Joining us today is author Michael Ventrella. We interviewed Michael at our parent blog—The Book Connection—in 2008 for his contribution to the Inside Scoop: Articles about Acting and Writing by Hollywood Insiders and Published Authors. During this interview, we discovered that Michael had based his Young Adult novel, Arch Enemies, on a game.
Now the sequel to that book, The Axes of Evil, has been released.
We’ll be talking to Michael about his work, why he writes in this genre, and what other tricks he might have up his sleeve.
Hello, Michael. It’s great to talk with you again. We are excited to have you here.
Great to be here!
Since this your first time at this blog, why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself.
My secret identity is an attorney, and I love writing and just wish I had time to do more!
Your most current writing focuses on the Young Adult market. What do you like about this genre?
I do not dumb down my books, try to preach, or treat my readers like children in the slightest. Because the main character is a teenager, the book gets put in the Young Adult category – which I don’t mind at all! – but plenty of adults have read it and enjoyed it.
It’s not a tremendously serious novel – people do die, and there is real danger – but there is also humor, just like real life!
Now, I mentioned already that Arch Enemies is based on a game. How did that all come about?
It’s based on a live action role-playing game I created called Alliance LARP (www.AllianceLARP.com).
A LARP is a kind of combination of a renaissance faire with a fantasy game, except instead of sitting in front of your computer screen, you’re actually out in nature, meeting other real people, and with a practically infinite amount of options to pursue instead of the few a computer game can provide.
The world in which this game exists is well thought out and detailed, so it was easy for me to place my books there. However, I ignored the rules of the game almost completely. What works in a game doesn’t work for literature, and vice versa. People who have read the book have no idea it is based on a game, which is what I want!
When you wrote Arch Enemies, did you already have it in your mind that there would be more than one book?
Indeed, and in fact the first book ends with a hint about what the next book would be like. The Axes of Evil does the same.
Can you bring us briefly through a bit of what happened in the first book?
There are lots of books and movies where there is a chosen hero from a prophecy – where some Obi Wan type of character finds the unsuspecting Luke and trains him to save the day in the end, because Luke has powers no one else has blah blah blah.
I began Arch Enemies with the thought “What if they got the wrong guy?”
So the main character Terin is grabbed and told he fit the description of the hero from the prophecy. He’s thrown into the adventure without any idea of what he is supposed to do to “save the day” and without any special powers whatsoever.
In the end, he triumphs by being honest, brave and clever, which to me are the things that make a true hero. When Superman saves the day, it’s kind of expected because he has all those powers at his disposal. When the average citizen does something extraordinary, that is worth celebration.
Does The Axes of Evil pick up right where the first book left off?
Sure does! Arch Enemies ends with Terin being celebrated for helping to prevent the evil from being released from behind the magical arch (hence the title). “I’m glad all this prophecy nonsense is over,” he thinks. Suddenly, a barbarian tribe confronts him and tells him that he is the hero of their prophecy as well…
The Axes of Evil picks up a few weeks later as Terin heads to the barbarian lands on the order of his Duke. He discovers that there are three barbarian tribes who are at war with each other, and each has their own prophecy about him. He later discovers that the prophecies contradict each other. How in the world can he resolve them all while also obeying his Duke’s order to get the barbarians off the land?
Along the way, he has to avoid crazed assassins, possessed werewolves, lovesick barbarian princesses, and confused goblins while attempting to figure out the meaning of the magical and mysterious Wretched Axes.
Nobody said being a hero would be easy.
Near the end of the book he also discovers why everyone keeps thinking he’s the guy in all their prophecies.
You do not have to read Arch Enemies to enjoy The Axes of Evil. Although it is a sequel, it is not a “part two”. They are two separate stories, with a continuing plotline in the background, in the same way that the Harry Potter novels have an ongoing plot but each book is self-contained.
What can you tell us about the hero from these books, Terin Ostler?
Terin is a teenager who ran away from home to pursue his dream of being a bard. He wanted to sing about great heroes, not be one. When Arch Enemies begins, he is a complete coward, running away from battles and doing everything he can to avoid conflict. However, through the two novels, he learns to be brave (sometimes because he has no other choice).
Being brave, however, doesn’t mean being stupid. He is fully aware that he does not know how to use a sword or throw mighty spells like his opponents, so he has to rely on being clever and resourceful to accomplish his goals.
Will readers discover new characters in The Axes of Evil?
Quite a few! A lot of people loved the silly goblins from Arch Enemies, so readers will discover a tribeful in The Axes of Evil. There is a beautiful barbarian princess who has a terrible crush on Terin who learns through the book that he isn’t some kind of superhero after all. And there are three separate barbarian tribes with their own personalities and quirks. Oh, and werewolves.
It’s a fast paced novel, and the action never stops. There’s a lot going on.
What is different about your book compared to other books out on the market?
Well, I tried to avoid clichés that you see in many similar books.
I try my best to have believable characters who react to the strange things that happen to them as real people would. They argue and make bad decisions, and things don’t always work the way they plan, just like in real life.
And then I tend to have very complicated plots with lots of twists and turns that aren’t solved by “magic.” In Axes, Terin is facing a number of mysteries concerning the various prophecies (not to mention the strange writing on the axes, political intrigue with the new Duke, and figuring out how to kill a werewolf when you don’t have any silver weapons). The fun is in placing the clues throughout the book so that in the end, when everything comes together, it all makes sense while being a satisfying result.
Terin saves the day by being the detective who figures out the solution, not by waving a wand and having some magic solve everything or by hitting the bad guy till he dies. This, I think, makes these books a bit different from most other fantasies.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your books?
If your bookstore doesn’t carry them, you can order them from Amazon.com and other online places. You can also download an e-book or a kindle version. There are links on my webpage: http://www.MichaelAVentrella.com where you can also read book reviews and visit my blog (where I interview other authors!).
What is up next for you?
Rum and Runestones is a collection of short stories about pirates and magic which will be released soon and features my story “X Spots the Mark.” And I’m working on my next novel about a vampire who runs for President!
Thanks for spending time with us today, Michael. We wish you much success.
Really great interview, Cheryl and Michael. I always thought LARPs would lend themselves as a source of good stories. I’m glad to see somebody doing it. Also, Rum and Runestones sounds wonderful. Can’t wait to check that one out.
Interesting interview Cheryl. I could read Michael’s excitement about the books in his interview. Thank you for sharing.
Great interview. I hadn’t thought of writing a book based upon a game. Good luck to you in the future, and hope you can continue to find time to write.
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I enjoyed the interview. Thanks!
Thanks for stopping by everyone. I have to admit that I never thought of writing a book based upon a game either, but some might say that it’s because I don’t know how to have fun. 🙂
Nice interview. Books sound really good.