Talkshow Thursday: Meet Antony Kolenc
Linda: Welcome to my blog. It’s a pleasure to have you. Congratulations on your awards for The Harwood Series
. What made you decide to try your hand at fiction in general, and YA specifically?
Antony: Thank you, Linda! I’ve been thrilled and thankful to God that The Harwood Mysteries have already won so many awards, including four gold medals and three bronze medals from various writing competitions. The series—currently there are three novels published and a fourth one due out next summer—tells the ongoing story of a peasant boy (Alexander, or “Xan”) and his friend, Lucy, who live at a Benedictine abbey in twelfth-century England. In the series, the pair of teens go on several adventures: exploring a haunted cathedral, catching a den of thieves, and toppling the plots of bandits, to name a few.
Regarding my decision to write fiction, I’ve been a lawyer since 1999, but I’ve always enjoyed reading, writing, and telling stories. I have reams of unfinished stories I attempted to write throughout my life. As I grew older and realized that my writing could be a ministry, too, it inspired me to write a book series that would be suspenseful and engaging while also dealing with deeper questions, such as, “Who am I? What am I supposed to do with my life? Why do bad things happen to good people?” I wanted this series to address these questions in a context of faith, but also in a way that was also spooky and exciting and relatable to younger readers.
LM: The books are set during the medieval era. What draws you to that time period?
Antony: The books are set during a fantastic period in English history. The series takes place starting in
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1184 A.D. in the final years of the reign of King Henry II. This is only fifteen years after the murder of St. Thomas Becket, between the Second and Third Crusade, which starts up a few years after Book 1, Shadow in the Dark. This was also a time in the history of Christianity where the Church and State (i.e., King Henry II) were in constant opposition, as the State attempted to control church ministry. This was hundreds of years prior to the Protestant Reformation, of course, so there wasn’t that kind of split in Christianity yet. The time period allows me to explore the system of feudalism, monastic life, church-state conflict, and (in just a few years, the Third Crusade). So there’s a lot going on both educationally and of great interest during this time.
LM: Research is an important aspect of writing and must have been quite extensive for this series. How did you go about researching The Harwood Series? Was there a particular piece of information you knew you needed to include in one of the books?
Antony: I had to do a lot of research for these books, with help from others, such as Dr. Jennifer Paxton, who is an expert on medieval monastic life at the Catholic University of America. As you can imagine, there aren’t too many twelfth-century English monasteries that aren’t in ruins at this point. I had to base Harwood Abbey—which is entirely fictional, by the way—on the layout of other abbeys of the time, as well as the entire way of life that Xan and Lucy experience while living there. A few years ago I took two weeks and went to England to traipse about the locations of which I am writing. Of course, we are now over 800 years later and things have changed quite a bit, but it was incredible to walk among the ruins of the abbeys and cathedrals and hike about the countryside. In particular, for Book 2, The Haunted Cathedral, I needed to do research on the history of Lincoln Cathedral, which is fascinating and relayed in that novel.
LM: In addition to your fiction writing, you work as a law professor, author legal articles, conduct speaking engagements, and host a radio show/podcast. How do you juggle your various responsibilities?
Antony: You’re right! I write a lot of non-fiction and legal scholarship, and I also write a column in Practical Homeschooling
magazine. I’m particularly excited about my new project hosting The Shepherd’s Pie podcast—“a slice of hope to raise faithful kids”—which focuses on issues that impact youth and can be accessed free on my website, www.antonykolenc.com.
I do tend to juggle a lot of balls in the air at the same time, but I find that I do my best and most productive work by getting up at 5:00 A.M., when the world is still dark and my family is fast asleep, writing with a hot cup of tea or coffee by my side in the silence of the house. You’d be amazed how much you can get done before the rest of your day begins and the responsibilities of life set in. That has been my practice for many years, which has served me well in all my interests. That is also my best time to start the day right with prayer time!
LM: What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?
Antony: I have always wanted to speak other languages fluently, but have not yet had the chance to learn them well. In particular, I would like to understand my own family heritage of Italian by learning to speak that language one day.
LM: Now that you have several books published, what advice can you give to fledgling writers?
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Startup stock photos
Antony: Seek God’s will for your gift of writing, and don’t ever give up. Find a great writing group and encouraging group of Christian authors with whom to share your writing life. Also, don’t be afraid to edit and re-edit and re-re-edit your work. No matter how good you think it is, it needs more work…trust me.
LM: What is your next project?
Antony: Now that Book 3, The Fire of Eden, is released and Book 4 (tentatively titled, The Merchant’s Curse) is at Loyola Press for editing, I have begun writing Book 5, which will be a murder mystery. I hope to continue the adventures of Xan, Lucy, and his other friends (including a new female character introduced in Books 2 and 4, Christina) into the years of the Third Crusade.
LM: Where can folks find you on the web?
About the series:
Book 1: Shadow in the Dark
In twelfth century England, an attack by bandits in the middle of the night leaves a young boy with no memory of who he is or where he is from. Nursed back to health by the devoted monks in a Benedictine abbey, he takes the name Alexander, or Xan for short. Aided by the kindly Brother Andrew, and his best friend, Lucy, Xan commits himself to finding out who he really is. Is his family still alive? Why has God allowed so much suffering into his life? And who—or what—is the shadowy figure creeping around the abbey in the dead of night?
Book 2: The Haunted Cathedral
An ill-fated journey, a long-lost uncle, and a mysterious cathedral mark the next chapter in the life of Xan, an orphan in search of his destiny. For a year, he has lived in the care of Benedictine monks at Harwood Abbey. Now he learns that he has an uncle, said to live in the far-off city of Lincoln. Will Xan survive the trip alongside the prisoner Carlo and his cruel guards? Will he find Uncle William? And why is Xan drawn to the spirit that haunts Lincoln Cathedral—could a ghost reconnect Xan with his dead parents? With Lucy and some new friends at his side, Xan must solve the mystery of The Haunted Cathedral.
Book 3: The Fire of Eden
Xan and John are orphans at Harwood Abbey. They are also enemies, but now John, blinded by an accident, struggles with bitterness. In his latest adventure, Xan of Harwood Abbey joins forces with this most unlikely of allies to uncover the mystery of the loss of the Fire of Eden, a priceless ruby coveted by many . . . Who took the ruby—a dishonest monk, a traitorous member of Her Lady’s guard, or the frightening magician who dwells in the woods? Will Xan and John permanently mend their ways? Or will the quest for the ruby destroy any hopes of lasting friendship?
To find out where this next adventure leads Xan and his friends, you'll have to read The Fire of Eden.