Interview with Kerry Nietz
by Jeff Reynolds
This month I have the honor of interviewing Kerry Nietz, who's published by Marcher Lord Press. I especially thank him for doing a quick interview when I found my planned interview fizzled out last minute.
By the way, last year I interviewed Eric Wilson, author of the Jerusalem's Undead trilogy, which I thought fit with the holiday celebrated the end of the month. Maybe I'm supposed to interview authors of vampire stories this time of year? Actually, I'd rather celebrate Reformation Day on the 31st, so if you know anybody who has a good Martin Luther novel...
Okay, let's get to the interview.
Jeff Reynolds: How did you come to faith and how did you start getting into writing?
Kerry Neitz: I’m one of those fortunate individuals who came to faith in Christ at an early age. My parents were (still are) very dedicated Christians, and while not perfect, were great models for me growing up. Plus the church we attended was like family.
I usually say I was eight when I came to know the Lord, but it might have been even earlier. Best decision I ever made. Doubtless saved me from a lot of poor decisions and heartache. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3:6 “In all your way acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” In the course of my Christian walk I’ve found nothing more accurate than that. God gives straight paths to those who acknowledge Him.
As for the second part of your question, in some respects, I have been writing most of my life. Scraps of things I wrote as a kid still turn up at my parents’ house. I didn’t get serious about it until fourteen years ago, though. My first book (non-fiction) was published in October of 2003, so this month marks a writing anniversary for me. It has been an interesting ten years.
JR: Could you tell us about your latest book and how did you get the idea for that book?
KN: Love to!
The story’s genesis goes back a couple years. Amish novels were all the rage, and my publisher, Jeff Gerke, sent out a mock cover to the Marcher Lord Press authors. An obvious spoof. It featured a bonneted female vampire with some Amish paraphernalia behind her. Also behind her was a large window with a view of an orange planet. Enough to make it clear that the setting was in space. The novel’s title was Vein Pursuit and it was part of the Amish Vampires in Space series. Jeff said it was the ultimate speculative novel! A genre crossover that was sure to be a hit. It was a joke he shared at writing conferences he attended, as well.
A year or so passed, and at one point I told him that someone should write that Amish Vampire in Space book. I didn’t think it was me, because I tend toward hard science fiction, and the title screams: Camp! Plus, I had a trilogy of my own to finish. (The DarkTrench trilogy, which started with A Star Curiously Singing.)
Then last year I got this idea about how it all might work, and not be campy. A theme emerged along with a couple key characters, so I started writing. Before I knew it, I was 30,000 words in. I emailed Jeff to tell him what I was doing. When he stopped laughing, he encouraged me to continue. I finished last June and sent it to him. He liked what he read, so here we are.
JR: Was this book as fun to write as it sounds? What was the greatest challenge you faced writing it?
KN: It was great fun to write. It felt like a speculative novelist’s playground to me. Plus the characters really drove the plot. They just started showing up on the page and took over. The book is my longest, but I felt it could’ve been much longer if I hadn’t reined them all in a little.
The biggest challenges were a) creating authentic Amish characters, and b) contriving plausible science fiction vampires. I had some help with the first one, in the form of a friend who’s an Amish romance writer.
With the second, I was pretty much on my own....but not really. God is always gracious to me when I’m doing research. Providing just the right science or intriguing idea when I need it. It is a difficult process to describe, but it has happened with all my sci-fi books. It is typically like “Well, Lord, I’ve written myself into a corner here...whoa, oh wait, this will work. Thanks!”
JR: You mentioned your name's in half a dozen other books. Could you tell us about them? And is one of them "But Who Would Be Dumb Enough To Even Try It?" (Former ACFW Indiana Chapter member and Hoosier Ink contributor Morgan L. Busse also worked on that project.)
KN: Sure! I’m fond of all my “children.” I have a sci-fi trilogy that speculates a world under sharia (Islamic) law. The main character is this technological slave named Sandfly. He has an implant in his head to connect him to the future version of the internet, while also keeping him on the straight and narrow via little shocks called “stops.”
The trilogy starts with A Star Curiously Singing. The third book in the series, Freeheads, won the Epic award this year, and was just named a medalist in the Readers Favorite award competition. What is neat there is that in both cases the book was entered in the mainstream science fiction (not Christian-specific) category, even though it is clearly a Christian book.
This February my standalone sci-fi novel Mask was published. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest in the not-too-distant future where everything is decided by a vote. The main character, Radial, is a collector. If you get voted out of the city, he’s the one to come get you. It was just named a finalist for the 2014 Epic award.
I also rereleased my memoire FoxTales this summer. New cover, new revisions, and the addition of some fun souvenirs from my files (maps, funny memos, and whatnot). I’m happy with how it turned out.
That brings us to the two collaborative projects I’ve been a part of. One of those is a short story anthology, Ether Ore, which showcases many of the Marcher Lord authors. (Though unfortunately not Morgan...she wasn’t one of us yet!) I think my story, "Graxin," is tons of fun, but all the stories are great.
Finally, there’s the collaborative fantasy story that many of the Marcher Lord authors helped craft: But Who Would Be Dumb Enough To Even Try It? Each week, for fourteen weeks, a different author would pick up the reins of the story—often from the perspective of a different character—and run with it. It was terrific fun and really seat-of-your-pants writing. There was very little overall planning, so you were at the mercy of whatever the last author left you the week before. Challenging, fun, and a bit chaotic. Despite that (or maybe because of it) I think story turned out quite well.
That’s one advantage of being part of the Marcher Lord fold. Literary experimentation is encouraged.
JR: Probably, for anybody coming up with a new novel is having a tough act to follow. For a novelty story that stretches a genre, I'd guess the challenge is greater. What's next on the agenda? Or are you planning a historical romance next?
KN: LOL. No, no historical romance planned as of yet. You know, I’m at one of those places where I’m open to wherever God wants to take me, writing-wise. There are several things I could do—step back into any of the worlds of my other books, but right now I’m really busy with promotion of what I’ve written already. That takes more time than you might think.
After that...we’ll see.
JR: Thank you for your time. Is there a web-page people can keep in touch with you at?
KN: Absolutely. My website is www.nietz.com. I’m also regularly on my Facebook author page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kerry-Nietz/195064863396
Thanks for inviting me!