Nicholas Conley was born in Los Angeles, the first son of a Boston satellite engineer and a New York poet with Jewish roots. The family moved many times throughout his childhood, but his formative years were spent in the desert oasis of Sedona, Arizona, hiking the red rocks and watching the sunsets. As a boy, Nicholas was quiet, introverted, and analytical. From the beginning, he threw his imagination into storytelling, spending countless hours of his elementary school days crafting meticulous sci-fi storylines involving superheroes, dinosaurs, aliens, time travel, and cosmic monsters.
Nicholas caught the writing bug early on, when his attempt at writing a simple three page story for a school assignment somehow transformed into a fifty page fantasy epic about travelers in an alternate reality. Though only six years old at the time, Nicholas knew, from that day on, that he had to be a writer.
As a teenager, Nicholas came out of his shell, nourished by a hunger for knowledge and a curiosity about the many people, cultures, and locations in the world. He adopted a few strange lifelong habits: wearing Hawaiian shirts, watching B-movies, obsessing over coffee, and writing every day. However, at the age of 17, tragedy struck: his father, who had been living in Hermosa Beach at the time, died unexpectedly. Forever changed, and stirring with emotion, he threw himself into his first novel, a young adult horror book titled The Cage Legacy, which was finally published when he was 23 years old. Meanwhile, Nicholas focused on sending out numerous short stories, seeing his first publications before he was 18 years old.
Upon graduating high school in North Carolina, Nicholas was amped and ready to begin traveling the world. He loaded up his car, hit the gas, and took off across the country, zigzagging from state to state, exploring new places, finding new stories, and seeking new people. Since then, his constant travel urges have driven him to such varied locations as Morocco, Jamaica, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Spain, and Iceland.
While in his early 20s, Nicholas was still struggling to get his writing career off the ground, and wanted a more rewarding day job that would allow him to somehow give back to the world. After training with the American Red Cross, he began working as a Licensed Nursing Aide in a skilled nursing home, helping patients with Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injuries, Huntington’s, terminal cancers, MS, quadriplegia, and more. Though Nicholas immediately connected with the patients, he was totally overwhelmed by the strange, bureaucratic healthcare system itself—a system where a few caregivers struggled to care for an overwhelming number of patients. Recognizing his inability to change the system, but wanting to be there for the people themselves, Nicholas decided to focus on “what he could do, not what he couldn’t,” and formed close friendships with the patients he cared for. (He describes this in more detail in his piece for Vox.)
Soon, Nicholas became bothered by the misrepresentation of Alzheimer’s disease in popular culture, and was driven to use his real experiences as the backbone for a fictional story. This resulted in the creation of his breakout novel, Pale Highway, which was released by Red Adept Publishing in 2015. Pale Highway tells the story of a genius Nobel Prize winner living with Alzheimer’s disease. The book, which combines surrealistic fantasies, strange humor, and the grim, depersonalized reality of life in a nursing home, earned rave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, going on to win the 2015 Preditors & Editors Award for “Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel.”
Pale Highway lit the match that finally ignited Nicholas’ writing career. Driven to speak out about Alzheimer’s, his experiences as a caregiver, and the problems of the nursing home system itself, Nicholas wrote editorials for Vox, the Huffington Post, and Alzheimers.net. He spoke about his experience for the “True Tales” radio broadcast on WSCA 106.1 FM, and the station then approach him to write the script for an Alzheimer’s-themed radio play, Something in the Nothing, which aired live on August 23rd of 2016.
However, there was something else Nicholas discovered during his time in the nursing home: a coworker named Veronica. Nicholas was immediately drawn to her passionate ideas, her boundless energy, and her devotion to women’s health. In 2016, the two married, and they live together on the New Hampshire seacoast (when they’re not jetting off to distant locations).
Though Nicholas has become a full-time writer—the realization of his childhood dream—his healthcare experiences continue to inform his work. His current novel, Intrateterrestrial, is a surreal fusion of science fiction, otherworldly aliens, and the painful medical realities of a traumatic brain injury. Intraterrestrial will be released in January, 2018.