by Justin Newland
GENRE: Supernatural Thriller
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.
2. The Devils’ Bridge
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.
About the Author:
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.
Q&A With the Author
When did you first consider yourself to be a writer?
I think there are many hurdles to overcome before a person can consider themselves a writer. I think a writer needs to acquire a range of skills, and you don’t realise what they all are, until you’ve written a novel or two, attempted different structures, sorted out the management of the material, battled with yourself to do proof-reading, and learned how to ‘kill your babies’ by acquiring ruthless editing skills. In amongst it all, and perhaps most important of all, is the writer’s relationship with his or her imagination.
A good writer is keenly aware of timing, that is, when to introduce a character, or a plot twist, or a reveal. A good writer will know about balances; about how and when to change the dynamic, by introducing poetry, or some other higher register.
I once read that everything that exists has come to us via the imagination. It’s true, isn’t it? The imagination is important to everyone, and most important to the writer. The Ancient Greeks called it their muse – and there are nine of them. Nine.
And how many is the right number of drafts? Who knows? The writer, perhaps. I’ve found that each novel is different, has different timings, length, quality, tensions, and so who can tell how many drafts it needs. My last novel had nearly twenty drafts. It depends how much the writer wants to get it right.
So, out of all that, I consider myself a writer, but I want to be the best writer that I can be.
What advice do you have for a new writer?
Do join writers’ groups – both face-to-face and online. They’re great for mutual support.
Read as much as you can and as widely as possible, and not just fiction and novels, plays, short stories, as well as non-fiction, biographies, histories and so on.
Remember, writing is not just about plot, character and suspense. It’s about being a good manager, editor and proof-reader of your own work.
Use beta-readers, notably ones you don’t know, who are anonymous. You can learn from other writers. As much as they might want to help, don’t ask friends and relatives to review your work. They rarely tell you as it is.
Take regular copies or back-ups of your work.
Writing is both an art and a craft. It requires talent, good luck, and great timing.
Find the right setting in which to write; it’s not always obvious. For example, much great literature has been written in prison – in other words, in a confined space. A broom cupboard may not work for you, but a lot of writers like writing in the garden shed.
Find a piece of music that captures the charisma – the essence – of what you want to portray in the story. And then play it, incessantly. Or not.
Even the great Ludwig van Beethoven had to compose eight symphonies before he could squeeze out the famous ninth.
And don’t give up. Ever.
What is your favorite part of this story?
Chapter 11 – The Light of the Future. It’s a turning point in the novel, when Tula realises something that’s been nagging at her all along. To reveal anymore would be a spoiler, so that’s all I can say.
Which character was the most fun to write about? Why?
I enjoyed writing Tula’s journey, but she did go through some tough experiences.
I also enjoyed writing Enoch. I identified with him, because he’s older and wiser, and uses his experience to help guide the other characters in the novel. Also, he’s the link between the two worlds – the one represented by the town of Topeth, and the other by the town of Unity.
Which character was the hardest to write about? Why?
I enjoy writing the bad guys, like Taurus and Damien, but they pose difficulties of their own, such as what to do with them, how to complete their character arc. I guess with the bad guys, there are three possible outcomes. They stay the same, they change for the better or change for the worse. And you have to follow the growth or demise of the character, his or her organic development.
You have to add it up, and work it out, and Damien got the end he deserved.
Taurus was harder, because he was young, impressionable, and manipulated by others, so there were extenuating circumstances. I had to find the right end to his character arc, and the right situation to bring it out. So, I guess Taurus was the hardest to write about.
Justin Newland will be awarding a Paperback copy of the book (International giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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