Promo: The Old Dragon's Head by Justin Newland

I'm delighted to host historical fiction writer, Dr Justin Newland, on Ruins & Reading today. He will tell us a little about the paranormal links to his latest novel, The Old Dragon's Head, set in medieval China.

Justin is currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club. Make sure to check out the other fabulous stops on the tour. You'll find many fascinating posts!

The Old Dragon's Head

Justin Newland

How I weaved paranormal elements into my historical fiction novels 
and made them believable.

This is a good question and in many ways goes to the heart of the matter of what we consider to be normal. 
The paranormal is defined as that which cannot be scientifically explained.
Science relies on empiricism, that is, what is measurable. If something can’t be measured, then according to science, that thing doesn’t exist and is therefore paranormal.
So, is your love of your partner, your family, or your pet, ‘paranormal’?
It can’t be measured, so it must be.
But it exists, you can feel your love as sure as God made little apples.
What this is saying is that the human body has equipment that can measure ‘love’, but that science hasn’t built a sensitive enough machine to be able to do it. Of course, it seems absurd that science would need to build a machine to measure love, when the human body already has that equipment, thank you very much, good afternoon. 
Here are some other examples of what I call normal paranormal activity:  
You go to pick up the phone, and you know who’s on the line before you answer it. 
You have a sixth sense to take a raincoat with you on a sunny day, and later that day it rains.
You dream of a friend you haven’t seen in ages and the next day they knock on your door.
This is by way of approaching the question about making the paranormal ‘normal’ or believable. 
These hint at the techniques that I use – namely dreams, clairvoyance, Extra Sensory Perception, telepathy, visions, and even astral travel. I think these are far more normal than paranormal, and so by including them in the experience of my characters, they become more believable. 
What I try to do is to blur the boundary lines between the normal and the paranormal, so the reader isn’t quite sure which is which. Which is actually how it is for us in our everyday lives. 
How about coincidence? It’s defined as a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without any apparent causal connection. Well, yes, but it’s only an apparent causal connection because the human machinery wasn’t sensitive enough to translate or interpret it.
What about serendipity? That’s when a person turns up at exactly the right time and exactly the right place, without knowing that was what they were doing. I used serendipity as a feature in my novels too, because doesn’t it happen naturally when a person listens to their machinery, their instinct, which is what we did as children all the time? 
What about superstition? In the Middle Ages, most people in the world were highly superstitious, obsessively so, and believed, rightly or wrongly, in all sorts of deities and higher powers. Superstition is supposedly a relic, a left-over of our past irrationality. But how come today one in four folks in the U.S. consider themselves to be superstitious?
Where historical fiction is concerned, it’s even easier to include the paranormal as a believable feature. In times gone by, people were naturally more clairvoyant, more prescient, and more inclined to believe the supernatural than we are today. The reasons for this are many and various but here are two: they spent more time out in the fresh air, and they didn’t have to wade through mobile phone signals to hear their inner clairvoyance. 
In my first novel, the mythological fiction The Genes of Isis, the main protagonist is an apprentice priestess, who has a precognitive dream that the (Biblical) flood is coming.
In my second, The Old Dragon’s Head, set in Ming Dynasty China, Luli is a woman, a mother and a seer. She interprets dreams and has visions herself.
In my third novel, The Coronation, set in king Frederick the Great’s Prussia, the main female character, Countess von Adler, has an out-of-body experience (aka astral travel) which leads her to solve a mystery. 
In my fourth novel, The Abdication, the main protagonist, Tula, is invited to dinner by a woman who has just lost her husband. Tula sits in the chair that the deceased husband used to sit in, and connects to his thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 
These are some of the ways in which I have used paranormal experiences - ones that are beyond our grasp, but within our reach, to inform my characters. 
Perhaps paranormal experiences, or experiences of the paranormal, or far more common than we imagine. Then it’s a question of instinct, sensitivity and translation.
Historical fiction is a great medium in which to explore these ideas. 
~ Justin Newland


The Great Wall of China may be constructed of stone and packed earth, but it is home to a supernatural beast – the Old Dragon. Both wall and dragon protect China’s northern borders from Mongol incursion. Just beyond the fortress of Shanhaiguan, the far eastern end of the wall protrudes into the Bohai Sea – that’s the Old Dragon’s Head.

Bolin, a young man working on the Old Dragon’s Head, suffers visions of ghosts. The local seer suspects that he has yin-yang eyes and other supernatural gifts. Bolin’s fief lord, the Prince of Yan, rebels against his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor. In the bitter war of succession, the Mongols hold the balance of power. While the victor might win the battle on earth, China’s Dragon Throne can only be earned with a Mandate from Heaven – and the support of the Old Dragon.

In every era, a man endowed with the powers of heaven – the Dragon Master – is born. Only he can summon the Old Dragonproviding he possesses the dragon pearl. It’s the year 1402, and neither the Old Dragon, the dragon pearl, nor the Dragon Master, has been seen for twenty years.

Bolin’s journey of self-discovery is mirrored by that of old China, as both endeavour to come of age. When Bolin accepts his destiny as the Dragon Master, heaven sends a third coming of age – for humanity itself. But are any of them ready for what is rising in the east?

About the Author:

Justin Newland

Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His historical novels feature known events and real people from the past, which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural.

His novels speculate on the human condition and explore the fundamental questions of our existence. As a species, as Homo sapiens sapiens – that’s man the twice-wise – how are we doing so far? Where is mankind’s spiritual home? What does it look or feel like? Would we recognise it if we saw it?

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he found his way to the creative keyboard and conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies. 
Next came the supernatural thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), set in Ming Dynasty China. 

His third novel, The Coronation (Matador, 2019), speculates on the genesis of the most important event of the modern world – the Industrial Revolution. 

His fourth, The Abdication (Matador, 2021), is a supernatural thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.
His 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.

He was born three days before the end of 1953 and lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.
Connect with Justin:
Twitter: @drjustinnewland 
Amazon Author Page:


  1. Hey Cathie, thanks for hosting this post. Glad you enjoyed it.


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