I was hoping the fact that the phrase "Septic Isle" prominently appears in the lyrics to a Boomtown Rats song (Banana Republic, 1980) would remain a secret known only to me and the three remaining fans of the band. No such luck. I mentioned the book to Mike Carey in an email the other day and he rumbled it instantly. "Is it a reference to the Boomtown Rats' lyric?" he enquired. Agargh!
Seriously though, trying to come up with a decent title for the book that would eventually become Septic Isle turned out to be a bit tricky. Initially, I was after something punchy, evocative and preferably with the word 'England' in the title. Unfortunately, "This Is England" is the title of the new Shane Meadows film, "England's Dreaming" was nicked for Leah Moore and John Reppion's Albion, and "Made In England" was used by Warren Ellis in Desolation Jones.
Then I thought a bit beyond titles with England in them, only to encounter the same problem: "Jerusalem" is the massive novel Alan Moore is currently working on and "Wasteland" is an ongoing series from Oni! I nearly used "London's Burning" (an old song by The Clash) but knowing my luck there would be another terrorist atrocity a few days before the book's release and I'd look like a horrible, insensitive bastard! And of course London's Burning has already been the title of a terrible ITV drama about firemen in the 90s.
Anyway, despite it's Boomtown Rats connection, Septic Isle does the job just fine, mainly because it's a play on a phrase from a soliloquy in Shakespeare's Richard II...
"This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."