Given that they're calling it "Episode VII", I don't expect to see much backstory. I imagine it'll take place some time after Return of the Jedi. Hopefully Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher will have at least cameo appearances. If it's a similar amount of time as between Episodes III and IV, I don't see how they can do it without at least Mark Hammil, given that Luke is the only one who can rebuild the Jedi.IIRC, Shadows was the first novel authorized by Lucas.
It would also be great to get some Han Solo backstory
Let's be realistic. Death is inevitable, unless you're a Jedi and can keep your midichlorians intact once your crude matter has given up the ghost.