Recurring themes for Ruth are about belonging, finding a place in the world and what people will do when they have nothing left to lose. Her books tend to be based in Yorkshire, France and Formentera because she loves all three. Her strengths lie in place, character and dialogue. In the French tradition, plot feels secondary, but she is highly aware that the Western World loves plot, so she is working on it! But still remembering it’s the STORY that counts.
Ruth Estevez was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire in 1961. Her father, Peter John Estevez was of Spanish descent, his family coming to London to set up a Sherry importing business from the family vineyard in Jerez de la Frontera. Her mother, Gladys Parkinson, was from Yorkshire ancestry, her grandfather being one of three or four coal merchants in Bradford to still be in business after World War Two. Before the war, there had been approximately sixty coal merchants.
Ruth was born on a cold, misty November night. Her father, Peter, had to stay at home and look after her elder sister Fiona Jane, aged only two years, two months, meaning her mother, Gladys, going into labour, took a taxi to St Luke’s hospital on her own. The taxi driver didn’t even help with her suitcase.
Luckily, inside the hospital where Gladys worked as a nurse, was her very close friend, Joan. Joan delivered Ruth and became a wonderful god-mother. As close to family as you could get.
Memories of Bradford are visual. The area where the young family lived in what was aptly named, ‘Poets Corner,’ the streets being named after poets and writers, Tennyson, Wordsworth and Shakespeare Street, with Cowper Place being their home, having moved into the Parkinson home when Gladys’ mother died. Images are few of the house, but Ruth remembers next door at the Perkins’ house – a painting of a Spanish dancer, a cane table and a sink in a cupboard. She remembers sitting on the wall at the front of the house and watching another house on fire and an Alsatian dog barking. Gladys came out with triangular chocolate biscuits called Venetian biscuits. It was like being at the cinema! And she remembers snow.
At the age of two and a bit, the family moved to the more rural village of Hawksworth, near Guiseley. Hawksworth proved a fertile place for the imagination. It was also rich in eccentric older ladies. The village chapel’s Sunday School teacher, Mrs Padgett, became Ruth’s piano teacher, drama influence and friend. The small Methodist Chapel was part of the Eisteddfod Circuit and the group of youngsters spent many evenings in Mrs Padgett’s cosy home rehearsing, playing music, choral singing and reciting poetry.
There was Mrs Russell who ran the village tearoom and made the best cheesecake and lemonade in the area. Ruth even has the recipes. She remembers their talks and still has two small water colour paintings of Glastonbury. Mrs McCallum, who lived at ‘Wood Nook’ with her beautiful garden and strangely named stray cats, Little Girl and Charles Claw (from a character who walked in and took over.) Mrs Mallinson, who loved clothes and jewellery and was the seventh child of a seventh child. The artist’s wife took seeing ghosts as a matter of daily life and she sheltered the children playing in her wonderland of a garden from a swarm of bees! Mrs Plummer ran a small dance school and Ruth still remembers growing into a flower from a tiny bulb and dancing Snow White at the annual village fair. Hawksworth even featured in a novel, named after the house, ‘Windy Ridge’ by a once while resident, the author, William Riley. There is a copy of the book on Ruth’s bookshelves.
Farms!!! As a village, Hawksworth was surrounded by farms. Ruth lost a tooth jumping into mounds of hay after harvest in the barn at Sunnyside Farm. Needle in a haystack? Try finding a small tooth! She’s made houses out of hay bales in the fields and helped with bottling (using the machine to clamp foil tops to bottles) at Meadowcroft Farm. After that, Ruth officially became a Young Farmer, doing everything from judging the best pig to performing in Oklahoma.
Hawksworth also had Hawksworth Hall with its Double Priest Hide and large grounds for building dens, running from giants and most of all, Freedom.
Further afield, there was Haworth, home to the Bronte sisters, whose little books inspired Ruth’s first foray into writing. With her friend, Clara, they planned to write and illustrate 100 little books called, ‘The Adventures of Ruth and Clara.’
They never finished the project, but Ruth still has the books that she wrote.
These were the days before internet, mobile phones or social media. At this point, writing was definitely in Ruth’s mind, but she didn’t know you could make a career out of it. Her other love, dance, she only knew through ballet. Being put off by bleeding toes from her pointe shoes, and not knowing other forms of freer dance existed, she escaped into acting, with the influence of the Hawksworth Ladies. Not being allowed to take Drama at school, she joined the Bradford Playhouse Greenroom classes.
The world was opening up. She met people and drama influences she had never contemplated before. Being an Actress was her goal!!!!
A levels included English Literature, French, German and General Studies and she spent two long summers in Verteillac, in the Charentes, France, au-pairing, learning French and spreading her wings. At University, she wrote a dissertation on the free spirited dancer, Isadora Duncan and a poem on not fitting in for the university magazine. Little did she know it, but future seeds, not in the acting world, were being sewn.
Being in the real world meant saying ‘yes’ to whatever job was offered!
From The Yorkshire Post in telephone sales, which she came to hate, partly on moral grounds against selling advertising space to individuals and partly because she was useless at it, through to Opera North, Wigan Pier, Harrogate Theatre-in-Education Company via Pitlochry Festival Theatre to Emmerdale. In the mix was acting, writing, stage and company managing. Oh, and driving some very big vans!!
And then, on the birth of her second child, Miranda, Ruth had to start saying ‘no’ to theatre and television jobs. She lived in Manchester now, with her husband Noel, who was a sculptor for the Film and Television Company, Cosgrove Hall.
Luckily at this point, when Ruth decided to concentrate on writing, Noel announced that as he was so lucky to be paid for doing something he loved, he felt Ruth should do what she loved, paid or not. It was only fair to share the wage between them. How supportive was that? Noel may have felt Ruth wasn’t as lucky as him in being paid for what she loved, but she certainly felt lucky in being with Noel! They were a partnership.
So, their beliefs coinciding on child-care as well, Ruth became a full time Mum to Genevieve and Miranda whilst fitting in writing opportunities when she could. There came a string of work, from scriptwriting for ‘Bob the Builder,’ a Bristol based soap, ‘Running Wild’ that didn’t make it past the test episodes, (viewers wanted a London based programme,) Legal Claims Writer, to ‘Meeting Coty’ published in 2007.
In the mix was Associate Lecturer in Script and Creative Writing at Oldham College and Manchester Metropolitan University on the Contemporary Film and Video BA (Hons) Degree Course.
Back to saying ‘yes!’
Following her mother’s illness and passing, Ruth lost confidence and started again in the work force by volunteering, first at The Portico Library in Manchester and also at Drum Camp in Suffolk. At The Portico, she got to be amongst books and at Drum Camp, she got to dance in exchange for a few hours a day working in the café. Both were life-savers.
And things were taking off. She self-published a novel, ‘Erosion’ set on the crumbling Yorkshire coast and a series of books for younger children about the weather and freedom of expression through art. And then, after several literary agents came and went, ZunTold, a new Manchester based Publishing Company picked up ‘Jiddy Vardy’ a YA novel about a young female smuggler in Robin Hood’s Bay, to be published in summer 2018.
She is a member of The Society of Authors, ALCS, The Public Lending Library and The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
She was a member of Equity, because Once Upon a Time, she wanted to be an actress.