Author Interview: J.S. Dunn on "Bending the Boyne"

Ana: Today we have J.S. Dunn introducing their novel, "Bending the Boyne". I haven't read this book myself, but J.S. Dunn was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. J.S., how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

J.S.: The Boyne passage mounds in Ireland were built before the Pyramids, or Stonehenge. Why were these great mounds abandoned around 2200 BCE? "Bending the Boyne" examines the sweeping changes that occurred with the coming of metals, warriors, and sea trade to the Isles.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

J.S.: A medieval Irish text referred to the huge mounds as "elfmou nds" which seemed to be quite a piece of propaganda! Why would the centuries come to view that ancient culture with what seemed to be disrespect, calling the mound builders elves and fairies? Readers of this novel get the best understanding by approaching the ancient setting with an open mind. Though playful, this is not a fantasy tale. Medieval spin doctors turned the ancients into leprechauns and mumbling druids, for their own purposes.

"Bending the Boyne" developed over almost a decade of reading the myths and also intensely researching the mounds' archaeology by reading excavation reports and weighty books while living in Ireland. RyanAir gave me inexpensive access all over Europe, and I traveled the north Atlantic coasts extensively during good weather months, seeing as many megaliths and associated museums as possible. I even traveled to ancient copper and gold mining sites high in the Pyrenees (and broke a toe bone but traveled onward for a week!)

The pattern that emerged in my travels proved the same as that observed by Barry Cunliffe -- head of European archaeology at Oxford! So, glad that he agreed with me, hah, I began to write about the apparent end of the megaliths with the coming of long bronze knives and warrior-heroes -- as narrative nonfiction. Soon the characters named in the earliest Gaelic myths took over the narrative to become walking, talking Bronze Age people. By this time more than one archaeologist was encouraging my efforts and I really thank those brave academics who read early drafts and commented.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

J.S.: The impetus for this particular novel was part myth and part archaeology, and wanting to bridge the existing gap for the modern reader. Cunliffe and others had since 2001 pointed out similarities in megalith culture from what is now Portugal all the way to northwest France and up to Ireland and Wales. His new volume (2010) with linguist John Koch as editors, points the way forward, that “Celts” came from the far west of Europe and not cen tral Europe, and that the Gaelic tongue probably arose along the coasts as a trading tongue.

By using characters from the early myths I hope that the new concepts of "Celts" can be integrated with popular images. It will be interesting over time to see if the public accepts that the Gaels originated along the coasts and in the Isles rather than being later invaders!

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If  you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

J.S.: Comparable works include Jean Auel’s Clan Of The Cave Bear series -- just move that forward a few thousand years and add a dash of Irish word plays. This novel is also being bought by those who read Edward Rutherfurd, and Leon Uris, both of whom have written about Irish history. Along the way, Rutherfurd was kind to offer encouragement and answer questions when "Bending the Boyne" was in early stages.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

J.S.: A second novel is underway, set later in the Bronze Age as a continuing narrative but not as part of a series using exactly the same characters.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

J.S.: A print version is available from a new small press for historicals, Seriously Good Books, and on Amazon in paperback and in Kindle format. Either link has the Search Inside feature/Kindle sample.

My author website is and has links to interesting info about the objects and locations in "Bending the Boyne". The book's has a Facebook page with over 700 fans who check the Wall for updates. Please feel free to Like and bookmark the page!


Timothy (TRiG) said...

Just to say that those passage tombs are extraordinary. And the tour guides are good at bringing out the atmosphere of the place. I found Newgrange far more moving than I expected on my only visit there as an adult. (I was there a couple of times as a kid, once as part of a school tour.)

There's talk of doing more excavation work there soon.


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