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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Do angels know more in the evening than they do in the morning? Ian Tregillis muses about books, writing, and Medieval theology

Do you remember my friend, colleague, writer, novelist, scientist, and author of the Milkweed trilogy Ian Tregillis? Of course you do! He's one of the first writers I interviewed last year, and let me tell you, Ian is a really interesting person to talk to. So, if you missed the first interview, go read it now, and then come back because today Ian is back to tell us about his next books. That's right, not just the Milkweed sequel, but also his other projects!

Ian, you have a very exciting (and busy) summer ahead of you: Bitter Seeds, the first book in the Milkweed Trilogy, comes out from Orbit in the UK on July 12, The Coldest War, Book II in the Milkweed trilogy, is due on the shelves on July 17, and that's also when your new novel, Something More Than Night, is due on your editor's desk.

Let's start with The Coldest War: Can you give us a sneak peek at what's coming next for Klaus, Marsh, and Gretel? Will we be meeting new characters in this sequel?

There are definitely some new characters in this novel. Because The Coldest War takes place more than 20 years after the end of Bitter Seeds, the leadership of Milkweed has changed hands since the war. By the early 1960s, the people at the helm of Milkweed have a very different philosophy from the wartime days when John Stephenson ran
the show. The enemy and the nature of the conflict have changed considerably.

But the primary characters of The Coldest War are still Marsh, Will, Klaus, and of course Gretel. In the previous novel, we saw Gretel laying down the seeds of a grand plan that only she seems to understand. Now, 20 years later, her plan is coming to fruition. And everybody plays a part, whether they want to or not -- her brother, Klaus; the warlock, Will; and the retired ex-spy, Marsh, most of all.

The passage of time has changed everybody. Some for the better, and some for the worse...

That's so intriguing, I can't wait to read! I should mention for those readers who love audiobooks and can't wait until July, that the audiobook is already out.

I'm so excited about your new novel, Something More Than Night. We both share a great love for Raymond Chandler and, from the few chapters I read of this new work of yours, Chandler relives through your extraordinary prose. Not many people can pull that off, Ian, but you do so in the most beautiful way. Can you tell us how this story was born and maybe give us a little introduction on the characters?

First, thank you very much indeed for the kind and encouraging words about this new project! They mean a lot to me -- "Something More..." is so different from the Milkweed books that I worry how readers will react. I just hope that it finds an audience. (The same hope we have with every book, I suppose!)

The idea for "Something More" actually predates my brainstorming for the Milkweed books. But it took a very long time for all the pieces to crystallize. I knew that I wanted to write a book that took place at least partially in Heaven. I'm fascinated with certain strains of medieval European theology -- back when folks like Thomas Aquinas were contemplating the nature of angels. Do angels know more in the evening than they do in the morning? Do angels pass through the intervening space when they travel from point A to point B? Can several angels occupy the same space? These questions, and others like them, represented the bleeding edge of 13th century philosophy. Fun stuff! And irresistible to a writer...

Even more fascinating to me is the celestial Choir -- the hierarchy of angels. Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Thrones, Virtues, Dominions, Cherubim, Seraphim... Angels in the form of wheels, angels with six wings, angels covered in eyes, angels with the faces of men and lions and oxen. What a wonderful cast of
characters to populate a novel!

I just had to attempt a mystery in this setting. So around the time I started serious brainstorming for this novel, I picked up some noir detective novels from the 1920s through the 1940s. And I quickly fell in love with that delicious slang -- all the talk of bulls and dames and loogans. Not to mention, of course, that wonderful Chandlerian prose.

I'd been struggling to piece together the overall concept for this novel. But once I decided to combine the celestial Choir with the tropes of noir fiction, the whole project started to click. It came together pretty quickly after that.

So the end result is a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler-inspired murder mystery set in Heaven. Imagine central casting for a noir novel juxtaposed with Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim, and all the rest. "Something More" also features appearances by a dirty priest and the Voice of God.

(The title, incidentally, comes from a famous Raymond Chandler quote: "The law was something to be manipulated for profit and power. The streets were dark with something more than night.")

How exciting! Alternate history, and a mystery set in a fantasy world: what's next for you, Ian? Do you see yourself ever getting into a completely different genre?

I enjoy trying different things. For me, the most fun comes from working on projects that force me to stretch myself. I'm a big believer in writing against obstacles. Sometimes I stretch myself too far, but that isn't necessarily bad. In fact, I probably learn more from my failures than my successes! So, whatever I write next will almost certainly be quite a bit different from both the Milkweed books as well as Something More Than Night.

For instance, I love space opera, and would love to try my hand at it. If I ever come up with a decent idea for it, that is. (So far, I haven't.) At the moment, though, I'm kicking around ideas for a science-fictional conspiracy thriller, and a magical secret history. The next book will probably turn into something entirely different from either of those, though. Books have a tendency to mutate, don't they?

Just about all of my ideas have a genre element to them. Or if they don't start out that way, they usually pick one up along the way...

Ooh... "science-fictional conspiracy thriller"... fun! Thanks so much, Ian. I can't wait to read The Coldest War and in the meantime you already have me looking forward to your next projects.

If you enjoyed getting to know Ian, you should check out his website,, where you can find updates on his upcoming books and appearances, excerpts, and follow Ian's blog.


  1. Excellent interview. "Something More Than Night" sounds really good. I can definitely recommend "The Coldest War".

  2. antisocialbutterflieJune 21, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    "Something More Than Night" sounds right up my alley. I am embarking on my annual Summer book binge and needed some new stuff to add to the list. You always present such wonderful ways to burn through my free time.

  3. Thank you both for your comments, I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview! It's always fun to talk with Ian.


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