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Interview with Milkweed Triptych author Ian Tregillis

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Ian Tregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. By day he works as a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and by night he pens moderately entertaining lies. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych (‘Bitter Seeds’, ‘The Coldest War’, and ‘Necessary Evil’) as well as the new standalone novel ‘Something More Than Night’. His short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Apex Magazine, and Subterranean Press. A member of George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards writing collective, he has contributed to several volumes of that long running shared-world anthology series.

For what age audience do you write?

So far, my books have mostly been aimed at late-teen to adult readers. Although I think younger readers could definitely read my books as well -- I just try to be careful when parents ask me whether their kids might enjoy my books. The Milkweed series in particular is a little bit dark, and while many younger readers read dark stuff all the time -- dystopian YA is huge right now, isn't it? -- parents sometimes balk at things their kids won't. Having said all that, I don't intentionally target one age group or try to avoid another when I sit down to write. I just write the stories that are interesting to me, and hope an audience will follow.

Although I have a background in the hard sciences, I haven't written any hard science fiction. I tend to gravitate toward fantasy, usually rooted in the real world. The Milkweed books were a fantasy alt-history of World War II and the Cold War featuring superheroes and blood magic. I'm also currently writing a fantasy clockpunk trilogy that has an element of alternate history to it.

Henry: Fantasy clockpunk!? You’re a big tease, that’s what you are.

Tell us about your latest book.

‘Something More Than Night’ is basically a 1930s noir murder mystery set in a medieval vision of Heaven. I like to say it's what you might get if you swapped out central casting for a Raymond Chandler novel with Thomas Aquinas's vision of the heavenly choir: Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Virtues, Thrones, Powers, Dominions, Principalities... I'm fascinated with the weird beings that crop up in medieval Christian theology, artwork, and in the apocrypha-- with four faces and six wings, angels with faces of flame, wheels covered in eyes, and so forth. So I wanted to play with those images.

At the same time, I'm a big fan of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe books. And I believe in writing against obstacles, that is, of setting goals in order to stretch my skills and force me to push myself a little bit. So I decided early on that it would be fun if one of the characters spoke like a 1930s detective. That meant I had to devote a fair amount of time to reading from the genre and assembling a slang glossary for myself. That document eventually grew to 80 pages.

Henry: Four faces? Six wings? Angels with faces of flame? Wheels covered in eyes? Those medieval Christians knew how to party!

Click to read the complete interview at Henry Herz's blog on fantasy and science fiction books for kids.

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