Like all writers who work in a specific genre, many science fiction authors cite their fellow sci-fi writers as their biggest influences. But in the following email about his sci-fi thriller The Dark Above (hardcover, Kindle) — the sequel to last year’s The Darkest Time Of Night — author and investigative journalist Jeremy Finley says he’s more influenced by the real world.
Photo Credit: Ashley Hylbert
To start, what is The Dark Above about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous book, The Darkest Time Of Night?
As an investigative journalist, I am always intrigued by what happens to families long after a child goes missing. Do they crumble? Do they ever give up hope? And what happens if that child is ultimately found under mysterious circumstances? That’s the crux of my new book, The Dark Above, the sequel to my novel The Darkest Time Of Night.
The book takes place fifteen years after the events of The Darkest Time Of Night, in which the youngest grandson of a U.S. Senator went missing, and the wife of the politician exposed her controversial past as a UFO researcher in order to find him. Now, with the government widely discrediting her, accusing her of staging her grandson’s disappearance to further her research, her family is once again thrust into headlines when disasters begin to unfold across the globe, all tied to those who unexpectedly vanished, only to return with frightening abilities.
When in relation to writing The Darkest Time Of Night did you come up with the idea for The Dark Above, and how, if at all, did that idea change as you wrote The Dark Above?
When I wrote The Darkest Time Of Night, I always hoped I would one day write the sequel, if readers wanted it. My encouraging and wise editor, Peter Wolverton at St. Martin’s Press, made it clear from day one that he wanted the sequel. So in rewrites of The Darkest Time Of Night, I started thinking of what would happen to the characters several years after the events in Argentum. I wanted to know what really happened to Lynn’s mother and how her family would recover. The heart of this story is what this family endures to expose the truth about a plot that threatens every person on Earth.
The Darkest Time Of Night was a sci-fi thriller. Is that how you’d describe The Dark Above as well, or are there other genres or subgenres at work in this story?
I describe The Darkest Time Of Night as a slow-burn sci-fi thriller, and The Dark Above as a bomb that goes off followed by a series of explosions (I’m very much in a summer-beach-thriller state of mind). The Dark Above is an epic, in which each member of this family is forced to enter Lynn’s secretive world when threats that have been dismissed for years now threatens the globe.
Are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on The Dark Above but not on The Darkest Time Of Night?
The Dark Above is very much a reaction to the concern I have for our own world. As a working investigative journalist, my entire day is spent among television monitors broadcasting the latest global threat. You can only watch so many voracious storms, widespread illnesses and catastrophic violence and wonder: could it be that they’re all related somehow?
How about non-literary influences; did any movies, TV shows, or video games have a big influence on The Dark Above? Because The Darkest Time Of Night has been compared to both The X-Files and Stranger Things.
And I am thrilled with that comparison, as I am such a fan of both those shows. But hands down, the biggest influences come from the real world. Truth truly is stranger than fiction. I couldn’t make up the things I’ve reported on and the people I’ve met. But I will see something along the way in my research or reporting and think, “damn, that would make a great thriller.”
As we’ve been discussing, The Dark Above is the sequel to The Darkest Time Of Night. I’m curious what your plans are for these books going forward. Are these the first two books of a trilogy, is this an ongoing thing, what?
As I said earlier, I always hoped I would be able to write a sequel to The Darkest Time of Night. But I’m not sure what the future holds after The Dark Above. I know what I think happens next, but I’ll let the readers tell me if they want more.
Earlier I asked if The Dark Above had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. But has there been any interest in adapting it and The Darkest Time Of Night into a movie, show, or game?
I have two great agents with William Morris Endeavors that are handing the inquiries from producers and studios. While I have no idea if it will ever happen, I love the idea of either films or a television series anchored by two actresses in their sixties in a supernatural thriller.
If that happens, who would you want them to cast as the main characters?
There are so many great actresses in their sixties and seventies (or could play the parts if they were younger) that there’s a treasure trove to pick from. Look at what American Horror Story did with all those great actresses. So if we’re talking dream casting, I’d take Meryl Streep [Defending Your Life] as Lynn and Kathy Bates [Misery] as Roxy. And Harrison Ford [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] as Steven so I could sneak onto the set and shake his hand.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Darkest Time Of Night and The Dark Above, what similarly thrilling sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next and why that one?
If you like supernatural thrillers, then you must read Jennifer McMahon. I thought I’d read all her books, but I realized I’d never read her first, Promise Not To Tell, so I picked it up for a quick family trip. I had to hide in the laundry room at one point because I had to finish it.