Why the Main Character in Ashes on the Waves Talks Funny

I have received some fantastic mail from readers since Ashes on the Waves released. I’ve gotten variations of the question below several times:

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 melodramatic, highly descriptive, 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!

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7 Comments on “Why the Main Character in Ashes on the Waves Talks Funny”

  1. Fantastic article! Absolutely loved Ashes on the Waves and found the Poe references and excerpts added layers of meaning to the work. Definitely makes me want to read my complete works of Poe again!

  2. I loved ASHES ON THE WAVES. It was a gorgeous novel. My friend who died in February was a fan of Poe’s work and I think she would’ve really enjoyed it, too. I liked the fact Liam was old fashioned…it gave him a depth of character and gives the sense he’s very honorable.

  3. Laura Says:

    (also @LECrockett and Laura from Goodreads!)

    I find it interesting there are so many questions about Liam’s speech! Anna commented on his speech (“you talk funny”) and then made the connection when she saw all of his books (“these are the only books you’ve read? No wonder you talk like that”). Wonder how readers missed that…(unless they’ve never read those books themselves, I guess. Unfamiliar with the writing style and diction of the nineteenth century). Toss in the poem, and everything wove so smoothly. His obsession with her as well as the land, all the waves, cliffs, and wind, help to enhance the Poe poem and make it believeable that Liam himself could write the poem.

    I’m still raving about this book.

    • Mary Lindsey Says:

      Thanks, Laura. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it. Thanks for your insight. I was surprised by the response as well. It seems more that they are confused by WHY I did it in a contemporary novel, rather than how I justified it–which you addressed. I get other questions, too, that I hadn’t expected and I will be answering soon (lack of social services and eduction resources on Dochas) I’m excited to be receiving so many cool emails from readers.

      Thank you for your comment. xoxo

  4. CL Says:

    That’s really interesting–I hadn’t thought about using speech in this way. I’m so glad I found your blog and read about it!

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