Today, we welcome supernational thriller writer, Justin Newland to answer a few of our interview questions. Welcome, Justin!
What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot, or do you feel they are intertwined?
When I first started, with my debut novel, it was the plot. But as I’ve developed the art of writing, I have learned to let the characters take over. Having said that, I do like to plot the book out, at least the first one third of it, and I do like to know my destination – the ending, at least in general terms. So now I guess it’s a bit of both.
If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The hero/heroine, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.?
I admire Tula—she’s the heroine of my latest novel, The Abdication. She’s sassy, she’s curious about life, and she doesn’t give up. I like her character, because she’s warm, kind and highly intuitive, a visionary. When others discount her, she remembers that that has only meaning for them, and she doesn’t allow their discounting to lessen her. She’s a courageous survivor, and will go the extra mile to get to the truth.
Do people you know end up as characters in your book? Be honest…
A bit, I suppose I might use their names, and some of their back story, but mostly the characters are my own inventions, and, to some degree, their own inventions, as the characters end up informing me what and who they are like.
If you could meet a literary character, who would you most like to meet?
Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I’d ask him what was it like to feel the breeze as the windmills turned.
Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov. I’d ask him what was it like to fight your own demons.
Kafka’s Gregor Samsa. I’d ask him what was it like to transform into an insect.
Was there something in your first edit that didn’t make it in the final copy?
A lot. I created nearly twenty drafts before getting to one that was satisfying. That’s the quality I look for in a final draft: does it satisfy me? You have to have some way of finalizing a manuscript, because otherwise an author will be writing forever, seeking perfection. Perfection is for angels. Not humans. Satisfaction is the best we can hope for.
What do you do to prepare your mind to write? To get into the mind of your characters?
Generally, I read back over yesterday’s draft, to pick up the threads of the plot, see what the characters have got up to, make minor editing corrections, and try and pick up where I left off.
What book as a child/adolescent most influenced you as a writer?
Dune, by Frank Herbert. A fantastic story that riveted my mind. His descriptions of the desert were so good that I resolved to visit the desert. Several years later, as a young man, I stood on a hill in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, staring into the wilderness.
How much research went into your last book?
A fair amount. It’s set loosely in the Middle East, not far from Jerusalem, Israel.
The novel’s setting—a gorge separating two mountain top towns—was in part inspired by Masada, a fortress in the Judean desert. The siege of Masada epitomised the fierce resistance of the Jews against the Romans in 79 A.D. The Roman army spent two years building a ramp to arrive at the top of the hill top town, only to find all its Jewish warriors had committed suicide to avoid capture.
I researched Masada to find out how, in olden times, they managed to bring water from the surrounding valleys, up to a hill top town. I then used that information in the plot of The Abdication.
I also researched the ancient Hebrew god, Moloch, who features on the front cover of the novel and plays a crucial role in the unfolding of the story.
What’s one of the most important things you’d like your readers to know about you? What defines you most as an author?
I don’t write stories about the human condition for the sake of it. I don’t do research to pepper my stories for the sake of it. I write stories and I do research in order to better understand for myself the human condition, and how we ended up in the way we have ended up today.
What is one thing about you that may surprise your readers?
Many years ago, I obtained a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, England. Today, the exactness of mathematics seems a long way away from the inexactitude of fiction.
Can you tell us what prompted you to write your latest release?
I remember hearing about how Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of ‘stealing my dreams and my childhood.’ Her cry haunted me, and I wanted to make a response. I felt the problems she was pointing to were more deeply rooted in history than perhaps she imagined, and in some part, I wrote The Abdication to explain and explore how that was the case.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m working on a novel that re-tells the story of the Spanish Armada, and its failed invasion of England in 1588.
Thank you so much for joining us so we could find out more about you! It’s been fun!
Publication Date: July 4, 2021
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.
Justin Newland will be awarding a Paperback copy of the book (International Giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.
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.
February 21: Christine Young
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February 23: Literary Gold
February 24: Author C.A.Milson
February 25: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
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March 3: The Faerie Review – review only
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March 7: All the Ups and Downs
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Thanks for hosting!
Sounds like a good book.