It’s a beautiful Friday here at the Starving Reviews LLC corporate headquarters! As you likely know, fellow foodies, that means it’s time for some fresh reviews and interviews. Today, we bring in Jeff Rorik, author of Beneath the Blast, today’s Starving Review subject. Let’s see what this chef brings to the table!
Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
My name’s Jeff Rorik, and as a Canadian, I put the letter U in a lot of places that spellcheckers don’t think it should be. I live in the middle of a forest in British Columbia, and these days split my time between there and my wonderful girlfriend’s house in Washington, a place where people actually take the spellchecker’s side.
Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
Cooking up literary meals is my primary focus at this point, but when I do manage to drag myself away from the kitchen I enjoy getting away from the taste of words entirely (am I doing this analogy right?). In the last few years I’ve been falling deeper down the musical rabbit hole of progressive rock. And if you’ve read the description of Beneath the Blast, it probably won’t come as a shock that I’m more than a little obsessed with Survivor, and am trying catch up with fifteen years of the show.
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?
While Beneath the Blast is the only dish I’ve served to the public just yet, a second course is not too far off. It’s out of the oven, and just waiting on the cutting board for me to trim off those crispy, overbaked edges.
What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
Like a lot of kids, I grew up devouring this stuff. Maybe it’s a cliché to say I’ve always wanted to do this, and maybe that’s not accurate—I did go through a phase when I was six where I wanted to be a waiter, because I was impressed with how they balanced full plates—but it’s been the most common refrain in my ambitions. After years of half-baked scripts and stories that never made it out of the mixing bowl, I set all that aside, distracted by the rest of life. A few years ago, however, an opportunity to spend a good chunk of time chasing that dream fell into my lap and reignited my passion. I knew it would be a long shot to finish a dish and even more so to give the world a taste, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to try.
Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
I suppose I dabble, though if you want to get technical everything I serve up falls under the horribly vague category of “thriller.” But within that, the genre does vary—Beneath the Blast is more suspenseful and psychological, while my upcoming creation leans towards mysterious with a light sprinkling of sci-fi.
Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
I try to keep everything straight-forward, since I don’t cook to show off my technical prowess. Every meal I prepare has a few core goals: I want it to be quick to consume. I want to keep people enthralled from the first bite to the last. And I want them to crave one more bite. Then another, and another, until they’ve overstuffed themselves and realized a whole evening is gone.
Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
While I’m sure someone more analytical than me could pull apart my creations and see all the individual ingredients I brought together, there’s really just one other chef I’d consider a main influence. When I was younger, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books were my one series that I went back to over and over. I definitely see his impact when I throw a little humor into the mix, even in my darker stories.
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 work almost exclusively in third person. It’s always been my preference as a reader, and I’m sure that’s partly why, but to me it just feels a little more open. I still tend to lock my narration inside one character’s head (or in cases like Beneath the Blast, a different character for each chapter), but it gives me the freedom to provide just that little bit of extra explanation about realities rather than a character’s perception when I need to. Plus, I put a lot of work into naming my characters, so I want to use those names way more often than first person allows!
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?
Most of the time I like to keep things fast and snappy, but there’s always a time and place to fit in some good, meaty descriptions. I tend to write really detailed first drafts, and then cut away the excess as I go, carving it down to more easily digested sentences.
Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
I’m a fan of good, old fashioned conflicts with people clashing with other people, especially in situations where it’s a bit tough to decide who’s in the “right.” That said, I’m not adverse to a proper villain when the story calls for it. Internal, personal struggles are also really interesting to write and great when they’re pulled off well, and I think my work always has an element of characters fighting against something within themselves, to one degree or another.
What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
It’s a really difficult choice… when I’m writing up the basic recipe I plan to follow, I usually go plot first, and figure out what characters I need to accommodate that story. I’m not one of those people who are lucky enough to just have endless characters bouncing around in their head. Each one takes a concentrated effort to put together, and I think as a result I focus more on the plot initially. But when we get to the nitty-gritty of it, I want characters that make sense, obviously, and that readers can engage with. Really, it changes from dish to dish—I always have a story I want to tell, but it can vary whether that’s a story about a series of events or about the personal growth of a character.
We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
I’m not a fan of long, rambling introductions before the main course. Prologues have their place, but it’s not usually in my kitchen. I’d much prefer to launch right into the story. Not necessarily starting with a bang or some crazy excitement in the first page, but I don’t want to leave my readers wondering when the real story is going to show up. After all, if the first page can’t hold their attention, it doesn’t matter how good the last page is. Nobody will get to it.
The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
I hope this confession doesn’t undermine everything else I’ve said here, but I know a lot of people will hold it against me: I’m not a fan of pie. Love cake, I’ll take whatever cakes you give me, but pie? Man, I don’t know. I like apples, and I like pie crusts, but the two together? It just doesn’t work for me.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?
The classic advice is “write every day,” but I don’t think that’s the way to go about it. That’s a great way to get burnt out on a project, overdo it, and make yourself hate it. So I would say write most days. Write days when you’re inspired, and write days when you’re not, but let yourself take a break and recharge on some other days. So take a day off, read, or watch TV, or go work on that chore you’ve been putting off. Everything you do, whether it’s a big adventure or a mundane annoyance, is fuel. It’s too easy to get cooped up and stuck in your echo chamber, only writing what you already know. So just do things, enjoy some media that you didn’t create, enjoy life, and get yourself some good fuel for when you do get back to the literary kitchen. It’s a lot easier to write relatable stories when you can relate to them yourself.