Today we welcome Justin Newland as we travel to South West England to discover how supernatural forces, the ancient land of China, pillars of historical record, and The Bridge over the River Kwai become the foundation and walls of Justin’s writing. Take three deep breaths, we’re going deep into the secret history of the supernatural forces that shaped the modern world …..
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born during the last embers of 1953. I was awarded a Ph.D. in Maths from Imperial College, London, England in 1981 and I live with my partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills, South West England.
In which genre do you write?
I write historical fantasy; in particular, secret histories in which historical events and people are guided and motivated by supernatural and numinous forces.
What books have you published?
My debut novel, The Genes of Isis (2018), is a tale of love, destruction, and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. It is a secret history of the origins of the human race, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
The Old Dragon’s Head (2018) is my second novel and is set in Old China during the Ming Dynasty against the background of a bitter war of succession for the Emperor’s throne; it narrates the secret history of the supernatural forces that shaped the modern world.
What inspired you to write The Old Dragon’s Head?
I have long been intrigued by the ancient land of China. I was fascinated by the Chinese people’s overriding belief in the supernatural, something that shot through the whole of their society from Emperor to wood gatherer. There’s the pervasive mystery of the Bagua, the mysterious eight trigrams of the I Ching, the book of divination. There’s the Tao, and its enigmatic adherent, Lao Tzu, riding on an ox. Then there’s the stoic wisdom of Mencius and Confucius. Into the mix, put the great religious beliefs of Buddhism, and all their colourful and obscure ceremonies. All in all, China remains an enigma, even unto its own people. And long may it remain so!
The Old Dragon’s Head is not fiction. It’s a real place. The Great Wall of China is home to a supernatural beast – the Old Dragon or Laolong. And just beyond the fortress of Shanhaiguan, the far eastern end of the wall protrudes into the Bohai Sea – that’s the Old Dragon’s Head or Laolongtou.
The fortress of Shanhaiguan, which means mountain-sea pass, was built by the Hongwu Emperor in the 1380, to bridge the gap between the Yanshan Mountains and the Bohai Sea.
The novel is not only about physical walls and boundaries; it’s about meta-physical, psychological and supernatural ones.
Curiously, my inspiration to write the book came after writing a short story, Vallum Hadriana, about another wall, this one much nearer to home – Hadrian’s Wall.
What are you currently working on?
The Coronation is my work in progress; it’s set during the Enlightenment and reveals the secret history of what is perhaps the single most influential event in modern times – the Industrial Revolution.
What are you currently reading?
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.
I like to base my books in the historical record. They become the pillars of reality around which I like to weave the fantastical, supernatural elements of the story. This format is quite close to Magical Realism, which is why I’m reading The House of Spirits.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
Meeting interesting and helpful people – this is most definitely an unexpected, but added bonus of being a writer. Through marketing and promotion of my work, I’ve met all sorts of people, all with their stories to tell, people I would never have met were it not for writing.
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
The Bridge over the River Kwai directed by David Lean.
Alec Guinness won an Oscar for the portrayal of the lead character, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson. I love the moral ambiguity of the Colonel’s actions: at one level, he is disciplining his troops, and following good British Army policy, on another, larger level, he’s actually thwarting the war effort of his own side. He is not unique; he is one of us, and to my mind his character reveals the moral dilemma of the human condition. At one level, we are doing just fine, on another level….?
Thank you for joining us on MTA Justin! I find your books fascinating and am adding them to my ‘to be read’ list. It was a great pleasure and joy to learn more about you and your writing. -Camilla
Constructed of stone and packed earth, the Great Wall of 10,000 li protects China’s northern borders from the threat of Mongol incursion. The wall is also home to a supernatural beast: the Old Dragon. The Old Dragon’s Head is the most easterly point of the wall, where it finally meets the sea.
In every era, a Dragon Master is born. Endowed with the powers of Heaven, only he can summon the Old Dragon so long as he possess the dragon pearl.
It’s the year 1400, and neither the Old Dragon, the dragon pearl, nor the Dragon Master, has been seen for twenty years. Bolin, a young man working on the Old Dragon’s Head, suffers visions of ghosts. Folk believe he has yin-yang eyes and other paranormal gifts. When Bolin’s fief lord, the Prince of Yan, rebels against his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor, a bitter war of succession ensues in which the Mongols hold the balance of power. While the victor might win the battle on earth, China’s Dragon Throne can only be earned with a Mandate from Heaven – and the support of the Old Dragon.
Bolin embarks on a journey of self-discovery, mirroring Old China’s endeavour to come of age. When Bolin accepts his destiny as the Dragon Master, Heaven sends a third coming of age – for humanity itself. But are any of them ready for what is rising in the east?
Where to buy the books:
Both books are available from Waterstones, and are available as paperback or e-books from good online bookstores such as Wordery or Amazon.
UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2zF5PeF
US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UrR6gz
Reviews of Justin’s novel The Old Dragon’s Head:
Connect with Justin Newland:
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And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …