– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘The Old Dragon’s Head’ blogtour, organised by Love Books Group Tour.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
After a long career in I.T., Justin’s love of literature finally seduced him and, in 2006, he found his way to the creative keyboard to write his first novel.
Justin writes secret histories in which historical events and people are guided and motivated by numinous and supernatural forces.
His debut novel, The Genes of Isis, is a tale of love, destruction, and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt, and which tells the secret history of the human race, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
His second is The Old Dragon’s Head, 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 our times.
He is currently working on a novel set in East Prussia during the Enlightenment in the 18th Century which reveals the secret history of perhaps the single most important event of the modern world – The Industrial Revolution.
Justin does books signings and gives author talks in libraries in South West England. He has appeared at many Literary Festivals, including Bristol, Weston-super-mare and Exeter. He regularly gives interviews on BBC local radio and local FM radio stations.
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?
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Hi, I’m Justin Newland. I was born in the last embers of 1953 and I live with my partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills, in Somerset, England.
Although I achieved a Ph.D. in Maths, I’ve read prodigiously – everything from the Tibetan Book of the Dead to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. So, yes, an eclectic taste – from Dostoevsky to Camus, from Euripides to Pirandello, and from Herodotus to Gibbon.
In 2006, I decided to have a go myself. Having read a lot of history, and with a fascination for the supernatural, I took on board the old adage to write about what you know, so veered towards historical fantasy. It was then I began the long journey of writing my first novel, The Genes of Isis, an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies. My second novel, the Old Dragon’s Head, plays out in the shadows of the Great Wall of China during the Ming Dynasty, around 1400.
My stories add a touch of the supernatural to history and deal with the themes of war, religion, evolution and the human’s place in the universe.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
My earliest memories are of sea stories in which one author sticks in my mind – a Scots named Eric Linklater.
At the moment, I am reading The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende, a fantastical tale of magical realism. At the same time, I read Shakespeare’s King Henry the Sixth Part I.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Someone like Tolstoy or Tolkien. I’d ask them how to sustain brilliant writing over a long novel.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I’d invite Bolin. He’s a young apprentice finding his way in life in my novel, The Old Dragon’s Head. There’s a lot of me in him when I was that age. I’d point out a few things he was doing wrong, and few things he was doing right. And the tea would be from China, of course.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
Not really. I can sit just about anywhere. Most rooms in the house. Cafes.
I use a laptop to write out in MS Word. But I always keep a notebook with me. I’ve learnt your best ideas often seem to come when you’re in the middle of something completely unrelated to your writing.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
The ideas come when the muse sends them. I’ve found that the nirvana for an author is continuity i.e. the ability to write with no distractions for as long as possible. I regularly go on a writer’s retreat, and often by the end of the day, I’ve written so much my fingers, eyes, and brain hurt!
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I like to plot out as much as I can before I start writing. I’d prefer to know the ending, if not, then at least the general area of the destination. The last novel I re-wrote the ending four times.
I guess I’m a scaffolder. I erect the scaffold or trellis, then let the characters and plot follow the route they will. That gives the whole an organic feel.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’t’s)?
Do join writers’ groups – both physical and online. Great for mutual support.
Writing is not just about plot and character. It’s also about being a good manager of your work and a good editor. At first, I hated editing. Then I realised that was because I wasn’t any good at it. I persevered and learnt the craft. At least I’m better at it now.
Always try and use beta-readers. Particularly ones who don’t know you. Then return the favour. You can learn from other writers.
However, as much as they might want to help, don’t bother asking friends and relatives to review your work. They rarely tell you as it is.
Do take regular back-ups of your work. Just email the file to yourself.
What are your future plans as an author?
I’m publishing my third novel, The Coronation, hopefully by the end of the year. The novel is a secret history – where real events and people are seen in a supernatural light – of perhaps the single most important event in modern history, the Industrial Revolution.
I’m scouting around for the next one. I have a couple of ideas I am working through their feasibility studies.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
In this extract from The Old Dragon’s Head, Bolin, a young man in search of his destiny, pays a visit to Luli, the local seer.
“I’m the keeper of the Po Office, the house of restless souls,” Luli said, as her hands moved with swift dexterity along the rows of boxes and packets. “When a person dies, their Po or soul leaves their body and searches for another body to enter – the body of a baby about to be born. Along with the soul, the birthmark of the deceased also transfers to the new-born. It’s the distinguishing mark, the link between the two people, the soul donor and the soul receiver. When the soul donor leaves a gift or envelope for me to pass on to their soul receiver, they draw two things on it: the shape of their birthmark and where it appears on their person.”
“Fascinating,” he said. Dong the Abbot had told him of the Taoist belief in the transmigration of souls. But to actually read correspondence from the donor of his soul, that was extraordinary and the last thing he had expected from this visit.
“Hah! Here it is!” Luli cried with an air of triumph and held up an envelope. “Yes. There’s a match, both in shape and position. This gives me immense satisfaction. I am a connection between two complete strangers whose lives overlapped simply because they shared the same soul and one of them is standing right in front of me. This letter is written by the hand of the person who donated their soul to you.”
“Are you sure?” He could barely believe it. The envelope she handed him felt like the most precious thing he’d ever received. In a way, it was.
“Yes, I am,” Luli encouraged him. “And please, you can open it.”
Hand shaking, he broke the wax seal.
“Who is it from?” Luli asked.
“How would I know that?” He shrugged.
“Look on the inside of the envelope. The sender should have inscribed his name there.”
He looked. It was blank. “There’s no inscription.”
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Justin Newland.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!