Did you know?
About 1300 people attended the launch of the third book in the Spud series, Spud – Learning to Fly. This is the biggest local launch in South African history.
Born in 1975 just outside of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, author John van de Ruit says he never expected big things to happen in his life.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Van de Ruit is the author of the Spud series, which follows the tribulations of a South African boarding school through the eyes of the main character, the highly amusing John 'Spud' Milton.
The four novels have been smash hits, selling over half-a-million copies in South Africa alone, and hitting the international market (you can now find the books in Portuguese, Russian and Italian).
A film adaptation of the first book in the series, Spud, stars British actor John Cleese and debuted at number one at the South African box office in 2010. More recently (2013), Van de Ruit's Spud – The Madness Continues (also starring Cleese) was launched in South Africa – again to packed houses.
Schooled at the prestigious Michaelhouse all-boys' school in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Van de Ruit holds a master's degree in drama and performance from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. These days, on top of writing books and hanging about the set with world-famous actors, he is also a playwright, producer and sometimes actor.
While his first book, Spud (2005), broke all South African fiction records, his other books have done pretty well both locally and internationally. Spud – The Madness Continues was published in 2007 and again made serious waves. Spud – Learning to Fly was first published in 2009, followed by Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear, which was released in 2012.
In his writing, Van de Ruit explores humour in each situation, which he says stems from his slight physical stature and somewhat goofy nature growing up.
The character Spud bears many similarities to his creator, and Van de Ruit says he wanted to pen the series in order to recreate the challenges, tribulations and fun days of his youth. His idea to do so was met with skepticism: 'They told me I was crazy, they told me I was wasting my time, and they told me I would never get rich writing books in South Africa,' he said in a magazine interview. 'I feel pretty excited about proving them wrong.'
One this is for sure: Van de Ruit is a hugely creative talent, and a proud South African – and there are lots more stories to come from his pen. Watch this space.