Interview with Author Nicholas Conley

Having been a long time fan of Mr C. and enjoying his novels, including latest book Intraterrestrial, it was high time I poked the toe back into the interviewing game. Sadly not with an interestingly flavoured beverage at an obscure coffeehouse as always imagined but through the medium of email.

Your latest book Intraterrestrial came out recently, (and very enjoyable it is) how has the reception been so far?

Thanks for the compliments! The reception so far has been enthusiastic, which is amazing to experience. When writing a book, so much time is spent in this solitary space, experiencing a whole world no one else sees, so it’s always surreal when that story is opened up to the world, and other people are talking about it. A great feeling, but a surreal one.

I love the title, how long did that take you to come up with and what working titles fell by the wayside?

It’s interesting, every writer I know has different feelings in regard to titles. For me, I can’t even write a novel without knowing what the title is. The title embodies every theme in the story. It’s like a fishing line, stringing the beginning to the end, keeping the reader focused on the essence of the book’s core idea.

Intraterrestrial was one of the more challenging titles to come up with, as you might imagine. With a book that’s so surreal and otherworldly, the title needed to match that. When I was taking notes for the book, my first working title was “Unearthly”—which ended up becoming the title of the book’s second act—but as a full title, that didn’t quite work.

Finally, I considered some of Jungian imagery and archetypes that exist in the novel, and that lit a spark. I thought about the term “extraterrestrial.” I love etymology. I’ve done some writing for Dictionary.com, for that reason. And so thinking about Carl Jung, I considered how the “aliens” in this book, rather than interacting with Adam’s external self, instead dive into his mind, his consciousness, his imagination, using his thoughts to create versions of themselves. So, looking up the root of “intra,” I eventually decided on the term Intra-Terrestrial, which became Intraterrestrial.

There is an interesting question in the book about what is real and how much imagination plays a part in the story, and to what extent.  The fine line between them is one of the intriguing things of your story, how difficult was it to achieve that balance?

It does seem like the notion of “perception” keeps haunting me, considering I keep coming back to it in different stories!

My feeling is that there are two things about “reality” which seem unarguable: one, there must be some inescapable truth to reality, something real that we perceive. Two, though reality exists, our perception of reality must be undeniably flawed, limited by our senses, and embellished by imagination. After all, a lizard views the world differently than we do, but a lizard’s perception is no less accurate.

Now, if there are creatures out there that don’t experience the universe through their senses—let’s call them “aliens”—then it follows that they somehow would still exist in the same universe, even though “their” universe might not seem remotely similar to “ours.”

The story in Intraterrestrial, to me, is merely a magnification of this truth. Everything that happens to Adam, from the car accident to the alien “abduction,” is real. It happens. But everything about he perceives these events is “false,” or rather, it’s simply a sensory construct based on how he views the world.

The mythological imagery was one of the highlights for me, how did the idea to incorporate that particular theme come about?

The imagery in Intraterrestrial was an interesting challenge, because on one hand, I had to start by looking into the head of the 13-year-old protagonist, Adam, and asking “What would he imagine? If he was imagining aliens, spaceships, and so on, what would it all look like?” At the same time, the imagery had to always push the boundaries of human imagination, always hinting at something more complex.

So it seemed to me that, since Adam is a space geek who looks into telescopes a lot, his dreams and ideas are influenced by that. With the mythological imagery, that’s something he certainly would’ve studied in school, so when he encounters archetypes, that’s what he sees. He’s also a kid who reads comic books, so his perception of “virtuous” aliens would resemble superheroes, while the “evil” aliens seem like monsters. That doesn’t mean any of the aliens are these things, necessarily, but there’s some element of truth to these visualizations, at their core. Archetypes exist for a reason.

Can we hope to see a Jupiter Man comic?

Wouldn’t that be great? I’d love to see what sort of comic books inspired Adam’s vivid creativity in Intraterrestrial. Based on some of the wild imagery Adam dreamed up, he definitely must have been flipping through some Jack Kirby pages!

Your past career shows up in your books, what made you choose the healthcare profession?

Well, to briefly summarize, I started working in healthcare when I was first getting my writing career started. I wanted a job to pay the bills, but I also wanted to do something meaningful, something that helped people, something that gave back to the community. What I didn’t anticipate was just what an enormous impact caregiving in a nursing home setting would have on my life philosophy, my personality, and my writing, as the people I took care of became extremely close to me, inspiring me in numerous ways. I wrote a lot about this for my piece on Vox.

I shall publish more of the interview next week, until then go seek him out here.

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9 Replies to “Interview with Author Nicholas Conley”

  1. I have to say, Ste J, that you are faithful to your enthusiasms. Thanks for the interview provided. I wonder what is provoking the great number of fantasy novels and otherwise written by adults, apparently for both YA readers and adults, but with younger heroes and heroines as their main characters? It’s a nice idea, but wonder who first started the perception that adults also would be interested in reading about juveniles (and possibly reliving their own early years)?

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    1. I was reminded the other day of both Swallows and Amazons, and Bevis which have that imaginary other worldly quality when seen through the eyes of children. I love some of the books like that, I dare say a lot were inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to Harry Potter, even if I think it was less justified in the case of certain of the later books. I also wonder if adults write about such things to give off a nostalgia vibe, it’s big these days with Stranger Things (which again is hugely overrated) and such, there is a big market for it.

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