Welcome Kerry...yea, that's right, you can sit over there -oh, no, one row back...yes! That's fine. OK, where were we...
Sooo, you write about vampires, Amish ones to boot. That's interesting.
Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
I’ve been writing my whole life. My mom still brings me scraps of things I wrote as a child, little story ideas that didn’t go anywhere. There were a few times too in junior high and high school where an English teacher gave my class a creative writing assignment. I always relished those, and usually got encouragement and compliments on what I wrote.
I didn’t get serious about writing until much later, though. The tipping point came when I happened to sit beside an older gentlemen on a plane who was a published writer. When I mentioned I always wanted to write, he said “Well start early, you might get published before you die.”
Shortly thereafter I bought a computer and started to write. My first book, a memoir of sorts, was published in 2003. (FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software is the title.)
How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I write in the afternoons. Mornings are typically for other chores and some form of physical exercise. I write until I have at least 600 words, with the hope of more. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but I write from the seat of my pants, with little more than a theme and a vague plotline to guide me. So there are many days where each word requires a lot of contemplation. Like walking in mud. Now you don't want to be knee deep in mud when those vampires of yours come running!
Could you tell us a little about your novel? How did it come to be?
Amish Vampires in Space was an intriguing mental challenge for me. Like grabbing three seemingly unrelated ideas out of a hat and trying to find a way to connect them somehow. Sounds like a party game, I like that.
The inspiration came from a joke title my former publisher (who has since sold the company) used to throw around at writers’ conferences. Since his was a speculative fiction house, he used to say that the only Amish fiction he was interested in was something on the order of Amish Vampires in Space. He even sent his authors a mock cover of the idea. At some point I told him someone should write And now I believe it is safe to say that you are the ONLY ONE who does!
Then I got some ideas about how it all might work and not be campy. I started writing. When I reached the 30,000 word mark I let him know what I was doing. He encouraged me to continue—with no guarantees of it being published, of course. (To quote Lia, "snort" of course)When I finished, over 100,000 words later, I sent the manuscript to him. He liked what he read, so here we are.
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?
Sure! Amish Vampires in Space takes place in a future where other planets have been terraformed to be Earth-like, and the Amish have settlements on a few of those planets.
(Now, I know what you’re thinking: The Amish don’t drive cars! How are they going to get into space? In actuality, though, the Amish have no problem with being driven somewhere, as long as they aren’t doing the driving. Same principle applies here, but with spaceships.)
One of the Amish planets is Alabaster. Jebediah Miller is part of the community there, but he has this family secret. He’s been given this charge by his father, a series of tests he’s supposed to perform. When he discovers a problem with Alabaster he has to defy some of the Amish rules to get the community help.
Help comes in the form of a non-Amish (Englisher) delivery ship. Eventually the whole community is on the ship headed for a new home. But they aren’t the only ones on board.
Think the movie Witness meets Pandorum. Or maybe Dracula meets Beverly’s Lewis’s The Shunning? Something like that.
I think it both fun, and meaningful.
Definitely something to sparks one's curiosity!
Who is the novel’s main character and why?
Though there are many important characters in AViS, it is primarily about Jebediah. It is his journey. He’s a product of his culture, yet he’s faced with a situation where to survive and protect those he loves, he may need to forsake certain aspects of that culture. So it is not only a physical struggle, but a mental and spiritual one, as well.
What is the message behind the story?
Books are a lot like Rorschach tests in that what people take away from them is largely subjective. For me, the interesting conflict of the story is the Amish practice of non-resistance when confronted by creatures and people that are, by definition, violent.
The Amish practice non-resistance primarily because, as Christians, they think they’re following Jesus’s example, specifically his charge “not to resist an evil man.” It is also the case, though, that Jesus befriended and even healed a fair share of people (centurions, for instance) whose job it was to resist evil men.
So what is the proper Christian stance on defence and self-defence? That’s the heart of Jebediah’s journey. Fascinating.
Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow?
I’m definitely a pantser, meaning I usually have no idea what I’m going to write on any given day.
There are downsides to that approach, obviously, because with no outline there is a danger that your plot will wander. Plus it is nearly impossible to estimate a completion date because you have no idea how long it will take you to get…wherever it is you’re going.
Writing is a faith walk for me, though. I like not knowing where it is going. It is a lot like life. You just keep prayerfully plodding along, trusting that you’ll arrive at the destination eventually.
How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?
Let’s face it, this book is different from what anyone has written in the past. I mean, it has the Amish in space with vampires! Doesn’t get much different than that.
That said, it really wasn’t that far outside of my comfort zone. He dares admit that out loud ;o)
I like to write books with big “What ifs?” associated with them. My first published novel, A Star Curiously Singing, had a lot of “What ifs” in it too. What if the whole world was under sharia (Islamic) law? And what if there was this class of technological slaves that the rich used to fix their toys? And what if one of them, these debuggers, got sent into space to diagnose a robot malfunction and found something larger?
Every novel is (or should be) the answer to some “What if.” I just like mine a little on the strange side. You don't say...
How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
The changes in present day publishing has meant a lot to me over the last year or so.
At the beginning of 2014, only a few months after AViS was released, my publishing house was sold, and the new owner decided he didn’t want the book as part of his new catalog. (Not because of the content, though. He didn’t read the book.)
So, I had a decision to make. AViS was selling well, there was lots of buzz, and I’d just spent over a year of my life crafting it.
Thankfully, because of the prevalence of POD technology and eBooks, I was able to re-release the book myself in only a matter of weeks. And it has continued to sell really well that way, enough that I’ll probably self-publish my next book as well.
It is a brave new world for writers. It also requires that authors become more savvy in many areas regarding formatting, publishing, marketing and the whole world of social media interaction...not to mention give up a large chunk of time for it.
How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
I wish I had some secret I could share here, but I really don’t. I’ve tried lots of things—blog tours, giveaways, interviews—but to be honest, the things that have worked best weren’t things I had any real control over.
Amish Vampires in Space was mentioned twice by Publishers Weekly and twice by Library Journal. Dave Barry joked about the title on his blog. It was written about in the Washington Post, and then, of all things, it was talked about by Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show. There isn’t a book publicist out there who could have made all that happen.
Someone emailed me the other day to ask who my agent was. I told him that right now God is my agent. Writing is a faith walk! Amen.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The only key I’ve found so far is perseverance, and that applies to all aspects of a writer’s life. You need to persevere in writing the book. You need to make time each day (or at least, every weekday) to sit down and write the thing. Set a daily goal for yourself each day and reach it. Push through the difficult areas. Take advantage of those times it is smooth going—write more! But get to the end. Then persevere through the editing phase, even if it means you need outside help.
When the thing is solid, you need to endure through finding a publisher. Submit, attend conferences, and meet other writers. Learn more, write more, and research more. Network, make connections, build friendships—and don’t be afraid of rejection! Persist. Be determined. Hold on.
Marketing the book takes special perseverance too. Try different things. Try lots of things. Watch what works for others, and do likewise. Continue to learn. Continue to be flexible. Know your market. Hang in there. If a handful of people like your story, if someone is willing to put their own money and time behind it, then there’s a fair chance that hundreds or thousands (or even millions) of others will enjoy it to. Find them. One at a time, if you have to.
I’m speaking from experience here. It took four years from the time I decided to be a writer, until the time I finally held a book with my name on the cover. After that, it took another six years to get my first novel in print. I plan to release my sixth novel this year.
Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts here, I like what you had to say.
Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
In December I finished the second draft of the sequel to Amish Vampires in Space. Now I’m waiting for the editor to have a chance to read it, then I’ll be back working on it again. I’m shooting for an early spring release.
While I’ve been waiting, though, I’ve been scratching away at some short stories. I know most aspiring authors cut their teeth on short stories, but that’s not the way it happened for me. I dove right into novel writing at the start and have done little else since. All of the short stories I’ve written have been because someone asked.
So, it is fun to try to write some on my own just for the enjoyment and challenge of it. If they turn out okay, maybe I’ll produce an anthology someday.
Challenges are an important part of being a writer. If you can’t do something that’s never been done, at least do something you’ve never done. How true. Thank you, Kerry, for taking the time to stop by. It was fun, and definitely...unique!
Jebediah has a secret that will change his world forever and send his people into space.
The Amish world of Alabaster calls upon an ancient promise to escape destruction. Then end up on a cargo ship bound for the stars.
But they are not the only cargo on board.
Some of it is alive...or used to be.
Now, with vampires taking over and closing in on the Amish refugees, these simple believers must decide whether their faith depends upon their honored traditions or something even older.
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. Amish Vampires in Space is his fifth novel.
Contact and Purchase Links:
I also mention my novel A Star Curiously Singing. The Amazon link is here if you want to link to that:
FoxTales is here:
Facebook author page:
Some additional information on our guest:
author of A Star Curiously Singing (The Dark Trench Saga, Book 1)
2011 Readers Favorite Gold Medal Award winner
2011 EPIC Awards Finalist in Science Fiction category
2010 INSPY Book Awards Shortlist in Speculative Fiction category
2010 Indie Book Awards Finalist in Science Fiction and Religious Fiction categories