I had the honor of interviewing, YA fantasy author, Jared Caracciolo today, please look for his upcoming book!

Me: So my first question is, for those that aren’t familiar with you, you’re a young adult’s fantasy author of monster books?, tell us about your latest book
JC: My first book is called A Heart Afire – the first in a four book Evan & the Land of Letin series. It’s due out in early September (finally!) … it’s been many years in the making. 

A Heart Afire is a contemporary take on the classic Otherworld stories (like Narnia, Oz, and Wonderland), but instead of our protagonist being an innocent adolescent traveling into a new land, we’ve got a complicated 17 year old named Evan Transce, who I like to think of as a healthy combination of Charlie the Wallflower, Holden Caulfield, and Harry Potter.

As for the monster part, Letin’s got plenty of those. We’ve got dragons, goblyns, a nature-weilding witch, and even a giant flying Bengal (just to name a few). Very fierce stuff

Me: “Many years in the making”?, how long and what has the process been like?
JC: The process can literally be described as “world-building”, and not just in the sense of creating Letin, a whole new and magical world, but my life itself. I started the sit-down-and-writing part of this book almost 5 years ago now (though the characters in this book I’ve been drawing and mentally playing with since I was 7 or 8). I was just out of high-school, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I went to county college, and bounced between majors, trying to force a “logical” passion and follow my peers into the traditional working world when my talent has always been creative writing.

I had to get this book out. And tough decisions had to be made in order to do so. I took an extended break from school, relationships and friendships that weren’t creatively and spiritually enriching had to go. I had to learn how to really be a writer, how to really be a reader, and it’s been an absolutely unforgettable, unregrettable journey. 

The person I was when I started Letin is so vastly different from who I am now, and for that I am very grateful. 

Me: You had to “learn how to really be a reader”?, were you not a reader before?
JC: While I absolutely read, the volume of the books I consumed prior to deciding I wanted to be an author compared to now is astounding. I try to read one, maybe two books a week. In an ideal world, I’d have time to read even more. It’s my way of staying fueled and inspired – it’s the sword against the whetstone, as Tyrion says. Back then, I’d be lucky if I did one a month.

To be completely honest, high-school assigned reading and their unimaginative assignments did nothing for me as a reader or writer. It took the fun and passion away from the books, and for me, I had to get that back. As a kid I devoured all the Oz and Harry Potter books. Anything by Roald Dahl or E.B. White. I loved them all. But I had rediscover the fun in the pages.

And that was really my goal with this book. It’s for young adults, kids in high-school that still want to have some magic in their books but also are ready to take on some of life’s big questions and mysteries. 

Me: This book asks alot of life’s big questions?
JC: I like to think so. Or at the very least some of the big questions that I’ve always been asking the world…

Evan finds himself in some pretty precarious situations. On top of the typical high-school stresses, Evan witnesses his grandparents die at the hands of a seemingly sentient, then disappearing, flame. It obviously shakes up his whole perspective, and has him questioning reality. 

Throughout Evan’s journey he finds himself asking, “What is peace?” and is it a realistic goal? Is there life after death? Is there an all-powerful, all-seing being above (or below) us? If so, does he/she care about what happens to the petty lives of elphs and humans? And of course, perhaps the most eternal question of them all, Evan asks himself, “Who am I?” and in turn, “Do I matter?”, “Can I…can one person make a difference?”

Me: And have you found answers to those questions?, did writing help?
JC: Now that is a big question. Haha. Wow. You know, I’m not really sure.

I think for writers, their answers always end up in their work, whether they’re aware of it or not.

Somedays I feel as though I’ve answered an unanswerable question, then I learn something the next day that completely shifts my perspective, and either deepens my understanding or completely cancels out what I thought I knew. 

Evan, a bi-product of my heart and mind, obviously has similar revelations. He learns…thinks he knows it all, then learns more, and realizes how little he knows.

Me: I see, so what’s next for you?
JC: I’m currently work as a Pre-K teacher, but when I’m not wrangling the little ones (as they endlessly inspire and teach me), I’m writing my next project entitled Sammi Specktor & the Horror Field. It’s going to be middle-grade, and I’ve described it to those that’ve asked as The Sandlot meets The Sixth Sense with a sprinkle of Monsters Inc…to which of course they all laugh and can’t picture. But I tell them patience…patience.

I’m also in the beginning stages of A Heart Afire’s sequel, A People In Two, in which we travel deeper into the Land of Letin (and ask even bigger questions).

Me: For some reason, when I read your description, I just thought of angels in the outfield.
JC: Haha, which I totally welcome. I love that movie! How could you not? I’ve heard Field of Dreams as well. All the baseball classics are welcome in my book. There’s elements of each that’ve absolutely inspired parts of Horror Field.

Me: Well we definitely look forward to it!, where can people find you on the web?, do you blog?
JC: jaredtlc.com

I do blog, but not as often as I’d like. Summer is a really busy time at work, and with the release of A Heart Afire on the near horizon, plus writing Horror Field, it just doesn’t leave a lot of free time left. That said, when I do get to blog, as you’ll see on my website, I mostly write about and recommend some of my favorites books, films, and albums. Occasionally I post a new short story there as well.

Me: Tell us about some of your short stories
JC: They’re definitely a different medium for me, one in which I still have a ton to learn. 

That said, the ability for experimentation makes short stories endlessly appealing. For mine, I like to have them take place in the same universe as my books. In the near future I’d like to write a few from the perspective of some of the minor characters in the Letin series.

Me: So everything of yours is tied together in one way or another?
JC: Absolutely. It’s not all chronological, but everything in the Land of Letin, Horror Field, and even the short stories are somehow connected.

There’s little references here and there, but I do try to keep it low-key. I’d be lying if I said that this aspect isn’t very inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe…which I love, I just want the connections to be a little more subtle. And also, I want the understanding and appreciation for any of the individual projects not to be dependent upon whether you’ve read any of my other stuff. The aim is that everything can stand alone, yet they still weave together nicely if you’re into that kinda thing.

Me: So Marvel is a huge inspiration for you?
JC: I would say moderately so. Every piece of art that I enjoy inspires me and ends up on the paper in some sort of way or another. The Pixar films are a huge one, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is also very influential. Nothing more so than Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz, especially with the Land of Letin. Those two are the cornerstones of inspiration for me, for sure.

Me: You keep mentioning Oz, have you done any fan fiction?
JC: I have not, though it interests me. I know there’s always another Hollywood spin-off or book published every other year rooting back to Oz. I am a fan of Wicked, the stage musical, and can’t wait for that movie in a few years. For the most part though, my love for Oz, and where I would have taken it, is all in Letin now.

Me: Well we definitely look forward to reading everything you come out with!, thank you so much for the interview!
JC: Again, thank you so much, Bryan. This has been really fun. Your questions were awesome and really thought-provoking. If you like the book, be certain that I’m so down to do this again if you are! Have a great rest of the summer.