Ladies and gentleman, this month’s featured writer is Kerry Nietz, author of “A Star Curiously Singing”. Stick around for the end of our show, when you’ll have the chance to leave a comment (you must include your email address) for a chance to win a copy of his book!
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’ve had an unusual life. I grew up on a farm in Ohio, was an average shy student in high school, went to college for computer science and really excelled.
Right out of college I got a job for a small software company, Fox Software, as a programmer. It was a crazy time. Very hectic, very interrupt driven, but also very rewarding. (It was unique enough that I kept good notes about what was going on). Eventually, the company sold to Microsoft and I was forced to moved across the country or resign, so I spent the next seven years working with Microsoft.
I always wanted to write, though. The problem was that I wanted to write novels, and it is very hard to be successful in that field for a newcomer – at least, it is if you want to have regular meals (as most of your readers probably know). Plus, programming shares many of its creative aspects with writing – the feeling of accomplishment , the drive for better ways to describe things, to make them more useful to the user. There are lots of similarities.
However, after about ten years of coding, I grew restless. I wasn’t inspired by it anymore. I remember getting ready for work one day and thinking, “Is this all there is for me?”
Around that same time I happened to take a plane trip where an elderly (and published) writer sat next to me. The guy was more than willing to talk about his work. When I mentioned that I always wanted to write, he said “Well, start early. You might get published before you die!”
I took that as a sign. A short time later I left Microsoft to write full-time. A few years later to got my first book published – a non-fiction title that is a memoir of my four years at Fox Software. Haven’t looked back since.
My latest book is a Christian speculative fiction title called “A Star Curiously Singing”, but I have written many different genres (few of which have been published at this point). There is always a bit of a tech angle to what I write, though. Can’t escape that.
What is your writing day like?
I normally write after lunch. Mornings are for house, child, or life maintenance – the sort of things that would distract my mind later. As much as I can, I try to get the distractions out of the way early.
In the afternoon I go to “my room” (our media room), sit on the reclining couch with my laptop, and have at it. I work until I have a least a couple of pages written. If I make good progress, I may reward myself with a video game break (advantage of working in the media room). But in general I work from at least 2:00-6:00 without leaving the room. If I don’t get at least a couple of pages, I feel like I cheated the boss.
How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
I have to admit when I’m writing fiction, there isn’t a whole lot of organization. Before I start a book I’ll have a vague idea of the beginning and the end, and then work to fill the middle. I have a separate “notes” document that I usually work from, too. It is filled with the random ideas I’ve accumulated along the way. You know, those middle of the night “ah-ha” moments, plus an occasional cool paragraph or relevant Bible verse.
Much of my writing comes from flashes of images, really. In my latest book, one of the first images I had was of a man sitting and interviewing a robot about a problem he’s had.
What the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
My protagonist, Sandfly,” sort of wrote himself. I had this vague group of images and ideas, but from word one, Sand took the reins. It was like, “you’re in my world now, and it is very different from yours, so just let me steer.”
The whole idea of Sandfly having and implant in his head that connects him to his world but also controls his actions just bubbled up spontaneously. Even the fact that he is bald – as are all those like him – completely spontaneous.
The most amazing things to me, though, are the strange coincidences that I discovered after the book was in progress. These little plot ideas or conveniences that I only assumed when starting that later worked to my advantage.
For instance, there is a particular star that plays a role in the book. When I initially picked it, I did so purely for astronomical reasons – because it has many interesting scientific attributes. Only later – well into my writing – did I discover deeper historical, and even Biblical, significances for that same star. Those are all things I was able to use. They make for a much richer story.
There are a lot of other coincidences like that, but I can’t share them for fear of ruining the story for anyone who wants to read it.
Do you have a list of characters that you’re saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on them?
No really. My characters usually make themselves know when I begin to write their story. Maybe that’s weird, but that’s the way it works for me.
What does your work space/office look like?
Oh, it’s a techie’s dream. Blue textured walls and plush carpet. Big TV, surround system, movies, video games, soft leather chairs, movie posters on the walls.
I keep it fairly tidy, though. If there’s a lot of clutter, it distracts me.
What is your go-to snack when writing?
I don’t snack a lot when I’m writing. If I’ve exercised in the morning and I get a craving in the afternoon I usually try to stay at least a little healthy – maybe a protein or fruit bar. Plus, I don’t want to get too tired. Fending of a nap is hard enough as it is.
If you could only recommend on NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
That would be tough, because I have so many favorites. I will say that the first time I read Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”, it was so good that I savored each page, not wanting it to end. There are very few books that are like that for me, but that is certainly the kind of novel I’d like to write. On where you get to the end and scream, “Dude, you better write another one before I die!”
If you could recommend on CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
Brown and King’s “Self Editing for Fiction Writers”. If you want to be a good writer, you have to love editing. I used to hate it. I never knew whether what I was changing in edits was improving things or not. After reading that book I’ve gotten so I love the editing process. I love looking at paragraphs and sentences and seeing how I can improve them. Finding ways to make them read better.
In fact, I often have friends now that will send me things to edit, so I must have improved in that aspect of the craft. When someone else recognizes your usefulness, you’re doing something right.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for having me on your blog, Karin. I really appreciate it. And for those reading, thanks for sticking with me. I encourage you to pick up a copy of “A Star Curiously Singing” or any of the titles from Marcher Lord Press. I think they’re all outstanding.
Kerry, thanks for taking the time to visit with us here today! Readers, if you have questions, please feel free to post them. And don’t forget to leave a comment (with your email address) for a chance to win “A Star Curiously Singing” on Jan. 1st.
Happy New Year!!