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.
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!
A writer with a passion for inspiring teens and young adults, Justin Calderone debuted his first novel LARP: The Battle for Verona in December 2012.
Calderone grew up in Verona, Penn., a suburb just northeast of Pittsburgh. He earned a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from La Roche College and graduated from Gannon University with a master’s degree in education. Calderone is expected to graduate in 2014 with a second master’s degree in educational leadership from Edinboro University.
Calderone, 36, began his journey as a writer nearly 20 years ago after reading Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels. He is the author of the 2004 collection of contemporary poetry Revolutions.
An English teacher at his alma mater, Penn Hills High School, Calderone lives in his hometown of Verona with his wife Emily and 1-year-old son Sam. He enjoys watching baseball, listening to music and has a special place in his heart for Spiderman.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I am from a tiny little town called Verona, east of Pittsburgh PA. My hometown was the model for the Verona of the novel, even though the fictional Verona is an island off the coast of Washington State. I had to do that for fictional reasons, to make the plot work. But, everything (except the location) about the fictional Verona mirrors my hometown. Verona is a very Mayberry kind of place. In a lot of ways, it’s like the land that time forgot. And I mean that in the best way, because that’s what I love about it. I am a high school English teacher at my alma mater, which is also my mom’s alma mater.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
A few years ago, I was driving through very busy intersection when I noticed a group of people, dressed in armor, swinging swords and shields in a park that is on the side of the intersection. Week after week I passed this group, and always watched them intently as I sat at the traffic light. Finally, after a few weeks of seeing them, I said to my wife “I wonder how they’d do against a real army. If a boat pulled up, and troops charged down the boulevard, could they defend us?” We sort of laughed at the idea, but then discussed the plot of the novel. After that, the story seemed too good to laugh off.
How do you create your characters?
The main characters…Dennis, Freddy, Mark and Jen…are different parts of my personality. Like everyone else, I have self-conflict, so I took the opposite ends of my spectrum, and used it to develop the characters. The characters, though, aren’t all about me…there’s fictional components to them, exaggerated characteristics, and parts of people I grew up with.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
Jack Kerouac is the writer who made me want to write. In 1995, I read his novel Desolation Angels, and had a profound life experience. As I read it, I felt like I was reading a book that was written specifically for me, because I shared the same feelings and outlook. It’s almost too much for me to explain. I had never read anything like it, or heard such a unique literary voice. I’ve always written creatively, but reading that novel inspired me to pursue writing as a serious hobby, if not a career.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I write in my basement, which is more like another room in the house. It has a fireplace, my record collection (yes, I said records…), my movies, and all of my books. It’s creativity by osmosis.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I wish I knew, because I would do it more often! It’s tough for me to sit down and write. I have to be inspired. I write a lot of poetry (my first novel was a poetry novel called Revolutions), and music inspires me to write poetry. However, there have been times in my life when I’ve had fewer obligations, and have had more time to focus on developing my creative mind. When I’m in that “place” I can write at will, and it usually turns out pretty good. When I’m out of practice, it can take a little while to get going.
What do you like to read?
When I’m short on time, I read biographies and autobiographies, because they don’t require a lot of focus. However, when I have some freedom, I read Kerouac, Ray Bradbury, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rod Serling, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, James Joyce. Those authors are artists, and I really don’t see that same quality of art in 21st century writers. Everything seems disposable today.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Write all the time, keep everything. Even if it’s bad, keep it, because it’s part of your growth. Trust yourself as a writer…don’t question what comes out, just let it happen.
Anything else you’d like to share?
LARP: The Battle for Verona is a novel about staying true to yourself, despite what society says about you. We can all be heroes, if we choose.