The Big Idea: Samantha Mills

Author Samantha Mills has a lot on her mind with The Wings Upon Her Back, and much of what is on her mind goes back… way back. Find out how the experiences of those who come before come to color the lives of those who live in the now, and what it means for this novel.


One of the shittiest things about intergenerational trauma is that you’ve often passed it on before you even realize you have it.

I was in my thirties with two small children when I began to reflect more heavily on my own upbringing (like you do), and it finally clicked, in a way it never had before, that my parents were raised by people who had fled Europe after World War II. An entire generation of stoic survivors who didn’t want to talk about any of that; who didn’t believe in therapy and instead insisted that kids need toughening up, as though a bit of trauma now would inoculate them against life’s worse atrocities later. (Spoiler: everyone’s got anxiety instead!)

There aren’t many circumstances that have society-wide repercussions for entire generations at once. War is one of them. Covid-19 has been another.

In The Wings Upon Her Back, there is also a single widespread trauma that shapes society for generations, and that is godly abandonment. There are five gods sleeping above the city of Radezhda. When they first arrived, they bestowed great technologies on their followers and inspired unbridled devotion. But one day, without explanation, they turned their backs.

The trauma of that abandonment haunts the book and everyone in it. I used it to build out the history of the city (I had a load of fun in the epigraphs, if fun is the right word), the character backstories, the primary conflict and its messy resolution… once I understood the ramifications of what I was describing, it seeped in everywhere. It had to…

The Wings Upon Her Back: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Mysterious Galaxy

Author Socials: Web Site|Bluesky|Instagram|Twitter

Read an excerpt.

Source: The Big Idea: Samantha Mills

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