Book Club II Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves
They say there is no such thing as a stupid question, and we here at NonPro took it as a challenge! We had the opportunity to sit down with Jesse Baruffi, author of the super-powered comic novel Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves and thoroughly embarrassed ourselves by asking the following:

Who are you and what are you doing here?

I’m Jesse Baruffi, and while I contain multitudes, the important bit is that I am a writer of comedic things. In the not-too-distant past, I did a podcast and articles for your very station under the banner of Geekademia, as well as being one of the main writers and actors in the webseries Just Friends. But now, the big thing is that I wrote a novel called Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves. Long story short, it’s a comedy about a pair of supervillains who try to kill each other, fall in love, and try to take over the world together. It has lots of absurdity, violence, heists, schemes, robot dinosaurs, zeppelins, and obscure Star Trek references.

What’s the funniest thing that can ever happen to a real jerk?

I think I’m fondest of heavy objects being hurled at people’s heads, but there is also something to be said for running around, screaming in pain while having some part of their body remorselessly squeezed or pinched, and finishing off by falling in a pit of some kind.

What makes a good, compelling character? Why don’t your characters have that?

Leaving aside your insult until our inevitable duel, Hablawi, what makes a character compelling is their ability to react to the world around them in a unique and entertaining way. Boring characters are just dragged along by the story, offering little more than, “Okay,” or, “That was weird.” Compelling characters push back against the world, or find unique, personal reasons to go along. Their actions and reactions are both surprising and entirely understandable at the same time.

So, you wrote a romance novel?

You know, I could do the typical artist dodge here and say, “Well, I don’t like my stories being pigeonholed into a single genre,” but heck with that hippie nonsense. The fact is, I make fun of everything I can in Otto, and certainly some elements of the book do draw from cheesy romance. It’s far from the only genre I’m mocking, but it’s in there. The nice thing about humor is that you are by nature subverting and transcending expectations, so I drew on the cliches and tropes while simultaneously mocking them.

If you ruled the world, what would be the first laws you passed?

My personal goal is to live in the Star Trek future, so I’d probably get the ball rolling on replicators, transporters, and holodecks. That last one would end civilization forever though.

Favorite doomsday weapon/scenario?

The best doomsday device is already upon us. Human apathy and greed, two things we are never in short supply of, will destroy the world with very little effort! Ha ha ha! Oh wait, I just made myself sad…

Dinosaur-shooting death ray to the Earth’s core. Yeah. Let’s go with that.

If you could go back in time and murder a famed author and take credit for their work, who’d you pick and how would you kill them?

Pfft. Past authors. What do they know? If they’re so smart, why aren’t they alive? Nothing that happened before me is worth knowing or doing.

What would be your dream cast for the HBO miniseries of your book?

My book probably doesn’t have enough boobs to be on HBO, and I would like to point out that I don’t design my characters with actors in mind, but let’s give it a go. Otto is kind of tough because there aren’t many short, weird-looking male leads. He’s not exactly either, but I’d pick Daniel Bruhl, because he did a great job of playing an off-putting Austrian in the movie Rush. My pick for Esmerelda would be Natalie Morales. She’s a little short, but that’s nothing high heels can’t fix, and she has the sort of mischievous spark that I imagine in Esmerelda’s eyes. SCRAP is a robot, so he’d probably be CG, but his voice requires someone very distinguished and dignified to deliver the appropriate smug sarcasm. My first thought is David Hyde Pierce, but I would also be cool with Alan Rickman. Jake Indestructible could only be Kurt Russell. MegaLoMeinia is cute and blonde, and there isn’t exactly a shortage of those actresses in Hollywood, but I want someone who’s actually funny too, so I’d go with Allison Pill. Lastly, poor, beleaguered Yann Olinger would probably be well-played by Paul Giamatti.

What are the stupidest trends in literature today?

You probably expect me to say something about Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey, but those are frankly low-hanging fruit. The trend that bothers me most is actually much more insidious. It feels like every book has to be part of a series these days, and this is a problem. I actually don’t mind series in and of themselves, but when a book almost can’t be a story, but just a piece of one, that is a problem. I understand there are business reasons why it’s necessary, but I still don’t love it.

Do you have any qualms screwing over your future career by answering that last question?

Let’s see if I can actually make myself a career before I worry about shooting it in the foot.

Where can we stalk you and your work?

You can find me on a few places around the internet. Right now, the most busy and active for getting the latest updates on me and my work, including the first two chapters of the book for free, is http://www.facebook.com/OttoVonTrapezoid

I am also hard at work on a website, still under construction, where I plan to keep all the cool extra material written and drawn for the book, and future books one hopes. It’s www.jessebaruffi.com

Did you notice that there were more than ten questions?

More than ten? You lied to me, Frank! YOU LIED TO MEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

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Otto Von Trapezoid and the Empress of Thieves is the subject of our current Book Club. Grab it at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon Kindle. Email [email protected] to get notified about our next discussion post for the novel!