Not long ago, my critique partner and I were discussing our current works-in-progress. After we finished our line-by-line assessments of each others’ chapters, we started to discuss overall themes and motifs in our work. She made the observation that water figured prominently in all my novels.
My first reaction was denial. Astrologically, I’m a fire sign and I’m not attracted to earth or water signs. And I’m not keen on being wet in my everyday life either. Rain is fine, as long as I’m inside, not out in it. I’ve never been much of a swimmer… okay, I can barely keep myself afloat, and I hate water in my ears or nose! Large bodies of water scare me a little. Confession time – when I’m on a cruise (and I’ve been on sixteen of them), I’m always a bit nervous if I can’t see land.
For an aqua-phobe like me to write about water made no sense. But then I looked at my three finished books and my WIP and saw that she was correct! Every one of my stories contains a strong water related element.
My first book, The Wild Sight has a number of scenes in a marshy area called the fens. These particular fens are connected to the largest fresh water lake in Ireland, Lough Neagh. And if that’s not enough, one of the characters drowns in the lake. Yes, my CP was correct. This book had a ‘watery’ connection.
Big DUH moment.
All the characters spend quite a bit of time in boats of every description, motorboats, barges, gondolas. In two key scenes, the hero winds up taking a very chilly dip in a canal. No point in belaboring the obvious any further, this book has a major water element.
Let’s move on to my current release, The Wild Irish Sea. As if the title weren’t a big enough no-brainer, there’s even crashing waves on the cover! Um, look a wee bit lower than that open shirt… See?
Once again, the main characters spend a lot of time in various kinds of boats, row boats, motor boats, even a sail boat. As the title suggests, the sea plays a major role in this story both literally and metaphorically. Not only is the sea wild, but it is also mysterious and dangerous, as well as life giving.
My characters in The Wild Irish Sea also interact with marine mammals, namely seals who play an important part in the story. I’ve always had a fondness for seals and sea lions, and I greatly admire how agile and graceful they are in the water, unlike me. Plus there were all those wonderful Celtic legends about selkies. In case you aren’t familiar with selkie lore, here’s a brief explanation by one of my Irish characters:
Parker shifted his weight to a more comfortable position before he admitted, “Actually, I’m not even sure what a selkie is. Can you fill me in?
The teen looked askance, like he couldn’t believe a grown man could be so ignorant. “Why they’re seals, of course. Enchanted ones who can shed their skins and look like humans." He crossed his arms and huffed out a dismissive breath. “Can’t believe someone named O’Neill never heard of selkies. Even if ya are a Yank.”
“Clearly my education has been sadly lacking,” Parker said, sorting out this newly discovered information. “Why would a selkie want to be human?
Connor’s brow furrowed, as if he’d never considered such a question. “I expect they’re curious. Or maybe even bored. The thing is, if you find their selkie skin and hide it, they can’t turn back. They’re stuck in human form, but they pine for the sea forever"
Parker made a sour face. “Too tragic. Nope, definitely don’t want to be a selkie."
The boy appeared unconvinced.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into my watery stories, especially my new release The Wild Irish Sea. Have you read other books with references to water in them? What are some objects or motifs that your favorite authors use?