Interview with Author Nicholas Conley Part 2

Part one of the interview can be found here as well as links to Nic’s blog.  A big thank you is also due for the time he took to answer my questions.

Can you explain a bit about your approach to novel-writing?

It’s a bit mysterious, even to me. I’d say that it begins with an idea… a scene, a character, a philosophical concept I want to explore, a weird scientific theory, et cetera. From this idea, I take notes. As time goes on, I continue compiling notes, character ideas, concepts, and so on. In this “genesis” stage of the process, I’m basically putting together every idea that hits me, sometimes for years at a time: since I have so many different potential novels in my head, it’s not always clear where an idea will properly fit, so I make sure to document everything that occurs to me. At this point, every potential novel is like a riddle: how will it work? Can it work? As a result, some of the novels I’ve written have gone back to story ideas I had years and years ago. With Intraterrestrial, for example, I started having ideas for it when I was just a teenager.

Eventually, as these ideas come together, I get hit with what I think of as a “lightning bolt.” I’ll be driving, in the shower, in bed, or wherever, and this spark of light just suddenly breaks open my skull and says “THIS is the solution.” Suddenly, the novel will fully crystallize, and I’ll know that I have to write it. Going back to Intraterrestrial, the moment that the novel concept felt “ready” was when I took my past ideas and merged them with my healthcare experiences: the notion of the traumatic brain injury being at the heart of the novel brought Adam’s story to life.

So, once I hit this point, I then begin writing my first draft. This is the part where other people think I’m crazy, because I write my first drafts fast, really fast, making sure to put solid work in every single day. I generally finish these drafts in one or two months, at most.

…but then, even though I write the first draft extremely quickly, I take a long time on edits. After the draft is done, I’ll let it sit for a couple of months, and then I’ll come back to it, and spend a year or two slowly editing that draft into the book I really want it to be. Some novels take only a year of edits, others have taken far longer, at which point they understandably sort of transform into entirely different books. I always know when I’ve reached the “final” draft stage, at least for submitting it for publication: something clicks, something feels right.

You are a big traveller, heading out to Africa, Europe and Asia, how important is travel to you and how does it help influence your writing?

Travel is immensely important to me. I strongly believe that travel is a strong antidote for such contemporary maladies as prejudice, laziness, insecurity, and so on, because travel forces you to break out of your boundaries. It’s easy for someone who has been sitting in a homogenous setting for 10+ years to make judgements about people or settings that are “different.” But when you go out to another country, when you sit and share dinner with those supposedly “different” people, you can’t help but be struck by how much we’re all in this together, and we need to support one another in every way possible.

What’s important though, while traveling, is to not be comfortable. If you ask me, one shouldn’t try to stay in a place that reminds you of home: stay in the place that’s totally different, that’s outside your comfort zone, a place where you can learn. In everyday life, you get so swallowed up by your daily routine that you can start to define yourself by it: I.E., I’m Joe Smith, I wake up at this time, eat these things, see these people, wear this sort of clothing, et cetera. When you travel, when you go somewhere with a different language, culture, and way of life, it forces your consciousness to expand, makes you into a better person.

And of course, yes, this has a huge influence on my writing! Traveling helps me to look at the world from many different perspectives, which is important when it comes to writing fiction.

Of your books, which are you most proud of?

I’m going to be totally honest, and say Pale Highway. Don’t get me wrong, I love Intraterrestrial, but there’s something about Pale Highway that… well, it astonishes me that I was able to write that book. There’s so much packed in there. Pale Highway is the work I really define myself by, at this point in time. Continue reading “Interview with Author Nicholas Conley Part 2”

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Evil Star Wars

There are few authors I actually pay attention to as people, unless the books are of extremely high quality. Thankfully Margaret Atwood is a thousand miles from being one of those authors.

I just heard about this so sorry for being a bit late with it. I’m talking of course the Variety interview Atwood did recently, which is a fairly straightforward, marginally interesting interview until she bizarrely makes the claim that Star Wars was to blame for 9/11.  I mean we all know it was Back to the Future that predicted it, but idiocy aside, what is the world coming too?  Here is the section in question (with my italics):

You attended one of the women’s marches last year. What do you make of this latest wave of activism? 
Typically, waves are waves. They hit the shore and then they recede and then they hit the shore again. How many backlashes have we been through? We used to have a race going on, to see which would win, between “1984” and “Brave New World.” It looked as if “Brave New World” had won. That turned out not to be true. Just to give you a very creepy feeling, there was an opera of “The Handmaid’s Tale” that premiered in Denmark in 2000. It started with a film reel going across the top of the stage and showing various things blowing up. And one of the things that blew up was the Twin Towers. But it hadn’t blown up yet. They did the opera again, and they had to take it out, because it was no longer in the future. Does that give you a creepy feeling?

Yes, it does.
They didn’t get that idea from my opera, don’t worry. They got the idea from “Star Wars.”

Do you really believe that?
Remember the first one? Two guys fly a plane in the middle of something and blow that up? The only difference is, in “Star Wars,” they get away. Right after 9/11, they hired a bunch of Hollywood screenwriters to tell them how the story might go next. Sci-fi writers are very good at this stuff, anticipating future events. They don’t all come true, but there are interesting “what if” scenarios.

Where do you start with this car crash?  Most importantly her play was not a catalyst at all, it couldn’t have been. We don’t know why not, and as usual interviewers won’t do their job and ask probing questions so I guess that will remain a mystery.  Star Wars gave them the idea – presumably not the original film – not one of the many books or films where hijackings and attempts to do damage with planes are central plot points..

I’m not offended because it’s Star Wars,  I’m not one of those people. I enjoyed the original trilogy but think the new films are utter rubbish. but why would anybody who seems intelligent come up with something so downright odd?  Maybe it was an odd bit of failed sarcasm, although it doesn’t read like it.  The more cynical may suggest it is because the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale is due to air on the 25th April.  If this is the best she has, then maybe save it for the marketing team.  Whatever the reason, I’ll save my money and not encourage such people and their inane ideas with book/DVD sales.

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. Continue reading “Interview with Author Nicholas Conley”

Author Interview – Sandra Bellamy (Part 2)

777  – What inspired you to reach out and help people who were struggling with getting/getting back into work?

I have been made redundant twice and each time managed to successfully work my way back up the career ladder. When I was made redundant for the second time in my career in 2009, after dealing with the initial grief, I discovered I had a talent for writing outstanding cover letters to accompany my CVs that got me almost one hundred percent response to my job applications. That seemed unheard of, particularly in a recession. Upon reflection, I realised I had great insight into what an employer was looking for in a CV and cover letter, because I had recruited as part of my management roles. It was then that I decided I could help others who have been made redundant to get back into work and I could use my passion of writing, to enable me to do this. I also noticed how frustrating it was to have to trawl through website after website, trying to search for jobs, recruitment agencies, and courses, as well as information about the various aspects of redundancy, such as dealing with the grief of it. I wanted just one website to go to, that would give me access to all of these and that’s when I had the idea of http://www.beatredundancyblues.com and http://www.beatredundancyblues.co.uk. These websites are your one-stop resources for redundancy, with access to job sites, recruitment sites and course sites, from within the one site. Just like the book, they tackle numerous other redundancy problems such as time management and preparing for an interview.

I was in management roles for seven years. Part of my management duties entailed interviewing, recruiting, training and coaching staff and I took part in every aspect of the recruitment process from placing the advert to completing staff inductions and training. I have also experienced the other side of the recruitment process, when I was applying for work and being interviewed for jobs whilst redundant. It is from experience that I have gained insight into both points of view and feel uniquely positioned to help others.

 – How long did it take you to refine your concept down to something manageable that you could focus on exploring and writing?

Interesting question. In fact, my process wasn’t like that, that’s not how I work. Especially with a ‘how to’ style non-fiction book, I didn’t refine my concept down, I rather build it up. So I got all of the A-Z chapter titles first, with a brief outline of what I wanted to say in each chapter, and then I began to write and fill out the concept of that whole chapter with relevant content. Later, I came up with their sub headings based on how the content best flowed and what I needed to highlight. My manuscript was edited a humongous amount of times and was originally 134 A4 typed pages, now it’s 175, and the cover for my printed version needs to be re-done as my book currently works out at 333 pages in a 6×9 format. Continue reading “Author Interview – Sandra Bellamy (Part 2)”

Author Interview – Sandra Bellamy (Part 1)

Break cover copy1Having followed Sandra over at Quirkybooks for quite a while, I was delighted to make her my first in-depth interviewee.  Experiencing unemployment last year, it’s nice to see a book that helps people get out of the benefits cycle…unlike the job centre.

  •  – First off, congratulations on your getting your book published, how are you feeling now it’s out there?

Hi Ste. Thank you so much for having me on your blog. It feels amazing to finally have my book published and available on Amazon, especially as it’s taken me a little over two and a half years to write it. It feels like I am finally doing what I was born to do with my life and that is to write and to help others; particularly those who have been made redundant to get back into work. I also feel like the hard work has just begun, and there is so much more that I want to do and need to do, to get my book to reach a wider audience.

  •  – Can you give a brief overview of the contents and aims of the book?

My Break Through The Barriers Of Redundancy book is a complete A-Z system for getting back into work, and a comprehensive guide about how you can recover from the devastating effects of redundancy to live the life of your dreams. Although this book is predominantly aimed at redundant workers, the content will prove equally useful to job seekers or anyone looking to change careers for whatever reason. It uniquely provides 80 benefits and covers 26 aspects of redundancy. It’s a system because each of its chapters is broken down into ‘5 components of redundancy’. You need to master all components in order to give you the best chance of success at getting back into work. Because this book takes a holistic view of redundancy, it will revolutionise the way you think about redundancy, job-seeking and life in general. One of the key components to master first of all is wellbeing skills, before exploring what options are available to you and learning the practical job skills. Although they are interwoven throughout the book, because what we feel and think about on the inside (our internal environment), reflects on what actions we take to change our external environment. Continue reading “Author Interview – Sandra Bellamy (Part 1)”