Thursday, November 26, 2015

Author Interview - Nicholas Conley, Author of Pale Highway

Author Bio 

Originally from California, Nicholas Conley has currently made his home in the colder temperatures of New Hampshire. He considers himself to be a uniquely alien creature with mysterious literary ambitions, a passion for fiction, and a whole slew of terrific stories he’d like to share with others.

When not busy writing, Nicholas is an obsessive reader, a truth seeker, a sarcastic idealist, a traveler, and — like many writers — a coffee addict.

Social Media Links

About the Book 

Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus.  Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?

Interview with Nicholas Conley

1. How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
Pale Highway was directly inspired by my years of working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home setting. These experiences, and the people with Alzheimer’s who became my friends, changed my life, and transformed everything about how I view the world. It’s so easy to get swept up in the daily stresses of life, but watching the bravery of people going day-to-day while handling an incurable disease that takes away fundamental pieces of their brain, memories that made them who they are… it compelled me to speak out on this issue, to create a narrative framed around a protagonist with Alzheimer’s.

2. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I never write with a genre in mind. Once I start working on a story, it decides for itself what type of story it’s going to be, and this results in much of my work occupying a very fluid place somewhere between science fiction, literary fiction, fantasy and sometimes horror.  As I wrote about on ‘SFF World,’ I’m not a fan of genre snobbery. Great fiction is great fiction, no matter what genre it belongs to. The closest that Pale Highway can come to a genre classification is science fiction, which just seemed like a natural direction to take based on the former profession of the main character.    

3. What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
That’s usually exactly when it strikes, I’ve noticed.  Throughout the years I’ve tried out a number of different systems to seize that lightning bolt, ranging from writing endless notes on the back of my hand in permanent marker, to sending myself text messages with a flip phone.  Currently, I’m keeping a number of old receipts in my back pocket that I pull out and write on whenever an idea strikes me.

4. Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, overrated, or don’t matter at all?
I love reviews, both the concept of them, and the reality. There’s nothing more representative of the positive sides of our culture—and the massive electronic expansion of our current era—than the fact that we’re able to take a piece of media, indulge in it, and then speak our opinions in a public forum.  I love writing reviews, and I love reading them.   

5. What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
It’s hard to explain, but that moment when a book finally enters the world is much like a child moving out of the house.  You’ve created this thing, helped to shape it for so long, and now it’s out there for others to do with as they may. This stage is also the most exciting part of the process. Though of course, fear and excitement do tend to walk hand in hand.  

6. What makes a good story, why?
Great characters, and a purpose.  Good stories always have a deeper reason for existing, whether conscious or unconscious, that connects to others and says something meaningful about the world.  I wrote more fully about this subject in my blog, in a piece titled “The Writer’s Role in Society.”

7. Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
All of the above!

8.  What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Alzheimer’s is something that doesn’t get nearly enough attention, considering how heavily it impacts so many people in the world. While Pale Highway has a lot of themes running through it, at its core it’s a novel about Alzheimer’s, and what it means to have Alzheimer’s in today’s society.  
Also, Pale Highwayis rather unique in that it doesn’t easily fit into a genre. Though it’s a science fiction novel, it easily crosses the imaginary boundaries that exist between speculative and literary fiction.

9. What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
There’s a scene toward the end that was the first one that ever came to me, back when I first dreamed up the idea for this book. I really can’t talk about it in detail, as it would spoil several enormous plot details, but this one scene always gets my heart thumping every time I reread it. After most readers finish the book, I think they’ll know which scene I’m talking about.    

10. Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Almost every character that an author writes inherits something from the writer, and I’m no exception.  I’m not like Gabriel in a lot of ways, but his introversion—and his intense drive toward a singular goal that he’s passionate about—are qualities that I definitely relate to.  

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