own interests. We're both fascinated by folklore and traditions from all different cultures. And for me, personally, the very idea of a Christmas or a holiday, or a midwinter festival, is so universal on our planet, that you can imagine that it'll be universal throughout.

Just that idea of being halfway through the dark and ready for the spring to come. It just seems so Star Wars. A midwinter festival has hope built into it. That's the reason it exists. So that just seems like Star Wars. It was a case of then going back and trying to work out which culture, which tradition, which folklore, would match the different species that we were visiting.

Mann: I think we took two approaches. On one hand, we kind of went well, Life Day obviously started with the Wookiees, but it's spread out throughout the galaxy and other cultures are starting to celebrate Life Day. We're seeing it on Batuu and other places. So we kind of went well, we can run with that. So Life Day is a holiday now that's establishing itself throughout the galaxy.

At the same time, as Cav said, we kind of went, “Well, what are the other winter traditions that we could invent or co-op or be inspired by?” And in some cases we've given them, like Cav said,  it's a midwinter feast. In other instances, like with “The Kindling,” we've kind of gone—well, let's invent the story of where that came from. Where that tradition originated. And that's part of the telling of that story. So yeah, a whole kind of gamut really, from creating new traditions to being inspired by existing ones to using Life Day where it was appropriate.

Wealth of Geeks: How did you capture that kind of tonality, that Christmas essence? Everybody knows that feeling that warmth, the family, the friends that experience. You talked about music at the beginning, but was there anything that you kind of leaned into when trying to capture that feeling? You didn't write this during the Christmas season, right?

Scott: It does give us a good chance to play music at the time of the year when you're not supposed to. I mean, all joking aside, I did play “Christmas in the Stars” quite a lot. But then when it got to atmosphere, one of the ones that we both use, and it's for a very special reason for us. Over here there was a TV program called The Box of Delights in the 80s, which was a children's book that has been adapted for radio many times and was adopted in the 80s as a BBC TV series.

The majority of the adaptations use “The Carol Symphony” and the arrangement of “First Noel” as the theme tune, and it's a very magical piece if you can go and find it. It's bells and it's so magical and just the feeling of it. Because it's linked into this weird folklore-drenched story that we all loved when we were kids, it automatically puts you in the mindset of snowy wastes and naked trees that lost all their leaves and weird wild magic in the background. So I know that's one we both used. It was a lot of going back to, not so much carols, but music that is redolent of that time of year really.

Mann: And classic stories as well as. Not so much Christmas movies or whatever, which is what we're starting to watch now. Another tradition we have over here is ghost stories of Christmas, which the BBC used to adapt. M. R. James' classic ghost stories for Christmas. For a lot of us our age, ghost stories and Christmas are very interlinked.

Obviously, you've got the Christmas Carol, of course, and for one of the stories, we went back to that as well. So dipping back into those things that feel more wintery, then specifically Christmassy, I think is probably what we were doing, isn't it?

Scott: Yeah, exactly.

Cavan Scott George Mann Star Wars: Life Day Treasury
Courtesy of Disney Books

Wealth of Geeks: How does the co-writing process work for both of you?

Scott: Well, for this one, we created the stories together. So we brainstormed together and worked out how they would work, how they would happen, how they would evolve. And so from that point of view, they were completely our stories. We created a lot more than we actually needed for the book that exists now. And even if we were going to do more stories, there are a lot more. We sort of cherry-picked the ones we really liked.

Then when it came to writing, I mean, they're only short stories. So what we did was, we split them up, and George would take one and I would take the other. I did the first draft and George would take the first draft, and then we'd swap and we pulled them apart and we'd rewrite them. Then they would go back and forth again. The great thing about when I work with George is that the egos are absolutely left at the door. So when you write the first draft and you send it over with the understanding that the other person can completely overwrite it, I completely change things, and then we'll have a conversation about it. But as we've been writing, more and more, it feels that we don't need to do that so much.

It feels like, because we worked out these stories from scratch, what we were writing was pretty much there from the beginning, but that's generally how we worked on it. I've got to the point now where I can't remember which of the lines from the book of mine and which are from George because you know, we kept on just throwing it back and forth to each other.

Mann: Yeah, exactly what Cav said. There's no issue with us rewriting each other. We do occasionally, if we come to a big thing where we want to make a very significant change, we usually just jump on a call and say “Let's just talk this through.” We'd workshop that change before it's implemented. But because we spent, I think it was like two or three days on the video call, [with us] on one screen and a Google Doc open on the other screen, working together editing each other as we go.

Even just writing the outlines working through all the mechanics of the stories all the characters, so that even by the point, before we got to writing they were very much co-written stories weren't they? So even if all we'd done was take a draft each and write out the story, as it was on the screen and not flip back and forth, it still would have been correct. But yeah, we usually go through a few rounds of reworking each other.

Wealth of Geeks: Which story resonated the most with you?

Mann: I'm going to consult the book.

Scott: Yeah, I'm gonna have a look. I think “The Song of Winter's Heart” we both felt quite an emotional attachment to. I mean, it is based on the winter truce in the First World War. So it was quite an emotional thing to write and I know from a lot of people they've said it was an emotional thing to read as well.

I mean, personally, the Ewok… People, by now, know my obsession with green rabbits and Ewoks. So to write Ewoks in the snow, it was right there from the pitch. I loved writing that and revisiting some of the characters from the cartoon which obviously, I've not had a chance to write before.

Mann: I think you're right about “The Song of Winter's Heart.” I think that's the one we knew from the off that we had something special when we were looking at the resonance of that story. Because it's a story that's over 100 years after the real incident that inspired it. Everyone still talks about it, it's still a big thing at Christmas. And it symbolizes so much. Star Wars is a galaxy of war, so it felt like an obvious story to tell.

I think if I was to pick another one, today, and it would change if you asked me again tomorrow, it's probably “Reflection Day” as well. I really enjoyed telling a romance story. It's not really the type of story that either of us tend to write. We have romances in our stories, but we don't tend to set out to write an out romance. And actually getting to write something on Jedha, as well, was a lot of fun to create some new mythology. That's one of the things that you've referenced since, isn't it the reflective mirrors beneath?

Scott: Yeah.

Mann: Now that has become part of Star Wars lore. So that's always a rewarding thing to do as well.

Wealth of Geeks: Thank you so much for taking the time. I appreciate that immensely. 

Watch Cavan Scott & George Mann Discuss Life Day Treasury:

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.