Katie Hale's debut novel My Name Is Monster is published in paperback by Canongate in January (pre-order here or here!). To celebrate, we invited Katie to share with us the books that inspired her to write the novel...
You can follow Katie on Twitter here, where she's a font of knowledge on writing, publishing and friendly local cats. In 2021, Katie is running #TheWriteChat an online monthly writing group with a host of excellent writer guests discussing technique, craft and inspiration.
Mary Shelley6,99 € 6,50 €
Who is the creator and who is created? Frankenstein is one of those books where the myth is better known than the actual book. Far from the green bolt-necked monster, I’ve always thought Frankenstein is a novel about parental responsibility, and about a need for human connection. It’s about how what we create can end up creating us (always a fascinating idea for a writer) and about what we view as monstrous. The title character of My Name is Monster owes her name to Shelley’s novel – or rather, to the idea of ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ that has come out of it.
Daniel Defoe6,99 € 6,50 €
Robinson Crusoe is the classic tale of survival, but also a story about power and control, both over an environment and over another human being. My Name is Monster takes that control and asks: what happens if we turn it on its head?
Megan Hunter8,99 € 8,36 €
This is a beautiful novella about motherhood, societal and environmental collapse, and hope for the future. It’s written in short lyrical sections, giving us a story built up of snapshots.
Jeanette Winterson8,99 € 8,36 €
Jeanette Winterson’s debut novel, and probably her most famous, is about control, coming of age, and mothers and daughters, so it’s easy to see how it links with My Name is Monster. It’s also an inspiration for everything I write.
Ayobami Adebayo8,99 € 8,36 €
Stay With Me is a novel I read quite late on in the editing process for My Name is Monster. Without wanting to give too much away, it’s a novel about communication and the unsaid – two themes that are at the heart of the relationship between Mother and Monster.
James Rebanks9,99 € 9,29 €
I grew up in Cumbria, in farm country. But my family are not farmers, so while I’ve always felt a huge connection to the land, it’s never been the calendar I live my life by. Reading The Shepherd’s Life felt like opening a door to a world I’d always been on the edge of – a world which comes to define Monster’s existence.
Laura Ingalls Wilder y Garth Williams6,99 € 6,50 €
A very different portrayal of living off the land, Little House on the Prairie is one of those books I always go back to. As a child, I read it as a romanticised account of semi-wild spaces, and community and self-sufficiency within them. More recently, I’ve come to see it as a book about ownership of the land – not to mention a fascinating example of the unreliable narrator.
Emily St. John Mandel9,99 € 9,29 €
No list of post-apocalyptic inspiration would be complete without Station Eleven. As in My Name is Monster, Station Eleven opens with a Sickness, which wipes out huge swathes of the earth’s population. Although sporting a much larger cast of characters than My Name is Monster, Station Eleven also makes us look at how we relate to one another when all the things that give society structure have fallen apart.
Sarah Hall8,99 € 8,36 €
Sarah Hall’s ‘The Carhullan Army’ combines a post-apocalyptic feel with an exploration of self-sufficiency in rural northern landscape. It focuses on an all-female society, and looks at how women relate to each other when cut off from the rest of the world. It’s also a wonderfully Cumbrian book.
J M Coetzee8,99 € 8,36 €
Like My Name is Monster, Foe is a retelling of Robinson Crusoe, and one challenges the original book’s colonial power balance. There’s also quite a bit about language and silence in there, which (as you might be able to tell from My Name is Monster) are personal fascinations of mine.
Nicola Yoon7,99 € 7,43 €
The only YA book on this list, Everything, Everything is about mothers and daughters. I can’t really say more than that without giving spoilers. Sorry. But it’s also a great example of a book that keeps you gripped right from the start, through to the final page.
Amy Tan9,99 € 9,29 €
Another one about mothers and daughters, and about what is passed on through generations. One of the central struggles in My Name is Monster (other than the constant struggle of surviving) is between Mother and Monster. It’s a struggle for identity: between the old world and the new.
Elizabeth Strout8,99 € 8,36 €
Again: mothers and daughters. This is a theme I keep coming back to, in my reading and in my writing. Elizabeth Strout is a phenomenal writer, with such skill at capturing those tiny nuanced details that give a situation pathos or joy or despair. It’s those details that became so important when I was writing My Name is Monster, bringing enormous global events down to the most intimate level.
Cormac McCarthy9,99 € 9,29 €
A giant of the post-apocalyptic genre, The Road is about a father and son, walking across America. In many ways, the image of the two characters walking was the inspiration for Mother and her journey towards Monster, though the relationship between McCarthy’s characters feels far less troubled.
Naomi Alderman8,99 € 8,36 €
he Power is a novel about what happens when woman discover a hitherto unknown physical power, that lets them take over all the roles traditionally held by men in society. It’s a book that asks what happens when women are viewed (and view themselves) as the ‘strong’ ones. This is also a central question in My Name is Monster. We’re so used to Hollywood films where a lone man is depicted as the lone survivor of a catastrophic event, but what happens when we flip that on its head? What if all the men are dead, and a woman is the one who gets to survive?