Today’s story will keep you coming back for more.
[Slice of Life] • 3,436 words
In all his years of running his own shop, Doughnut Joe has seen thousands of ponies. Some he knew, most he didn’t, and many he would never see again. But he never minded that, for he always had his regulars.
FROM THE CURATORS: Right from the first paragraph, The Regular caught our attention with its lush yet approachable prose. “I’ve gotta give it props straight off the bat: this is the first time in recent memory that I’ve read a weather opening that I don’t hate,” Horizon said. “The descriptions here are right in the sweet spot, vivid without being purple. The story’s got a great touch for details.” That quality continued throughout, as Present Perfect noted: “The style caught my attention straight away, and didn’t disappoint.”
But there’s more to this tale of sugary commerce than its sweet turns of phrase — and the characterization of its store owner and its OC patron were especially savory. “The story builds up a wonderful picture of the two main characters out of a few quiet conversations,” Horizon said, and Chris agreed: “It works nicely as a glimpse into Joe’s life, and we get to see the characters grow over the course of the story.” Present Perfect praised not only that character work but its economy of detail when he introduced the story to us. “What drove this nomination is how much we’re able to glean from the regular‘s reticence,” Present said. “He says little about himself, but suggests so very much more.”
Simply put, The Regular was a beautiful read. “I love the picture of Canterlot and Joe’s life this story paints,” JohnPerry said. It kept some surprises in store for us, as Present Perfect noted — “the final scene sets up a tantalizing juxtaposition that says a lot about a particular show character” — but it was the story’s core strengths which carried it through to a feature. Present Perfect summed it up: “This is the best Donut Joe fic since A Cup of Joe.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Ruirik discusses hat horrors, viking chieftains, and spoilers in artwork.
Give us the standard biography.
A long time ago, in the distant year of 2011, a brave group of explorers took upon a quest. Their mission was to travel to the once place where angels and demons feared to tread. A place so cold, so bleak, so utterly terrible, that even the darkest horrors cowered in fear at it’s very name.
There, among the frozen wastes they found a strange hat-like creature sealed in a block of ice. Excited, they began to dig. It seemed to them like a simple fedora, and they took it with them to their camp to archive and send back home. That night someone knocked over a bottle of scotch whiskey. It spilt over the hat, and awoke the eldritch horror within.
The expedition was never heard from again.
Either that, or I’m just another underemployed graphic designer with too much time on my hands, an overactive imagination, and access to copious amounts of alcohol.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
To be perfectly honest, it started with a late night scotch-fueled voyage down the Wikipedia clickhole. I started looking up some obscure detail on the 1964 movie Zulu, and an hour later I’ve got thirty tabs open and now I’m reading about the Varangian chieftain Rurik. Well, the name stuck in my mind, eventually becoming Ruirik when I didn’t notice a typo I made when creating my fimfic account.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Out of the main characters, I’d take Rainbow Dash every time. Her brash nature is a good counterpoint to the other characters, but we get occasional glimpses under that to what is a very insecure nature. For a character that initially comes off as a showy braggart, we see that she’s actually very insecure about herself and her skills. A fear that only gets worse when she perceives Rarity with her faux wings as more impressive than her.
Adding on to that is her element of Loyalty. What does it mean to be loyal? It is a cruel element, one that binds the bearer to others in a way that is difficult, if not impossible to break. From a writing perspective, there is so much that can be done with that, how could I not call her my favorite?
Doctor Whooves is easily my favorite background pony, particularly after Slice of Life.
What’s your favorite episode?
This is a tricky one as my favorite episodes are ones I like for different reasons. If we’re just going on the episode I’ve gone back and watched the most, then it’s Slice of Life by a mile. I love the alternate take of observing background characters living their lives while the heroes of the show do their work. The visual humor and sharp writing which steadily grew ever more insane over the ensuing 22 minutes also worked quite well for me.
For a more serious selection, though, I’d point to Sonic Rainboom. I liked what it showed of Rainbow’s character when her mask is pulled back. Her anxiety, her fear, and her resolve when the cards were on the table. Perfect.
What do you get from the show?
The show, at least for me, is simple entertainment. It’s a form of escapism that I can only get in this particular area. The characters are charming and the humor is sharp with recollections to the classic slapstick comedy shorts I grew up watching on Cartoon Network. Over time it has also created a vibrant world rich with potential for stories that I keep finding myself drawn to.
What do you want from life?
A horse, my kingdom for a horse!
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. There is no answer to that question. What I want from life today in my late 20s is different from what I wanted in my early teens. On that same path, what I want will be different 10 years down the road. Right now, though, I could really go for a steady job, or the ability to travel.
Why do you write?
I write because it helps me relax. I literally cannot sleep at night unless I’ve written something. There are too many ideas running back and forth in my mind, otherwise. More than that, though, I write stories that I want to read. I like to read stories of characters simply existing in their respective situations. What does, for example, Soarin’ do when he’s not working? What’s he like out of uniform? Why does he always look so haggard when we see him in the show? So many questions that I just have to explore for answers!
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Aside from the stock answers (read a lot, practice makes perfect, yadda yadda) I would just offer this: Don’t go it alone. Reach out to your friends, spitball story ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I am a better writer because of the invaluable help from people such as LoyalLiar and The 24th Pegasus. They can pull me out of my tunnel vision, point out new paths I haven’t seen, or help me turn a phrase when my prose has gotten repetitive and bland. The friendship that I’ve forged with these amazing authors through writing is one of the things I’ll treasure most about this fandom, even long after it has faded to a distant memory.
Tying into that first point, get yourself a good editor. I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve worked with several amazing editors in my time writing for fimfic. Sorren, Just Another Timelord, and now Dusk Watch have been invaluable to me. They’ll point out where you’ve been going wrong, show you how to fix it, and make you justify why you are doing something a certain way.
Another big thing I’d suggest would be to seek out and listen to criticism. Nobody likes to hear that you wrote a bad story. But we don’t improve as writers if we just live in our safe little boxes and buy into our own hype. We learn by making mistakes, and it’s rarely fun to have people shine a floodlight on them, but it’s well worth it in the end.
Joe knew “all at once” what happened to Regular, yet he set out a donut and coffee for a month afterward. Was this merely habit, or something more?
I think it’s Joe’s way of remembering the stallion that he befriended. Like lighting a candle for a loved one after they’ve passed. Joe, as I wrote him in The Regular, is a creature of habits. He goes about his morning with the same routine day in and day out. Every morning he goes about opening his shop in the same way, and for a good long while he was used to Regular’s appearance at their specific times. With that gone, Joe took comfort in his routine. Perhaps he held out some vague sense of hope that what he knew in his heart wasn’t true. That Regular would just walk in one morning after having that vacation he claimed he needed.
He never will, of course, but grief is a difficult feeling. Everybody has to work through it in their own way and pace.
Regular, contrary to his belief, will live on in Joe and Twilight’s memories. What makes a person memorable?
Well, it really comes down to the little things, doesn’t it? The personal tics we make when speaking or listening, the smell, the intonation in how a person says a particular word or phrase. How does that person act, how do they treat the people around them? More than that, I believe that it’s the moments you share with other people that makes them memorable.
Joe remembers those little moments in his shop, talking to Regular over coffee. He remembers the order Regular always made, and the cautious manner in which he slowly opened up to Joe over the years. The song that bookends the story, Ashokan Farewell, is integral to those memories. It was there when he met Regular, and it was the song he heard when he realized that his friend was never coming back.
Is there a coffee shop where you’re a regular? What’s the culture like there?
While I do love a good cup of joe, I’m actually not a regular at coffee shops around here. Too many chains with overpriced coffees and top-40 songs playing on loop. There are a couple of places I’m more fond of, locally-owned shops where the manager knows your name, they know your order and your usual spot. I’d wouldn’t exactly say that there is a specific culture to those places though.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I hid a spoiler in the cover art for The Regular. While I had toyed with a few concepts for the cover, I eventually set upon an art nouveau aesthetic that was minimalist in design. At first glance you’re meant to see a table with a doughnut and coffee resting upon it flanked by two benches. Yet with the design of the frame and the placing of the title, I wanted to create the impression of a gravestone.
The Regular was written in a single sitting and it was my first attempt at crafting first-person narrative, an exercise I’ve since repeated with Hey Jealousy. I never expected it to get a lot of notice, much less the acclaim it received. I’m humbled and honored so many people read this story and I can’t thank the community of Fimfic enough for how supportive they’ve been of all my projects over the past three years.
If people liked The Regular and would be interested in checking out my other works they can always find me on my fimfic account. Or if you’re interested in my art they can find me on DeviantArt. I even host art streams now and then! Feel free to poke me in the comments or via PM, I’m usually pretty prompt about answering any questions.
Thank you to all the people who have read my stories or followed my art, the fine people at the Royal Canterlot Library, and the fantastic prereaders and editors who put up with my nonsense and prod me to write faster. See you all soon!