Top 5 books that have inspired my writing by Ruth Estevez

1) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I first read WH when I was a teen. I fell in love with its passion and I vowed to write a book equally as passionate!  I am now in my 50’s, have read it many, many times and am still striving to write that equally memorable book but now it’s for different reasons. What inspires me about WH now, is that I connect with a different character with each new reading. This latest time, it was Cathy’s brother, Hindley. I really felt for him, that he didn’t get on with his dad, and then his dad turns up with this stranger and makes the stranger his favourite child. Cathy doesn’t care, she doesn’t need her dad’s love, she doesn’t need anyone’s but Heathcliff’s, but Hindley seems lonely to me, and doesn’t fit in and when he does find someone who loves him, she dies and he can’t cope. The time before this, it was Edgar Linton, the time before that, Heathcliff. I admire EB because she doesn’t explain any of the character’s motives as to why they behave as they do, we have to work it out for ourselves. She also writes acutely flawed characters and that makes me want to understand them. Cathy breaks her own heart and that is devastating. It’s stayed with me. Every character is fully rounded and that is now what inspires me about Wuthering Heights, to bring to my own writing.

2) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I’ve chosen this book for two reasons. Possibly three! It’s not only du Maurier’s story-telling that is inspiring for plotting a novel, but her books stand out for the wonderful descriptions of place and language she uses. These all make her work warrant revisiting and I am for that with my own books. From Rebecca I’ve learned how to describe elements of description that have puzzled me, like how ‘to see out of the corner of your eye’ when that’s the only phrase I’ve heard but means both the inner and outer part. Du Maurier describes the outer corner as the ‘tail of your eye’ and that was a eureka moment for me! It’ makes complete sense. I love not only learning new facts when I read but also new writing skills. Her descriptions inspire me as well because a location is as much a character as a human. Her descriptions of setting create atmosphere and capture a character’s state of mind at the same time. DM’s books inspire me in my descriptions of place and atmosphere.

3) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Now this is about pace, atmosphere, tension, surprise and place writing. I’ve begun work on a ghost story, so this is essential reading and mimics the tone of classic M R James’ ghost stories. Setting again, is brilliantly described and the slow building of dread, as in Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter.

4) Weaver of Dreams by Elfrida Vipont

I read this non-fiction children’s book about the life of Charlotte Bronte when I was about eleven years old. It inspired me to believe in the possibility for me, a Yorkshire lass with no literary connections in the family, that I could be a writer. It made me strive and not give up. It opened possibilities.

5) Where the Crawdads Sing

There are others I could have chosen for the same reasons, but this stands out. I’ve chosen this book for two reasons: one, for its title, second for the use of dialect. I struggle with titles and I keep telling myself to think inventively and use a phrase from the book that will make people go, ‘Oh, I see!’ when they reach the same phrase halfway or so through the book, that brings clarity to the seemingly obscure title. By reading it in context, people often fall in love with the evocative image or meaning said title creates! It’s like To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Poisonwood Bible, Love in a Time of Cholera. I am inspired by books with cryptic titles to try harder with my own.

The second reason is for its use of dialect. Where the Crawdads Sing is set in the Deep South of America and the accent and phrasing shouts out. Again, it’s used in other books, like The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey and reading it gives me strength in my belief that we should not only see ourselves in books, but also hear ourselves. I’m not talking about in the characters’ voices, but in the omnipotent narrator’s voice itself. However, I also know this can be difficult for some translators and many readers, so this is still a technique I’m wrestling whether to use or not. I’ve used it in Jiddy Vardy and the jury is out on a final decision.

Honourable mentions: Historical fiction by Kate Mosse and Tracy Chevalier and the mystical fiction of Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. One central idea in The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier and the time in my late teens, early 20s when I devoured the works of French writers for their ideas; Simone de Beauvoir, Anais Nin, Jean Paul Sartre and Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (apparently a book all book snobs have on their shelves). I’m influenced by these great writers and books and of course, many, many more.

Thank you so much for making me think about these influential books.

A huge thank you to Ruth for this fantastic feature for our stop on the Monster Belt blog tour, this book is available to purchase from all good booksellers, priced at £7.99 (pb), and is published by UCLan. Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour which is taking place on both Twitter and Instagram, information for which can be found on the banners below.

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