For a couple of hours Saturday, cousins and now published authors Kanye Conway and Ryon Conway were thanking family, friends, mentors and others in the community in a special way.
The rising high school seniors — Kanye lives in Maury County and attends Spring Hill High and Ryon lives in the Brentwood/Nashville area and goes to Hume Fogg High — were holding a book signing at the Natchez Street Community Center in Franklin for their recently published The Nightman. It’s a graphic novel of sorts and is the first in a trilogy of similar books the cousins have planned.
But at Saturday’s book signing, unlike those they’ve held in the past few weeks in Columbia and Spring Hill, Kanye and Ryon weren’t selling copies of their book but rather giving away signed editions to those who attended the event. They were paying it forward, in a sense.
“This helps us spread a little happiness and curiosity of what we’re bringing in the world,” Kanye said. “It doesn’t matter what race you are or where you are in life, just come and have fun and enjoy what’s good.”
The impetus of The Nightman can be traced to when Kanye and Ryon were around 8 years old. They would see each other when both visited their grandparents’ home in Franklin, and those in-person engagements would help them learn to cope more with outside influences they would have at school or elsewhere.
“It would help us to think and to be more open,” Kanye said. “We learned to be a little more comfortable around other people.”
The young boys would also spend time drawing and writing at their grandparents’ kitchen table, and it was these very creations that would form the basis for The Nightman and the upcoming two other books in the series. By the time Kanye and Ryon were around 15, and with some prompting from Kanye’s mother and Ryon’s aunt, Kaliente Conway, the idea for a book was born.
“It came from the many ideas we’ve had over the years,” Kanye said. "I asked Ryon about it, and he’s like, why not? That was two years ago, in 2020 at the start of pandemic.
“We decided to make a story out of the characters we had created, and make the book more relatable to the audience it’s meant for, teens and young adults.”
Though The Nightman is a work of science fiction and has some dark and suspenseful moments, it’s ultimately an uplifting read and, according to its creators, contains some life lessons.
“For a lot of people who are going through trauma and maybe think they don’t matter, this story will let them know it’s OK to overcome these things and make them better," Kanye said.
Added Ryon: “It’s about finding light inside of you and finding something good about yourself.”
The next book in the series is titled Mammon and will be released this fall. The third book in the trilogy is expected to be released sometime next year.