Pictou County author Antony Millen, a New Zealand resident since 1997, has just completed his debut novel Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River To Hiruharama. Millen says he wrote the novel with a Nova Scotian audience in mind and that it's a sort of letter from him back home to Pictou County. SUBMITTED
Pictou County native Antony Millen has just released his debut novel, Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River To Hiruharama. Millen, who has lived in New Zealand since 1997 draws on his own experiences and imagination in this work, which features a character who lives in Pictou County but travels to New Zealand in search of his long-lost brother. In an email interview with The News, here’s what Millen had to say about himself, his work and his home far away from home:
Tell me a little about yourself, where you're from in Pictou County and what your childhood was like.
I grew up in Hazel Glen, just outside Westville. I attended school at MacLeod in Riverton, West Pictou District High, then St. FX, where I earned a BA with a major in English and History, then a B.Ed. I had a terrific childhood in Pictou County – rural living with rivers, fields, skating ponds; large, loving family gatherings; terrific school and teachers. My part-time jobs were at Zellers and Sobeys Warehouse.
How did you end up living in New Zealand and how long have you been there?
I came to New Zealand in 1997 to teach. While I had some success as a substitute teacher in Pictou County, permanent and even annual positions were scarce and not forthcoming. I did look for positions in other parts of Canada, but New Zealand was recruiting.
Tell me about how the idea for this book came about.
I initiated the idea about fifteen years ago. In some ways, it is a "What if?" story, drawing on circumstances and situations from my own life and my experiences in New Zealand. Add to that an involvement in various small-town Christian church communities, immersion in rural New Zealand, including elements of Maori tikanga (cultural practices) and time spent exploring and researching. It is my contribution to a conversation on various themes treated by authors like Joseph Conrad and Steinbeck along with James K. Baxter, my favourite New Zealand poet.
Tell me about the book.
The book starts in Pictou County and ends there. My protagonist, Conrad, is very much a Nova Scotian boy, happy to live there and resentful about his journey to New Zealand. However, he needs to learn some lessons and returns to Nova Scotia with renewed perspective on matters of family, spirituality, identity and culture. The idea of "home" is certainly prominent as I see the major theme as "being in two places at once." Many fellow immigrants to New Zealand are relating to this theme. However, I wrote the novel with a Pictou County/Nova Scotian audience in mind. It's a sort of letter from me back home to take others on a journey here where I am.
Are there any truths or personal connections to the story and characters?
The novel is a work of imagination informed by my experiences and research. One thing I am aware of is that some readers may be put off by the religious content in the book – so I am quick to point out there is nothing polemic about the book, no agenda. I don't classify it as a religious book, but an adventure with religious and metaphysical themes supported by deep characterization, allusion and imagery. Despite this, readers’ feedback says that Redeeming Brother Murrihy is an engaging mystery and a real page-turner, supported by realistic description of setting.
Any other projects you're working on?
I have started on my second novel, but it's too early to reveal anything. It will be very different from Redeeming Brother Murrihy, which was a novel I needed to write first. I have also started a blog including some book reviews and my first entry, Bruce Springsteen & Brother Shannon, which I am particularly proud of.
Anything you'd like to add?
Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to develop a passion for rugby and cricket here in New Zealand, although I do enjoy watching the All Blacks during international test matches. Instead, I continue to cheer for the Montreal Canadiens, watching games online, and chart Sidney Crosby's progress. I miss home chronically, so am grateful for Facebook! Speaking of Facebook – I am very active in promoting my work via social networking and hope many others will visit my Facebook page, blog and Twitter (@antony_millen) account to follow along with this and future projects.
For more information about Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River To Hiruharama, please visit: www.antonymillen.wordpress.com.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn