J. Sciancalepore is the author of the new adventure novel, The War On Destiny. He took some time out yaReads for a Q&A.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a proud Dad of two fantastic kids, married to a strong and supportive wife, and owner/friend of an earnest dog and a blind but amazingly perceptive cat. I live in upstate New York in the U.S., not far from Lake George, NY where The War On Destiny begins. I am a lifelong reader of fantasy novels (though at 8 months old, I failed to appreciate the lyrical beauty of Tolkien). When not penning novels, I am a creative director at an ad agency – which is fun, challenging and always new.
Where did the idea for The War on Destiny come from?
The inspiration came from a few places, really. First, in my job as creative director, I spent several years helping colleges and universities market to high school students – and I was constantly struck by the immense pressures faced by today’s over-managed, over-scheduled teens. The pressure to choose the right school, the right career, the right life path…all while getting generic (or even bad) advice at every turn. Second, I wanted to build a story around a strong, smart, sarcastic female character…as too many fantasy tales relegate women to supporting roles. Though constantly imperiled, Jenny Martinson is no damsel in distress! Third…I wanted to capture the sense of adventure and mystery that I love about my favorite fantasy stories. It kind of all came together in The War On Destiny.
There are a lot of pop culture references in this book – is that something you’re really into?
Authenticity was key for me in building the characters of Jenny, and her two friends Steven and Kevin. These are modern-day teens, who’ve grown up with Harry Potter, Frodo, the Pevensie siblings, and so many other fantasy lit staples. Steven, in particular, has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the genre. If they were plunged into a fantasy adventure of their own, that’s how they would relate to it – by comparing it to what they know. That, and I think it’s fun for readers to recognize these references…even if they only get some of them. I got a note from a female reader who said that she burst out laughing in study hall when Steven shouted “Expecto Patronum” (Potter’s Patronus charm) to ward off the Ra soldiers. I love hearing stories like that!
So is the book serious or funny?
Yes. As a huge fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, True Blood, and other genre-blending works, I think it’s possible for funny and fantasy to play along nicely. There are certainly moments of drama, danger and even sadness in the book, but I think there is an undercurrent of humor to balance it all out. Again, it felt authentic to the characters – especially Jenny.
Do you share the same views on destiny as your characters?
I’m not as cynical as Jenny, who is pretty sure the universe is running on autopilot. There is a moment in the book when she has a pivotal dialog with a “supreme being,” who tells her that one’s destiny is basically inescapable. We all have choices, about what to do or not to do, but that we all ultimately end up on the path we were meant to take. I think there’s something to that.
What’s next for the series?
That question of destiny is going to loom larger, as the notion of “The War” comes into greater focus – essentially involving a group of freedom fighters who want to liberate mankind from the tyranny of a predetermined destiny. Jenny will, of course, find herself awkwardly in the middle of it all. And I think she needs a real love interest, or two.
What’s on your To Be Read pile?
I’ve been loathe to finish it because I’m enjoying the Hunger Games series so much, but I’m about to dive into Mockingjay. Speaking of strong female characters, I absolutely adore Katniss and the whole chilling universe that Suzanne Collins has created. I don’t want it to end, but I have to know what happens! I’m also ready to take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo…the hype has finally gotten to me.
Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
Though I generally choose smooth peanut butter in my day to day sandwiches, I think there are times when crunchy is not only acceptable…but advisable. So let me walk this political tightrope with the answer of “Smoonchy.”
Night or Day?
White, milk or dark chocolate?
Thanks J! The War on Destiny is available now via Amazon.