Thursday, 29 August 2013

Antony Millen's "Redeeming Brother Murrihy"

Today I'd like welcome Antony Millen, author of "Redeeming Brother Murrihy" to the Thursday interview. Before we get started, a quick intro!


Antony Millen is a Canadian author living and writing in New Zealand. He is an avid reader who spends far too much energy on less important things. He has won no awards for his unpublished short stories and poetry. Antony's healthy addictions include watching ice hockey on the internet and writing. He has seven bad habits: three are mundane misdemeanours, two exasperate his wife and one should be against the law but thankfully isn't. His seventh is forgetting items in a list. In his spare time, Antony leads a High School English department and bumbles his way through family life. Redeeming Brother Murrihy is his first novel - a labour of love for almost 15 years.
OK - Here we go !.
No.1 Would you break the law to save a loved one? . . why?
I would, but it would go against some pretty engrained instincts. I'm pretty much conditioned to follow the rules – but the instinct to save family would over-ride that conditioning. Laws are important and have their reasons, but not all are meant to be more important than rescuing loved ones.
No. 2 What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
This sound like the scene from Rocky where Rocky claims that his work for the loan shark is a living and Micky yells at him, "It's a waste of life!" Being alive is about survival, meeting your obligations; living is about quality of life, fulfilling the purposes for which we are designed. A student asked me recently is I was "living the dream" and I answered that I wasn't but that I was getting closer. Since I've written my first novel, I can say I am living the dream. It's not that the other things like job, family, community, etc. aren't important; but we all have something we feel compelled to do outside of these things.
No. 3 What motivates you to write?
I don't feel motivated to write all the time and I don't write and write until I discover motivation. I've written journals when I've felt things that needed expression, but were not intended for others to hear. I don't have many ideas, so when one finds me and I'm excited about it, I record it and try to make something out of it. Redeeming Brother Murrihy is a novel that has been in my head, almost
fully written there, for 15 years. Writing and publishing it is rewarding and a source of great motivation for future projects.
No. 4 Why do humans want children?
I suppose the typical answer for this might be about leaving a legacy—something of yourself behind in this world after you're gone. But this seems selfish to me and I believe we have something inside us that seeks more altruistic aims. Having children, getting married, loving your neighbour, being involved in community—all these things require that we work for hard for others and this can be both an uncomfortable yet rewarding process at the same time.
No. 5 What was the biggest challenge in creating your book, Redeeming Brother Murrihy?
I used to think the biggest challenge was something outside myself – work demands, family commitments, etc. However, after writing the novel, I see now that those things didn't leave my life in order for me to write. In the end, I just stayed up late, woke up early, snuck in writing sessions here and there and did whatever I needed to do to make it happen. Participating in NaNoWriMo helped and I owe a lot to that. I also listened to the Accidental Creative podcasts and read Stephen Pressfield's The War of Art which really helped my overcome the resistances inside me as opposed to the obstacles outside me.
No. 6 What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?
As a Christian, I need to, and am happy to, acknowledge my faith in Jesus Christ as the most important thing that I have learned, or that has been revealed to me, in my life so far. Within that, I have learned that it is important to find a way to commit totally to a belief system, a project, a passion while at the same time recognising that others have their own passions that not only need to be acknowledged but also celebrated.
No. 7 How did you come up with the title "Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River to Hiruharama"?
From the inception of the novel, I have wanted the word redeeming or redemption in the title. It signifies, not only a salvation of sorts, but also an exchange and a finding of something that was lost. Murrihy is a family name I discovered locally and sounded good to me—and which had an Irish flavour to it. Brother has Catholic connotations and also can be interpreted as either of the two brothers in the story. Both can be said to be redeemed. Hiruharama is the name of a village on the Whanganui River in New Zealand. It is a Maori pronunciation of Jerusalem. Instead of a "road to" somewhere, the river plays a significant role in the book. Hiruharama has profound spiritual symbolism attached.
No. 8 How do you handle personal criticism?
I blame myself – it seems to be some kind of natural response on my part and one that I am learning to change. I think I've found the toughest of the ten tough questions in this one!
No. 9 Why should people read your book?
I think people will find that, despite some of the heavy theological themes and even some Te Reo Maori (Maori language), Brother Murrihy is a straight-forward, moving story about family. Readers can relate to the family issues involved, whether family is defined as parents/children, siblings, or wider cultural relationships. I wrote the book with a North American audience in mind and think that those readers will enjoy getting to know New Zealand through the experiences of my protagonist. For New Zealand readers, I hope they will enjoy reading about more familiar settings from an outsider's perspective. Ultimately, I hope to lead readers into deeper issues that will create a space for reflection about a lot of things. The prose should be interesting and fluid but hopefully also have moments of beauty.
No. 10 Why is there something rather than nothing?
Only 300 words for this? Should I start with Genesis? or Lear? maybe Great Big Sea? We have something now (let's not talk about this reality as some sort of dream-fantasy) and something doesn't come from nothing. If we start with nothing, we end with nothing. If we start with something, we could plausibly still end with nothing, but all something must go somewhere and I venture to say there is no "where" but here. Our best guess is that, if there is something now, then there was something then. A hole in a doughnut is not the result of doughnut removed, there was no doughnut in the hole to begin with. The doughnut itself was there from the start and is there until it is eaten – and beyond, though in different form. Sorry, I thought I needed an illustration there.

Thanks Antony for taking the time to answer my questions & the best of luck with your new book!Check out his new book on

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.

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