Interview with Jeremy Finley, Author of The Dark Above
By Weston OchseJuly 23, 2019
Weston Ochse, author and Bram Stoker Award winner, sits down with Jeremy Finley to discuss his background as an investigative reporter in Nashville, getting inside of the head of your characters, breakneck pacing, aliens, and the worst puppy on the planet. Learn more about Jeremy’s new book, The Dark Above, and comment below to enter for a chance to win a copy for yourself!
Weston Ochse: First of all, I understand you’re an investigative reporter. Can you tell us a little about that background and how it influenced The Darkest Time of Night and especially the sequel, The Dark Above? I noted that in The Dark Above you not only have mainstream investigative reporters, but there are also underground investigators you introduced in The Darkest Time of Night who are integral to the plot.
Jeremy Finley: At its core, investigative reporting is uncovering the truth that someone wants hidden. It’s the daily struggle of investigative journalists to overcome operatives in politics and business that want to prevent us from finding stories that the public deserves to see.
When you take on a job in investigations, whether it be in journalism, auditing or law enforcement, you join a kind of tribe of people that are used to push back and retaliation to some degree. That very much influences my fiction as well, as I am prone to write about people who are determined to uncover the truth, knowing there can be professional and personal risks.
★ ☆ ★
Weston: In my review of The Darkest Time of Night for Criminal Element, I mentioned the lushness of your descriptions of the Tennessee woods. Having lived in Tennessee myself, I really felt the atmosphere and could place myself there. I understand you are also from Tennessee, but you include in The Dark Above many other locales, such as Louisiana and Maryland and parts west, with equal atmospheric detail. Do you find atmosphere one of your strong points, or is it something you struggle with?
Jeremy: Honestly, it’s a struggle, because the one bleed through from my journalism work to my fiction is factuality. Even when I am writing about supernatural events, I want it to feel real, and that isn’t easy if you’re writing about a place you’ve never been. The obvious solution is if you can’t go there in person, then research the hell out of it. I knew The Dark Above would end in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and I’ve never even been to North Dakota. So, I immersed myself in videos, Google maps, historical documentation, etc, in the hopes that even if locals read the book, they’ll think I’ve camped out there myself.
★ ☆ ★
Weston: Well, you achieved your goal. It felt real. I wouldn’t have known that you weren’t at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Your characterization in The Dark Above was incredibly detailed, especially with William and the mysterious Q. Can you share something about how you envisioned these characters before you wrote them and how they turned out without spoiling too much for your fans?
Jeremy: A literary agent once told me that you need to know your characters so well, that if they walked into a restaurant, you would be able to know what they’re wearing down to their socks and what they were going to order off the menu. Physically, both William and Quincy are based on my nephews and a good friend of mine, so I studied their movements, even their breathing patterns. They were probably wondering why I was staring at them so often. But it was important to me, again, to have the details right, down to the color of Qunicy’s handkerchief.
★ ☆ ★
Weston: Better relatives than strangers, I think. It’s hard to make the stalking charge stick if you’re actually related to the person.
Also in my review of your first book, I also noted how your pacing was like an old-school childhood Pinewood Derby. It starts slowly at the top of the run, giving you enough time to observe the characters and see them in real-time doing real things, which is how all great thrillers set things up. Then, it picks up speed until it’s finally hurtling down the track. While I felt this worked in The Darkest Time of Night, I felt that The Dark Above starts with a hurtling pace and never slows. Part of this pacing could be intentionality because you’ve already established a background in the first book, so laying the groundwork might not have been as necessary. Tell us about your decisions about pacing.
Jeremy: You’re absolutely about the pacing. I wanted The Darkest Time of Night to be a bit of a slow burn, so it would have the feel of a very real, authentic slow life that was upended by a boy’s disappearance and then begins to spiral out of control. By the time The Dark Above opens, the groundwork had already been laid that their normal existence was over, that Lynn’s choices would dismantle all their lives. I wanted that uneasiness to exist for all of them when The Dark Above begins, so when the disasters begin to unfold across the globe, this family has no choice but to run through the fire.
★ ☆ ★
Weston: The Dark Above is pretty violent. You have (without spoilers) ‘people’ who are given powers that enable them to do terrible things on a global scale. Your writing is pretty unflinching at times. These characters might be compared to X-Men or the characters from the TV show Heroes, but their powers come from a completely different place. Can you tell us about how this idea developed and how you went about constructing it?
Jeremy: I’m really fascinated by why, it seems, that we’re reading about a new disaster, a new sickness, a new threat every day. As I write this, a hurricane is threatening New Orleans, which also occurs in The Dark Above. Rationality tells you that this is the way the world has always been, but the darkest part of my imagination kept nudging me and whispering: But what if it wasn’t? What if it’s all related? And even more troubling: What if this all happening by design?
★ ☆ ★
Weston: It’s no secret that both books are, at their heart, alien abduction novels. I’ve read about your mother-in-law and her connections. Can you share with us how you came up with the ideas you presented and how you decided to craft the ideas of alien abduction and global domination in The Dark Above?
Jeremy: I’ve always been drawn to the idea of something existing just beyond our purview, whether it be hidden creatures or beings from beyond the stars. And there have been so many fantastic pieces of fiction about aliens, that it was a bit daunting to enter the arena. But again, that dark imagination is always lurking, and the concept of Earth being a weapons-testing site started to emerge. Hopefully it’s a fresh take.
★ ☆ ★
Weston: Finally, being the owner of rescue Great Danes, I am curious to know about Thor, the worst puppy on the planet.
Jeremy: Weston, he’s truly a terrible dog. I mean the worst—ignoring all rules and leaving all kinds of disasters in his wake. He’s a nine-month-old Maltipoo and we’re crazy in love with him, but he knows he’s a star. When I put him in his crate at night, he looks at me as if to say, “But there’s a bed right there. And when I’m done sleeping, I shall also pee there.” I was excited, however, when he did appear to have one redeeming quality, besides looking like a teddy bear. My daughters were splashing in the pool and he was going nuts, and only when they swam over to him and he could lick them did he calm down. Then, my youngest swam under the water and he actually leapt into the pool and swam over to her, just to make sure she was OK. Afterward, as my daughters and wife dried him off, cooing about his bravery, he looked over at me and I swore he winked. Then, I realized what he’d done. A king knows he’s useless if all his subjects are dead in the water.
★ ☆ ★
Weston: Thank you, Jeremy. Fans can find The Dark Above on sale now at bookstores everywhere.
About The Dark Above:
In this sequel to the critically-acclaimed novel that grabbed fans of X-Files and Stranger Things, Jeremy Finley returns with another thriller full of aliens and government cover-ups.
For most of his life, William Chance has been the living proof that his grandmother and her fellow researchers into missing people were right all along about the terror from the stars. Now, he’s avoiding the limelight and hiding out from everyone, including his family. He knows he can avoid everything, except for the nightmares: fires, storms, disease and violence – he dreams of it all.
When he’s suddenly exposed, he finds that the media, government operatives and renegade true believers are desperate to find him, but he has another mission. Joined by a girl with terrifying abilities, he begins a desperate journey across the United States to find the others who share his dreams to stop what could be the final days of the world.
Jeremy Finley’s debut The Darkest Time of Night was called “outstanding” in a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was a June 2018 SIBA Okra Selection. Now, he continues the story of Lynn and William, fifteen years later in a new fast-paced novel full of suspense and government cover-ups, perfect for thriller and supernatural fans alike.
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