December 8, 2014

Spotlight On ~ Antony Millen, Author

I'd like to say a big thank you to the numerous authors who answered my call and agreed to be featured here at
My Book Chatter
over the next couple of months.

Help me give a big welcome to my first guest, Antony Millen...


Antony Millen is a Canadian living and writing in New Zealand.

Originally from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada, he moved to New Zealand with his wife and two children in 1997. He has lived in Taumarunui since then, working at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School and, more recently, as the head of the English department at Taumarunui High School.

During his early years in New Zealand, he wrote sporadically, but with a dream to write novels as a major part of his life-style if not as a career. In 2013, he launched his first novel, Redeeming Brother Murrihy. Rather than satisfying his urge to write, releasing the book only made him hungrier to pursue his dream more enthusiastically.  Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(sis his second novel.

Antony is the winner of the 2014 Heartland short story competition (Fishing the Pungapunga). He also received a Highly Commended rating in the 2014 NZSA Central Districts short story competition for The Boy at Ohinetonga.
Antony Millen‘s profile with the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA). He is asscoiated with the Waikato and Central Districts branches.

Click here to join Antony’s e-mail list and receive updates about books, reviews, events and blog posts.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself that we won’t find in your bio?

I’ve just taken up mountain biking and am in the process of selling a car so that I am forced to either walk or cycle to work. My wife and I have two children who are well and truly adults now, so we have picked up mountain biking to pursue some shared adventures. 

How or why did you choose the genre you write in?

I classify my novels as Literary Fiction, and by that I mean that I explore some rather complex themes, often with allusions to other literary works. At the same time, I write stories that are direct and accessible. I have a background in studying literature so I am participating in a conversation with the writers I admire. My novels and recent short stories are set in rural New Zealand, an area in which I’ve lived for the past 17 years since arriving from Canada.

Do you work with an outline, or do you just write?

I don’t just write, but I also don’t work strictly to an outline. In the years of thinking about Redeeming Brother Murrihy, I constructed many outlines, including a timeline since the story covers a specific time period during October 2004. However, once I started writing, I rarely referred to the outline. With Te Kauhanga, I wrote without an outline altogether. Instead, my most important reference was a map I had drawn of the town. This proved essential in tracking my characters’ movements and was fitting as the story deals with maps, cartography and our occupation of space.

Is anything in your book based on a real life experience or is it purely all imagination?

Redeeming Brother Murrihy contains quite a bit of my real life experience and specific places in Nova Scotia and New Zealand, including my town of Taumarunui. I adhered to the adage, “Write what you know”, and incorporated some of my life in the background of the story while diverging dramatically from that into pure fiction. Te Kauhanga is more purely imaginative, particularly with the characters. The town of Te Kauhanga shares many similarities with Taumarunui and many other small New Zealand towns.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

There’s a scene near the middle of Te Kauhanga in which the three storylines converge at a town council meeting. The meeting reveals the differing viewpoints, political stratagem, and cultural complexities of the town while also hosting characters from the storylines who otherwise don’t often cross paths even though they do influence one another. In writing each of my novels, I’ve written a scene somewhere in the middle where, after completing it, I was able to sit back, satisfied that the plan was working, the story’s threads were coming together and that it would all work out from that point on. In Te Kauhanga, this scene did that for me. 

How did you come up with the title?

One of the definitions I discovered for Kauhanga was “open space” or even better, “sacred passageway”. So, for me, the title means “The Sacred Passageway”. These definitions are in keeping with the theme of the book. Te Kauhanga also sounded like a good name for a town in the North Island, similar to Te Kuiti, Te Awamutu or Te Puke. 

What project are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a round of short stories which I entered into some national competitions. I was very pleased to learn I’ve won this year’s Heartland short story competition and was rated “Highly Commended” for the NZSA Central Districts competition. I have written out plans for at least two novels, one of which is aimed at a young adult audience. I now must decide which one to work on first and begin my research process. This needs to be done over the next few weeks so that I can begin writing it over the summer months.

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with again?

Absolutely. In fact, for my short story The Homeless Men of Mahuika, I included two characters from Te Kauhanga and I am considering using another character from that novel for my Young Adult project. I’m encouraged in this by the likes of J.D. Salinger, who wrote many short stories about Holden Caulfield before writing Catcher in the Rye, and Bruce Springsteen, who uses entire lines in multiple songs. John Steinbeck repeatedly returned to the Salinas Valley and David Adams Richards, a top Canadian novelist, apparently sets all of his novels along the Miramichi River. I’m starting to notice which themes are repeated in my writing: home, family, cultural identity, uncertainty, interconnectedness, spirituality, loss and redemption. 

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I actually wish I would receive some tougher criticism. My reviews have been very positive so far, but not as far-ranging as I would like. I suppose hearing criticism about editing or choice of point-of-view have stung a bit. For Redeeming Brother Murrihy, the best compliment I received was from a past judge of a national book award who recommended I submit it the following year as he felt it may win. It didn’t, but the compliment has continued to encourage me. My first review for Te Kauhanga was written by an author from Pirongia who said she enjoyed it more than she’d enjoyed a novel in a long time. The short story competition win is a high compliment of course. There have been many and I treasure the feedback.

Who are your ‘must read’ authors and who would we find on your bookshelves/e-reader?

For this question, I’d like to refer your readers to my blog post: “The Minimalist Reader: 10 Books That Will Stay on My Shelf” ( in which I write about my reduced book shelf and the books and authors that I will also keep and revisit for inspiration and guidance. A short list of authors for me would be: John Steinbeck, Bruce Springsteen, Maurice Shadbolt, Harper Lee, William Shakespeare, James K Baxter and David Adams Richards.

Fast Five

Favorite food…
Pizza – from the Acropole, Pictou County, Nova Scotia

Favourite movie… Star Wars

Cat lover or Dog person…
Neither really, but we have several cats. My wife loves cats.

Celebrity crush…
I think I’m past the celebrity crush stage, but I do have an abnormal, yet healthy obsession with Bruce Springsteen and the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team. I watch Canadiens games online and I’ve been to see Springsteen in concert three times since coming to New Zealand including a trip to Sydney, Australia just to see him play there.

If you weren’t a writer, you’d be…
a reader.

Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed Antony <3

Smashwords Cover

Conrad Murrihy’s mother is dying and she has one final wish: to see her eldest son Francis who has not contacted home in two years.

In a race to find him and return home to his mother, Conrad travels far from his native Nova Scotia, Canada and through the heart of rural North Island, New Zealand following leads to Taumarunui, Auckland, Whanganui, Ratana and, finally, on an epic journey up the Whanganui River. 

Along the way, Conrad discovers his brother has been living multiple lives – as a Catholic brother, a spoken-word poet, a suspected criminal and a new kind of poropiti for iwi Maori.

Conrad’s search forces him to confront issues in his own life – issues of commitment, family loyalties, reconciliation with the past and openness to future possibilities – brought on by his encounters with the people, places and spirits of New Zealand.

In this, his first novel, Antony Millen explores the complex spiritual fabric of New Zealand while still telling a simple story of a man trying to mend his family.



Te_Kauhanga_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Montreal Perec is an accomplished cartographer with unusual powers of perception. He lives as a recluse in the town of Te Kauhanga, sheltered deep in the central North Island of New Zealand. Thirty years ago, he travelled from overseas and settled into his lighthouse look-off, led by his unfruitful search for the treasure of his ancestors. An online encounter with a mysterious mapping hobbyist launches Perec down a new trail of mind-bending clues.

Sharon Pellerine works for the local council in Te Kauhanga. An attractive woman, she is desired by various rural and municipal courters. But her skills and demeanour as an archivist from Wellington conceal a painful past and a shady secret that she attempts to address with the help of a peculiar visiting transient.

Another immigrant to this small town, Stanley Kowalczyk, hails from the northern city of Hamilton. Five years ago, he arrived with his own unique set of skills as an insurance adjuster and an even more specialised obsession with straight lines. His weakness for beautiful women opens him to the possibilities of wandering outside his self-imposed parameters.

These characters’ lives revolve around the apparently perishing tree of Taumata—an enormous tree, one of the legendary legs of Tane Mahuta and a taonga to local iwi Maori. As debate rages in the township about the tree’s future, Perec is led closer to his treasure by the activities of his fellow citizens.

Te Kauhanga is Antony Millen’s second novel—a tale of spaces that examines our position and movement in this world and how these interchange, connect and influence others.



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