Why the title, Five Fathoms Beneath?

Titles are very … personal. One reason I chose to go indie with my novel was I didn’t want anyone dictating to me what the title of my book should be. What can I say? I’m independent-minded that way.

Anyway. The title, Five Fathoms Beneath, derives, as many titles do, from Shakespeare, in this case the famous catchphrase, “Full fathom five.” The phrase appears as the first line of the second stanza of “Ariel’s song,” in the play The Tempest. It addresses the character Ferdinand, who has been involved in a shipwreck with his father; while Ferdinand has been rescued his father is presumed to have drowned. The stanza is:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange. 
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.

Five fathoms is thirty feet of water; during Shakespeare’s time, anything lost at five fathoms would be presumed lost forever. The connection to my novel is, obviously it’s a father-son story where the father dies (I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers…). The narrator, Ambrose, decides to scatter his father’s ashes at sea. Here is the excerpt from the novel where the title appears.

“You understand losing your father, how much it hurts—that’s something you cannot run from, sure?”

“I hate that euphemism,” I said. “Please don’t use that euphemism.”

He stopped tapping his fingers and blinked.

“Lose,” I said. “When you lose something, it implies the possibility you can find it again. My father is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and God knows you can’t find something that’s five fathoms beneath the ocean.”

Equal parts pity and incredulity fused in O’Neill’s eyes. “Aye, your father’s earthly remains lay full fathom five. Alec was more than a corporal body, though. He was a spirit. He was a soul. What about that part? You believe that’s five fathoms beneath too? That nothing comes after this world? Such a view seems agonizingly painful. Perhaps not for those who die only after a good life full of years. But for people like your father?”

My novel is about a sea change, both for the father and the son. How that changes come about … well, that’s definitely treading dangerously close to spoiler territory but suffice it to say the part about “something rich and strange,” fits too. If you want to understand the title better, you’ll just have to read the novel.

Which you can do soon! My anticipated release date is October 14.