Welcome to the blog, J.S.! Could you tell us a little bit about your book?
Bending The Boyne is fiction in the vein of Jean Auel’s series in prehistoric Europe, or the Gears’ novels set in ancient North America, in relying on archaeology and other research areas since conventional records don’t exist for the era--other than the symbols carved at the Boyne which our age has yet to decipher.
Your book sheds new light on some Irish legends. Why are these myths fascinating to you?
Myth has endless possibility for interpretation and re-telling. The Isles’ myths were transcribed from native tongues (old Irish, and old Welsh) by devout but cold, hungry, cloistered monks in a later millennium. How much authentic oral history or fact the Christian monks’ versions contain is hotly debated. Yet, archaeologist William O’Brien used a bit of “myth” about Ross Lake in county Kerry to locate and excavate at the Lake Of Many Hammers, said to be home for an ancient smith, Lein. Lein’s Lake Of Many Hammers turned out to be the site of the Isles’ first known copper mine. O’Brien made a stunning find and started a paradigm shift. The Isles’ pre-history had previously skewed toward what I call Big East (the UK) and Stonehenge. It was the Boyne astronomy culture that had the action and was a center of influence. The Boyne mounds are now a UN World Heritage site, and hold much of Europe’s Neolithic stone artwork.
What inspired Bending The Boyne specifically was a passage of medieval text that describes the huge and intricately engineered Boyne mounds as “elfmounds”. Wow, that’s some piece of propaganda! How did these impressive mounds come to be dismissed as the home of elves and fairies? As it happens, the Boyne mounds and the ancient Kerry copper mine are among the few places in the Isles where early “Beaker” pottery has been found. That Beaker presence implies a new culture, new belief systems. I saw, as did certain academics, that there was a pattern of the megaliths being abandoned or even proactively destroyed all over the north Atlantic coasts of what is now Spain, Brittany, and the Isles. The common factor appears to be metals and the Beaker influx at around 2500-2200 BCE.
A story of drastic change and cultural conflict developed, between the native astronomers and the incoming metal-seekers. There is also a Who’s Your Daddy? aspect to Boann’s legend and the birth of her son Aengus that I expanded to show cultural differences between the natives and the newcomers. “...they made the sun stand still to the end of nine months / strange the tale...” : from the Dindshenchas.
How did your time living in Ireland impact the novel?
Ah, that was simply a wonderful time altogether and I wouldn’t trade that for anything! The cadence of Irish speech and its verbal feats will linger with anyone who lives there. Being there also gave ready access to artifacts and megalith sites, and living in the countryside where people are still attuned to natural rhythms and the seasons; all these influenced the novel. Plus, I used RyanAir a great deal for inexpensive flights all over Europe like using a taxi. If I wanted to see a museum in Brittany or a megalith in the Pyrenees, or an exhibit of the Nebra sky disk in Mannheim, I went.
What makes historical fiction a great genre?
For those who also read a lot of nonfiction, it can be a welcome change. Historical fiction can bring science and other disciplines to life in a way that nonfiction or academic works usually cannot. I hope Bending The Boyne accomplished that. It’s one thing to read about the count of various animal bones per square meter in the excavation monograph from Newgrange; it’s another thing to realize that those are bones from Ireland’s first horses, visualize how the horses came to the Boyne and the foreigners, warriors with long knives who brought them, and the impact on the natives; and put all that into a story line in a meaningful way.
What is the best advice you can give to writers?
Write what you are passionate about, and never give up.
Thanks for stopping by, J.S.!
J.S. Dunn can be found on: www.jsdunnbooks.com or www.seriouslygoodbooks.net.
Bending The Boyne can be found on Facebook. The author has a second novel underway, set later in the Atlantic Bronze Age during another period of great change.
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