Words With Nicholas Conley, Author of "The Cage Legacy"

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a writer who has been writing since I could hold a pencil, although I now vastly prefer a keyboard. My identity as a storyteller forms the core of everything I do, and everything I am. Because I’m a storyteller, I love traveling to new places, learning new things and meeting new people. There are always new insights to be gained from the world, and I greet every idea with an open mind.

My first novel, The Cage Legacy, was published back in 2012. My second novel, which is science fiction, will be released this year.

Tell us about your books

Well, I have a new book coming out this year from Red Adept Publishing. As followers of my blog will tell you, I’ve been dropping hints about it for a long time now! At the moment, what I will say—without spoiling too much—is that the book deals heavily with issues of cognition and perception. Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, is at the heart of the story in a big way.

My first novel, The Cage Legacy, is a psychological thriller about a young boy named Ethan Cage, who shares a close bond with his father, until he discovers that this same adored parent moonlights as a brutal, sadistic serial killer. Years later, Ethan is now a tortured teenager, and he now has to deal with the repercussions of his father’s actions—and the looming question of what he will become.

Do you think fantasy still has lessons to teach us about who we are and the human condition?

Absolutely. Though I do love literary novels, I’ve always felt most at home in genre fiction: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, slipstream, and so on. Though genre fiction is sometimes casually dismissed as escapism, I truly believe that good genre fiction uses cloaks, mirrors and larger than life figures in order to force us to look deeper at issues in the real world, in ourselves, and in others.

Through its use of symbols and allegories, genre fiction gives the reader a lens that allows them to process important ideas on a more subconscious level. Sure, the dragons and aliens are thrilling…but it’s what those dragons/aliens say about us that’s really fascinating, at least to me.

Tell us your views on authors using violence and/or sex in their writing?

It completely depends on the book. Violence and sexuality are important weapons in a storyteller’s arsenal, if used correctly, but it’s extremely important not to inundate the reader to the point where he/she becomes desensitized—unless, of course, desensitization is the point. So, it varies.

See, that’s the key to it: there needs to be a point, whatever that point might be.

I’ll openly admit that I’ve written some intensely violent scenes in my work, but these sequences always serve a deeper narrative purpose. I do strongly believe that violence shouldn’t be glorified; if one is going to show evil, then make it evil. Violence, when used effectively, accomplishes that goal. The reason that the color red has such an impact on us is because blood is red, and blood is life. If a writer is going to spill blood, it should mean something. It should hurt.

Do you use ‘anti-heroes’ in your books?

One could say that, I suppose. Not necessarily in the most common way that the term anti-hero is used, but I could see it.

I’ll say it like this: my protagonists tend to be idealists, at their core. But at the same time, these same characters also tend to be tortured souls, pinned to a wall by poisoned arrows and suspended over the edge of a volcanic chasm. Most of my characters are inherently good people who are struggling to find their way through their own sharp, painful lives—and as a result, they don’t always make the right decisions. It’s not easy to be good, and it’s even harder to be an idealist; that’s the struggle that many of my characters have to go through.

If there’s one theme that repeatedly surfaces in my work, it’s the concept of a light in the darkness. The notion that hope exists somewhere in the shadows, just out of reach, but potentially accessible if one keeps looking for it.

How much research do you do for your books? What sources do you prefer?

I research exhaustively. Long, long nights, filled with lots of coffee. The first notions of a potential book occur to me quite some time before it’s ready to be written, so by the time I do start writing I’ll usually have researched the subject matter for years beforehand. I’ll take out books from the library, make phone calls, ask questions to people in the field, read magazine articles…anything that gets me the information I need.

My upcoming second novel is probably the most heavily-researched novel I’ve ever written. In addition to drawing upon my years of healthcare experience, I poured through an absolutely gargantuan pile of reading material.

What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?

I’m currently a third of the way into Darin Bradley’s Chimpanzee, a dystopian science fiction novel. It’s an absorbing read, and remarkably clever.

Can you remember the first fantasy book you ever read?

Okay, it’s hard to say, but I’d bet that it was The Phantom Tollbooth. After that, it was probably either The Sword in the Stone or The Magician’s Nephew.

Thanks for stopping by Nicholas!

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