BERKLEY — Christian Belz is an architect who has always had aspirations to be a writer.
Belz’s father wrote during Belz’s childhood, and he grew up reading mysteries involving the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
In 2000, the Berkley resident finished his first novel and incorporated aspects from his everyday job as an architect. “The Accused Architect” follows the main character, who is also an architect, as he tries to solve a murder after a body shows up on a construction site.
Belz tried to get his novel published shortly after it was completed, but after several denials and numerous meetings with publishers that didn’t go anywhere, he said he gave up for awhile. Finally, after 13 years, Cozy Cat Press published Belz’s book, and last week the novel was made available on e-readers and in hardcover.
“I finally got the actual print copy in my hands last week and it was just wonderful and so exciting,” Belz, 56, said. “My goal the past several years was to be able to make a living at writing and retire from architecture, so to see my book on Amazon, it is just so exciting.”
Belz, who works at SSOE Group in Troy, has been a registered architect for 28 years. He has mainly worked on retail and industrial facilities, as well as educational buildings.
The idea for “The Accused Architect” came about when he was working on a site and wondered what would happen if a dead body were found. In the book, an intern finds a dead homeless man and tries to hide the body to avoid a delay in the construction.
But the body goes missing, and the main character, Ken Knoll, sets out to find the body and investigate the death.
Belz said he got about six chapters into writing the novel before he finally decided to determine who committed the murder.
“I deliberately didn’t want to know who committed the murder because I didn’t want to translate that into the writing,” Belz said. “I actually used my son as a sounding board to review storylines, and through the process of some conversations with him, I was able to kind of sketch out the rest of the book and then take it one chapter at a time.”
Belz’s son, Alex, has a master’s degree in English from Northern Michigan University. Like his dad, Alex said he was interested in writing at a young age and, even as a teenager, he wanted to help his dad work on his book.
“It was quite the process for him to try and write the book for as long as possible without knowing who the murderer was,” Alex, 26, said. “We talked about who the most obvious person was and how to circumvent the reader’s expectations to not think that person. I don’t read mystery books, so I think as an outsider, I was a good perspective for him to hear from.”
When the book was complete, Belz said he sent out some sample chapters and a synopsis to about 35 publishers. He only heard back from two and was able to talk with them, but ultimately, he was turned down.
“After the first two publishers turned me down, I was pretty frustrated and put it away for a couple years,” Belz said. “After a few years, I joined a writing group in Troy and that’s when I started going through the cycle of getting it to publishers again. I did that a couple times and had more rejections before I finally got it picked up.”
Since getting his book picked up, Belz has had Alex serve as his publicist. Alex, who worked for the NMU newspaper in college, said it has been an interesting couple months working in a field he has no experience in.
“When I was working at the newspaper, I was on the other side with people coming to me with an event or some guy doing something, so it is interesting being on the other side and trying to get the word out about my dad’s book,” Alex said. “It is a weird experience because I never thought about promoting a book from the ground up. You have to experiment to find the right way to do things and, hopefully, in the next couple weeks, the ball starts rolling.”
Belz is in the process of putting the finishing touches on the second book in the Ken Knoll trilogy. He said he spoke with Cozy Cat Press about his trilogy and they are interested in taking a look once the second book is completed.
Despite the long road to get his first book published, Belz said he feels he is hitting his stride as a writer now and he wants to continue to pursue it as a viable career option.
“I enjoy writing, writing fiction, creating characters and scenes and dialogue,” he said. “In 2000, I thought if I was going to be a writer, I had better get serious and buckle down. It has been a long haul, but I am happy my first book is out now.”
“The Accused Architect” is available on Amazon.com.
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