It's my great pleasure to present debut novelist Kerry Nietz.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 has one previously published book, a memoir entitled FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software. A Star Curiously Singing is his first novel.
Q&A WITH KERRY
JA: Congratulations on your debut novel, A Star Curiously Singing. What’s the book about?
KN: A Star Curiously Singing is a speculative Christian novel with a decidedly cyberpunk feel. It takes place in a future hundreds of years from now, where much of the world is living under something akin to sharia law.
It is dualistic society, where average people live on the streets in near-squalor and the powerful ride above them in cable car-like conveyances. This latter group is shrouded in high tech, to the point of needing specialized human “debuggers” to handle their machines.
That’s where my protagonist comes in. Sandfly is a debugger who’s summoned to solve the mystery of why a bot malfunctioned. The unusual circumstance? The bot has been to space. Deep space. Something about the trip made it malfunction. So it is a sci-fi mystery novel, of sorts.
JA: What was the “from submission to contract” process like for you?
KN: Unusual, I guess.
My publisher—Jeff Gerke—is also a former acquisitions editor who now does freelance work. When the first draft of my novel was complete, I knew there were things about it that were outside the norm for novels. Plus I’d reached the point in my writing career where I really needed some constructive input about my style.
So, I hired Jeff to look over my manuscript and see what he thought. His initial response was very positive. There were some flaws, of course. But Jeff really got my story and style, and even hinted that if the flaws were addressed, he’d be interested in publishing it himself.
I spent the better part of a year addressing those things. The back and forth continued, with me sending him chunks that I’d changed, and him commenting or suggesting improvements—until finally one of the things he sent me was a contract. Now here we are.
JA: I hear you break all kinds of fiction rules with this novel. How so?
KN: Yes, I’m the author Jeff now has to apologize for when he speaks at writer’s conferences.
The biggest rule I break is the tense. My novel is written in first person present as opposed to first person past. There are a couple reasons for that.
First, my protagonist Sandfly is this technologically enhanced individual who lives very much in the present, so the tense choice seemed to fit his personality and story.
Second, prior to this novel I wrote a memoir of a portion of my life in the high-tech industry. In that book, I wrote the prologue in first person present to give the reader a feel for what it was like to be me at that time. I received lots of compliments on the book as a whole, but the section I often got specific comments about was that very first chapter. Something about it really resonated. It made me wonder whether I could write a whole book that way.
Turns out I can.
KN: I hope they think: “Wow, that was really cool! I’ve never read anything like it.” Then I hope they appreciate the story and the broad-stroke messages I try to convey. Also, aside from all the rule-breaking, I think I show things in this novel that have never been shown before, even in science fiction.
JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
KN: If this book finds favor with the buying public, then a sequel is a very real possibility. I have about 50,000 words written in that direction, in fact.
JA: What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
KN: Given the fact that my first two published books are tech-filled stories, they might be surprised to learn that I don’t own a cell phone. It is the one glaring hole in my otherwise tech-filled façade. I don’t feel the need to have one. Plus, sometimes I like being unreachable.
JA: What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
KN: My book has a chapter where Sandfly rides an elevator to space. That’s not a household item, I know, but it is something that isn’t far outside the realm of possibility. An elevator to space—what could be cooler than that?
JA: The current theme of my blog is The Year of Dreams. If you could realize one life-long dream right now, what would it be?
KN: This is it. Having a novel published.
JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
KN: Either http://www.nietz.com/ or http://www.kerrynietz.com/ will find my website. Please check it out. I think it is very cool. Thanks!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sandfly is a debugger. He is property. Bought and paid for by his master, a relatively benign lord in a future Earth living under sharia law.
All other faiths but one have been banned. And the word of the great Imam is supreme.
Sandfly just wants to debug his master's robots and avoid the mental pain shocks sent from the remote triggers owned by all the masters. But now he's been called into Earth orbit. Apparently the masters have a new spacecraft—one capable of interstellar flight. And on its maiden voyage, the only robot on board went mad and tore itself limb from limb.
Why? Better question: does it pose any risk to humans?
When Sandfly reviews the bot's files and replays its last moments, he hears something strange playing in the bot's ears as they orbit Betelgeuse.
He hears singing.
Is it just solar winds interfering with the robot's wiring? Or is it something else?
As Sandfly pieces together the clues, the masters spread the trap before his feet. Everyone is racing to the same conclusion, but only one side welcomes what that singing represents.
WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of A Star Curiously Singing, just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on October 15th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!