I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing two projects by Nicholas Conley, so I jumped at the chance to pick his brain about his latest novel. Intraterrestrial was a wild ride, and you can find my review of it here.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.
After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.
Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.
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The premise of this book revolves around traumatic brain injury (TBI). Can you tell us about your interest in this topic?
So as with my previous novel, Pale Highway, the inspiration for this book came from my years of working in the long-term care unit of a nursing and rehabilitation home, where I cared for people with many health conditions. When I started writing Intraterrestrial, probably my biggest goal was to always make sure that the main character — Adam — is in the driver’s seat from start to finish: he’s always the central protagonist, never just a supporting character in his own story. It was extremely important, I think, to show that Adam’s TBI doesn’t make him into a plot device. Both before and after the accident, he’s a real person, with the same sorts of hopes, dreams, fears, thoughts, and feelings of anyone else.
I also wanted to explore the painful family dynamics that are caused by accidents like this one, which I saw all too often when I was working in that field. When a kid gets thrust into the medical system, their parents have to be intimately involved in every step of the process, and those parents have an insane amount of pressure (and expectations) placed on their every decision. There are no easy answers, I think, so I felt like it was important to look deeply into the pained humanity behind every person in this narrative — Adam, his parents, the medical professionals — to see each person honestly, openly, as human beings instead of caricatures. Continue reading