Author Ruth Estevez has written a piece for the FCBG about the inspiration behind The Monster Belt. An interesting blog to read- fascinating and mythical elements combine!
Inspiration behind The Monster Belt
Inspiration came from different sources, but the catalyst was reading a paragraph in The Readers Digest Book of Strange Stories and Amazing Facts. It described an area between two latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere where the majority of mythical creatures are found. I am fascinated by mermaids, Big Foot, the Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster, to name a few, and this set me off on a research journey ….
Of course, an area between latitudes and a wad of research material about monsters and unexplained creatures aren’t enough for a story. Plus, the monster belt is so huge, I’d need to write a series of books that would run as long as a series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Bob the Builder!
I was writing one book! I needed to focus the story on one or possibly two places and that is how the village of Thorpemere where one of my main characters, Dee Winter lives. This village had to be at the centre of the area of the monster belt. The village where I grew up in Yorkshire has a small lake, called the mere. It also has a hill called the Odda, towering over it. Hawksworth village was perfect inspiration, with its small lake, the perfect setting for my imagined legend like that of the Loch Ness Monster and I’d have a girl who saw monsters. This idea for Dee came from an incident from my childhood when making dens with my sister and a friend of hers. We found a glade which we called ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home.’ I think it was from a song. It was the first time we’d been there and we wandered through the lush grass, and trees in full leaf, with sunbeams piercing through. It was magical but then, without warning, there sounded out a huge crash that reverberated towards us. We looked at each other and ran! We told each other it was a giant and we never went back. That inspired a scene in the book where Dee meets a Squonk and also, that bad things can happen in beautiful places.
Like many writers and actors, I use transference in my work. An emotion I’ve felt, or a place or person can be transported from reality, and used in a different way or format in a story. So, I transferred the village where I grew up, into the book. The village school appears in description, the Odda hill, woodland and even events from my childhood. My childhood became an inspiration!
So, I had my setting, my idea and main character, but great stories are about contrast. This story was growing into a coming of age story and about finding one’s identity. Dee is typecast but doesn’t feel this label is truly who she is, and is desperate to escape her village. I needed a place and a person who represented an alternative to everything she knew. I’d been on holiday to a small Mediterranean island that was turquoise and white, in its sea and sand. It was hot and sunny, a complete contrast to Yorkshire on a wet, cold January day. I fell in love with Formentera. It inspired me by the special scent to the air, the atmosphere it created and the fact that it seemed perfect.
Questions are always inspiring because they lead us to developing a story. So I asked what if something terrible happened in this paradise? Who would it happen to and how would I link a monster in Thorpemere to an area outside the monster belt? Two very different people, both with trauma and a quest for their identity, had to meet.
When I heard on the radio a discussion about drowning and the reality that someone can drown feet away from us because they aren’t shouting or screaming or waving their arms, but are silently slipping under, I knew I’d found my inciting incidents. The programme said that people who are drowning don’t make any noise because they are concentrating on breathing and staying alive. That chilled me and I knew then that drowning had to be central to the story. Both Dee and Harris are drowning metaphorically, but the tragedies that bring them together are real.
All these elements of inspiration then wove together to become The Monster Belt.