A Star Curiously Singing is a first-person science fiction novel written by Kerry Nietz. It is a unique book in that it projects what the world might look like if sharia law became the ultimate authority worldwide. Mix that scenario with a future, technology-rich culture and you end up with the world Nietz has built.
The main character, Sandfly, is a debugger, a slave with an implant in his brain enabling him to connect to the electronic world around him in ways that only debuggers can. Sandfly’s primary job is to fix his master’s robots, but when he is called upon to unravel a technological mystery, everything changes. It seems a spacecraft capable of interstellar flight has successfully made a trip to the stars and back to Earth again, but on the way, one of the key robots on board has gone haywire and torn itself limb from limb. Now it’s up to Sandfly to figure out what went wrong and whether the robot poses a danger to humans. But as Sandfly pieces the robot back together, he finds a strange recording that sets his world on edge.
I found that the first-person viewpoint in Nietz’ book immediately drew me into the story. Maybe it’s just me but I found it intriguing to be in the head of a guy who has an implant in his head. (Ok, sorry. I couldn’t help myself.) Seriously, the technology in the book was fascinating to me. How great would it be to have your own wireless computer inside your head, complete with email and instant messaging in text or video or more? Of course, Sandfly had to deal with the whole do-what-I-want-or-I-zap-your-head situation, but he finds ways to survive and still keep his sanity.
I suppose it could be a side effect of reading fantasy books that are so long they could be used as doorstops, but when I reached the end of A Star Curiously Singing and turned the last page…aaaaaaa! I couldn’t believe it was the end! The book went by so fast and I wasn’t through with the story. Must…read…more. I’m sure the sequel will be well worth reading.
The publisher, Marcher Lord Press, was kind enough to provide me with a PDF for review and to set me up with Kerry Neitz, the author. In turn, Kerry was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Enjoy!
What led you to write “A Star Curiously Singing”? Where did the story come from?
ASCS came out of a confluence of things, really. I was at a place in my writing where I was really questioning whether God wanted me to continue doing it. I’d spent at least a half dozen years writing novels and submitting and getting rejected. When you spend that long, you have to begin to question a little, I think. I love writing, but I didn’t want to keep spending time on it, if God had better things for me to do.
Thankfully, I had written one non-fiction book (FoxTales) that got published, so I could at least say I’d accomplished my writing dream to some extent. In that book, I wrote the introductory chapter in this very “in the moment” first person present style. I received a lot of positive comments on that book, but the chapter I got the most comments on was that first chapter. It made me wonder if I could write a whole book that way.
Also, for awhile I’d had this idea itching at me about this future computer programmer / robot maintenance guy. One that is just doing his job yet somehow solves an important mystery.
Plus, there was also this question in my mind about what sort of future I would hate my children to have to live in. What future frightened me the most for them?
In that context, with all those things working on me, I was sitting in an airport terminal one day, with my laptop, and thought “I’m going to write something just for me—just to see if I can pull it off—without wondering whether anyone else will like it or even read it.”
So, I started with: “It’s hard to describe this buzzing in my head…” It grew from there.
How long did it take you to write the book?
I started in February of ‘08 and finished the first draft that spring. Even though I wrote it “for me” by the time I got to the end of it, I thought there was enough unique and cool about it that it might have a shot at being published.
So, I contracted this acquisitions editor turned freelancer (named Jeff Gerke) for his opinion. He got back to me in October of ‘08 with some fairly positive comments. Room for improvement, of course, but also enough encouragement (excitement, really) that I knew I had to revise it and “mature” it with his suggestions in mind.
As it happens, Jeff is the founder of Marcher Lord–and even though there were no guarantees–I got some pretty strong vibes from him that my book was one he’d be interested in. If it was a little longer and some targeted improvements were made.
I sent my second draft to him in January of this year. He got back to me in the spring with a few more suggestions. Then, in early July, he offered me a contract. There was a final round of revisions after that. Now here we are.
I love how Marcher Lord Press is publishing Christian science fiction and fantasy books that other publishers aren’t willing to give a chance. How long did you look for a publisher before finding MLP?
See my answer to the above question. <g>
Really, Marcher Lord was the first and only publisher that saw A Star Curiously Singing. But I think that’s where God wanted it. If it wasn’t for Jeff’s enthusiasm and willingness to help, my book wouldn’t be near as special. I owe him a lot.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
That would have to be Sandfly, the main character. He is this technological “fix-it” man. The guy people call when their machines are broken. I spent a good share of my life in the tech field as a computer programmer, so I know firsthand what it is like to be the guy people call when things go wrong.
Surprisingly, though, this is the first fictional story that I’ve written where the main character and I really had that “technically-skilled” connection. Maybe not so surprising is the fact that this is my first novel to be published. Write what you know, they say.
Do you have a sequel to “A Star Curiously Singing” written or under contract?
A sequel to ASCS is in the works. In book contracts it is fairly standards for publishers to have a “right of first refusal” clause for the author’s next book. My publisher carved it in stone, though, by putting “Book 1” on the spine of ASCS. I’m OK with that. <g>
When it comes to other authors, which ones or which books are your favorites?
I use a lot of author names in my book—as swear words, actually. <g> That will give anyone who reads it a fairly good idea about some of the authors I admire. There are lots of others, though. Maybe I’ll use those in later books…
What projects are you working on now?
Primarily, the sequel to A Star Curiously Singing. There have also been quite a few marketing tasks for ASCS that has taken my time–just trying to get the word out. It’s tough!
Plus, I’ve been trying to help Jeff with Marcher Lord in whatever way I can. Mostly that means technical or website issues or advice.
Finally, I have two young children (both under five) so free time is always hard to come by.
If you could be any character from a science fiction or fantasy book, who would it be and why?
One character that I really liked as a teen (and still do) is John Carter of Mars. He’s a fairly archetypical “Hero With a Thousand Faces” type of hero. A “fish out of water” that not only thrives in his new environment but ends of saving it. He has fairly significant initials, too. (JC)
Where is your favorite place to write?
I have this well-insulated Media Room that doubles as my writing room. The only danger there is that there is a TV and an XBOX there as well. Ah well…we all make our sacrifices.
Do you have any additional projects in the works?
Well, we just found out that my wife is pregnant again. That’s fairly significant. <g>
Congratulations! How can readers find you on the web?
Many thanks to Marcher Lord Press and Kerry Nietz for a great read and interview.