Interview with Justin Newland, author of supernatural thriller The Abdication
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.
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Excerpt from The Abdication
A narrow path snaking down the steep slope linked the town to the bridge. Fearing the guards’ return, she hurried along the winding, uneven path. It was fine for mountain goats, but with her bad ankle and her walking stick, she was nowhere near as fleet of foot as they.
The bridge had a quietening effect, like a warm homecoming after a long absence. Ever since she had heard about the abandoned town of Unity, she had wanted to visit the place for herself. Within touching distance, she felt a keen sense of belonging, even though she had never been near it – until now.
A solitary wicker lantern sat in a cradle, shedding a pale light over a crescent-shaped area covered in flagstones that had been carved out of the side of the mountain. In the middle of it were the bridge pillars and a small wooden shack.
The bridge itself was a slender rope structure slung across the open chasm. Narrow matting formed the bridge deck wide enough for one person to cross. At least there were hand ropes. At the Topeth end, it was attached to two thick, green-coloured pillars. Fingers of mist rose out of the ravine, obscuring the Unity end of the bridge. The structure reminded her of a long, thin hammock tied between two pairs of massive tree trunks.
By the bridge entrance was a large sign:
‘THE DEVILS’ BRIDGE.
DO NOT CROSS.
IGNORE THIS WARNING AT YOUR PERIL.’
It was true. She had heard rumours about the bridge, about how predatory devils prowled the dip in the centre of the rope bridge. It was forbidden to cross it.
Interview with Justin Newland
-What inspired you to become a writer?
In 2006, I was looking for a new project, a long-term one, that would endure, and test me.
I made a New Year’s Resolution and joined a local Creative Writer’s Course.
I had stories to tell. I wanted to explore the human condition. And I wanted to be a writer, having long been fascinated by history and literature.
I followed the old adage for writers to write what they know about. I ended up writing in a compound genre taking in the unusual suspects of crime, thriller, fantasy, history, and the supernatural.
I then began the long journey of writing my first novel, The Genes of Isis, an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies. Since then, I’ve written and published three others, and I’m working on my fifth.
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.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
The book’s world is atmospheric. It’s set high in the mountains. The views are panoramic. The air is thin. Breathing is hard. There’s a huge ravine, with the deep gorge. One side is the shining town of Unity. On the other side is Topeth, and beyond that, its ailing copper mine, with half the local hills quarried out, scarred and pitted. Slung across the ravine, joining the two towns, is a long, single-file rope bridge. I’d approach the Topeth side of the bridge. I’d touch the copper pillars, run my fingers over the thick ropes holding the bridge. I’d try not to be intimidated by the vultures circling high above the ravine, waiting for prey. I’d remind myself, once, twice thrice, not to look down! Then I’d take a deep breath, grab the guide ropes, and take a step onto the rope bridge.
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
It’s late. I’m awake. It’s hot and sultry. It’s the Dog Days. There’s a rap at my door. The moon is beaming down like a giant lantern. I look out of the window. It’s Tula. What does she want at this time of the night? I trudge down the stairs. Open the door.
“I have to ask you something,” she says.
I can see it in her eyes. Whatever it is, is burning her up. She can’t hold it inside anymore.
I stand. I wait for her to sit. She paces the floor, a restless lioness, stalking the night, the night stalking her.
“What is it?” I ask.
“I have to know the truth about myself.”
“What truth?” Maybe she’s figured it out. Maybe she’s reflected on her life, and its turning points. If she had, it would change everything. But how can she, she doesn’t know everything about her early history. And there’s no-one around who could tell her. Or is there?
She said nothing.
“You know,” she says, looking in my eye. Her look penetrated me, saw inside me. I nod.
“Then tell me.” She pleads.
“It would ruin you. You’d have nothing left to hang on to. It might destroy you.”
Maybe she’d find out soon enough. But I didn’t have the heart to tell her.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
I’d go out with Tula. She’s feisty, perseverant, and curious about the meaning of life. She wants to understand life’s abiding mysteries. She wants to be a participant in life, not a spectator.
When we sat down together, I’d ask her what her experiences had taught her.
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
A dwarf, so would it be a fair fight? Besides, we’re meant to be civilized, and eschew violence. So, I’d probably try and talk the dwarf out of it.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
Erotic fiction. It seems to be an art on its own, and not something I’ve ever felt good at writing.
About 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. ISBN 9781789014860.
“The novel is creative, sophisticated, and downright brilliant! I couldn’t ask more of an Egyptian-esque book!” – Lauren, Books Beyond the Story.
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. ISBN 9781789015829.
‘The author is an excellent storyteller.” – British Fantasy Society.
Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781838591885.
“The novel explores the themes of belonging, outsiders… religion and war… filtered through the lens of the other-worldly.” – A. Deane, Page Farer Book Blog.
His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery. ISBN 9781800463950.
“In Topeth, Tula confronts the truth, her faith in herself, faith in a higher purpose, and ultimately, what it means to abdicate that faith.”
V. Triola, Coast to Coast.
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Justin Newland will be awarding a Paperback copy of the book (International giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.