Christ is Risen!
Matushka Constantina: I’m here overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Spear, the most easterly point of all of North America, with my brother Father Matthew Penney, the author of the new Young Adult novel Voyage to the Rock. The wind is blowing roughly and we can see a large ship approaching St. John’s harbour.
Father Matthew: Thanks, Matushka. It’s a pleasure to be here with you on the Rock and to be doing this interview.
Father M: This book is about the struggles of Martin – a teenager from Boston – to come to grips with his family’s move to a small city in Newfoundland, Canada, while they pursue his father’s missionary dreams of starting an Orthodox church. Through a series of events Martin discovers that what he first took to be a boring place in the middle of nowhere has a lot more adventure waiting for him than he could ever have dreamed of. After finding an ancient Christian artifact, he is led, along with his sister and a friend, on a quest to find its origins. There are Viking and Irish trans-atlantic voyages, mysterious clues, dangerous chases, and all this with the backdrop of the rich history and wild natural beauty of the massive island fittingly termed, ‘The Rock’. Let’s just say some unexpected saints make their way into it all as well – though not in the way you might imagine.Matushka: Who is your target audience?
Father M: The target audience for this book is Young Adult (well, let’s say upper middle grade to YA) – really anyone from 12 and up. But I think anyone from any age can enjoy the read because there’s just so many interesting historical facts mixed with the different mysteries and clues that need to be solved. But more particularly, this book is definitely targeted toward an Orthodox audience, and this is really what I had in mind when deciding to write it. I wanted Orthodox young people to be able to be excited about some of their history and their faith – especially for those of us in North America, so that we could see some of the amazing connections we have in our history to early Christians and saints. As well, it has a bit of the lives of the saints mingled within it. For that reason I think Orthodox people could really benefit from this story, but also anyone interested in early Christian contact with North America. I’d like to add, this is also intended for anyone who loves a good mystery/adventure story in general.Matushka: What was your inspiration for writing Voyage to the Rock?
Father M: Interestingly enough, I actually conceived of the story itself in a moment of nostalgia we might say, while sitting on my sixth-storey balcony in Thessaloniki. It was one of those rare days of cool, blustery winds and clear skies after a summer rain storm the previous evening. I was looking out and able to see the blue waters of the sea in the distance and couldn’t help but be reminded of the winds of Newfoundland and the rough natural beauty that exists there, and I started thinking about the Viking voyages and Irish voyages across the great Atlantic. And so the story was born you might say.Matushka: Our dad is from Newfoundland, did your own personal experiences influence your writing?
Father M: Yes, definitely. Having been to Corner Brook – which is where dad’s side of our family is from – many times in my life, my experiences there formed the backdrop for the story. The places and the amazing natural beauty and historic sites really gave me the inspiration for this kind of story of travel and adventure, not to mention all the local color of the place with the accents of the people and the interesting Newfoundland culture. I thought it made for a real interesting setting. And our heritage on mom’s side also played into it, funny enough. We’re of Irish descent on her side, and so we always heard stories growing up about St. Brendan the Navigator, about St. Patrick, about many of these different Irish figures, and especially any sort of connections that her family could make for us living in Canada. That’s why it was very natural for me to write a story melding these two worlds – of Ireland and Newfoundland, especially since historically, many speculate that they did actually meld.Matushka: What do you hope young people will take away from your adventure novel?
Father M: First of all, just on the light side of things, that they could enjoy a good read, something they could put themselves into, be a bit excited about, and be entertained by. But on a deeper level I was hoping they would be able to learn more about our Orthodox roots here in North America because all of the Christians who lived before the Schism were Orthodox Christians. Those that were in the Church, were all Orthodox together, and that includes the early Irish – and in particular the early Irish, really, when we see the kind of spiritual practices and monasticism that they had; we can see just how closely we of the Orthodox Church today are with those early Irish. And so that was particularly significant. But also with the Vikings, they were also Orthodox Christians. And so I wanted all of us to learn a bit about this history.
On top of that, there is sort of a story within the story. The life of a saint is actually woven throughout the book and Martin’s own journey mirrors this in many ways. In that sense, I thought it might be an interesting way for young people to learn more about our tradition and our faith in a context that might not be as intimidating or as daunting as picking up a volume of the Lives of the Saints.
Father M: Yes, actually. The day I conceived of Voyage to the Rock, the seeds of two sequels were also germinating in my head. At the present time, I am working on the first of these sequels. It will actually take place in Ireland, and so it will be an extension of Voyage to the Rock. So yes, people can look forward to this – not in the immediate future maybe, but in the future – to more adventures with Martin and Brigid and Ashley.
Father M: Right now people can buy the book on my website for the novel called voyagetotherock.webs.com . If you go there, you can go to the Order page and easily buy the book there. It is in two formats: the print format and the e-book. For the print version make sure you click on the button either for the U.S. or Canada since the prices are a little different depending on where you’re shipping to and the exchange rates. I should also point out, as followers of your blog will know, they can also find access to the book’s website directly through your blog, and this as the first publication of the new Lumination Press will shortly be available through Lumination Press website which should be launched later this week or next.