AM: I've always enjoyed reading, especially stories. My parents gave us books for every birthday and Christmas. I enjoyed writing at school and kept journals while growing up. I'm not one of those writers who wrote everyday, but enjoyed it as one activity when an idea would come to me. I studied English Literature at university and developed a deep admiration for, not only the texts, but the authors who composed them: playwrights and poets, but especially novelists. I see the contributions of authors, reviewers, bloggers, lecturers, researchers, essayists, etc. as part of one enduring conversation about life. As an adult, I continued to keep journals as a way of clarifying my thinking and expressing feelings and ideas that intrigued me. However, the dream to write and publish a novel long plagued me. I needed to contribute to the conversation. Now that I have said my piece with my first novel, I find I have other things to say too. So, I will continue writing.
AM: I have lived in New Zealand for seventeen years now - the idea for Brother Murrihy began to form fifteen years ago. I was experiencing some fairly radical familial, cultural and spiritual changes in my life. I guess I wanted to share these in some way with people back home in Nova Scotia. So I came up with the idea of a man who had moved to New Zealand but had "dropped off the radar" and needed to be tracked down. I also wrote it as a sort of response to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and I see parts of the book as following the structure of Conrad's novel. There are many other biographical, literary, historical, religious and philosophical sources for the ideas in the book.
BBB: Tell us about your main character Conrad Murrihy.
AM: Conrad Murrihy is a small-town journalist in Nova Scotia who loves his family and is struggling with two things: the impending death of his mother and his need to move on from his attachment to her so that he can devote himself to his wife and daughter. He is cynical about a lot of things including other cultures and religion and he is especially resentful of his brother, Francis. He has loved his brother in the past but has seen the pain that his absence and inexplicable lack of contact has caused his family in Canada, and particularly his mother. It is only at the request of his mother that Conrad travels to New Zealand to find Francis.
BBB: What do you think readers will find most appealing about, Redeeming Brother Murrihy?
AM: While there is a lot of New Zealand cultural and theological content in Brother Murrihy, the novel really tells a simple, moving story of one man searching for his brother. Readers tell me that the book is a page-turner because they genuinely want to find out what has happened to Francis. As I say, I wrote this book as a contribution to a conversation about a lot of things, but I also wanted to tell a straightforward story with a compelling mystery. It is a tricky thing to sell in a way - I wrote the book with a Nova Scotian or even North American audience in mind in order to take them on a journey to and through this amazing country of New Zealand. At the same time, I am hopeful that many New Zealanders will read and appreciate aspects of the book. There are a great deal of allusions in the book - things that fascinate me and that many New Zealanders will recognise, but that Conrad and any Nova Scotians like him, would not understand. In a way, I am appealing to readers to enjoy the story, but also inviting them to have a closer look. I have heard from many readers who have told me they have re-read the book or parts of it because they want to delve deeper into it.
AM: I am. I don't want to stop at one. I thought that Brother Murrihy would somehow exhaust all my ideas, but soon after publishing it, I found myself taking notes for the next one. I determined to spend some months marketing Murrihy before planning and researching novel #2. I have been working away at it and will start writing the first draft in the next month or two. I hope to repeat the process each year: plan,write, revise, edit, publish, market, plan . . . Novel #2 will be very different. I will write in the third person to free up my own narrative voice. It will have more humour in it than Murrihy. But it will be set in New Zealand and have some philosophical and cultural themes and another (hopefully page-turning) mystery.
You can find out more about Antony Millen by visiting antonymillen.wordpress.com.