We have a another interview today, this one with Greg Hickey, Author of The Friar’s Lantern.
1) What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
My name is Greg Hickey. I live in Chicago, Illinois.
2) What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
My most recent novel is The Friar’s Lantern. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure-style novel for grown-ups that features elements of science fiction, crime fiction and literary fiction.
3) What is the book about?
The structure of The Friar’s Lantern mimics the choose-your-own-adventure format enjoyed by many young readers during the 1980s and 90s. At various points in the novel, readers have the opportunity to choose how the story continues. Based on their choice, they flip to a certain page in the book and see how their decision affects the outcome of the story.
There are two main storylines that run throughout the novel. In the first, a university scientist tells you he can use an MRI brain scan to read your mind and offers to prove it in a wager that could net you over $1,000,000 in winnings. In the second, you serve on the jury for the trial of a college professor accused of killing his wife’s murderer. Several other plot threads that present different choices weave throughout these two storylines. You’ll take a Turing test with a twist, discover how your future choices might influence the past, and try your luck at Three Card Monte. And ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether or not you are responsible for your actions at all.
4) Where did you come up with the idea?
The idea for the MRI brain scan experiment is based on a philosophical dilemma called
Newcomb’s Problem. It’s a fascinating question that looks like a mathematics or logic problem on the surface but quickly opens up into questions about how we make choices and the existence of free will. In The Friar’s Lantern, I updated the Newcomb’s Problem scenario to make it more plausible and connect it to recent neuroscience research.
I also wanted to go beyond the questions of whether and how we make choices and look at how these issues impact responsibility, justice and morality. That’s where the murder trial comes in.
That storyline runs parallel to the brain scan experiment and helps ground the ideas of
Newcomb’s Problem in a real-world, life-and-death situation.
5) How long did it take you to write it?
I had the thought that it would be interesting to write an adult choose-your-own-adventure novel almost fifteen years ago and discovered Newcomb’s Problem soon after that. I started writing The Friar’s Lantern around 2010, and it was published in 2017.
6) Did you learn anything from the project?
A lot! I did a ton of research on neuroscience, philosophy and technology. The degree to which technology like MRI and artificial intelligence can predict and model how our brains work is incredible. But for all this scientific explanation, there is still a great deal of debate about what exactly is happening when it comes to consciousness and decision-making.
Even as some scientists are better able to measure, predict and stimulate brain activity, others are looking at their research and previous studies and pointing out that many of their conclusions have been overstated. There’s still a long way to go before we fully understand how our minds work, and that mystery is part of what makes Newcomb’s Problem and the issues in The Friar’s Lantern so intriguing.
7) Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
Yes, my website is greghickeywrites.com. There, readers can learn more about me and download the first chapter of The Friar’s Lantern for free.
I don’t have a book trailer, but I did have a video created that replicates the video you would see in the MRI brain scan in The Friar’s Lantern. I think it’s a perfect bonus feature to accompany the novel. If you read this interview and purchase a copy of The Friar’s Lantern, email me at greg[at]greghickeywrites[dot]com, and I’ll send you the video.
8) Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great
Just be patient and keep writing and putting your work out there. The Friar’s Lantern is my second novel. I conceived my first, Our Dried Voices, in 2005, started writing it in 2008 and saw it published in 2014. As I mentioned earlier, The Friar’s Lantern took over a decade from beginning to end and was published in 2017. So that’s over twenty combined years to produce two novels which were published three years apart. And my third novel is on track to come out this year.
The point is that for many authors, it won’t be as simple as writing and editing a book and seeing it published within a few years. Every writer gets rejections (J.K. Rowling is one famous example). I like to imagine that I need to go through a certain number of rejections before a piece gets accepted. So each rejection gets my closer to my ultimate goal of putting my work in front of readers.
But you can’t just write one piece and spend years and years submitting it and waiting until that piece is published to begin the next one. Write something, submit it, tweak it, but start something new in the meantime. If you keep producing and submitting new work, you’ll soon have a backlist you can feel proud of.
9) What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing
I try to write entertaining stories for smart readers, and those are the books I like to read. I want a compelling story that gets me engaged with the journey of the characters but also pushes me to examine ideas beyond the text. Those books span a variety of genres. I like science fiction, historical fiction, mystery and literary fiction. And I read a variety of non-fiction books as well: history, biography, philosophy, science and sports.
I am open to reading and reviewing new authors. It’s always exciting to discover a great book by an author I’ve never read before. And as an author who knows how important reviews are, I’ve made it a point to write a brief review of ever book I read.
10) What is your favorite book of all time and why?
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand I know her philosophy and political ideas are divisive. But I still find this book to be a convincing argument that each individual person deserves to be happy, deserves to do what makes them happy, and shouldn’t feel burdened by others or society at large to act otherwise.
11) Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
I don’t currently own any pets. Growing up, my family had dogs, and I owned a ferret for several years.
12) Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
I own an iPad, on which I occasionally read ebooks. But I prefer to read print books.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.