Inspired to read
Q&A with author John Van Dde Ruit on how stories spark his imagination
What is your earliest memory of stories?
My father was a great storyteller. I never tired of hearing his stories and I doubt I would be a writer if he hadn't fired my imagination from the moment I was old enough to listen.
In which languages were stories told to you as a child?
English, with punctuations of Xhosa and Afrikaans.
Do you have childhood memories of visiting the library?
I was always stung by the silence of our local library, which I found slightly intimidating . But in a brutal Durban February, the library was an oasis - it was the only place outside of the doctor's rooms that had air-conditioning.
What did story time mean to you when you were a child?
It meant lying on the bed in my parents' room with my sister, staring up at the ceiling listening to the adventures of Brer Rabbit or William or many others.
Which characters have inspired you?
I have always been struck by how brave the main characters in storybooks are. Generally they are small and innocent and are soon swept up by uncontrollable events and deposited in a new and strange world where they exist and thrive.
What was your favourite childhood book?
I fell madly in love with Rapunzel and any girl at school with long, blonde hair. Thereafter I discovered the dark but delicious imagination of Roald Dahl, and have never been the same since.
What have stories taught you?
They've developed in me a parallel world of imagination that exists in and around the rest of my life. I've realised, too, that the worlds of truth and fiction do, in fact, merge.
Which stories have shaped you?
Stories of brilliance and humour are what truly excite me. Stories of characters that resonate and events that defy reality or common convention are what inspire me to write. The only way to become a storyteller is to first be inspired by other storytellers.
Why do you write stories?
Because stories are addictive, and writing stories also happens to be my job.
How do you choose books for children?
My experience is that children and adults can be reluctant readers because books of knowledge and instruction are seldom captivating. Find books and stories that will inspire the youngster's imagination and sense of humour and you are already developing a richer person.
What is the role of stories in developing children's values and potential?
Aside from the opening up of an imaginative mind, stories and literrature remind that whatever we feel now has been experienced by millions before, and this should make us humbled and awed, and less obsessed with our own limitations. - Staff reporter
Van de Ruit is an actor, playwright and author. The last book in his 'Spud' series, 'Spud - Exit Pursued by a Bear', is due for release in August.
- See The Times on wednesday for the Nal'ibali supplement. See www.nalibali.org