I hope you're having a good week. Those of you who saw last week's author spotlight on Jessica and Keith Flaherty will have seen that they very kindly agreed to conduct an interview, giving us the chance to get to know them both a little better.
PB: Hello, and welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. To start off, could you tell us a bit about your background?
JF: We’re one of those married couples sitcoms never get right. We’ve been together for over twenty years and still can’t get enough of each other. We currently live in Vermont and use it as a backdrop for many of our stories. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’ve worked in various types of publishing, been a professional baker, a stay-at-home-parent, a grant writer, a special education and science teacher … Currently, in addition to writing and editing, I work in residential mental health as a program manager and vocational counselor. When I’m not at work, I spend most of my time writing. I also occasionally enjoy playing the ukulele badly, reading, and binge-watching something funny or action-oriented.
KF: I served in the U.S. Army, then spent many years as a chef and business manager. I currently work in infrastructure construction safety. In my free time, I write poetry and read. I still enjoy cooking a great deal and try to do something in the kitchen at least once a week. As a couple, we love to cook together, go hiking, and spend time together and with their boys. Of course, we also love writing together.
PB: What made you decide to become authors?
JF: I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a little kid and I’ve dabbled in it for decades. But a few summers ago Keith had this amazing idea for a story and once we started talking about it, we had to write it.
KF: I’d been doing some reading into the occult, a topic that’s always interested me. I came across a demon called Ronove in the Lesser Key of Solomon. I thought he’d make an interesting character in a story. Jess and I started talking about him and his preference for going by the name Ben when he’s summoned. That’s how we met Ben Brody, and how Always Darkest and the rest of The Arbitratus Trilogy and universe came to be.
PB: When did you first start writing?
JF: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I wrote pretty seriously in college for a while, then I got out of the habit, sort of lost the spark. Newspapers can suck the fun out of anything. When Keith and I started writing together a couple of years ago, I found that passion for words again.
KF: I’ve only been writing seriously for about two and a half or three years. I did quite a bit of recreational writing for Dungeons and Dragons campaigns when I was younger, but that was as far as my creative aspirations took me until we started writing together.
PB: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
KF: I don’t recall. It was almost definitely something fantasy related and was probably a D&D campaign.
JF: The first one I remember specifically was in first grade. We were supposed to write a story for Saint Patrick’s Day and I wrote some scary thing where the leprechaun was a vicious monster. My teacher called my mom. I guess I must have written other scary stories before that, because I remember my mom not being especially shocked. My father thought it was hilarious.
PB: Tell us about your upcoming release.
JF: In the next year we’ll be releasing Before the Dawn, the sequel to our debut novel Always Darkest. It’s our introduction to Ben and his world. We decided paranormal fantasy needed a new face. Sparkly vampires had their moment. So did charming hunters of things that go bump in the night. But what if the hero was a demon? Always Darkest tells the tale.
Ben was looking for a vacation from hell but meets Mal and finds a path toward redemption instead.
Heaven and Hell send their agents to walk among us, all intent on one purpose: winning a new war sparked by prophecy and deceit. Unfortunately good and evil are not the absolutes we'd like them to be.
The prophecy set the stage, but the players will decide the outcome.
The fate of the world hangs in the balance.
And Ben has never gone down without a fight.
Discover a hero who has survived to Hell and back.
Before the Dawn follows our heroes on the run from both heaven and Hell, trying to find a solution, trying to find meaning, and most of all trying to escape what feels increasingly like a dark and inevitable fate. And when darkness is all that’s certain, your only choice is to seek the light.
Fiat Lux, Book III in the series, will not be far behind Book II.
We will also be releasing The Twelve Days of Fic-mas Volume II. We started the Twelve Days in 2017 as a blog challenge. Leading up to the winter holidays we decided it would be fun to write twelve original paranormal stories (mostly in universe) as quickly as possible. We shined them up and released them as a collection. Volume I came out last holiday season. The 2018 challenge will be released on Black Friday 2019. For readers who are interested in this year’s challenge Twelve Days of Fic-Mas will begin again on demonsrunlit.com in mid-december.
PB: What inspires you?
JF: I know a lot of writers like to give clever or glib answers to this question, but I think what readers want is something more honest. I read. I also people watch a lot. Something as simple as a great meal has given me a story idea. Granted the last time that happened it turned into a flash fic about cannibalism, but that doesn’t make it less true. I love taking the mundane and giving it an unexpected twist. Paranormal fantasy and horror appeal to me for that reason. What lurks beneath the tranquil surface of the pond off in the distance? In my head, the answer is never just fish.
KF: I find inspiration in music quite frequently, but for writing I prefer silence. I get ideas everywhere. I have diverse interests and I really enjoy reading about and researching them. You have to be open to the world around you. Anything can inspire creativity if you approach it with curiosity.
PB: What is your favourite fiction genre and why?
KF: Fantasy in some way, shape, or form has always been my favorite thing to read, regardless of the subgenre involved. It’s an escape, to a degree, a place where you can leave the world you know behind for a while. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.
JF: I’ve also been a fantasy fan my whole life. The first book I remember reading on my own was The Hobbit and no matter what else I’m doing, what phases I’m going through, I always come back to fantasy. I’m particularly excited about dark and urban fantasy because it takes the mundane things of the world we live in and makes them something new.
PB: What are your long-term ambitions career-wise?
KF: I’d love to be able to write full-time.
JF: I agree. I’m also interested in screenwriting. I was always a big fan of Carrie Fisher and I think Hollywood is missing the presence of a strong woman who enjoys flipping off the camera. Those are big shoes to fill, but I wouldn’t mind trying.
PB: If you weren’t an author, what career would you be in?
JF: We both have day jobs, but writing is where we are happiest.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
JF: We have our eyes on the finish line with our series, and some related books and stories. The next target is really getting the work out there to a wider audience, and perhaps tackling the screenplay.
PB: And finally, each tell us a random fact about yourself.
KF: I love research. I can get lost looking up information or interesting stories.
JF: There’s music in my head all the time. If we’ve met, there’s a song I associate with you, and when it plays on the radio you come immediately to mind.
Well thank you to my wonderful guests, Keith and Jess Flaherty. It's been awesome interviewing you both. Don't forget you can find out more about Keith and Jess and follow their work via the links listed below, and most importantly, make sure you download your copy of 'Always Darkest', which is out now! You can purchase it here.