Kerry Nietz interview
NA: Christian speculative fiction is very scarce these days.
1.) What drew you to write speculative fiction?
KN: Good question! Though I've always been a fan of speculative fiction (science
fiction, fantasy, supernatural thrillers, etc...) I've certainly written
stories in different genres, and never had a moment where I consciously
thought "I'm going to be sci-fi writer, and that's it." So I guess the best
answer is that the story of A Star Curiously Singing demanded I write
speculative fiction, and so I did. I had this idea about a mystery of the
future that required a very specialized man to solve it. Turns out that's a
Really, though, all stories have some element of speculation in them. They
are all big "what ifs?"
NA: 2.) What is unique in A Star Curiously Singing and The Superlative Stream compared to other speculative fiction?
KN: Oh, I hope people will think everything about them unique, but I know that's
not the case. What's most unique about them from a story perspective, it how
they take commonly used science fiction elements and use them in a unique
way. For instance, the subject of mind control has been in science fiction
forever, but the idea of a man who is controlled within a highly-religious
society? Not so much.
From a writing perspective they are unique in a number of ways. The chief
uniqueness is probably the tense they are written in: first-person present.
It is a tense that is almost never used, and in fact, most books on writing
will tell you not to use it. It is a difficult thing to pull off, and since
it is rarely done, most readers aren't used to reading first person present
either. I often have readers tell me that their mind had to switch gears a
bit before they could read my books. Like there was an actual reorienting of
their brain that they were aware of. (I find that idea fascinating, given
the subject matter of my books.) The tense fits my protagonist, Sandfly, and
his world perfectly, though. He lives very much in the moment. Present tense
brings you into that moment.
NA: Where did this story idea come from?
KN: My story ideas generally start as simple images--little flashes of
inspiration, really. The first image I had of A Star Curiously Singing was
of a future man sitting eyeball to eyeball with a robot and trying to,
through conversation, figure out what the bot's problem is. The next image
was of that same robot on a spaceship floor in pieces. After that it was
like "Oh, now that's very interesting. How did that robot get that way?"
Then my focus turned to that future man. At first I thought he was only a
robot psychologist of some sort, but after seeing the broken robot, I
realized he was more like a full service robot technician. Then all my years
of programming and the many books I'd read about world religions and
politics made their presence known. All downhill from there.
NA: Were there any smaller influences that came into the books?
KN: Hmmm…smaller influences. Well my children certainly played a part in the books, in that the question I asked myself while writing them was “What future do you fear for your kids?” That’s probably not a small influence, though. More like a medium to large-sized influence.
NA: Why did you make the religious society Islamic?
KN: I made Sandfly’s world Islamic for two reasons, really. The primary reason is because I’d just read a handful of books that illustrated the very real danger sharia (meaning Islamic) law poses to the freedoms we enjoy in the west. For instance, due to immigration and birthrates, it is quite possible that Europe will be entirely Islamic within only a few generations. That should be alarming to anyone who is concerned about the things we take for granted—like freedom of speech and freedom of religion—because in the countries where sharia rules, those freedoms aren’t allowed. So, in my books, those of the Islamic faith who pursue world domination and sharia law have long since won. They are the status quo.
The other reason I chose a non-Christian culture, and this was more a subconscious thing, was because I wanted to use my books to teach the differences in belief systems and why those differences are important. In today’s modern society we’ve gotten so used to the idea, fomented by the political correctness movement, that all belief systems are essentially the same. It has gotten so bad, in fact, that most Christians either won’t speak up for fear of offending, or don’t speak up because they aren’t informed enough to know the differences between beliefs enough to ascribe value to their own. The defense “I believe this way because it was what I was taught” is not enough. Christianity is not only unique among modern belief systems, it is—dare I say it—better. And true! We need to know why.
NA: Where did you come up with the names in the books, such as Sandfly and HardCandy?
KN: My characters mostly named themselves as they arrived on the scene. Sandfly was the only one I gave any real thought to, and it was only a passing association: “Sand equals silicon, and he’s sort of the fly in the ointment. Okay, Sandfly it is!”
It is interesting to note, however, that many of the names are similar to the kinds of tags you see in forums and gaming sites.
NA: What is the purpose of Sandfly's use of the present tense?
KN: I think I touched on this a bit in one of the earlier questions, but in a word: immediacy. It helps bring the reader right into the mind and actions of Sandfly. Another thing my book does that is unusual from a writing perspective is it breaks the fourth wall, meaning at times Sandfly talks directly to the reader. Why does he do that? I have no idea. He just wanted to, so I let him.
NA: 1.) Which character was the hardest to write?
KN:I don’t know that any one character was particularly hard to write. Most of my characters have roles to play and their personalities grow naturally from those roles. I thought the hardest character to write would be HardCandy, since she’s the principle female character, and I’m not female. Surprisingly, though, I think she came out okay. And that’s good, because in the second book she gets a lot more time. One of the nicest compliments I got from my wife after she read The Superlative Stream was “You wrote the female characters well. Just like they would be.”
NA: 2.) Which character was the easiest to write?
KN: The easiest character to write is Sandfly. We have a lot in common, he and I. I mean, he’s younger and balder, but we share a lot of traits and ideas. We both love sarcasm, high tech stuff, and ultimately—freedom.
NA: If you could be any character in your books, which would it be?
KN: Given their world and society, there really isn’t a specific character I would like to be, except in a few isolated circumstances, mostly near the end of the book. Perhaps one of the astronauts on the trip preceding the beginning of the book? Or maybe the ship itself? Yeah, that’s it. I’d like to be DarkTrench.
NA: If your books were made into a movie, would you have any preferred actor, director, composer, etc?
KN: I can’t imagine Hollywood ever making a movie of my books. The books themselves are very internal, very inside Sandfly’s head. Lots of stuff happens externally, of course, but without that layer of internal tension the books wouldn’t be near as special. Movies aren’t real good at showing internal stuff, though, nor should they be. Movies are primarily a visual medium. Also, the subject matter of my books would be hard for Hollywood to swallow. They’d need to recast the society as ultra-Christian before they’d be okay with it.
That said, I don’t have any preferred actors for my characters. Preferred directors would be Chris Nolan, Ridley Scott or maybe Steven Spielberg. Preferred composers? John Williams, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer.
NA: Can you tell us one thing about yourself we readers may not know?
KN: I have a motorcycle, a scuba license, and I can bench more than my own weight. How’s that?
NA: Awesome! Do you have a title or cover idea for the next book in the DarkTrench saga that you can share with us?
KN: No title or cover for the next one yet. So far, my working title has been shot down by Jeff, but after he reads the book (some day) he might change his mind. The only thing I can really share at this point is that I’m about 35,000 words in, which is probably a third of the way.
NA: Do you have any other book plans or ideas after the DarkTrench Saga?
KN: Sure I have ideas! Hopefully some of them will be interesting to others. Thankfully my publisher has an affinity for all of his authors and is a great person to bounce ideas off of. I’m hopeful we can come up with something that thrills him then. But for now, one book at a time.
NA: Do you have any advice to those writing or planning to write speculative fiction?
KN: Sure. Study the classic speculative writers and their works. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. And write, write, write. Don’t be afraid if you have a few novels that will never see the light of day. That’s part of it. Also, learn to love editing. Often the most insightful words come out during the editing phase. Writing good novels is like sculpting. It is rarely perfect the first time.
Thank you for the interview, Mr. Nietz! I enjoyed it, and I am sure all the readers do too!
Check out Kerry Nietz's website here.
You can buy his first book, A Star Curiously Singing here.
You can buy his second book, The Superlative Stream here.