On behalf of Zoe at https://zooloosbookdiary.co.uk/zooloos-blog-tours, Justin Newland and Matador Books, I am excited and honoured today to be hosting a Q and A with Justin Newland, author of The Abdication. A huge thank you to Justin for taking the time to answer my questions in depth and giving me a great blog post to share with you.
The town of Unity sits perched on the edge of a yawning ravine where, long ago, a charisma of angels provided spiritual succour to a fledgeling human race. Then mankind was granted the gift of free will and had to find its own way, albeit with the guidance of the angels. The people’s first conscious act was to make an exodus from Unity. They built a rope bridge across the ravine and founded the town of Topeth. For a time, the union between the people of Topeth and the angels of Unity was one of mutual benefit. After that early spring advance, there had been a torrid decline in which mankind’s development resembled a crumpled, fading autumnal leaf.
Following the promptings of an inner voice, Tula, a young woman from the city, trudges into Topeth. Her quest is to abide with the angels and thereby discover the right and proper exercise of free will. To do that, she has to cross the bridge – and overcome her vertigo. Topeth is in upheaval; the townsfolk blame the death of a child on dust from the nearby copper mines. The priests have convinced them that a horde of devils have thrown the angels out of Unity and now occupy the bridge, possessing anyone who trespasses on it. Then there’s the heinous Temple of Moloch!
The Abdication is the story of Tula’s endeavour to step upon the path of a destiny far greater than she could ever have imagined.
Q and A with Justin Newland
- Which authors/novels have inspired you to write historical fantasy?
I have read historical fantasy, but not a lot of it. I’m not even sure that I was inspired by authors of historical fantasy to write in that genre.
So, let me explain how I ended up writing in that genre.
Since I was a young boy, I’ve read fiction and over the years I’ve developed an eclectic taste not only for World Literature, but for plays, novellas and short stories. When I enjoyed an author such as Franz Kafka or Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I’d soak in their works, reading all their books including their diaries.
I also read philosophy and history, both ancient and modern, and developed a taste for the esoteric, reading such obscure texts as the Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and The Book of Enoch.
When I took up writing fiction in 2008, I already had a certain theme in mind that I wanted to write about, and that was to explore the human condition. What do I mean by that? I mean to trace the origins of the causes that have led us all to be in the world we have inherited as we live and breathe today.
With a background in philosophy, and a fair grounding in history, I felt that historical fantasy would be an ideal genre in which to speculate on the human condition.
That’s how I came to write what are called secret history thrillers, which is where you take actual events and real historical personages, but you re-tell the story in a slightly different way, inserting fictional events and characters to elaborate on the theme. You don’t change history, or the historical facts per se, but what you do in this genre is show the events and the motives of the people in them in a different, albeit supernatural light.
2. Your novels are rich in history and theology. How much research goes into preparing for writing?
A fair bit, yes, the research is time-consuming, but it’s also very interesting. You’re always learning more about the human condition, and the reasons why we’ve ended up like we have today. That’s why I research history, to understand the forces and elements that have shaped out todays. And in the end, the only reason to want to do that is to be better prepared for tomorrow, and what’s on the horizon.
And the theology is absorbing too. There is a rich literary heritage in the world’s religious writings, and as you allude to, I have used sayings and proverbs from those writings with which to pepper my own novels. Thing is, I believe change, fundamental change, is horrendously difficult. Humans are incredibly obdurate, and although we surround ourselves with iPhones and iPads, I think that’s a surrogate development. In other words, the technology doesn’t make us better people. Technologies ease the burdens of living, but on their own they don’t make us better human beings. Being kinder, wiser, and more humane, that makes us better human beings.
3. When you aren’t writing or researching for writing, what are you doing?
I help my partner run her business in town. I’m a keen sports fan and like watching live sports. I keep fit with walking and a bit of yoga.
4. If you could travel back in time to one point in history, where would it be and why?
I’d return to the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the time when there were Kings, not Pharaohs, the time of King Narmer. I’d ask him how we could have avoided the gross familiarity that has led to the appalling degeneration of the character of the human species we witness today.
5. Do you have a specific writing process/ritual or do you tend to go with the flow?
I do a lot of thinking and contemplating when I am not writing, trying to imagine the next scene, what the characters are saying, and where they are going with their lives. I keep a notebook with me. I’ve learnt my muse speaks clearest when I’m in the middle of something completely unrelated to writing.
The writing process seems to vary from book to book. My first novel took 6 years, a labour of love. Then as I learnt the art of writing and the craft of editing, and how to manage my work, the second, third and fourth novels took 1-2 years. Yet my fifth novel, my Work In Progress, is taking longer than I expected, and I’m having to learn different ways to adapt to its demands.
It’s almost as if the muse, the inspiration, for each novel is different, and you have to entice, or persuade the muse to give of her secrets so that you can write the next chapter, the next scene, the next sentence, of the drama.
Author Bio – Justin Newland
Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.
The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind.
The Old Dragon’s Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times.
Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution.
His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery.
Follow him at:
Website : http://www.justinnewland.com/