Monday, April 1, 2013

Q&A with Justin Calderone author of LARP The Battle for Verona

For someone who has never heard of live action role playing, or LARPing, how would you describe it?

It’s a very authentic form of battle reenactment, where the participants dress in appropriate period (Medieval, for example) costumes, and relive historic battles. Oftentimes, the battles can be rooted in a fictional world or universe.

You knew very little about LARPing before you wrote your newest book. How did you hear about it, and what piqued your interest?

The movie Role Models, which has a LARP subplot, really introduced me to the concept. LARPing is such an unusual idea…to basically travel back in time, or to another universe, without leaving the 21st century. I had to explore the phenomenon.

What kind of research did you do before you started writing LARP: The Battle for Verona?

I consulted with two LARP organizations, LARP Alliance and 7th Kingdom, to ensure the authenticity of my novel. Because of my research, LARP: The Battle for Verona is extremely authentic to the hobby.

While the book is certainly one for the geek culture, it’s appealing to a mainstream audience. Who did you have in mind when writing it?

I was really thinking of teens as I wrote it. As a high school teacher, I see the difficulties teens face, mostly due to peer pressure, on a daily basis. I wanted to write a novel for them that addressed their perceived inadequacies, and showed them the futility of buying into the so-called “teen experience.”

What is the message behind LARP: The Battle for Verona?

One of the most beneficial steps anyone can take to long-term success is to maintain your individuality. All the pressures of high school life are temporary. What really matters, long term, is to know yourself, accept yourself, and be yourself.

Your book is set in an island community called Verona off the coast of Washington State, and you’re from a place called Verona, Penn. What characteristics of your hometown made it into your book?

Verona, PA is a very Norman Rockwell town. The population hovers around 5,000, and many people live their entire lives in Verona. For fictional logistical purposes, Verona is an island. But, everything about the fictional Verona mirrors the real Verona. Not to sound cliché, but I wanted to write a love letter to my hometown. It’s a great place.

What are the elements of a great fantasy adventure book?

Outside of the basic elements (hero, villain, insurmountable odds, love interest), there has to be an element of plausibility, however small. The situation in LARP: The Battle for Verona would never happen (hopefully!), but it’s all very well researched, and planned out. It’s that small question of “I wonder if this could really happen” that makes for an addictive read.

Tell us about your career as a high school English teacher and how that has shaped you as a writer.

I absolutely love my career, and consider myself blessed to be a teacher. My students, and their struggles, helped to inspire this novel.

Can we expect anymore LARP novels from you?

Yes. I have an idea for LARP II, as well as a horror/fantasy short story collection, and a modern retelling of a classic novel. Writing isn’t something I do, it’s who I am. I can’t stop.

Sometimes even a geek can become a hero.

Dennis and his friends have been LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) since high school. Now, in his 20s, Dennis is seriously considering giving up LARPing for good. He's tired of dealing with his overzealous friend Mark; he's tired of his older brother Brad's constant put-downs; and he's tired of the fact that he doesn't have a girlfriend.

Check that.

Not a girlfriend, but the girlfriend. Alyssa--the one woman he's been pining over for years.

Dennis and his fellow LARPers have never been considered cool, in their small island community of Verona, located off the coast of Washington State.

But all of that is about to change . . .

While Dennis and his friends are attending a big LARP tournament on the mainland, a rogue terrorist group of Mongolians in medieval garb, led by an American madman, invade Verona and take its citizens hostage--including their families and friends.

When the LARPers find out what's happening in their home-town, they do what any dedicated LARPer would do: they put on their armor, strap on their swords, and fight their way home--LARP-style!

Check out the book on Amazon.

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