Jesse Baruffi was born in a West Virginia college and quickly became the adorable dorm mascot of his parents’ alma mater. While other little boys dreamed of being astronauts and firemen, Jesse dreamed of creating stories, a curse which failed to subside, even in adulthood. He has been a teacher, tutor, caseworker, cat rescuer, filmmaker, and accidental kite-flying champion. He currently resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee with two demanding feline overlords. Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves is his first novel.
Social Media Links:
jessebaruffi.com | facebook.com/OttoVonTrapezoid | twitter.com/JesseBaruffi
When the two meet in simultaneous attempts to blackmail the UN, their instincts are to attempt to kill one another, but soon they discover a mutual attraction that neither thought possible. Once they begin to pool their resources, the pair seems on track to become the most successful evil-doers of all time and set out to conquer the world itself. But what happens when their villainous natures emerge, and both realize there can only be one absolute ruler of Earth? Can either be satisfied with being second to another?
To make matters worse, they must deal with the protestations of Otto’s sidekick robot SCRAP, the meddling of their fellow villains, their families, and worst of all, heroic superspy Jake Indestructible is determined to bring them both down, once and for all.
Filled with robot dinosaurs, exploding dinner parties, and villainous poker games, Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves is a hilarious sci-fi comedy that will leave you falling in love with the bad guys!
Interested? Buy it now on Amazon!
The inspiration for Otto goes all the way back to 2005. Like all the cool dudes do, I was chatting with a girl on the internet very late and night and our conversation had gone quite silly. We were discussing all the terrible things we would do if we conquered the world, like turning Australia into an Australia-themed theme park or unleashing armies of murderous penguins on the populace. It occurred to me then that a love story about supervillains would be a blast to read, and thus to write, and everything flowed from there.
Your book is sci-fi but heavy on the comedy—personally I love that combination, but how have other readers responded? Would you consider writing a non-comedic novel in the same genre or a different genre or is comedy your preference?
When most people think of the mix between comedy and sci fi/fantasy/what have you, they tend to think Douglass Adams or Terry Pratchett, so I'm up against very stiff competition in that regard and have a lot to live up to. My style of humor probably skews more closely to The Simpsons or Futurama, but my love of action and adventure as well as occasional thoughts about actual human experience work their way in as well. Mostly, readers have responded well to it, but there have been critics who find the silliness too jarring and those who think anything comedic is by definition shallow or diversionary. I don't really agree, but it's a big world with lots of room for varying opinions. As for writing more serious science fiction, I absolutely would, and even have ideas for it, as I do for many genres. For the time being, I am staying in comedy, but I would love to branch out eventually.
There’s a lot of debate about the merits of ‘hard’ versus ’soft’ sci-fi. What are your feelings on the division and do you have a preference for one type over another. In which camp would you place your book and why?
I don't really have strong opinions on whether hard or soft science fiction are better or worse than one another. A genre is generally just a label rather than a demarcation of quality. Sometimes I might want to read a story that is the logical extrapolation of our own future, whether technological or social. Sometimes I might want to read about a bunch of aliens in spaceships shooting lasers at each other. Both have equal chances to be good. As for me, I have no doubt I fall on the soft side of sci-fi, because I am bad at science. I did what I could to make sure nothing I wrote was abjectly incorrect (other than for the sake of humor), but mostly I kept it nice and vague. Besides, my main character is a mad scientist, so he's bound to do things differently.
As writers, we tend to have a particular slant on our books, but readers pick up a book and often find things in the manuscript that we don’t Have you gotten any responses from readers that have surprised you? If so, what?
I suppose if anything, I have been surprised at how popular certain supporting characters are. In particular, several people have told me that they love Jake Indestructible, the superspy, for his over the top machismo, and several others have told me how much they love MegaLoMeinia, the pixyish hacker girl. I've been asked for stories about both of them. Naturally, I have such stories in mind already.
What do you want your readers to know about this book?
I guess I'd like readers to know the story is full of laughs, but also great battles, heists, and schemes. It's also, I think, a pretty sweet love story that just happens to be between two horrible people. If all that doesn't sell you, there is a fight between a robot dinosaur and a heavily armed zeppelin.
What’s your favorite scene and why?
Favorite scene is tough. If I had to pick, I'd say it comes down to either Otto's supervillain poker night and the dinner party hosted by Esmerelda's family. Both are just a ton of ridiculous characters on display, engaging in hilarious yet murderous antics.
Is there a sequel in the works? If so, any idea when readers can expect to get their hot little hands on it?
Not a sequel per se. Otto and Esmerelda's love story is resolved by the end, for better or worse. That said, their world and the other characters in it have more tales to tell and I plan to tell them all. For any readers who want a little more, there are currently four short stories available. Three of them are free on my website, and they serve as epilogues to the minor characters in the book. The fourth is a longer prequel called "The World, My Enemy," detailing Otto's rise to villainy, and is currently available in the Curiosity Quills anthology The Indomitable Ten.
Writing includes editing. Lots and lots of editing. Are there are scenes, details, characters, etc. that were sacrificed to the editing gods that you regret deleting or wish you could have shared with readers?
There were scenes and story bits that had to be excised from the end of the book proper because they would halted the narrative flow too much, but those ideas became the three epilogues, so thankfully they are still available for the readers.
Who’s your favorite character in your book and why?
It's tough because I designed all the characters so I would love them, even the particularly horrible ones. I suppose the character who most easily calls out to me is Otto. I always know what sort of things he's likely to say or do in any given situation and can easily fall back into him if necessary. As for side characters, Lord Ironmask and Catalina are both also a blast to write, because they are both so terrible in their own ways. Could there be a pairing for them in the future? Yeesh, let's hope not.
Writing Process Questions:
Tell us a bit about your current work in progress.
My current work is stepping outside of the Otto universe. I'm keeping it fairly under wraps for the moment, but I can say it is a Young Adult work, that is mostly me applying my style of satirical and absurd humor to the genre. I'd be happy to tell you more when it's closer to completion.
Who or what has inspired your writing?
My desire to write was shaped first by animation, then by mythology, then by novels and comic books. In my formative years, all these things excited my imagination and I often found myself just concocting stories of varying stripes, including cartoons and video games I would draw out when I was little. Eventually, I realized I couldn't draw, but I thought I might go from there into writing.
What is your biggest goal with your writing? Do you currently write full time or are you a place to the day job dreaming of freedom?
I would love to write full-time. I don't really care about making tons of money (though that would be nice), but I would like to be able to support myself through creative works alone. I have ideas across many genres that would hopefully keep me afloat for many years. Unfortunately, I'm not quite there yet, and still have to deal with my day job.
When and where do you like to write? What is the weirdest location where you’ve ever written?
Mostly I write in bed, lying down in front of my laptop with loud music playing and at least one of my cats sitting on my back. I do sometimes write at work when I have the free time, but I don't guess I have any really cool stories about writing on the back of a wildebeest or something. Not yet, anyway...
How much research was involved in your latest piece and how did you tackle it?
My research tends to be on the fly, as I just grab what I need for verisimilitude and make up the rest myself. Usually I'll ask someone smarter than me or do a quick internet search if I need that sort of help. It can help to read a genre and know its tropes if you're parodying it, though. Otherwise, people assume you're making fun from outside, which they don't generally appreciate.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? Tell us a little about your writing method, what works and what doesn’t work for you.
I do the large, overarching plot ahead of time, working out chapters and major events and usually the ending before the story even begins. All the little details, however, I leave up to flying on the seat of my pants. Sometimes, new story elements emerge from there as well, and I deal with those as necessary. Still, in theory, I prefer plotting so I can properly foreshadow and make sure the readers feel satisfied that I wasn't just jerking them around.
What has been your biggest learning experience so far in your career? What are some of the memorable high and low points?
It's still pretty early in my writing career, so I don't know if I have a ton of high or low points yet that everyone in the business hasn't gone through. But my first book signing, which took place at a comic shop owned by a friend, was really a blast. Lots of people came out (though I knew most of them) and they mostly seemed to be enjoying themselves and hanging on my words. I'm by nature a quiet person so that was interesting. As for lower points, some of my visits to cons and other signings, where virtually no one was interested in me at all, were less fun, and served as a nice slice of humble pie.
Is there anything you wish you were told prior to writing or publishing?
The big one is that everything takes longer than you expect. Be prepared to be very patient with everyone involved in the publishing process, and nothing will happen overnight. Also, you will do a lot of the non-writing work on your own. Publishers help, but in these modern times, a writer has to promote themselves a lot.
Tell us about your path to publication and your path to getting agented. How long did it to take you and what other published works do you have out there?
A few years back, I sent out a lot of graphic novels I had written and had drawn to publishers, and had no luck whatsoever. This made me think I should try novel writing, as it had fewer moving parts and I could rely solely on myself. I had a few failed attempts to find agents, but when I made my big push in late 2014, I met Mark Gottlieb of the Trident Media Group, who was very eager to get me on board and help me out. He's been great to work with and helped me find a publisher in short order.
What do you like best about writing in general, and sci-fi specifically? Do you or have you considered writing in other genres or is sci-fi your first and only love?
Sci-fi and its adjacent genres have always spoken to me because they are the genres that, at least in my opinion, spoke most directly to the imagination. Science Fiction in particular looks to the future and tries to conceive what it might be, which is both important as well as really cool. Now, is it my favorite genre? I probably enjoy fantasy, comedy, and superheroes just as much, and would enjoy working in them an equal amount.
Have you taken any writing classes? How important do you think formal training is in the writing process?
I got my BA in English and my MA in Writing, so I've taken a lot of writing classes. I would say that formal education and training aren't strictly necessary for everyone, but at the same time, they can be a big help. Being self-taught can free one from the dogma of others' opinions, but sometimes it just helps to know and understand what others with the accumulated experience and wisdom of the ages have done before you, and learn how to apply (or not apply) it.
When it comes to writing and the writing process, what’s your greatest strength and your greatest weakness or area needing improvement?
They're kind of linked, actually. My greatest weakness is probably that I procrastinate more than I should. It goes back to worrying about the work not being ready and thus throwing the baby out with the bathwater. My greatest strength is that once I do get going, I tend to be very good at keeping at it, while not over-exerting myself too much (though I do have a tendency to only sleep 2-3 hours a night when I'm deep in a project).
When did you start writing and when did you decide you wanted to be an author. When did you start to actually feel like an author?
In some form or fashion I've always been writing, but if you mean professionally, I've been trying to break in for the past seven or eight years, and really only did so in the last two years. As to when I feel like an author, I will say that it was a big boost when I first saw copies of Otto in actual stores, but there's a part of me that still feels like I'm not really there yet. Like I'm just an amateur until I get at least one more big book under my belt. It's possible I'll always have that insecurity about it. I guess we'll see.
Which poets or authors do you most admire and which have influenced your own writing?
For poets, you can't go wrong with Poe and his amazingly mathematical works, though I am also a colossal fan of Coleridge, who does get a brief mention in Chapter Five. As authors go, I don't want to bore you with a huge list of people you've no doubt heard of, so I'll just say that these days I'm a pretty big fan of A. Lee Martinez, Jonathan Howard, and Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
I'll try not to get too self-promoting or pretentious here and just say that the life of the creative person is a challenging one, but remarkably rewarding. I feel like I'm still on the beginning of that path, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Randomly Added Question: Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly or Battlestar Galactica?
Star Trek all the way!