Good morning, friends! It’s Thursday, which means, as it often does, that we bring back a Starving Review alumni back to the kitchen. Today, let’s hear it for Jake Danger, the chef who whipped up The Einstein Pool!
Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
I was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi but I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky chewing cud. I left home on my 26th birthday to study Mandarin Chinese and teach English in Taiwan, where I lived for five years. After law school in Kentucky and a few years as a lawyer in Tokyo and Shanghai, I opted for the much more exciting life of an international vagabond. I spend my time writing, composing psychedelic trance music on my computer, and tramping around Asia (mostly China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia).
Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
I spend my summers working as a high-priced gigolo on the French Riviera, and I spend my winters in a Siberian nudist camp. Seriously, though, I have spent the last three months in Guangxi province of China, making friends with the locals and writing music. My next stop is Manila (I think…). Intellectually, I am very much into social psychology and metaphysical philosophy. Try reading David Chalmers – it’ll blow ya mind.
What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?
I’m still working on the sequels to The Einstein Pool (it’s going to be a five-part series called the iGod), so stay tuned. I’m also working on a religious parody about this guy who had a Near Death Experience and reckons he got sent to Doggy Heaven by mistake.
What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
My stories were simply screaming to come out of me, that’s all. If I hadn’t written them, they would have ripped their way out of my abdomen in a manner that might remind you of that famous horror scene in Alien. Also, my other personalities all threatened to strangle themselves to death if I didn’t.
Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
My books run the gamut from science fiction to romance to philosophy to theology to drama to adventure. I don’t mean that I write many different kinds of books; I just mean that you can find elements of every one of these genres in each book that I write.
Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
I like surprise endings that are so utterly unexpected, you have to go back and read the book again in light of the book’s last sentence. The Director’s Cut ending to The Butterfly Effect was an inspiration to me because it was so stunning that I still have a hard time grasping it. I also like to include an extremely smart-assed protagonist.
Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
My literary influences are generally films, not novels. Films like The Truman Show, The Matrix and The Butterfly Effect (Director’s Cut ONLY) are right up my literary alley. I also like the Gospels, because the stories it recounts resonate so well with what I have observed of human nature.
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?
I have a strong preference for the first-person point of view (largely because so much of my writing is autobiographical). I also like the personal journal format, so that the reader can keep up with the timing of events.
Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemmingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?
I like sparse wording most of the time, but that’s just my style. I’ve seen writers work miracles with flowery wording.
Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
Man vs. woman, because it’s the defining conflict of our age.
What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
Both are incredibly important, but if I had to choose one it would be plot. People open a book to read a story, not to psychoanalyze the protagonist. In addition, the action in the story can define the character of the protagonist with no need to delve deeply into his internal mental processes. The wisest, most succinct saying I have ever hear is “Decisions define us.”
We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
Start off with an absolutely insane idea, and then make perfect sense of it before the reader has time to reject it. Leave ‘em gasping for air by the end of the first paragraph.
The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
Cake, because I can have my cake and eat it too.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be? Even fiction writers draw from their own experiences to create their stories. The typical advice given to an aspiring writer is to read, read, read. I disagree. Instead of spending your time reading about someone else’s experiences, get out there and have some experiences of your own. Ride a camel in Morocco. Join the Mile High Club. Become an expert in underwater basket weaving or ancient Egyptian master-slave poetry. Whatever feels funky to you, just do it. Remember that your creative mind is an oyster that needs a little irritation to create a pearl. You’ll know you’ve been successful when you have to present your autobiography as fiction because no one will believe that your experiences could have actually happened.