23 October 2011

Guest Blog: J.S. Dunn

This week, we're welcoming author J.S. Dunn, who is celebrating the release of Bending the Boyne, set in ancient Ireland. J.S. is here to talk about the novel, answer questions and give away a copy. Here's the blurb:

Eire, 2200 BCE: Warriors bring long bronze knives and strange customs to ancient Ireland, including their Night of the Dead. The young astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds. Banished to far coasts, Cian discovers how to outwit the invaders at their own game.

Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland’s beginnings in a totally new light.
Give some clues about the meaning of that title and unusual cover!
Bending refers to change and having to adapt. The Boyne passage mounds in Ireland were built before the Pyramids, or Stonehenge. Why were the great mounds abandoned around 2200 BCE?

The front cover uses an abstract photo of a mound entrance. For more photos see www.Newgrange.com.

What inspired you to write about Ireland at 2200 BCE?
BENDING THE BOYNE journeys to the ancient, sacred heart of Ireland in a tale of gold and greed. The impetus was part myth and part archaeology, and wanting to bridge the gap for the modern reader.

Jean Auel’s Clan series opened up the Paleolithic, made that era accessible in modern fiction. BENDING THE BOYNE moves ahead several thousand years. This novel adds myth to the brew, with a chaser of Irish wordplay. It is bang-on with the latest about the early Bronze Age.

How did you develop characters for this story?
The heroine Boann appears early in Irish myth, then vanishes. Her short tale is a tangled web. Thursday’s blog excerpt quotes the Dindshenchas “...they made the sun stand still to the end of nine months...” That is the first Who’s Your Daddy gossip item, about the birth of her son Aengus. BENDING THE BOYNE riffs on Boann’s fragmented myth. A culture clash, and conjecture about who is Aengus’ father, develop into a tragic resolution.

Boann and Aengus and certain characters have astronomy symbolism. Boann represents the Milky Way; her son Aengus is the reborn solstice sun. Other references to the myths are tongue in cheek. For readers not familiar with Irish myth, reading the novel’s Glossary of names is recommended.

This novel recycles the earliest myths with a fresh spin, so that new concepts of “Celts” can replace outdated images. Barry Cunliffe in his new treatise Celtic From The West (2010) with linguist John Koch, points the way forward: that a Gaelic culture came from Europe’s far west coasts and not central Europe, and that the Gaelic tongue probably arose along the coasts as a common trading tongue—more than a thousand years earlier than the Iron Age, or Roman occupiers.

How did you research this era?
BENDING THE BOYNE evolved over a decade of reading the medieval myth texts and research using current sources, i.e., excavation reports and recent articles and books. I had a property in Ireland and from there traveled the north Atlantic coasts, seeing as many megaliths and associated museums as possible. With a geologist, I hiked to ancient copper and gold mines high in the Spanish Pyrenees. Given the excellent local wines and goat cheeses, those climbs were very worthwhile!

Several academics kindly read drafts and commented. Archaeologist William O’Brien related that he had been inspired by Lein, the ancient smith. O’Brien excavated the Isles’ oldest copper mine at Lein’s Lake Of Many Hammers, ca 2400-2200 BCE, and his find supports the astonishing antiquity of Gaelic myth.

Who is the target audience for Bending The Boyne?
Easy answer: forty million Irish Americans! Seriously, any HF reader will gain by approaching this ancient setting with an open mind. Fans of prehistory or astronomy enjoy this novel. Those who have some background in Irish literature and myth, or Irish history, will see allegory and puns like finding shells on a beach.

Do you have any more novels planned?
A second novel is underway, set later in the Bronze Age as a separate narrative rather than a series. There is ample material to do a third novel, or a nonfiction travelogue of the Bronze Age in northern Europe.

Thank you, J.S. and good luck with Bending the Boyne. 

Be sure to leave your comment for a copy of the novel.

Find J.S. Dunn at seriouslygoodbks@aol.com and www.jsdunnbooks.com

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