Author Interview: Kerry Nietz

Today we welcome Kerry Nietz, author of Freeheads – one of the five speculative fiction novels shortlisted for an Inspy.

12868624Summary from Goodreads

Expect everything to change . . . Having escaped the storms of Betelgeuse and the schemes of Jannah’s inhabitants, Sandfly and HardCandy make their way back to Earth. They have a message to deliver. A society to free. And A A3 is with them. Their mission is simple, and just. What could possibly go wrong? They reach Earth, only to find a different world, an unexpected domain. One they can no longer connect with. They are stranded, hopelessly separated beneath a wasteland of death and a planet of rules. Ultimately, Sandfly is alone, and Earth’s freedom relies on him and his newfound faith. But does his mission even matter anymore? He’s seen as a misfit and a throwback. A symbol for all that’s evil. Will anyone listen to the message he’s come so far to bring? Perhaps he’s the last freehead.

What led you to writing?

I can’t remember a specific time I decided to write, as I’ve been playing with the idea since I started reading. (My mother has scraps of stories I wrote when I was very young.)

The event that focused me on getting a book published, though, happened on an airplane.  I was flying from Detroit to Seattle and happened to sit beside an elderly gentlemen who told me was a writer. “I’m one of the rarest of breeds,” he said, “in that, I’m a published writer.”

I told him that I wanted to write a book “someday.”

“Well start early,” he said. “You might get published before you die.”

Shortly after that I bought a computer and started writing. (I worked for Microsoft at the time, but surprisingly didn’t have a computer at home.)  It took quite a few years before I got a book published, but I’m happy to say I’ve been through the experience multiple times now.  So I guess I exceeded his challenge.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story?

The challenges to writing anything that is labeled “Christian” is that it relegates your book to a niche, meaning there are some people that will never read it because it has that particular label.  They are leery of being preached at, or having their worldview challenged in any way.

Then when you add an additional label of “speculative fiction” it gets even worse.  Let’s face it: speculative fiction and Christianity are two niches that rarely intersect.  What has been fun for me, though, is to challenge people from both niches to step outside of their comfort zone a little.  And I’ve had a fair amount of success with that.  My favorite reviews are those that start: “This is not the sort of book I normally read, but…”

The benefit for me of writing fiction where faith is allowed is it gives me the opportunity to be genuine.  I don’t have to tailor my message because it might offend people.  I’ve been a storyteller most of my life, and a Christian since I was very young.  If I get a cool idea, I write it.  I’ve found that it is near impossible to lock my faith out of anything I do now, so it invariably shows up on the page.

I’ve tried to write a strictly secular book before.  I just can’t do it. I’ve never written a story and then thought “OK, now I have to go back and make it Christian,” though. I just write what comes to me—what seems honest. Hopefully that’s a compelling and insightful story in the end.

Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] fiction literature.

This is going to sound like pandering, but I’m a big fan of all the other Marcher Lord Press authors. Their books really entertain and challenge me. Very creative stuff.

That said, I could mention one book that surprised me. A friend sent me Tosca Lee’s Havah to read and I was reluctant to start it initially. Female author writing a female character—I just didn’t know if it would be agreeable to a male reader or not. (Similar to what some people think when they hear about my books, I’m sure. Can I possibly relate to this?)

I was surprised by the vividness and plausibility of the life of Eve that Tosca describes, though. Havah really paints a picture for how the early life of man might have been. Plus, since it is essentially a series of tragedies (and anyone who has read the Bible knows what those tragedies are) there were times when I didn’t want to pick Havah up again, because I knew the sadness that was coming. I don’t remember too many books having that effect on me: it is so good; I don’t want to read more.

Favorite Book~Favorite Movie~Favorite TV Show

I have lots of favorite books, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say Matheson’s I Am Legend. Right on the heels of that would be Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

I have many favorite movies as well. My top three are probably the original Star Wars, the original Alien and entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. All epic films.

TV watching for us has changed a lot in the last year or so due to Netflix. My wife and I have discovered a lot of fun older shows and worked our way through them. Stargate Universe was a pleasant surprise, as was Eureka and Alphas. Fringe is lots of fun too. Lately we’ve been watching a lot of I Shouldn’t Be Alive! Not only is it gripping reality-based television, it is good research for a novelist trying to figure out what he can put his hero through.

What do you hope readers take away from Freeheads?

Primarily, I hope they find Freeheads a compelling story and a proper ending to the DarkTrench saga.  I mean, if you stuck with me and Sandfly through three books, I hope you feel the journey was worthwhile. The saga is really an essay on the uniqueness of the Gospel, and how the knowledge of it ultimately births freedom.

____________________________________________________________

Kerry Nietz’ career includes a stint at Microsoft as a programmer.  He’s been a published author for over 10 years, receiving quite a few awards and accolades including the 2011 Readers Favorite Gold Medal Award.  Kerry can be found at his website KerryNietz.com