Interview with author Kerry Nietz

Kerry Nietz‘s A Star Curiously Singing is on the INSPYs shortlist for Speculative Fiction.

A summary of A Star Curiously Singing (from GoodReads):

If he fixes the robot, will he break his world?

In a future ruled by sharia law machines are managed by debuggers, who in turn are owned by masters. Sandfly is a level-12 debugger. He is sent into Earth orbit to repair a robot — a robot that went on an experimental flight into deep space…. And tore itself apart.

As Sandfly digs into the mystery aboard the space station, he discovers what the bot heard around that distant star. He discovers that the bot heard … singing. As Sandfly pieces together the clues, the masters spread the trap before his feet. Everyone is racing to the same conclusion, but only one side welcomes what the singing represents.

INSPYs: Why do you write speculative fiction?

Kerry Nietz: To be honest, I just write whatever story comes to me, regardless of what genre it might be. Typically, the genre ends up being speculative, but that isn’t a conscious decision on my part. I get a story idea and a few images from the place or situation and just go from there.

There is almost always a technological angle to my stories, though. That’s probably because I have a background in science and technology. My major in college was computer science, and I spent well over a decade in that field.

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

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

Then when — as is the case with my books — 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. It is near impossible to lock God out of anything I do now, so His thoughts invariably show up on the page. I’ve tried to write a strictly secular book before. I just can’t do it.

I’ve never thought of it as specifically incorporating my faith, though. I’ve never written a story and then thought “OK, now I have to go back and make it Christian.” I just write what comes to me — what seems honest. Hopefully that’s a compelling and insightful story in the end.

INSPYs: 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.

Current “must watch” TV shows are Smallville and Clone Wars, though I was a regular watcher of both Lost and the Sci-fi channel’s Battlestar Galactica when those were on, as well.

INSPYs: How do you feel about blogging? Do you have a blog?

Kerry Nietz: Frankly, I’m in awe of people who blog. I have a website and other places (e.g. Facebook) where I try to stay available and connected, but to write something on a weekly — or even daily — basis that is truly unique, insightful, and coherent? I don’t know if I could do it. At least, not and write good fiction as well.

Writing is an extremely draining activity for me. It is like I have this limited amount of creativity to use for the day, and when it is done, it is done. My head is numb. I have friends who blog that are amazing at it, though. Incredibly profound on a routine basis. Like I said, I’m in awe.

INSPYs: Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] faith-driven lit.

It is difficult for me to pick just one. Though I’ve always enjoyed reading, since earning the
title “author” I’ve done a lot more reading of books that are specifically faith-driven. I’ve been impressed and moved by much of what I’ve read. For instance, I think Eric Wilson’s books are terrific, and I love all the Marcher Lord Press titles.

I could mention one book that surprised me, though. 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.

Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits — first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates’s minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He has one previously published book, a memoir entitled FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software.