Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2018
An Interview with Jeremy Finley about his novel, The Darkest Time of Night
by: Brent Raynes and Cathy Brockway
Jeremy Finley's investigative reporting has resulted in guilty pleas, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims and the discovery of missing girls. The winner of more than sixteen Emmys and Edward R. Murrow awards, he is also the two-time recipient of the IRE award, a top national honor given out by Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and daughters. THE DARKEST TIME OF NIGHT is his first work of fiction.
Jeremy Finley is the chief investigative reporter for the News 4 I-Team at Nashville's WSMV TV station.
Brent Raynes: Mr. Finley, could you please give us a brief overview about your novel, In The Darkest Time of Night, so that our readers will know what it is generally about?
Jeremy Finley: First, thank you for your interest in the book. The Darkest Time of Night tells the story of the disappearance of a U.S. Senator’s young grandson, and how the politician's wife must return to her controversial past as a researcher of missing people in the late 1960s in order to try and find him.
Brent Raynes: In your recently released novel, which is your first, the subject turns out to be based on the alien abduction phenomenon, and I have read that your mother-in-law was your original inspiration for this book as she worked as a secretary in an astronomy department for some professor who was studying alien abductees, and often took phone messages from such people to relay information to this professor.
I wonder if you can tell us more and perhaps reveal who the professor was? Dr. J. Allen Hynek of course came to my mind immediately, but certainly there have been other professors who have been interested in this matter down through the years. Hynek was a well-known astronomer who was an astronomical consultant for two decades for the Air Force regarding UFOs, and although I know of one “abductee” personally who approached him at one time for investigation, I don't know that Hynek was specifically that involved with “alien abductees,” generally speaking.
Jeremy Finley: I purposely never asked my mother-in-law for any specifics as to her time working for the professor, as I wanted to draw a fine line between the truth and this fictional novel. I did this because I didn’t want anyone to think that the fictional character of Lynn Roseworth was in anyway a reflection of my mother-in-law’s experience. So as for who the professor was, I don’t even know!
Cathy Brockway: Kudos to your mother-in-law Linda for being so forthcoming! If she ever plans to write a memoir I would love to read it.
Jeremy Finley: Cathy, she’d have quite the story to tell, but would never tell it. She’s famously guarded and private. Plus, she would tell you it was a brief, strange part in her very full life. She told the story never realizing her son-in-law would one day use the experience to write a novel.
Cathy Brockway: People know your work in investigative reporting is based on facts and evidence. Has writing in the 'speculative novel' genre helped you to share in fiction any personal experiences you might have had in the paranormal?
Jeremy Finley: Unfortunately, the paranormal has yet to occur in my life. It’s probably why I’ve read so much about otherworldly experiences because of the absense of them in my journey so far.
Cathy Brockway: Do you feel people are more open to contemplating controversial issues when reading a novel verses reading non-fiction?
Jeremy Finley: It’s an interesting notion. I just read The Handmaiden’s Tale, and was completely horrified and mesmerized as the father of two girls and a husband. Because it was a work of fiction, it was easier to absorb. We live in a pretty tense and volatile world, and the realities are often hard to stomach, so experiencing them through fiction seems to make it less painful.
Brent Raynes: I see that in your research for your novel that you reviewed material on UFOs from such well-known and respected civilian UFO organizations as the Mutual UFO Network, the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, and that you were also aware of the writer Whitley Strieber's alleged UFO contact experiences. I'm curious to know if you've spoken directly with any researchers and experiencers yourself and what personal impressions of the field and of these experiences you may have acquired? I've learned the notorious Men In Black are in your novel too. I have a book coming out early in 2019 that explores the life, research and investigative work of noted UFO author and journalist John Keel who closely studied the MIB cases, as well as the controversial UFO abduction/contact syndrome.
Jeremy Finley: You’ll have to let me know when your book on John Keel comes out, as it sounds like something I must read. I spent a considerable amount of time doing research for the novel. If I were doing a non-fiction book, I certainly would have conducted interviews. I am deeply indebted to the organizations for having so much material online that allowed me to bring authenticity to The Darkest Time of Night.
Cathy Brockway: I know every person who goes missing brings great devastation to their family and friends, whether those people are later found or never located. Have you worked on any missing persons cases personally? Have you been exposed to any cases you feel has something not-quite-right about it?
Jeremy Finley: I have unfortunately written many stories on missing persons cases. The one that haunts most of the veteran reporters in Nashville is the disappearance of Tabitha Tuders, a girl who went missing on her way to school and has never been found. I was one of the first reporters on the scene of her disappearance that night and have followed the case ever since. I think it gnaws at all of us not to know what happened.
Cathy Brockway: I feel paranormal investigators and investigative reporters face a lot of the same challenges, i.e., people hiding information or being unwilling to talk; others who block information or supply disinformation; defamers and others who personally attack their integrity and a lot of times people who just want attention. How much of your personal experience with those issues perhaps play into the storyline of your book?
Jeremy Finley: You strike at a very true reality for any of us that seek the truth that others want hidden, and I certainly wanted to bring that same tension to Lynn’s journey and the tribulations of her fellow researchers.
Brent Raynes: I got a copy of your novel yesterday (Oct. 16) and it looks very impressive. My co-host Cathy has already read it, loved your book, and my wife Joan is moving along at a pretty fast clip. She's really into it as well and took the book away from me. I'll eventually get there, but in the meantime I understand that a sequel to this one will be coming along too?
Finley: I’m just finishing the edits on the sequel, The Dark Above. It tells the story fifteen years after the events of the The Darkest Time of Night. It will come out in the summer 2019. I can't wait for people to read it.
Cathy Brockway: I've also run across some investigators in the paranormal field who are very protective of the work they have done, the information and data they have gathered and aren't willing to let others chew over the evidence. From a scientific viewpoint, theories have to be able to stand up to rigorous and unbiased review and analysis from others. This is easy when dealing with evidence that can be measured and recorded, but when you're dealing with the paranormal that's not always the case. This seems to be a bit of the theme in your novel.
What can you add to this?
Jeremy Finley: I think that when you’re under constant scrutiny, like all those are who investigate controversial issues, you are probably prone to closely guarding your work. For the researchers in my novel, they are aware that there are real threats if their work is exposed.
Brent Raynes: Are you happy thus far with the reactions to your novel? Is this something you'd like to become more involved with in the future?
Jeremy Finley: I couldn’t be more pleased. To have this book, that I have labored on for so many years, to be featured as one of the best books of the summer by the New York Post and People magazine is beyond my wildest expectations. But truly, it is the interest from readers that just makes this entire experience so rewarding. I'm such a fan of authors myself that it's a joy to open Twitter or email and hear from readers in Australia and Canada and throughout the U.S. writing about the book. My goal is to have a new novel out every year.
Brent Raynes: Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer our questions! Good luck with future literary efforts!
Jeremy Finley: These have been great questions and I so appreciate your interest!