ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS)—The historic Brendan voyage was led by Brendan the Navigator (c. 484-577 AD), an Irish monk from County Kerry, during the 6th century. In his book, Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbati, Brendan recounts a harrowing journey across the sea to discover the “Land of Promise,” sometimes called the “Isle of the Blessed.” Some scholars hold Brendan may have discovered North America in the process.
Now fifteen centuries later, authors and an illustrator from New Mexico recount a different voyage, The Voyage of Brendan McCurdy.
In The Voyage of Brendan McCurdy, author Quentin Guy and illustrator Dominic Sedillo share a story about a skateboarding boy named Brendan who creates his own animal ark while discovering the reason for the rainbow. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters in a fun story about God’s love.
With an introduction by Pastor Skip Heitzig from Calvary Church in Albuquerque, The Voyage of Brendan McCurdy was a finalist for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in 2018.
I caught up with Dominic and Quent to discuss the book and the forthcoming signing at Calvary Church on March 16th.
Quent, can you give us a glimpse into the characters of the book? What can we expect to find?
“We have a really fun cast of characters! My friend came up with a classic mix—a smart but impulsive kid, some talking animals with personalities ranging from motherly to nervous to feisty, and a little magic dude with a funny hat. I tried to develop their personalities and the dynamic among them. They’re not sure if they’re going to be friends at first, but the adventure they share creates a bond among them that they’ll never forget.”
Dominic, what it the target age for the book? And how did you create the characters to relate to this age group?
The target age range for this book is between the age when children stop reading simple picture books and before they start reading pre-teen books, say 6-8. But 10 years old’s will appreciate it as well. They haven’t outgrown drawings in books and are looking for more literary meat to chew on.
I created the characters to be very simple archetypes. The age that will be reading these books are still learning about complex characters and still prefers simple personality types that they can relate to, but also have characters with depth to them.
Quent, what is the Biblical moral of the Voyage of Brendan McCurdy?
“C.S. Lewis talked about the danger of trying to add a moral to a story. What’s more important is that the team that worked on it are all committed Christians, and our hope is that our beliefs, which are Bible-based, come through in the characters and the story. As I re-read the story, I saw the value of being a good friend, of giving others the benefit of the doubt, and of the wonder of God’s love.”
Dominic, do you have a favorite character? Was there a particular character you related to as you were creating the art?
“My favorite character is the squirrel (that I named Doreen) that pops up in the background of most of the book!
“And then there’s Brendan. I really like Brendan’s character arc. He has the most growth in the story and I tried really hard to convey that in subtle ways. He’s an outdoor kid; you can see it in the first image of him; he has toys, games and comics strewn about his room because he tires easily of being inside. Brendan is longing for adventure, but when he happens upon one he is only mildly interested in it; we see him reading comics or looking bored. It isn’t until about midway where he has a turn and becomes fully invested.
“I think I can relate to Brendan because there have been times I’ve wanted to be used by God and be led on an adventure, but when it happens upon me, like Brendan, I’m hesitant and a bit skeptical. It takes some prodding, but then I realize, oh hey, this is what I’ve been wanting. Guess I better go all in!”
Quent, you’ve authored other youth books. But a picture book is different. What goes into writing a children’s book?
“Writing a good children’s book is harder than it looks! The best ones have a blend of a meaningful story, characters you like, and artwork that does as much storytelling as the words do. Dominic did a beautiful job in that regard—his drawings and coloring breathe life into the story in a way that words alone would not.”
Dominic, art is vital to the success of a children’s book. Do you attribute the recognition of the book to the art, or a combined story of art and fun story?
“Speaking as an illustrator I can say that without a good story and good writing even the most amazing visuals fall apart. I started reading comic books in the ‘90s, when there was a boom of artist-centric books, and they looked great, but the stories lacked. I will take a poorly illustrated book with a great story than the other way around any day. The writing will always elevate the art or bring it down.”
Quent, like all good children’s stories (think of Winnie the Pooh or the Peanuts), different personalities of the characters are highly relatable to real life. Do we find this in The Voyage of Brendan McCurdy?
“I hope so! There are elements of people I know in each of the characters—for example, Gato’s cheekiness, Brigit’s sweet concern for others, Brendan’s hunger for adventure, Kevin’s anxiety, and Patrick’s gentle wisdom. One of the things I love about them all coming together on this voyage is that they all have something to contribute to the group. The question is, will they share their gifts and insight and make the group better, or will they let their worries and fears keep the group from achieving its goal?”
Dominic, share more about the illustration process. How do you work with authors to create the characters?
“My illustration process is very exhaustive. I drew many iterations of these characters, props and scenes. Even all the details have been thought out and overthought. The toys that Brendan has aren’t random; they’re specifically designed for Brendan and his personality. The way Leopold always looks like he’s in motion is intentional. If I’ve done my job right then the reader probably won’t notice all these details, they’ll just feel natural because the characters, the scenery and everything is fleshed out to be immersive.
“The way I work with an author or any co-creator is as a translator of abstract thoughts (i.e. words). My number one job is to communicate visually the thoughts and words of my collaborator. The most important thing in collaboration is a level of trust and respect. The author has to trust the illustrator to convey the ideas visually, which sometimes are different from what they imagine. The illustrator has to be able to respect the author enough to make changes when needed, because, ultimately, our decisions have to serve the story and not ourselves. If it doesn’t serve the story, then things need to change.”
To attend or learn more about the book signing or pick up a copy of The Voyage of Brendan McCurdy, contact Parchments bookstore at http://www.calvaryabq.org/ministry.asp?MinistryID=64 or call 505.344.2728.