To say that Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo is a man of many talents would be, to put it bluntly, an understatement.
A native of Ukraine, Zaya-Ruzo has lived in Cheshire for approximately 30 years and has made a local name for himself crafting an assortment of musical instruments — lutes, harpsichords and virginals, hurdy-gurdy, rebecs, fiddles, woodwinds, and drums.
For more than a decade, he used his skills to make automata musical dolls — large figurines that utilize a mechanical movement similar to a clock in order to move along with music. One of his dolls — “Don Quixote in his library” — was put on display at the Cheshire Public Library.
Now, you can add “author” to his business card.
Late last month, Zaya-Ruzo’s first novel, “The Fourth Dimension,” was officially made available to the public. The book, published by Austin Macauley Publishers, is billed as “an adventure story for young readers.” The characters weave their way through an intricate plot that combines treasure hunting, time travel, mutiny aboard a military tall ship, and much more.
“I started on this eight years ago,” Zaya-Ruzo explained to The Herald. “I always dreamed of writing a book. I love books. I read hundreds when I was a child, and (they) formed my romantic vision.”
The idea for “The Fourth Dimension” started innocently enough. One night, while on the phone with his friend, the two began to speak about possible business ventures. Zaya-Ruzo joked that his friend should simply go looking for treasure, to which his friend quipped that he was looking for more “unusual” ideas.
Zaya-Ruzo retorted that, if he wasn’t interested in searching for treasure, then he could simply bury treasure himself and then sell the maps, which elicited a laugh from both men.
“But then I began to think, (the idea) could be like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, only if they lived in our time,” explained Zaya-Ruzo. “That’s really where the plot for the book (took shape).”
While this is Zaya-Ruzo’s first novel, it is not his first book. However, writing that piece — “The Notes of Music Instrument Makers” — was very different from tackling a novel, where the characters and settings had to come alive.
“The process of writing was actually finding new links between heroes and time periods,” he stated. “Most of the inner plots and relationships came to me in the middle of the night. I would wake up at 5 a.m. and let my thoughts work by themselves.”
An avid fan of puzzles, Zaya-Ruzo looked at the plot of his book as exactly that, “and all the pieces of it, I create myself,” he said.
“That was the most beautiful part of writing this book,” he continued.
While some authors may stick to a rigid story outline, Zaya-Ruzo approached his in a more organic fashion. “I guess I was a child dreaming of traveling through time — seeking the thesaurus — walking on the desert islands … The more I dreamed, the more heroes and situations appeared.”
Connecting the mini-plots into one continuous story proved the most challenging aspect for Zaya-Ruzo, though once the pieces fit, the chapters came together “within hours.” Then, with his tale almost complete, Zaya-Ruzo rented a home in Vermont for two weeks, left his family and friends behind, and put the finishing touches on his work.
“I read the book every couple days, and then decided to change this or that to make the story more logical and interesting,” he said. “For instance, I tried to make the end of every chapter quite intriguing so that the reader would want to start the next chapter as soon as possible.”
With his work complete, Zaya-Ruzo began the process of trying to get it published. First, he had to get it translated.
Since his native language is Russian, Zaya-Ruzo wrote the entire first draft in his preferred tongue and then sought out a woman in Arizona who agreed to translate it into English. Then, he published the book on the self-publishing site LULU.
“I always wanted to be published by a ‘real’ publishing house,” admitted Zaya-Ruzo, “but it was very hard, right from the beginning.”
First, Zaya-Ruzo attempted to enlist the services of an agent who could market his book, but found that trying to succinctly explain the plot of his novel was difficult. So, he decided to go directly to publishing houses themselves, sending his work to approximately 12 major publishers. Only two initially replied, informing Zaya-Ruzo that they only worked with agents.
However, one publisher did show interest in Zaya-Ruzo’s novel and, before long, Austin Macauley had agreed to publish “The Fourth Dimension.”
The book has only been out for a short period of time, so feedback has been scant. However, a few people who received early copies have already reached out to Zaya-Ruzo to offer their opinions.
“One very famous Russian writer, Yuz Aleshkovsky, has admitted that when he started to read the story, he could not stop until it ended,” remarked Zaya-Ruzo. “And one adult reader said she read it twice in a row, even though the book was written for younger readers.”
With his first book in print, the local author is already thinking about his second. There are plenty of twists and turns circulating in his mind, and Zaya-Ruzo is itching to reenter the world of “The Fourth Dimension.”
“I love my book, and the heroes. They are real for me, and I have a productive idea of their next adventures,” he said. “… but I have to wake up at 5 a.m. much more to make the plot (come together.”
You can purchase “The Fourth Dimension” through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores throughout the country.