Posted by: Rebecca.
Today’s Fantasy Friday post is a Q & A with author Kerry Nietz. I had the privilege to meet Kerry at the 2014 Realm Makers writer’s conference, where his book Amish Vampires in Space was nominated for the Clive Staples award, and the cover took second place in the Parable Award.
“Amish vampires in space?” Yes…and it’s a terrific read! I’ve also heard great things about Kerry’s Dark Trench trilogy. (I’m looking forward to reading them as well.)
At the conference, I was able to sit down with Kerry to have him sign my book, and as our conversation unfolded, I found an experienced author who was genuine and kind. It was also great to meet an author in our genre, speculative fiction, who had a bit of experience or exposure to screenplay writing.
He is a refugee of the software industry, a husband and father of three, and an author we can all learn a great deal from.
Thank you, Kerry, for taking the time to share your experience as an author and have a bit of fun with us today!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been attempting to write my whole life. My mom still brings me scraps of things I wrote as a kid, little story ideas that didn’t go anywhere. Even in junior high and high school, the few times that a teacher would assign us to write something creative (which I think teachers should do more often) I would usually get compliments.
I didn’t get serious about writing until much later, though. The extenuating circumstance came when I happened to sit beside an older gentlemen on a plane who was a published writer. When I mentioned I always wanted to write, he said “Well start early, you might get published before you die.”
Shortly thereafter I bought a computer and started to write. My first book, a memoir of sorts, was published in 2003. (FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software is the title.)
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Good question. I probably should have an ambition or two, huh? I think I have the same ambitions now that every published writer has: Keep writing good stories, and increase your influence.
I was tempted to say “sell more books!” for the second ambition, but an author only has so much control over that. Getting folks to pay good money for your work is tough, and it probably should be!
But influence? Anyone can become more influential. By helping others, teaching, critiquing, writing reviews—even participating in meaningful and respectful dialog on social media—you increase your influence. And that’s a good thing. I think it’s a goal every Christian should have, actually.
What have you written? (Include books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.) Which is your favorite?
The book everyone is talking about now is Amish Vampires in Space, but I had four novels prior to that, along with the non-fictional FoxTales. Three of the novels form a trilogy that begins with A Star Curiously Singing. Then I have a shorter novel called Mask. I also have a short story in the Ether Ore collection, and was part of a collaborative fantasy story called But Who Would Be Dumb Enough to Even Try It?
They are all favorites for different reasons, but if I had to choose just one, I would say A Star Curiously Singing. It was the novel that finally broke the dam for me. It came right when I thought perhaps being a novelist wasn’t going to happen.
What do you think makes a good story?
It has to be about something. It has to have some overarching theme that ties it all together. It doesn’t have to be blatant, or even that profound, but the story has to have meaning.
The best stories also have resonance. They have that one scene or that special character that will stick with the reader long after he or she has closed the book. Resonance is a plus, but theme is a must.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a pantser. There are some downsides to that, obviously, because you have no idea what all is going to happen, and there is a danger that your plot will wander. Plus it is nearly impossible to estimate because you have no idea how long it will take you to get…wherever you’re going.
Writing is a faith walk for me, though. I like not knowing where it is going. It is a lot like life. You just keep prayerfully plodding along, trusting that you’ll arrive at the destination eventually.
It also is an opportunity for me to see God’s provision in my life. I’ve had so many neat surprises along the way—facts or details I needed, precisely when I needed them. There was even one instance where I didn’t know who my villain was until my hero walked into the room to meet him. It was a little worrisome…but also amazing.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Eight to ten months. I feel like I’m on the slow end of the writing pace spectrum, but I can only write so much in a day. It usually doesn’t come down to how much time I have available, it is how much brain I have available. I can only do so much heavy thinking and I’m done for the day. The shop is closed.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Video games. I often break up my writing time with video games. I think it goes back to when I was in college for computer science.
In those long ago days, you would craft your program on a PC and submit it to a larger mainframe computer. The turnaround time between when you submitted and when you got your printed result (I know…on paper!) was at best 15 minutes, though sometimes it was much longer. There was an arcade in the same building as the mainframe, and that’s where I would go while I waited. So today I have this inherent need to break up heavy concentration sessions with video games.
Downside? I have to hide my writing sessions from my kids so they don’t think I play games all day. 🙂
What genre do you consider your book(s)?
Oh, they’re all science fiction. Even the Amish vampire novel that the Twitterverse seems to keep wanting to characterize as an “Oh my goodness can you believe such a thing exists!” romance.
Sorry to disappoint. Not a romance.
What video game are you playing during your breaks from writing? Do you have a favorite?
I’m glad to see I’m not the only writer that thinks about video games! Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Plants vs Zombies, Garden Warfare. (The costume I wore at Realm Makers was the conehead zombie from the original Plants vs Zombies game.) It is really hard to get overly competitive when you just got sacked by a smiling sunflower.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I used to read them religiously, but over the last year or so I’ve tried to heed the advice of friends like Jeff Gerke and Randy Ingermanson, and avoid them. Both the good and the bad.
Occasionally you’ll find a valid criticism that could help your craft, but mostly reviews are no more than a ride on an emotional roller coaster. I’ve found it takes ten positives to overcome a single negative. Seriously, you can have two dozen great reviews, but the way human nature is, the way our brains work, the moment that bad review comes along we’re like: “Oh no, someone finally found out how wretched I am. My career is ruined!”
Who needs that?
Remember that reviews are for other readers, not for the writers. And it is impossible to predict the state of the reader both when they read your book, and when they wrote the review. Did they just read a similar book? Are they having a bad hair day? Are they in a particularly stressful time of their life and so can’t concentrate on what they’re reading? Are they a wannabe writer who thinks they can do better? (Which happens more often than you might think.) So many factors are beyond your control. So why subject yourself to that?
Plus, it really boils down to seeking the approval of man, and the Bible has lots to say about that subject. Galations 1:10 is a good place to start.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I wrote Amish Vampires in Space. Apparently not.
Which writers’ conferences do you plan to attend this year?
I just attended the Realm Makers conference, which was great fun. I’m also considering attending the ACFW conference in September. Time will tell.
Will you continue to publish on your imprint Freeheads? Would you ever consider publishing other authors? (Cool logo, by the way!)
Anything is possible. Freeheads was born out of necessity, as the change of ownership at Marcher Lord Press / Enclave happened rather abruptly, and sales of AViS were strong enough that it made sense to keep it in print. (In case you wondered, “Freeheads” is a term from my DarkTrench trilogy.)
That said, if the Lord clears the way for me to publish other authors without it being an excessive burden for me and my family, I’d love to do that. What a great way to increase influence!
How are you publishing your next book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional, self-published)
Not sure. I’ll make a decision after I get it written!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You know, my first response to this was “Chill out, dude! It will be okay!” But after thinking about it a moment, I realized my younger self could just as easily give that same advice to the older me today. There were many portions of my younger life where I was eternally optimistic, with little reason to be other than knowing God had a plan.
There are worries for every age, I guess. Back then it was “Will I have a career?” and “Will I have a girlfriend?” and now it is “How do I pay for the kids’ schooling?” and “Why does that hurt now?”
The theme, ha-ha, the truth remains the same, though. God still has a plan. So, chill out, dude. It will be okay.
If you were to create a slogan for your life or writing career, what would it be?
Hang in there, because you never know what will happen next.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The only key I’ve found so far is perseverance, and that applies to all aspects of a writer’s life. You need to persevere in writing the book. You need to make the time each day (or at least, every weekday) to sit down and write the thing. Set a daily goal for yourself each day and reach it. Push through the difficult areas. Take advantage of those times it is smooth going—write more! But get to the end. Then persevere through the editing phase, even if it means you need outside help.
When the thing is solid, you need to endure through finding a publisher. Submit, attend conferences, and meet other writers. Learn more, write more, and research more. Network, make connections, build friendships—and don’t be afraid of rejection! Persist. Be determined. Hold on.
Marketing the book takes special perseverance too. Try different things. Try lots of things. Watch what works for others, and do likewise. Continue to learn. Continue to be flexible. Know your market. Hang in there. If a handful of people like your story, if someone is willing to put their own money and time behind it, then there’s a fair chance that hundreds or thousands (or even millions) of others will enjoy it to. Find them. One at a time, if you have to.
I’m speaking from experience here. It took four years from the time I decided to be a writer, until the time I finally held a book with my name on the cover. After that, it took another six years to get my first novel in print. My fifth novel released last October.
Persevere. I mean it.
Persevere, we shall. And on that note, while waiting for his next book, it’s time for the authors of Light’s Scribe to get busy writing!
Connect with Kerry:
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. Amish Vampires in Space is his fifth novel.
Do you have any comments or questions for Mr. Nietz? Post them below.
About the author:
Rebecca Bergren is a writer with the ability to redefine clichés and travel through time with the mysterious, quirky cast of her novels. Life’s lessons have also inspired her to weave a message of hope and God’s restoration power into her heartwarming screenplays and humorous short pieces.
Rebecca is a member of ACFW, MyBookTherapy, Write Now Writers’ Group, and Writing Craft Girls critique circle. She lives in Minnesota with one fabulous man, three spunky kids, and a marshmallow-eating Labrador.