Today I am talking to author Ruud Antonius who was born on the 3rd of December 1959 in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands where he lived until the age of 13 and moved to England with his family in 1973, continued his schooling and studied art in Hampshire. After that, in 1979, he moved to Bielefeld, Germany and 9 months later to Hameln, a small town close to Hanover. For a period of 5 years he painted there, did a short spell being a musician and in 1984 returned to The Netherlands to become a full time artist. In March 2006 Ruud decided to move back to England to see how things had panned out there but finally ended up in Spain on one of the Costas where painting and writing seem to fill most of his days.
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Ruud Antonius: The first serious piece I wrote must have been somewhere around the 1990’s. It was called ‘Mart Meissner’ and told the story of an autistic artist who lived life with the same intensity and vigour that he experienced in his work. At the time I was working in the Netherlands as an artist and wrote it in Dutch. Being a surrealistic painter I found it an interesting initiative to see what would happen if I’d write a story in much the same fashion as I paint, using identical thought processes to bend and contort reality into the strange and wonderful world of surrealistic imagery. So I bought an electronic typewriter (can we remember them?) and locked myself in the office after work for a couple of hours a day. What had started out as a small experiment soon turned into an unfinished story more than 200 pages long, packed with insane ideas but at the same time it was an interesting adventure to have taken on. It is now stacked away in a cardboard box somewhere where it will remain. I just might read it again some day but I haven’t had the courage as yet.
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Ruud Antonius: About two years ago I was asked by Carter Kaplan, a professor of the English language in the USA to join the board of editorial advisors of International Authors which is a consortium of writers, artists, architects and critics. They publish works of outstanding merit dedicated to the advancement of an international culture in literature primarily in English. I accepted and was thrilled with the stories in ‘Emanations’ an anthology edited by Carter. Shortly after that I started writing Son upon Tine, not with the intention of ever having it published. When Carter came over to stay with me in the UK to attend a meeting of International Authors in London we got talking over the piece I was writing and he urged me to finish it. That and meeting up with a bunch of authors on a terrace at St. Pancras station did the trick.
Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?
Ruud Antonius: The strange phenomenon that I can actually feel and see the world I am creating, the details, choosing the bits you want and having the luxury to discard things which are surplus to the story but set the mood all the same for me to write in the right frame of mind. It just might be an addiction, a form of escapism from the real world, but hey, I am not too impressed with the real world at the best of times.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your trilogy Son upon Tine and the main characters?
Ruud Antonius: The trilogy is an analogy to the real world we live in, the absurdities of politics, money and corruption. At the same time it tells the story of friendships, society, science, love and fear with all its mechanisms and complexities in a bizarre community, yet never losing touch with reality. The reader is put in a position where the situations created never seem implausible and thus becomes familiar and attached to the weird and wonderful world of Son upon Tine without questioning the surreal undertone of the complete novel.
Book 1 tells the story of how Mark Miworth Caerphilly acquired his status and wealth through his position as Mayor of Cornbridge Town, bending the rules and regulations where he can to achieve his goals but when Anthony Bridewell, a casual worker in the nearby village of Son upon Tine happens to stumble upon a freak incident whilst on his way to work, the two main characters are bound by fate. Angela Hilsop, the personal secretary to the Mayor defects after finding secret information regarding the Lower Decks, a remnant since the Great War and a sinister place in the cellars of the Council building where ‘difficult’ individuals are locked away to safeguard the Mayor’s powers. At the same time Anthony is aided by Abram Young, a milkman, one of the few in the small rural community who defies the heavy nature of the night, taking him out to the banks of the river Tine where plans have been made to build a modern power plant to generate electricity from a unique structure within the strange waters which flow through the country side. Soon afterwards more people join their struggle to topple the Mayor who makes great efforts to silence the small group but in doing so finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for. Joseph Young, the son and apprentice of the Milkman, Peter Outslogh a simple farmer who prefers to slaughter his pigs rather than rear them and Murphy Lawson a retired physics teacher who is married to a retired nurse who cannot accept the redundancy of her skills. They all unite in an attempt to assist Anthony but are unable to prevent him having to leave his home, a house that struggles to retain its size and fights the structural changes Anthony has made over the years.
The story is told in two parts, with separate timelines, out of synchronicity, from Anthony’s and Mark’s point of view. As the story unfolds Anthony’s time line draws alongside Mark’s, in part two it surpasses his adversary. It is an hour-to-hour account from Ablebodyday 1, June 15th 1959 to Ablebodyday 8, June 22nd 1959 describing the absurd and preposterous events within the boundaries of Cornshire on a plot of land no larger than 12 by 12 miles.
Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the trilogy?
Ruud Antonius: The idea has been in my head for years and during that time I improved the initial concept, worked out the different layers, structured the themes and invented weird and wonderful characters. I had drawn a complete map of the village Son upon Tine and the area around the council offices in Cornbridge town long before I started writing. With all that already done the story nearly wrote itself.
Books & Writing: Why did you decide to turn the story into a trilogy?
Ruud Antonius: It was a logical choice from the outset. The first book tells a story on a very small piece of land, in a rural setting in the county of Cornshire with timelines which are offset between the two main characters living in two different towns. In the second book the consequences of the ‘troubles’ in Son upon Tine have repercussions with neighbouring country Scowaland. We then have two timelines and two storylines on either side of the border of two nations who are on the brink of war. The last book will be written in retrospective from Anthony’s point of view after the whole world has been plunged in a bitter war instigated from a relatively small incident in Son upon Tine.
Books & Writing: How many parts of the trilogy have you finished so far?
Ruud Antonius: Book one is completely finished and ended up 420 pages long which took me about 8 months to write. I am now half way through the second book which will be slightly longer by the looks of it and hopefully will be finished in April next year.
Books & Writing: When will you finish the remaining parts of the trilogy?
Ruud Antonius: The trilogy will be finished in 2014. So I will be hopping between my office and the art studio for at least another 18 months. That can sometimes be a little annoying, painting gets in the way of writing and writing can get in the way of painting. But on the whole it works pretty well, though I must confess that of late my breaks are getting longer and I need more and more coffee.
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Ruud Antonius: That is a difficult one and I hesitate in fear of saying something which only applies to myself but I find that a bottle of Rioja goes very well with writing.
Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Ruud Antonius: I had always thought of author being autonomous, placed outside the rules and regulations of the community and being rather a stick in the mud by pointing the finger at society’s inadequacies. Alas, that is not true, society as a whole does not accept criticism but at the same time its ignorance does leave enough space to hold up the mirror and reflect the impact it has on the authors work. That is the niche where culture is made to survive in the modern world of today.’
Below is an excerpt from Son upon Tine!
June 16, 5:30 – 9:30, 1959
Anthony had lived in his house for as far as the viscosity of his memory would allow to be pressed through the ever decreasing diameter of veins that spread like a forest fungus away from the arteries of his everyday life, twisting and turning into the hidden niches of the grey soil where only incoherent dreams could be sustained on the faint suggestion of a promise to come up for air. After the first rays of sunlight shattered the darkness through the small opening between the brown curtains of his bedroom, evaporating all black matter that relentlessly pushed down his body into the mattress, dared he open his eyes to the world he lived in.
Anthony quickly stepped out of bed, put on his clothes that lay crumpled on the floor and did what he did every day as part of the ritual he had adopted to ensure all was well, that the night had not had any adverse effects on the structure of the home he so lovingly constructed over the years, despite what others in the neighbourhood might have said. It was a large house comprised of three levels and a large cellar, but when his mother passed away it had been considerably smaller, though it now accommodated a grand total of (at the moment) fifteen rooms, most of them empty for practical reasons since the troubles had started. Within an hour he measured all the rooms and concluded there were no changes to the measurements taken the previous day, nor the day before, and with a sigh of relief he realised the day could continue without having to worry about the house too much. Losing only one room over a period of six months was not bad; that was something he could keep up with. When it first started Anthony used to measure the outside of the building believing the overall size would give a clear indication of fluctuations regarding the volume, but that proved to be a mistake and one he would not make again.
After a quick check of the mortar and brickwork Anthony was adequately put at ease to go and search for the milk the Milkman would have put somewhere on his property and after a ramble through the garden he eventually found it by the shed amongst the building materials in the concrete mixer. The Milkman was a brave man, defying the night in his black Float delivering bottles filled with the whitest of fluids, thus serving the community. There were one or two people in the village who had ever caught a glimpse of him in the very early hours of the morning but none were able to give a clear description of this solitary man.
It was now around 7:30 in the morning and the first enormous transparent blocks of the day ahead squashed the dew from the grass and shaped another fine day into that what could be expected in June in the small village named Son upon Tine.