Saturday 11 April 2015

Interview with Anthony Hilling, Author of The Voice of Aedistamen

In this interview, I am talking to Tony Hilling about his debut novel, The Voice of Aedistamen. I discovered Tony from a Facebook post from Helping Hands Press promoting this debut novel. I was intrigued with the plot and him being a new author so I expressed my interest in reading this short volume which was soon to be released. I really liked it, very much worthy of 5 stars in my review and decided it would be worth interviewing him to see what made this new author tick and where his inspiration for this engaging novel came from.

So, with no further ado, let's see what Tony has to say about himself and his
new novel, The Voice of Aedistamen. 

Welcome, Tony! Thank you for allowing yourself and your book to be put under some scrutiny!!

Tell us a little about yourself, your work, past and present and how you got into writing.

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the first child of the union of James Hilling (also born in Glasgow) and Frances Duggan from the South of Ireland. We were a Catholic home and from an early age I had a sense that God had called me to be a priest. I went to a junior seminary in England run by a religious order called the Salesians. I stayed there after high school and entered their novitiate program, but left a few years later. I studied law at Queen’s University of Belfast in Northern Ireland and practised there as a barrister. But the bright lights of Canada beckoned and I came over here in 1976. I worked for a few years at a trust company and a two law firms before hearing God’s call again to return to my initial vocation. I was ordained for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary on May 29, 1987, and served as a priest in Medicine Hat, Calgary and Drumheller, all in the Canadian province of Alberta. I worked as a priest for seven years (biblical!!) before returning to the practice of law, and eventually planting two churches as a reformed pastor. As of this weekend, I am retired!
While I was a priest, I had a desire to write and composed a short story (yet unpublished) called, “Milo the Mule”. It was a gospel story modeled on Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (without the Marxist agenda, of course). Then about fifteen years ago, I was stirred by the Harry Potter phenomenon to write a fantasy story that would somehow honour God. Thus, “The Voice of Aedistamen” came to be.

You have had one very interesting vocational life! Two diverse occupations that have some similarities but in also some very different ones as well.

How do you come up with the character names in your books?

Interesting question! I use a number of techniques, including just picking them out of my sub-conscious. I chose a theme of Latin/Roman names in Aedistamen and just stuck with it for the Davarenge Aristocracy. The names for the enslaved people came from Semitic roots where I used the prefix, ‘“Ban”. Some of the names also come from my Celtic past. For example in Scotland there is a town called, Cambuslang. I named one of my characters, “Camberlang”. But that’s part of the fun in writing a fantasy novel: you get to make up your own names.

This shows some depth to your imagination and clever creativity on your part, Tony!

I hear that you are a musician, specifically a balladeer! Tell us a little about this.

I have written a number of songs. As well as aspiring to write good prose, I have always felt the call of the poetic. But somehow, the “scattered verse” was never quite finished until I had put it to music. In this respect, I have found the work of other writers critical in inspiring me to wax creative. A few years ago in Drumheller I read a Christmas story about a man coming to faith through trying to save some birds lost in a storm. The song that I wrote was called, “The Ballad of the Birds”. Also in the early part of the 20th century, Myra Brooks Welch wrote a piece of prose called, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”. I rewrote it as a poem/song called, “The Old Violin”. And just recently, a young playwright called Andrew Kooman composed an Easter play called “That Towering Cross”. The title stirred me and I wrote a song with the same title.

Priest, Lawyer and now song writer/musician/balladeer. You are a man of many talents!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

The best piece of advice from another author? I remember being discouraged and asking the Lord whether I should continue with Aedistamen. I heard just one word: Persevere! I think the Lord is the Author par excellence! So I persevered. Therefore I suppose this also answers your next question. I remember an old priest saying to me when I was a boy, “Dinnae gie in!” (translated, “Never give in!”). No matter what, and especially in heart matters (i.e. calling, gifting and self perception) never give in or give up. Keep at it! Persevere!

I am glad you have, or else we would not be having this interview about yourself and your book!

Who are you reading right now?

I am presently reading a “Whodunnit” series by Margaret Coel which is set in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and concerns the detective exploits of a clergyman and a First Nations lawyer. I also have enjoyed Sansum’s “Shardlake” stories where the context is Tudor England. 

Are you sure the Margaret Coel books are not about you? You have been both a clergyman and a lawyer! LOL

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

All the time! That’s when some of my best writing happens. Sometimes I have sat at the computer with nothing at all in my head (go on, laugh!), and then this idea comes, “as small as a man’s hand”, and I just follow it. Writing is a discipline. I think Writer’s Block is a necessary part of the process.

This "problem" seem to go with the territory or being an author doesn't it? Occupational hazard so to speak. Well, at least you are not the only author to have experienced this!

Now, let's discuss you new release, The Voice of Aedistamen.

Where did the idea for the Voice of Aedistamen come from? 

The idea of Aedistamen came from a simple desire to write a liberation story. Many of our works of art and literature are about liberation. Whether you contemplate Van Gogh’s “Prodigal Son” or watch movies like, “Avatar”, “Exodus”, or even “Chicken Run”, the theme is the same.

Very true, Tony, and in this novel is seems to be taking on a refreshng, different take.
What does Aedistamen mean?

“Aedistamen” is the Davarenge word for “The Great Orb”, i.e. fantasy world.

I struggled at first to pronounce it or even consider how, but Giovanni Gelati pronounced it well in the radio interview he had with you!

What language is the name Ghaedesh-Mor?

“Ghaedesh-Mor” is the word that the Ma’apone (or Bladowrete in the Davarenge language) use for God. It means the “Holy One”. It is pronounced by a hard guttural sound from the front of the mouth culminating in trace of a “y”, not unlike the “ll” sound in Spanish or French. The word is a variant of the Hebrew word, “Kadosh” (Sorry Peter, for the detail with the pronunciation, but I love this stuff!) which also means, “holy”.

Tony, don't apologise, all good, this detail in pronunciation shows you have a solid basis for the foundation of the language in this story. Tolkien developed an entire language, grammar and pronunciation for Lord Of The Rings, so feel secure in this endeavour!

Why did you decide to release this novel in volumes (short story length, this one 33 pages)?

My publisher had the sense that it was a good idea to release the story in short segments. I had written it in different fonts so I have spent some time reformatting it. 

This seems to be a common practice now. I have many novels that I am
following being released like this. Preacher Man and The Name of the Hawk by Murray Pura follow in this practice and it does enable the reader to complete the novel in stages when they may not have time to read it over days, weeks. This definitely keeps the reader hungry for more!

When will the next volume be released?

The next 10,000 words or so should be released by April 16.

Tony, I just discovered that Helping Hands Press has just released an advanced reading of volume 2, The MA'APONE! It can be viewed here.

Releasing your novel in this way, over what period of time will it take to have the entire novel released?

Subsequent volumes will probably take us up to the end of 2015.The entire paperback should then be available.

Great news on this front! Hmm, would that include the e-book as well? I hope so!

In your radio interview on the G-Zone with Giovanni Gelati you state that this novel took 15 years to write. What took you so long? Sorry, could not resist that line! LOL

When I first wrote the story, my wife and I were planting a church in Western Canada which kept us quite busy. Also, I revised the story three times in those fifteen years. At times, I would set it down and then come back to it. I must admit that there was some procrastination in this. If I was writing today, I would try to be more disciplined. The greatest obstacles in getting to publication are not so much what it going on out there, but in here! There are indeed many obstacles externally, but the one that I struggled with was internal. But once I had decided to push it through, the Lord opened a door for me.

In one sense, Tony, there is no surprise there, as many authors, new or seasoned take years to complete their books. One author I reviewed took 36 years to complete his first novel! I am glad you persevered as you and your readers can now revel in a great work that glorifies God!

In the same interview, you state that The Voice of Aedistamen is an allegory, a liberation story with enslavement to freedom featuring a chosen race. It has an Old Testament feel with the New Testament running through it in a concealed way. This sounds very much like the the account of the Hebrew enslavement in Exodus. Was this your inspiration?

With respect to allegory, I remember someone quoting Tolkien as spurning any allegory in his writings. I can understand his desire to avoid the allegorical in the same way that the Apostle Paul did not want to build on anyone else’s work. I have this picture in my mind that Tolkien wanted his work to stand on its own. On the other hand, everything we do can be seen as allegorical. We carry in our genes the same thought patterns of our parents and grandparents. Is there any work of literature, art, music etc that is absolutely original? I have found the work of other artists stimulating. We write in community, not in isolation, building on each other’s insights.

I have this desire to express the Gospel in new ways. When I first turned to Jesus and declared Him as my Lord and Saviour, the scriptures took on new meaning for me. I wanted to imagine another world where there was a chosen people struggling to be free, calling on God to liberate them.

To me, Tony, this is very encouraging, your story is based on solid ground, the Bible, and not just on imagination only, however, these two in combination can be strong elements of world building, which you have started in this volume.

Any significance as to why you chose the religion of the Davarenges to be based on the number 5? You have depicted this as Five Ordinances, Five Elements, Five Seers etc.

I chose the number five somewhat at random. I remembered the biblical significance of certain numbers: seven, four, twelve, etc. Thus there are seven days in creation, four corners of the earth, and twelve tribes and Apostles. So I chose a number that I thought would be significant for an ancient race of people, cognizant that given our decimal system, five is a multiple of the next zero, be it 10, 20 etc. I tried then to see this numbering system being reflected in every facet of their existence: e.g. the Five Seers, the Five Elements and the Five Ordinances. It gave them a sense of control, management and understanding of their existence.

Again, this is part of world building, and for me, this adds depth and structure to the story and makes the world you create three dimensional.

You mention about a war between the two races, Ma'apone, and the Davarenges. Will this be further explained in future volumes? 

This war between the Davarenges and the Ma’apone is a major theme of the
Trilogy and will follow it right through the other volumes.

I look forward to seeing how you develop this, there is nothing like history or war to add structural background to the races, or peoples, created in any story, it gives these people many reference points to their heritage and roots and gives them a reason to defend this heritage which throughout history has involved war in most cases.

I mentioned in my review of The Child's Arrival that there is murder, conspiracy, bribery, deceit, abuse of power, one race dominating the other and slavery. Those are some powerful themes running through this volume. I can imagine that this will be a common thread throughout this entire novel. Does this get any worse before it gets better?

Yes, indeed, Peter. Though the book is a fantasy, I tried to be realistic in the writing of it. In life things frequently get worse before they get better and it is the same in Aedistamen. There are also so many twists, turns and challenges that the Ma’apone are tempted to wonder if the Ghaedesh-Mor has forgotten them. Faith then, is another major theme. I have tried to test the boundaries between unbelief and faith.

Well, you certainly started this well in this volume! I look forward to seeing how much of your Pastor heart and experience being the same comes out in these issues as the story progresses.

What can we expect in future volumes without giving away too many spoilers?

I have specifically written in a style juxtaposing many action scenes with other more contemplative ones. Also, I have brought as much humour into the work as I can. It’s part of being an old Celt, I guess. Even when times are bad, we survive by keeping our sense of humour. There is one section coming up with some heart-thumping scenes combined with reflective commentary on the human condition, interspersed with comic relief.

I knew your answer would whet my appetite for more! Agree with you about humour, it is an element of our survival instinct. Good to hear that there is some heart-thumping scenes ahead. Looks like we are in for a treat!

What message did you want to convey in The Voice of Aedistamen?

C.S. Lewis has Aslan stating that he brought the children to Narnia to know him, so that they would better know him in their own world. I wrote Aedistamen for that very reason, that folks would recognize God in a fantasy world, and so respond to Him better in this world.

I reckon you have set the foundation for this in Volume 1. It is going to be satisfying to see this further developed in future volumes. I believe that Christian fiction, in all its sub genres, such as this one as fantasy, should encourage, exhort and build up the Christian reader or challenge in a positive way the reader who may be a non believer. You have done this for me being the former reader I mentioned.

Any plans for a sequel?

The writing of the book followed quite quickly after the idea came. The finishing of it took a little longer, as I explained above. I have left the conclusion open for a sequel but I have not planned it yet.

I pray the readers that follow this story to the end put pressure on you in a positive way to consider a sequel. I am impressed so far with these 33 pages so I am hoping you will consider this.

Any other novels that are dying to be unlocked by you?

I have another story called, “The Caves of the Kananaskis” which tells the tale of a bunch of children exploring new worlds under the mentorship of a mysterious first nations person. This has yet to be finished. I have also this desire to write a “whodunit” mystery series.

Both these sound good, Tony! This gives us something to look forward to in the future!

Anything else you would like to say before we finish?

Again, I want to thank you, Peter, for the encouragement your review brought to me and for the opportunity to discuss my work today.

Tony, it has been my pleasure! I have enjoyed discussing you debut novel and yourself as a new author. You have given us some very encouraging insight into yourself and the world building of Aedistamen. I am excited that the next volume is only a few days away so we can see this engaging novel develop further. I am eager to see your progress as an author and see some 4 and 5 star reviews from the rest of the volumes in The Voice of Aedistamen!

Before you go, where can readers find you?

I can be found at: (Click on the underlined links)


Twitter: Tony Hilling

Facebook: Tony Hilling

Google+: TonyHilling

Amazon Author Page: Tony Hilling Author Page

You can purchase, The Child's Arrival, The Voice of Aesdistamen from Amazon:

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