CNA: Which character do you feel like best expresses the message of the book?
Buff: Dan Lawson. He starts off with traditional religious training, becomes a person of today's secular world, finds himself struggling with his state of mind and happiness, which causes him to choose between an exploration for ultimate truth or acceptance of despair.
CNA: Which authors are some of your major influences?
Buff: C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, Walker Percy, Michael Crichton, and the Bible. I only began studying the latter in recent years, unfortunately. I've learned that a good companion guide is invaluable to help with context and meaning. Otherwise, it's easy to misinterpret.
CNA: What influences did you draw the characters from?
Buff: I wanted them to reflect different worldviews and use their respective journeys and interactions as a way to explore ideas while hoping that readers will care about them. I imagined Dan as someone who has many gifts, everything has always come easy to him, and he's tried to live the modern version of happiness. In one sense, he was headed towards what many now would consider the "ideal" life. His anger about some of the things he's experienced has also shaped him sharply. Stephen started from the same place as Dan but is not angry, more open to self-examination, and choose a life that was a hybrid of the traditional and modern worldviews. Consequently, he was at different place. Trish is someone who seems like a naturally good person, who's never thought about religion, but now is being exposed to ideas that are challenging her as well. Some readers have commented that there is more to Trish than meets the eye and that might be true.
CNA: Does "The Commission" or the "bad guy" Sarastro reflect a certain evil in the world today?
Buff: Absolutely. They are the logical extension of today's predominant view that science, meaning the material world, is the sole explanation for everything. Once you buy into that, and deny God in the process, anything becomes possible. It's ironic how much internal inconsistency there is with atheistic beliefs and behaviors. Of course Christians do a poor job of being Christians but that is consistent with being fallen creatures in need of redemption and grace. Few atheists recognize the contradictions inherent in their beliefs because, although they deny its existence and origin, they still possess the nature God gave them.