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John van de Ruit

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

One Week to Launch

Spud – Learning to Fly will be launched next Tuesday, 9 June, in Johannesburg, and a whole slew of other places following that.

This may surprise you, but the over riding feeling i have after returning home to Durban after two months in Asia, is one of order. Now order isn’t a word one usually associates with South Africa – but there you have it. I am once again struck by the degree to which afro-pessimism frames so many people’s views when compartmentalizing our country. The other thing I have noticed since returning home, is the level of hype and anticipation about Learning To Fly. I expected a storm but this is looking more and more like a category 5 hurricane with a chip on its shoulder. This is the part of the job that always sounds the most glamorous to people, but can in some ways be more daunting than writing the book in the first place. The pre-publication launch, exactly a week from now shapes up to be a monumental event with my publishers determined to set a new record for a book launch in South Africa. I have warned them about the possibility of me developing an arthritic writing paw due to excessive book signing and hand shaking but it seems they thought i was joking. Now you may think this is a laughing matter (and it probably is) but Marian Keyes scared the death out of me at the Cape Town book fair in 2007 when she said that her arm had become mangled and deformed due to signing a million or so books too many. She was using a personalised stamp which made her seem like a fiery Irish librarian checking out books. I’ll do my best to avoid the stamp on the Learning To Fly book tour except of course for those of you who have an unnatural fetish for stationery.

And now for some apologies:

I apologise to the good people of Gauteng for the unseemly Spud, Learning to fly billboard that has been erected on the Ben Schoeman Highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. This is just the sort of grandiose prank that the Penguins are famous for – particularly when I’m away. A traffic jam is bad enough without having local literature rammed down your throat as you sit trapped and gridlocked between a minibus, another minibus, and certain death. An apology too for those readers who have to squeeze past grotesque columns of Spud books in bookstores on their way to more edifying literature. I say blame Harry Potter, he started all this boarding school craziness in the first place.

So the first copies of Learning to Fly were waiting for me upon arrival. Unfortunately my father was overcome with curiosity over what he might or might not have done in his recent past, tore open the envelope, and became the first citizen to read the new book. The good news is that his review was favourable, the bad news is that my father couldn’t exactly say it was a pile of brown- – at least without breaking my heart. It was a surreal experience to open the book and feel its pages between my fingers. So many words, and so much time spent on those exact words. It was the moment when Spud – Learning To Fly no longer was the subject of my life, but the object of my labours. That switch from subject to object is enough to short circuit a brain as small as my own.

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How Spud – Learning to Fly got started

Dear Reader

In Spud, the character of The Guv inscribes a book of poetry, which he presents to Spud Milton on his 14th birthday. It reads, “Here’s to all the beginnings, and the possibilities they bring.”

Spud – Learning to Fly’s beginning was August 2007. In a few short years I had written two books, performed hundreds of Mamba shows and lived the life of a celebrated nomad. Running on red bulls and adrenaline, and mostly overawed by the sudden turn in my fortunes, my new roller coaster life took on a life of its own, and I merely chased its wake. The Madness Continues (and continues…) book tour was gruelling and I realised that I had reached an end of sorts. Call it the end of the beginning. I needed a break, a break from the daily buzz, a break from Spud, and mostly a break from myself. I decided to disappear, and so I did. For five months I didn’t mention the “S” word, avoided all contact with the world, and relished my ordinariness. It was a beginning of sorts.

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Spudcast! Soundbite from the New Spud Audiobook

Spud AudiobookOne of my earliest memories of childhood was driving on long and mostly torturous trips to far-flung areas of Southern Africa. My parents soon discovered that an effective way of preventing war between my now lovely sister and myself, was to pop an audiotape into the tape deck (remember them?)

I can recall listening to stories by Dick Francis, Agatha Christie and Roald Dahl – I also remember my father driving the family around our suburb extremely slowly and repeatedly. Despite driving all day we couldn’t let the holiday die until Hercule Poirot had taken his time evaluating the evidence and letting us know whom the murderer was.

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Watching from afar

This is my first post for my profile page. Hopefully, it will appear in two places at once – if not, back to the technical drawing board!

So to browsers, if you’ve stumbled upon this: thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the book.

Spud was launched by Razorbill (Penguin USA) in America and Canada on the 4th October 2007. I unfortunately was not anywhere near North America, in fact, I was so far away I was in South Africa! I tried my best to celebrate the moment with an overrated dinner in a swanky restaurant but with every drink I ordered, the toasts to America grew wearier, until eventually fading away into excited talk about the rugby world cup.

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How to sound like James Earl Jones in just five days

John van de RuitDear Reader

Announcing…. Spud the Audiobook Recording

– or –

How to sound like James Earl Jones in just five days.

The week started on a bad footing when my traditional boys-only Transkei fishing week ended three days prematurely. This was largely on account of gale force winds, dwindling whiskey reserves, and our fishing boat drifting out to sea.

After a hearty SAA breakfast of grated cabbage roll on soggy lettuce, I dismounted my Airbus to find absolutely nobody waiting for me at the airport. I must say the Penguins (my publishers) are usually quite good about arranging a hearty airport welcome complete with hired fans, fake news cameras, and a sturdy bunch of fake flowers. Alas I found myself bereft in the mighty concrete jungle and after just shy of three hundred offers for a taxi, I grimly shuffled off towards the bright red hell of AVIS.


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To Chris and Sarah: Thanks

Firstly a message to Sarah. Yes I am enjoying the sales and having a healthy bank account for once. What I have realised during my years in theatre and now as an author, is that money does not mean the same thing to us as it does to a businessman or a lawyer. For me money is directly related to time. The more money you have, the more creative time you have, and hence the better your work will ultimately become. I now write full-time – although that doesn’t mean I write every day, but the freedom to create is the key. Also so much of writing is just actually thinking. You can’t write the magic unless there’s magic in your head. And you don’t find the magic in your head unless you have time to crank it up and let it stew.


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Spud Spread the Love Tour – May Dates

The “spread the love tour” for Spud – The Madness Continues, continues. We’re in KZN next week – here are the dates, places and RSVP info, hope to see you there!

THURSDAY 17 MAY – Pietermaritzburg

17h30 for 18h00
Exclusive Books Midlands (Homebru Launch)

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Remember to Spread the Love Always

John van de RuitWelcome to my official blog and thanks to those who made it happen. (Spud would say “wickedly splendid.”) I look forward to hearing from Spud fans, curious bloggers, late night lurkers and other people with far too much time on their hands.

I must begin by saying that the job of writing is indeed a weird profession. My publisher hands me the sales figures and informs me that Spud is now officially a phenomenon and that everybody is going mad about it. But here at my writing desk at home I see very little evidence first hand. So now I can talk directly to you and let you know some of the madness that is me and my life. In return you can share your thoughts with me. Good, bad or otherwise.


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