Novel set mainly in Pisa
#TinyTripFiction Talking Location with Ruth Estevez
12th September 2021
From the rugged Yorkshire moors to the lush shores of the Mediterranean, we’re thrilled to welcome Ruth Estevez to the Tiny TripFiction headquarters to tell us all about the places and settings that inspired her latest YA novel, The Monster Belt.
I find places and settings are integral in creating stories. For example, if I hadn’t travelled to the island of Formentera in the Mediterranean, The Monster Belt would never have been written. The fragrant pine and herb scented air gave the island a quality different from anywhere I’d ever been, and that, topped with the salty, crystal clear sea and empty October beaches meant I fell in love. Sunny Formentera seemed like an island paradise so I wanted to explore what would happen if a dreadful event took place there. In dazzling turquoise water, a monster takes Harris’s best friend but with no body or further sighting of this creature, how could a death happen in such clear, sparkling sea?
A story set here, also meant I could keep it in my heart when I returned to the city of Manchester in the UK where I live, plus share the island with the rest of the world. I love learning new facts when I read books, so I tend to put them into my own books too!
I grew up in a very different setting, in an inland village in Yorkshire. Hawksworth inspired the location for Dee Winter in The Monster Belt. It has a small lake, called the Mere that always had a rowing boat tied to a ramshackle boat house and I never saw anyone take it out. The village looks over moorland on one side and is backed by a hill called the Odda which acts as a watershed between two valleys, a watershed meaning it’s like a roof top, allowing rainwater to run down its sides. These are both found in Dee’s village and they inspired the beginnings of a story: in a dark valley steeped in the myth of a legendary lake monster, a teenage girl is desperate to escape and not be typecast. Travel around Yorkshire’s dales and coast gave me the means to describe landscape; cool woods, long grass, dense grey sea, midges at sundown.
Contrast is what makes stories and characters more interesting, so contrasting the hot Mediterranean with a wet Yorkshire village and placing characters both in and travelling to these different locations, gave me plenty of scope for writing.
Plus, The Monster Belt is an area I read about in The Reader’s Digest book of Strange Stories: Amazing Facts. It is located between two latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere that I’m definitely going to have to explore further!
I also like the idea of looking at a place through a stranger’s eyes, so when Harris travels to the Yorkshire village, it is a different place to the one Dee knows, having grown up there. Similarly, Formentera through Dee’s eyes, evokes different feelings and reactions than it does for Harris.
I find this concept extremely interesting because it means a place can evoke a variety of emotions in the characters, and if I’ve done my job well enough, in visitors too. I can only describe a place through a stranger’s eyes, if I’ve travelled there myself, so travel is essential! Without it, The Monster Belt, wouldn’t exist.
Thank you so much for asking me this question and I hope everyone checks out the locations on this site and finds books to match!
Ruth is an author who has previously worked in theatre and television, from acting, stage management, and writing, taking inspiration from places – particularly her native Yorkshire, but also favourite holiday destinations. She also helps to organise The Portico Sadie Massey Awards, a young person’s reading and writing competition. In any spare time, Ruth can be found travelling to festivals in her flower-stickered camper van, Doris.
A big thanks to UCLan Publishing and Graeme Williams for inviting us to be apart of The Monster Belt blog tour. Be sure to check out all the stops!
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