Frequently Asked Questions about Ashes on the Waves

Mary has gotten lots of fantastic emails from readers and wants to share some of the most frequently asked questions she has received:

There are unusual words and names in the book. How do you pronounce them?

Ashes on the Waves contains words derived from Scottish and Irish Gaelic.Though pronunciations vary from region to region, below are common pronunciations of significant Gaelic words in the book:

Bealtaine -
Bean Sidhe -
Celtic -
"kell tick"
Dòchas -
Manannán mac Lir -
Muireann -
"Mure (rhymes with pure) -een"
Na Fir Gorhm -
Selkie -
Taibhreamh -
“tai-rvuv" or "tow (rhymes with wow)-rev”

Fun bit: When I was developing the plot, my daughter and I had nicknames for the creatures. When we discussed the Bean Sidhes, Na Fir Ghorm and Manannán mac Lir, we referred to them as the "Bean Seeds," "Blue Meanies," and "Banana Man."

Why is the island off the coast of the United States (Maine) rather than somewhere more organic for Celtic mythology, like the Scottish Isles, for example?

Ashes on the Waves is a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe's life and works. In keeping with that, I set it in the U.S. because Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer--one of our greatest.

So, since Poe was American, why the Celtic lore?

I wanted a different spin on the "winged seraphs of Heaven" and the "demons down under the sea," so after some research, I decided to nod to John Allan's Scottish roots as well as my own and use the amazing mythology of that culture. I felt like it fit beautifully with the Gothic feel of the source poem and Scotch and Irish craftsmen and laborers were used in the construction of many of the American "castles" built in the mid and late 1800's. The narrator in Poe's poem could certainly refer the shiny, larger than life Bean Sidhes as angels and the Na Fir Ghorm as sea demons to suit his story.

Is the island of Dòchas a real place?

No. I had already roughed out the story on an isolated island off the coast of Maine or Canada when I decided I needed to go up there and get a feel for that part of the country (Texas is nothing like it). The internet is great, but there not as powerful as experiencing a place in person.

I Googled "Maine islands" and found the most amazing place! There is an island very much like my fictitious island named Monhegan Island. When I read up on it, I discovered I only had a week left before it closed down for the winter season. I booked airfare and my husband and I flew into the closest airport, rented a car, stayed overnight in a port town and then took a ferry over to the little island and stayed there for twenty four hours. It has an indiginous lobster fishing community, but thrives due to tourists in the form of artists and birdwatchers (Andrew Wyeth painted there). I rewrote parts of the book, especially the description of where the characters lived after visiting the island.

Pictures of Monhegan Island can be viewed on the Ashes on the Waves Photo Page.

Liam's speech patterns and vocabulary are old fashioned and anachronistic. Much of the narrative could be considered overly descriptive and even melodramatic by today's standards. Why didn't you just make him modern like Anna?

The reason I wrote this book was to pay tribute to one of my favorite authors, Edgar Allan Poe. Not only has Poe been credited with pioneering several genres, he was a tremendous wordsmith. His enduring appeal comes not only from the subject matter he chose, but from the way he told the story. The words he used are as much a part of his style as the atmosphere and stories he created with them. Some works in the gothic style tend to be descriptive, melodramatic, and romantic, and Poe was a master of the style. (I suggest checking out Ligeia or The Fall of the House of Usher to see this at its most pronounced).

I chose to have Liam's speech and narrative touch (though primitively) on the style of Poe's own writing. I wanted the reader to believe that Liam could write or create that poem himself. That the poem is in HIS voice. Also, if you are familiar with Poe's life, you will notice many biographical ties between Liam and Edgar Allan Poe.

Each chapter's tone, vocabulary, and pace is reflective of the piece used in the epigraph at the top of every chapter. Before I began a chapter, I would read the piece from which the chapter quote was chosen in order to get into the "feel" of that work for the chapter.

Ashes on the Waves not only nods to the source poem, "Annabel Lee," but to dozens of other works as well. I am hopeful that readers will be interested enough by the epigraphs to seek out the complete works from which they are quoted and read them again, or perhaps for the first time.

Fun bit: I did not use a thesaurus or dictionary a single time when writing the book, but had a dictionary by my side and used it often when reading Poe's works. Wow, what a vocabulary he possessed!

Click HERE for a full list by chapter of the quotes (epigraphs) used in the book.