Searching For That Title
Choosing the title of your work takes on a pressure all of its own. You have the message ringing in your ears that the wrong title can sink a book, ditto the wrong cover. Yet, just as with a book, personal taste for titles is just that: personal and subjective. One title can tempt a particular person to instinctively reach for that book, whilst it can actively turn off another, or simply pass unnoticed.
I have gone down many paths with the title for this book. As I sat down to start writing it - the title in my mind was ‘Walking in Pools of Light’. To me, that seemed to be the beacon I needed to keep myself guided to where I wanted the story to go. It worked, it served a purpose. It also resonated with an image I had of my daughter, in silhouette, walking across a vast Cornish beach. I took the shot in black and white, and I didn’t know what I had captured until I looked at the image later. It completely caught the way she was slowly, gently, moving forward. The way she pressed her foot carefully down on the sand with each new step. How the sand beneath that foot slowly took the pressure of her slight frame, and bleached itself startlingly white as the damp was pressed out of it - only for the colour to flood back in as her foot was lifted again. It looked as if she was stepping over the beach from one pool of brightness to another. But she was the one creating those patches of light. It was a beautiful image, poignant and profound.
When it came to officially naming the manuscript however, I was unsure whether this working title was the one to go with. It could be. By then however, the power of the coastline in the story, almost a character in itself, kept pushing at my mind. Not only the natural imagery used itself, but also the symbolism for what that process meant for Eve in the book, meant that I kept coming back to the coastline. I like the images brought up by words such as ‘strandline’, fragments’, ‘transition’. I played around with many titles containing these words. But most of all - I loved the idea of the shoreline being battered and scraped away over millenia, literally eroded away, into new shapes, new forms. So, we sat for a while with The Abraded Shore. It is a nod to my ‘geographer’ past - the abrasion of the natural features all around us, but also it felt psychologically right for the message of the book - the abrasion and attrition we all go through in life, resulting in our current shapes and forms. One cannot be understood without the other. In the story, Eve herself has been carved, quite brutally into her adult form. That is life. It cannot be any other way. And these shapes can hold such meaning. They do not have to be attributed a sense of positive or negative - they just are - as the arches, stacks and cliffs of the coastline are. It is finding the beauty in them, the meaning, and the possibilities, that is what inspires. Rather than hiding those parts of yourself that can look so ‘damaged’, they need to be accepted as integral parts of you - you are everything you have ever been.
I also came to the understanding that so many titles could suit this work - there are deliberately so many strands and themes that all sit together, that a choice could be made to highlight one over another - a slight favouring in emphasis. A central theme is that of dislocation - from feeling removed from the world around you, due to damage. That sense of dislocation is a perception - as in fact sustaining damage is the most natural thing in the world. It is happening all around us, every day. The constancy of change. Yet there is truth in the idea that when you weep, you can feel you weep alone. And once stuck in that state, you are unable to see how much a part of everything you are, and how profoundly beautiful it is.
The title that eventually won through, (after an aborted choice that I will write about separately!) was a suggestion from my editor, Clio. It was The Shifting Pools. I wasn't sure at first - worried that it may give the wrong impression of being a straight fantasy work. However, with the right cover design, I became hooked. The Shifting Pools works because it is a recognition of the central part these pools play in this book - the bridge between the conscious and subconscious, the path to shifting your reality. The centrality of water as a purification, a portal, a mirror, a holder of dreams. Rather than drawing out one particular theme from the book, it seemed to hold them all. We had found our title!