Review Fix Exclusive: John Ostrander Q & A: Agent of the Empire: Part II

Review Fix’s Alan Hawkins continues his chat with Dark Horse’s John Ostrander, where the two discuss other projects in the Star Wars universe and the process by which the comic book great creates his characters.

Review Fix: What I love about Star Wars is that it’s so practical. It’s not mysticism and magic and stuff, apart from the force, but that’s never explained really. It’s just sort of there, but people aren’t conjuring things and there’s not this weird stuff going on. It’s all very practical and realistic, even with the one exception.

John Ostrander: Even with the force there is generally parameters within what you can use. You can’t just invent new force powers whole cloth. Jan and I have what we call ‘fair extrapolation’ – if something exits and we want to suggest something, then we show how this is simply an extension of properties of things that are already done.

Review Fix: Come to think of it, even the force powers just sort of inexplicably induce actual physics. Anyway are you aware of the new “Star Wars: The Old Republic” game that is coming out soon?

Ostrander: Oh yeah, we know that the game is going to be out there very soon. While I haven’t played it, we certainly have access to some material that pertains to what we do, so we’ve always tried to work with that and bring it in. For instance, it was always established that the Jedi were founded on a planet called Tython, so that’s our central location for Dawn of the Jedi. We get to explore that, and the planetary system of which it’s a part.

Review Fix: Have you perhaps arranged to write a few story arcs for that game?

Ostrander: Not yet, no. They have plenty of guys on that who are all keeping busy. So they don’t necessarily need or want an outsider, but I’m pretty sure they’re aware of what we’re doing.

Review Fix: As a creative professional, you need to take stuff in, in order to generate inspiration. But you don’t want to take in too many of other people’s ideas or take up too much of your time. How do you deal with what else is out there that might be interesting to you?

Ostrander: Well you’re always going to be influenced by what else is out there and you want to make sure that you’re not taking from that, though you can certainly be influenced by it. I’m frequently influenced by music. I can get ideas and even characters and stories out of a good piece of music. One other trick that I learned a long time back is that when I get an idea, I write it down before I tell anybody about it. Because if I don’t, then I’ve let the steam out of the engine. If I tell too many people about this great idea, then I wont write it.

Review Fix: The music connection, how does that work?

Ostrander: I usually use something that doesn’t have words in it because the words may guide me too far along. Soundtrack music in particular is good because it’s supposed to emotionally underscore scenes. I listen to that and an image, a feeling will come, and I may play that piece of music over and over again until it drives the people around me crazy, but until I’ve teased out of it the idea or the concept that has been born from it.

Review Fix: Give me a good example of a soundtrack or a piece of music that inspired something that came to fruition.

Ostrander: Agent of the Empire. Yes, I listened to Star Wars music, but I also listened to a lot of James Bond soundtracks because that gives you a certain feel, a certain urgency. You want to get the Bond feel into it and that created the feeling in me as I was working on the plot. I used the Attack on Fort Knox from “Gold Finger” and several cuts off of “From Russia With Love.” They would conjure up ideas or images from the Bond movies for me, but at the same time that sort of feeling that’s in the rhythm, and I just free associate with my mind. Or if I’m working on a certain plot point I’ll have the music and that will continue the feeling and the emotion within it that enables me to further explore.

Review Fix: So you come up with a concept and then seek out some music that you think will carry that idea, then listen to it for a couple of days while your writing.

Ostrander: Most of the time, although occasionally I’ll hear a piece of music and it will start something inside and I’ll explore what that means. Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, the fourth movement I think, that is very moody, very interesting.

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