Why angels? More than any other question I’ve been asked since I started writing Fallen, this is what people want to know. In an age where we’ve actually colloquialized the phrase “vampire-saturation,” where even Anne Rice is crossing over to the light side, and where—yes, I know—there’s no shortage of other angel books being published, it does feel important to trace back to the exact moment that I chose to plunge myself into the Miltonic fray.
I’ve never encountered an angel in my every day life—though I’d consider myself open to it (I say this after visiting Savannah, where I learned 80% of the residents are “open” to encountering a ghost). Going into this project, what I knew about angels started and ended with a very basic collective social construct: flawless features, fluffy wings, good intentions, etc. And although it’s commercially compelling, I’m not interested in making a case for why angels are the new vampires.
I was just a grad student who happened to write a lot of love stories, auditing a class about reading the Bible as a narrative text. And one day, flipping through the Book of Genesis, lightening struck. I came across a biblical reference to a group of angels who were kicked out of heaven because they lusted after mortal women. I started thinking about what it would be like to be normal girl—suddenly the object of an angel’s affection. What kinds of thrills and challenges would spring from such an unusual match? And what would her very over-protective parents think?? When my mind started spinning around this mortal girl’s character, I had the feeling her love story had the power to be bigger, weightier, and with a lot more at stake than any romance—or really any thing—I’d ever written before.
I was a Jewish kid with a Catholic father, raised in a Baptist part of Texas, so I’ve grown up to have a pretty strong theological fascination, as well as an open interest in a wide range of religious narratives. While in no way a religious book, Fallen does have a strong theological base. The narratives and history surrounding the angels and demons are very compelling to me, but the ways in which I’ve included them in Fallen go back further than the Bible. They’re pre-Christian, even pre-Torah. My research took me back as far as the earliest known dualistic religion, Zoroastrianism, where I was intrigued to find an unspeakable interdependence between good and evil.
When I first started doing interviews for Fallen, I tended to shy away from the tricky what-are-you-trying-to-do-with-religion question. The truth is, I suppose I’m trying to do a bit of justice to millennia worth of history, narrative, and lore without hinging Luce’s story too closely on any one faith. I’m trying to incorporate some of the great mysteries and mythologies of a variety of religions, and to push myself to reconsider preconceived notions of what is “good” and what is “evil.” Maybe some of my readers will join me in this. But for those who might not find the god brothers Mazda and Ahriman, the history of the Nephilim, or how Milton altered our view of Satan quite as fascinating as I do (impossible!), there’s always that forbidden love story to fall back on.
Add this book to your collection: Fallen