Michael Kent (married name, Kent-Hughes) started out fictional life as an unnamed priest dancing on a beach in Italy. He was inspired by a song, “Luna Rossa,” sung by Mario Frangoulis. I first heard the song on an airplane flight to San Francisco in 2002. The image of a dancing priest stuck in my head and wouldn’t let go.
The priest stayed in my head for the next three years. He moved off the beach and into a tourist group. He changed religions, from Roman Catholic to Anglican. He had a mild flirtation with a young American woman who was part of the tour group. The beach, Italy, and the tour group were left behind, and the priest was moved to Scotland. He was finishing his theology studies at the University of Edinburgh. He gained a named, Michael Kent. He gained a reason for being English but living in Scotland – he was raised by guardians.
In August 2004 I started biking, which meant Michael started biking, too. Except he was training for the Olympics. Michael and I had a lot of conversations on various biking trails around St. Louis, the Lachine Canal Trail in Montreal, the Katy Trail in Missouri, and the Yorktown-Jamestown Colonial Parkway in Virginia.
From 2002 to 2005, the story arc of Michael Kent was laid out – in my imagination. Nowhere else. I said nothing about the story to anyone, including my wife, because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. In the fall of 2005, inspired by Hurricane Katrina, I began to type it. It took two months, and when I finally stopped, three months later, I had a 250,000 word manuscript and the entire story line that would eventually become Dancing Priest, A Light Shining, and Dancing King.
For the next five years, the manuscript was rewritten, edited, split into three pieces, re-edited, re-rewritten, and continually worked over. More pieces of the story, extending beyond Dancing King, were added. Query letters went out to agents and publishers, with the net result of zero interest. An editor and an agent read a chunk at a writers’ conference; they offered enough encouragement that I kept working on it. Dancing Priestfinally found a publishing home in 2011.
The three novels tell the story of Michael Kent-Hughes. Through the three books, he’s moved from a priest-in-training to Buckingham Palace. He’s now 27, married, with two adopted sons and a young baby. Instead of being a priest, he finds himself the head of the Church of England, in conflict with the church hierarchy.
Michael Kent-Hughes had serious doubts. He occupies a leadership role that he’s not sure he’s at all qualified for. He knows what he’s been called to do, and it’s daunting. He finds himself the object of personal and institutional attacks. And he learns he has to depend upon people, and how much of his success depends upon finding good people to work for him.
He adores his wife Sarah and his family. The importance of his family begins to reshape how he undertakes his royal duties. Not being raised among Britain’s elites means his orientation, values, and priorities are very different.
Although born in southern England, Michael considers Scotland, and the McLarens’ farm, as home. He still rides his bike, even if he’s not competing professionally. In spite of the wealth and royal trappings surrounding them, the Kent-Hughes family will maintain something of a middle- to-upper-middle-class lifestyle.
Michael has been positioned and is being prepared for something much larger than he has yet imagined.