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What's in a book's dedication - and how I got dragged around Yeats' land as a teen holidayer

A few days ago I got talking to the fabulous Anne McMaster about the title of Waters and the Wild. For those who know their poetry, they might recognise that I took the title from a line in Yeats' poem, The Stolen Child.

To explain a little about my Yeats background. My mother is a huge fan of Yeats. So much so that she decided one year the ideal family holiday with a bunch of teenagers was visiting Sligo, and lots of his writing sites. Which sounds strange and not quite up there with Disneyland but, actually, that holiday has always stayed with me.

Suffice to say if you have a childhood that incorporates a holiday like that, you'll have a passing knowledge of Yeats' poetry. (An admission: I like poetry to read. I don't write it. I wouldn't have a clue where to start and, frankly, I like my blasters, but I do enjoy a read of it.)

Now, I do think a title is worth thinking reasonably hard about. Despite Inish Carraig's apparent irrelevance to science fiction, for the story it's pretty perfect. (Now, if I could just think of something for the sequel....). But in this case, the title and the story's relevance to the original poem were too big to ignore. And when I come to unravelling the question of 'what is this odd little book I've come up with' I think looking at that poem is a good place to start. Because Waters and the Wild was one of the few times when I've actually tried to consciously capture a feel.

Firstly, the poem drips with a sense of place. The rocky highland, Sleuth Wood in the lake, gray sands, flapping herons and drowsy water rats. When I decided to write Waters, I very much intended to capture the Antrim glens with their hills and crags, their bleakness interspersed with lush glens and secret places. I perhaps wasn't poetic in my capturing of the place, but it's still there, I believe, in the words and the themes.

The second theme in the poem which resonated was the sense of the world inhabited by the humans.

"While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep"

As ever, I don't paint an entirely happy picture of the world around us (one day I might. Might. Three pages before I destroy the bucolic loveliness forever....) I paint a very troubled main character and an even more troubled shadowy figure in her life. I paint a world that is threatening to Amy, that carries dangers she can't see, that wakes her at night. I wanted that edgy feeling, for a very clear reason. Waters was planned as a circular book of plot within plots where, on the face of it, not a lot happens and yet each circle of the story is another layer to add to the last. When a writer tries something like that, there needs to be tension generated to keep the pages turning. And that's what we have with the world presented - a place of constant danger, from a danger we can't entirely grasp or know. A danger within ourselves, or external to us - with no knowing which.

And then the final theme - and it is why only this poem could be chosen - and it is the mythological theme. The Stolen Child is about a changeling, a human child stolen by the fairies. Without spoiling who or where or what or why, that theme is central. The sense of not belonging. A mother's fear of her child being lost. The sinister idea that something could take our place, that we could become what we are not - and no one would ever be sure.

It's a nice thing to do - take the familiar and redefine it. Take a poem that resonates and explore the themes it offers. And to do so in your own manner - because Waters and the Wild is not a fairytale. It's about people and how they think and live and do. How they interact and what drives them.

And if I have any of those themes in my work - and I hope I do - then I can, I think, give credit to my mum, who read Yeats to me, who dragged me around Sligo with an enthusiasm that was infectious even to bored teens, and who instilled a habit of reading that took me to the places where I could find the questions I wanted to go some way to answer. And it's why the book is dedicated to her (and why earlier ones weren't) - sometimes it's worth waiting for just the right project.