Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Author Interview with Kerry Nietz

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 is the author of several award-winning novels, including A Star Curiously Singing, Freeheads, and Amish Vampires in Space.

Mr. Nietz has recently released a new book, Frayed, which is the first book in The DarkTrench Shadow series. Be sure to check it out!

You've been both independently and traditionally published. What do you like about each approach? What makes each difficult?

There are two benefits of traditional publishing: The publisher pays for the production of the book, and helps with marketing it. He/she may also pay the writer something up front, an advance, but those are becoming scarcer and scarcer today.

For that expense, the publisher has the rights to the book for a period of time (years) and makes a portion of the profit. (At least half, but often more.) They have control over every aspect of the book. Everything from vetoing rights of the book’s content, to picking the cover and title. They also set the schedule—which means the writer has to live by it.

As an independent you get control over everything. Cover art, who to hire as an editor, schedule...everything. Sometimes that can be overwhelming. Plus, the cost is all yours to bear. Parts of the process can get pricy, though much of that cost has gone down over the last ten years. (You could easily publish an eBook for a few hundred dollars, depending on how much of the process you’re willing to do on your own. Unless you’re a stellar artist, don’t do the cover on your own.)

I’ve been fully independent for a few months now, but I’ve independently published books for years. For me, it is hard to imagine going the traditional route again. It would have to be a really good deal. Yes, it can be painful to pay for everything, and make all the decisions. But one of the reasons to have a traditional publisher—help in marketing, has become less and less a benefit. Unless you’re a big name author you can’t expect a publisher to spend much time trying to sell your book. He/she is more concerned about marketing those books that are an easy sell. Those by big name authors. And just as the cost of producing books has come down, marketing on your own is easier too.

Unless your name is Stephen King, there are few reasons to go the traditional route today. And even he publishes independently now too.

How would you say that your career in the software industry has shaped your writing? What other parts of "everyday life" shape your ideas?

My software background influenced the DarkTrench books quite a bit, because the heroes are primarily programmers. Yes, they are called “debuggers” and fix robots in a world 500 years in the future, but they’re coders. They solve problems, they’re really smart, and they’re a little socially awkward. Outcasts, almost.

Along with that, there are fundamental similarities between writing code and writing stories. They both involve the manipulation of ideas. Controlling blocks of text and sometimes moving them around—cutting and pasting and refining. Many, many similarities.

Everyday life sneaks into my stories all the time. Basic human interactions, funny circumstances and anecdotes...it is all story material. Plus, I like to learn how things work. Even though I write science fiction, I like to base it on as much reality as I can. Real astronomy, biology, culture, sociology, etc. That’s what makes the story believable. Like it could happen.

How does your faith influence your writing? Is it ever difficult to incorporate topics of faith?

Faith is an important influence. It certainly colors my outlook on life and writing. The idea that things, no matter how bleak, ultimately work out in the end.

I often have a theme in mind when I start writing a story too—a guiding principle, along with some ideas about the characters and basic plot. That isn’t the same as preparing a sermon, though. I’m not out to preach.

The spiritual aspects of my stories find their way in through the course of the story itself. If the characters seem real, are based on reality, then they encounter real theological questions and ideas. People make decisions based on what they believe every day. Faith is all around us. Why not in stories?
I should mention that writing is a faith walk to me. I never know what is going to show up on the page. Often I’m surprised by it. I start to write each day believing I’m going somewhere, even if I’m not sure where. Somehow I get to the end, and much of what I write daily makes it into the final story. It’s a miracle, really. A God thing that maybe only a writer can understand. But maybe not.

You just released Frayed, the first book in The DarkTrench Shadow series, which serves as a parallel/ companion series to The DarkTrench Saga. What part of The Dark Trench Shadow series are you most excited about? Why did you decide to return to SandFly's world?

The Shadow series is intriguing to me because it allows me to explore situations and ideas that were only hinted at in the other books. I don’t want to spoil too much, but in the original DarkTrench series, the main character is off on a big adventure. While he is away, things are still happening—big things—so this series gives me a chance to look at those. Also, I get to hang out with a new debugger character, ThreadBare. He’s interesting and a little insecure. I like him.

I first started messing with ThreadBare while writing flash fiction for a magazine. (Flash fiction is a story that is very short. Usually less than 1000 words.) I wrote this story with this guy who works in a greasy, smelly shop on the edge of a battlefield. A debugger who is forgotten and often afraid. A guy who wants to be something significant. I realized I wanted to know more about him. What was going to happen to him? Was he a hero or not?

Finally, what's your favorite spaceship, real or fictional, and why?

I think my favorite spaceship today is probably Serenity from the show Firefly. It has a real interesting look on the outside, and a lived in and “homey” feel on the inside.

Another favorite is the ship Destiny from the show Stargate Universe. It is gigantic, and filled with lots of unknowns—at least, to the humans that find themselves onboard. There is a lot to wonder and marvel at there. You never know what the next room or hallway might bring.

Science fiction should be a mixture of those two ships. It should be large enough to fill you with wonder, yet still feel familiar. Like home.

Thanks for joining us, Mr. Nietz! 

Be sure to check out his author website and Frayed, his most recent release!


  1. It was so nice to read more about this series! It looks quite excellent, especially with that killer robot looking thing on the cover. (I have a thing for killer robots.) And if we're talking favourite ships, I'm going to have to split between The Black Pearl and the TARDIS because they're both amazing :)

    1. I hope you get a chance to read one or both series! The Black Pearl is quite awesome. I tried Dr. Who, but (don't kill me) it just wasn't my cup of tea.

      Thanks for the comment!


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