How long have you been writing?
Actually, I started writing all the way back in elementary school! My class was given weekly creative writing assignments. You know–write a two or three page story about something you like, draw your own cover, stuff like that. So I started doing one of these assignments, with no enormous intentions in mind… and then, out of nowhere, I suddenly ended up with a fifty-something page story.
From that point on, I knew that writing was always going to be the focus of my life.
What was the first thing you had published?
Oh, wow. That takes me back! The first thing I had published was a short horror story named “Final Irony,” which appeared on a now-defunct ezine called Gravediggings. I believe I was only 18 years old at the time—and still in high school—so having my first acceptance was thrilling.
The first print publication I had was either “The Skunk Ape,” a horror story which was featured in the first issue of Dark Moon Digest, or “Echoes of Leaving,” which appeared in the coffee-themed anthology The Coffee Shop Chronicles. Both of these publications came out at pretty much the exact same time, back in late 2010.
Your debut novel, The Cage Legacy, was released by Post Mortem Press in late 2012. It has received some great reviews. Can you tell us a little about it?
At its core, The Cage Legacy is a story about a father and son. It’s a story about a kid named Ethan Cage, a kid who has the best dad in the world… until one night, his world is ripped apart by the revelation that his loving patriarch is actually a psychotic serial killer.
Now, years later, Ethan is a teenager. He’s moved away from his hometown, he’s in high school, and he’s in the midst of his first real relationship. But lurking beneath Ethan’s guarded surface, there’s this constant underlying fear about his identity. Who is he? What is he? And most importantly, does the son of a serial killer really have any hope at ever having an everyday life—or is he destined to become his father’s son?
I’ve heard authors who write in both mature and young-adult genres say that they enjoy writing YA because the readers in that age group are more responsive and enthusiastic. Have you found this to be true?
Hmm, I think that readers from different age groups show their enthusiasm in different ways. I definitely know that The Cage Legacy strikes a chord with YA readers due to its vehement, no-holds-barred take on young adult issues, but I’ve received similarly enthusiastic responses from many older readers as well.
Will you write another YA book?
Possibly! Or, well, I’m certainly not opposed to the idea. The YA genre is ripe with dramatic tension and compelling scenarios, because adolescence is one of the most stressful, scary, confusing times that a person goes through. So if a new YA story comes to me one of these days, I’ll definitely write it.
If you could invite any five authors from any time period to dinner, who would they be?
I suppose that one wants to get an interesting mix of personalities together, right? So I’ll go ahead and invite Edgar Allen Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Mary Shelley and Alan Moore. The debates would be interesting, I’ll say that much…
What is your favorite genre?
I have a preference for works that blur the lines of genre. A little horror, a little fantasy, some “literary” elements, all mixed together into a unique broth… you know, those odd, eccentric little stories that can’t quite fit into any particular box.
If I have to pick a genre, though, I’ll pick horror. Mainly because horror is such a versatile label, one that can mean so many different things to so many different people. Yes, House of Leaves is horror, The Hellbound Heart is obviously horror… but to me, Notes from the Underground is also horror, although most wouldn’t think of it that way.
You’ve had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies over the years, and I’m wondering: If you had to pick a favorite story, which one would it be and why?
Heh, you’re making me choose between children!
Okay, let’s see. There are a number of short stories that I haven’t had published yet. But out of my published short stories, my favorite is probably “Square-Shaped Mind,” which appeared in Cover of Darkness: 2012 Special Winter Edition. It’s a dark, dark psychological tale about a man who undergoes an experimental sleep study for one hundred-thousand bucks, only to find out that the test isn’t quite what he signed up for.
The runner-up would be “Dirt Under the Grass,” which was in the first issue of Writes For All. It’s a simple story, an emotional study of a communication breakdown between two people in a relationship. It’s about what happens when two people see the world in different colors, so to speak. I poured a lot of my heart into that one, so it’s always stuck with me.
Do events from your past play a role in your fiction?
Oh, absolutely. Real life tragedies, heartaches and joyous events serve as fuel and motivation for my writing. Though I don’t usually write directly about things that actually happened to me, I do aim to capture the feelings of those events, and transfer that undercurrent to whichever fictional story that event inspired.
Do you try to put messages and morals into your fiction, or do you write simply to entertain the reader?
When one of my stories starts to come together, it often starts with the development of a main character, followed by a dramatic situation for that character to go through. Once that situation grabs me by the throat, I write it out—and then, I start asking questions. Why? Who? Where? What is happening, and why do I care? If the story survives this horrifically brutal interrogation, I then ask the most important question of all:
What does it all MEAN?
While I do want my stories to be entertaining, it’s extremely important to me that my work, as an expression of my deepest self, is true to my intrinsic values. Fiction is one of the most powerful ways to get a message out there, so yes, my moral values are always tightly sewn into the story’s fabric. I always write with a purpose in mind.
What are you working on at the moment?
Well, I currently have three novels in different states of development. All three are certainly “genre” works, though I’d be hard-pressed to say what genre, exactly! Like I said earlier, a little bit of everything. When there’s more news on that front, I’ll definitely be sure to post about it.
Where can we find you on the web?
My official website has the endlessly complicated, confusing, convoluted address of www.nicholasconley.com. Difficult, I know. You can also read my blog, which I update regularly.