Brad Seggie and I met through the ACFW website several years ago. We were both looking for critique partners–fresh eyes to go over our works. The novel he was working on then fascinated me. Brad’s got a great mind for thrillers, but the first book apparently landed in a drawer somewhere, to my disappointment. So when he asked me to cowrite The Simulacrum (releasing next month!), I jumped at the chance.
I figure it’s time for you to meet him, if you didn’t already at the 2013 ACFW conference.
In this interview, he talks more about the book and his ideas for it:
Linda: Where’d you get your idea for this book?
Brad: I came up with the idea during the 2004-2005 timeframe. At that time, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was a huge hit. I reverse-engineered what Brown did and came up with what I call “The Da Vinci Code formula.” There are plenty of thrillers that share some surface similarities to The Da Vinci Code (including quite a few by Dan Brown himself), but to the best of my knowledge this is the only other novel that uses the crucial formula. One element of the formula is that when you get beyond the characters and the plot, the story is really about a complex issue that is of critical importance to readers. Evolution is both important and complex. Also, the Kitzmiller creationism case was happening at that time , so it was on my mind.
Linda: How’d you come up with the title?
Brad: Have you ever stood at the bottom of a skyscraper and looked upward? Although it has the same dimensions all the way up, the building appears to get smaller as it gets higher. Some of the ancient Greeks solved this problem by making their statues larger on top so, when viewed from below, they appear to be in proportion. This kind of statue is called a simulacrum. I think it’s symbolic of the intentional distortion being perpetrated on issues ranging from evolution to climate change.
Additionally, the lead character in the novel, Mary Dillard, is also a kind of simulacrum; she has crafted an image of herself as someone who cares about truth, when in fact she cares about doing what’s popular. In the course of the novel, she changes.
Linda: What are your goals for The Simulacrum?
Brad: The issue of creationism versus evolution is hotly debated within the scientific community, but the larger world is largely unaware of the specifics of the debate. To a significant degree, scientists are mentally trapped inside the Darwinian box. I want to bring some of those issues to the forefront and see if we can help move the debate forward – and, in the process, move science forward.
As an example, one issue that’s often raised within the scientific community is the lack of transitional fossils. One defense of evolution is to say that evolution happened just as Darwin stated, but we just haven’t found all of the transitional fossils yet – and we are lucky to have found any! A very different explanation, offered by Stephen Jay Gould, is “punctuated equilibrium.” The idea is that a species stays in one form for a long period of time (equilibrium). Those periods of transition are “punctuated” by short periods of time where it changes into a new species. Then the species again is at equilibrium. This theory was created to explain the lack of transitional fossils, and its great selling point is that it reflects the fossil record better than traditional Darwinism.
Imagine if two men who own your local convenience store claimed that $10,000 was stolen from their cash register yesterday at noon. They accuse your friend John of the crime. He claims he did nothing wrong; all he did was buy a soda. Luckily, the store owners have an overhead camera and they have video footage of the entire day! You go with John to watch the footage. All it shows is John walking into the store, buying a soda and leaving. The first owner says the footage proves nothing — it’s clear that there must be missing video footage. After a careful examination, it’s learned that all the footage is there. Then the second owner steps forward and says that he’s solved the mystery! John, you see, was moving at normal human speed during most of the time. Then, for a brief moment, he moved faster than the speed of light, ran around the counter and robbed the register, then ran back to precisely where he was before. Finally, John returned to normal speed. The reason there’s no footage, he asserts smugly, is that he was moving too fast for the camera to pick it up! What would your opinion be of the owners’ intellectual honesty? Should you defer to their judgment on this matter? On any matter?
Linda: You chose to have your characters be either agnostic or not active in their faith. Why?
Brad: I didn’t want the characters to disbelieve evolution for religious reasons. I wanted them to resist the information they were learning, but ultimately to have to accept the truth. I think that’s more powerful. Additionally, I believe it’s better to have flawed characters. They’re more interesting and it provides room for growth.
Linda: What are your writing goals?
Brad: Honestly, my only goal right now is to get this novel out to the people. What I do from here will be determined by the readers. If the sales don’t move the needle, there won’t be a sequel. If the sales are strong, there will be. For the record, I believe there will be a sequel.
Linda: Personally, I’m rooting for a sequel. Brad presented all the facts, but I’m afraid I fell in love with the two main characters, Mary Dillard and Gunnar Schofield. The Simulacrum ends with a hook for a sequel, so I’m seriously hoping there will be one. I don’t have Brad’s mind for this kind of novel, so I can’t do it without him. Which is sad, because I want to see what happens. 😀