A tale of space(s)

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Pictou County expat in New Zealand continues to write from far away with new novel Te Kauhanga

In his second novel, a Pictou County author has managed to bridge the distance and close the gap between Nova Scotia and his current residence in New Zealand. 

Antony Millen, a Pictou County author living in New Zealand, shows his recently completed second novel Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s). The book, which includes connections to Nova Scotia is partially inspired by how our actions can impact people both near and far – and occasionally with broad consequences. His novel is on sale online and at the Downtown Book Exchange. 

Antony Millen, originally of Hazel Glen, recently completed his second novel Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s). Since heading to the Southern Hemisphere to teach in 1997, he also penned his debut novel Redeeming Brother Murrihy.

The following is an edited email interview with Millen and reporter John Brannen on his latest novel Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s).

Q: Tell me about how the idea for this book came about.

A: I started with a theme for Te Kauhanga, the theme of space - not outer space, but the space around us and inside of us. Instead of narrating in the first person in the present tense, I switched to third person omniscient in the past tense. Instead of one character constantly travelling, I've told this story about three major characters, none of them leaving the confines of their small town.

I've always been fascinated by the interaction of people within three dimensional space and imagine what a bird's eye view might look like - all of us creating paths that converge and diverge, sometimes surreptitiously or serendipitously, other times dramatically.

From there, I developed three characters, all with an exaggerated personality trait to do with space - a reclusive cartographer, a hoarder and a man obsessed with straight lines. 

Q: Tell me about the book.

A: The town of Te Kauhanga is buried deep in the North Island of New Zealand. The name means "sacred passage" and contains links to the country's earliest beginnings, including the town's greatest icon: the tree of Taumata. As debate rages in the township about the council's proposal to fell the tree, Montreal Perec, a cartographer from Nova Scotia who moved to New Zealand decades before, searches for the treasure of his Acadian ancestors - a treasure he believes to be from Oak Island. At the same time, the story is about a woman with a secret hoarding problem and a man who moves in straight lines all the time. 

Q: It seems to be about interconnectedness between people and the world. Is this something you believe/have experienced?

A: Absolutely, yes. I think, as an emigrant/immigrant, I have looked for that connectedness in my life, appreciating any relationships I can find between cultures. Our actions always impact on others - sometimes in close proximity to us, sometimes more far-reaching. As a teacher, I have to believe in long-term positive (or negative) influence since teachers don't always receive immediate feedback about the difference they have made (or not made). With Te Kauhanga, as in life, it's up to the reader to extrapolate any meaning from connections, encounters, coincidences, etc. 

Q: How can the title and content of the books be distinctly New Zealand, but the main character a Nova Scotian who is searching for the Oak Island treasure?

A: I have to smile as I answer this. The book is distinctly New Zealand because of its setting, cast of characters and cultural/historical content. New Zealand and Nova Scotia are both extraordinarily precious to me. However, in a sense, I want each of my homelands to learn about one another. There are historic links between the two places.

Some of your readers may know the story of the Reverend Norman MacLeod who lived in Pictou in the early 19th century. He led a congregation of Nova Scotians to settle in Waipu Cove, New Zealand. The settlement still exists today with a main street dubbed Nova Scotia Drive. However, for Te Kauhanga, I discovered a more relevant connection in Captain James Cook, the first European to circumnavigate New Zealand in 1769-70. Prior to his Pacific voyages, Cook spent a decade in eastern Canadian waters, based in Halifax and was involved in charting Newfoundland. People will have to read the book to find out more. 

Q: Why Oak Island and not a New Zealand treasure?

A: The Oak Island story is a great story - world-renowned - though less known this far in the Southern Pacific. Besides, I wanted some international intrigue of some sort - so why not link Oak Island and New Zealand? 

Q: When will it be for sale at the Downtown Book Exchange?

A: The Downtown Book Exchange in New Glasgow has copies available now. If they go in, I encourage your readers to tell Charlie that Antony sent them. He also has copies of Redeeming Brother Murrihy. I really appreciate the Exchange for supporting me and still considering me as a local author. The books are available online too and in e-book form.

Geographic location: New Zealand, Pictou County, Oak Island Nova Scotia North Island Waipu Cove Halifax Newfoundland Southern Pacific.Besides New Glasgow

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