Thursday, July 16, 2009

Interview with Mike Carey (and Giveaway)

Dead Men’s Boots, the third book in Mike Carey’s dark urban fantasy series featuring freelance exorcist Felix Castor makes its North American debut next Thursday (July 23). To celebrate the launch of the book, Mike Carey kindly agreed to an interview to discuss the book, the series and his writing (he reveals some tidbits about new book projects). Feel free to leave a question for Mike or just say hello.

As a special treat, Hachette Books and Grand Central Publishing have provided me with two fabulous giveaway packages of Mike's books. You can read the details at the end of the interview.

Dead Men's Boots Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Every bit as good as the better-known Jim Butcher, Carey hits his stride with his third hard-boiled supernatural thriller (after Vicious Circle). Felix Fix Castor, a London-based exorcist who uses music to fight evil spirits and other paranormal creatures, faces two major challenges. The burial of Fix's friend John Gittings is disrupted by a lawyer with a court order mandating that the corpse be cremated; Gittings's widow retains Felix to prevent the body's exhumation. Meanwhile, a woman asks Felix to clear her husband of rape and murder charges by proving that Myriam Seaforth Kale, a gangster who's been dead for 40 years, is actually responsible. While looking into how Kale has come back from the dead to resume killing people, Fix finds links to a larger threat from the dark side. Carey has a way with words (a character dresses like someone who'd taken The Matrix a little too seriously) as well as a gift for creating a plausible alternate reality.
Mike Carey Bio:
MIKE CAREY got into writing through comic books, where his horror/fantasy series Lucifer garnered numerous international awards and was nominated for five Eisners. From there he moved into novels and screenplays, while still maintaining a presence in the comics world (he is currently writing two of Marvel's flagship titles, X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four).

He lives in London, England, about as far as you can get from the centre of the city and still have access to the London Underground train network. His wife, Linda, writes fantasy for young readers under the pseudonym A.J.Lake. They have three children and an implausibly beautiful cat.
Visit Mike Carey's Website

SFG: How would you describe your series of Felix Castor novels to someone who has never read one before?

They’re the adventures of a freelance exorcist, but told with a sort of noir sensibility. Castor isn’t a man of faith, he’s just someone with a saleable skill. He walks the mean streets and he does it for the money. He tries to do right, most of the time, but he’s got big sins on his conscience and we get to learn about most of them. All this is against the backdrop of a London where the dead are rising in unprecedented numbers, both as ghosts and as zombies, and where there are also demons stalking the streets. Castor’s skills are very much in demand, but inevitably, many of the cases he takes on lead to him getting in way over his head.

SFG: How did you arrive at your choice of Felix Castor as the name for your freelance exorcist and if there was to be a movie who would you cast in the role?

have no idea where the name came from. I’m a big fan of E.C.Segar’s Thimble Theatre, which gave the world Popeye, so maybe the character of Castor Oyl, Olive’s older brother, was in the back of my mind. Or maybe it was seepage from John Constantine, who I was also writing at the time – the two names have a number of letters in common. Felix is straight-faced irony: it means “the fortunate one”.I’m lousy at these casting questions. Daniel Craig, maybe, or Christopher Ecclestone.

SFG: Dead Men’s Boots is the third Felix Castor novel. Can you give us the highlights?

In Dead Men’s Boots, Castor is investigating the death – apparently by suicide – of a fellow exorcist, John Gittings, who was a very minor player in The Devil You Know. Gittings locked himself in a toilet and blew his brains out with a shotgun, so on the face of it there’s no real mystery about his death beyond the motive for it. But then it turns out that he changed his will in some significant ways before he died, and the more Castor looks at it, the worse it all smells. It doesn’t help that Gittings called Castor to ask for his help shortly before he died, and Castor never returned the call. Now he feels like he has to at least look around and ask a few questions before he washes his hands of the whole business. Then someone tries to kill him by throwing him down a lift shaft, and he realises there has to be a lot more to this than meets the eye.

There’s also a second plot strand concerning a murder in London’s King’s Cross. The murder has all the hallmarks of an American serial killer, Myriam Seaforth Kale. The only trouble is that Kale was executed several decades before, on the other side of the Atlantic… Both of these cases seem to get bigger and messie and more complicated as Castor digs into them. And then he gets an offer of help from a very unlikely source – in fact, from a demon who’s an ancient enemy of the succubus, Juliet.

It’s a bigger book than Vicious Circle, which in turn was a bigger book than The Devil You Know. I don’t mean longer, I mean bigger in scope. I keep trying to push the envelope, and to explore the ramifications of Castor’s world.

SFG: You have many unique concepts in the series. Felix uses music in his exorcism rituals and you have a very interesting take on werewolves. Tells us a little of how you came up with these ideas and how they fit into your world-building.

Well the werewolves… I’ve always admired books where the magical or supernatural elements are given their own inner logic – where they’re handled rigorously, rather than just splurged out in a “here’s another cool thing” sort of way. I wanted the eschatology of Castor’s world, if I can call it that, to be internally consistent, so readers would get a lot of narrative bang for a few bucks’ worth of postulates.

So everything supernatural in the books comes from one premise, which is the survival of the human spirit after death. If you can buy that – we have a separable essence called a soul, and it can hang around after the death of the body – then everything else follows. The first thing you get is ghosts, which are just disembodied souls. But sometimes the ghosts cling to their own dead flesh and manage to animate it again to some extent, and that’s what zombies are. Others force their way into animal bodies and redecorate, trying to make them look something like the way they looked when they were alive – and that gives you the were-creatures, the loup-garous. The only anomaly are the demons, and we’ve got some major revelations about them in the fourth Castor book, Thicker Than Water.

Exorcism is handled in a similar way, in that it takes a lot of different forms but it’s always the same thing that’s operating. An exorcist can bind and dispel the dead – that’s an innate ability, like perfect pitch or good aim or being able to wiggle your ears. But being sort of formless and insubstantial, the gift tends to manifest itself through other things that you can do. So if you’re musical, like Castor, you’ll have a sort of second hearing rather than second sight. Castor hears ghosts as tunes or sequences of notes, and he can bind them by playing the same sequence back. When he stops playing, the ghost goes to wherever music goes when it’s not being played any more: it’s just gone. Other characters achieve the same thing with words, drawings, decks of cards, knotted string… We meet a religious exorcist who uses verses from the Bible, but it’s clear that it’s not the force of the Good Book that’s the deciding factor: it’s the inborn talent of the exorcist.

SFG: You have a tremendous portfolio of graphic novels and comics. Do you have a series or title you are most proud of and can you tell us something about it?

I guess if I’m going to name just one thing, then it would have to be Lucifer. I wrote that book for seven years, and I filled it with all the things I was most obsessive about at the time. It’s a story about what happens to the devil after he resigns from Hell and goes to live in Los Angeles, where he runs a piano bar. It’s a spin-off from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but it became a book about family dynamics, with Lucifer as the rebellious son trying to escape from his father’s influence – which, when your father is God, isn’t easy. It’s also a book about predestination and free will: about how far you can ever be free to make your own decisions, and what it means when you do.

SFG: What prompted you to start writing novels?

I love telling stories, in every possible form. I actually wrote novels before I got into comics, but they were pretty awful. Writing comics taught me how to plan and how to structure a story, because in comics you have to make the best possible use of a strictly limited narratve space. Every beat has to count.

SFG: Dead Men’s Boot’s, the third Felix Castor book is just being released on July 23, however in the UK the fifth book, The Naming of the Beasts is being released in September. Do you have in mind an ultimate conclusion to the series? How many books will there be?

We have a big reveal, and a big climax, planned for book six. That book will wrap up every single teaser and plot thread from all the books so far, and it could actually be where the series ends. It wouldn’t have to be, though. It changes the status quo, and it draws a line under everything that Castor has done up to that point, but it would still be open for further stories. One thing I’ve thought about doing is a novel in which Juliet or Nicky Heath is the main character, with Castor relegated to the background.

SFG: Do you have other writing projects planned aside from the Felix Castor series?

I’m always working on about half a dozen comics projects. At the moment I’m wrapping up a comic book adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Shadow, and working on a miniseries starring the original Human Torch – the one from the 1940s. I’m also in the early stages of a new Vertigo project, The Unwritten, which so far (with two issues out) has been spectacularly well received. It’s the story of a guy who is world famous because his father named a fictional boy wizard after him, and who then discovers when he grows up that he might actually be that fictional character, somehow made flesh.

In prose, I’m planning a novel set in 1930s Berlin, which would look at the experiences of an undead character against a background of violent and terrifying social change. And I’m also planning a suite of stories which I want to co-write with my wife and daughter, if we all live so long. It’s a great idea, but progress is slow because life is complicated and full of stuff.

SFG: What do you read for fun and pleasure? Do you have a favourite author? What are you reading now?

I don’t have a favourite author. It’s like it is with movies, you can maybe name your top ten, or your top twenty, but the closer you get to the top the less the distinctions seem to mean. My top ten at the moment would probably include Ursula LeGuin, China Mieville, Mervyn Peake, Giovanni Guareschi, Roger Zelazny, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Ted Chiang… and two other people. I read sci-fi, fantasy and horror much more than I read mainstream fiction: that’s a bias that’s built into my hind brain.

Right now I’ve got two books on the go – the John Toland biography of Adolf Hitler, which I’m reading as research for this Berlin story, and a book titled The Origin of Stories, by Brian Boyd, which takes an adaptationist approach to the development of storytelling in human societies. Somewhere I’ve also got Lewis Hyde’s marvelous book The Gift sitting around and waiting to be finished.

SFG: I’ve read that you have both a film project (Frost Flowers) and a television series (The Stranded) in the works. Can you tell us something about them and when they might be coming to the big and little screen?

Can I duck that one? Frost Flowers is almost certainly dead, I’m sorry to say: the two companies that were co-producing it aren’t on each other’s Christmas card lists any more, and Frost Flowers was a casualty of that rift. The Stranded is ongoing, but it’s also at a point where some things about it are changing significantly, so it’s difficult to talk sense about it.

I’m working with Slingshot Pictures on another movie idea, though, and that’s going great. The working title is TRINITY, and it’s about vampires. Kind of. It’s also about dirty politics.

SFG: Is there anything else you would like everyone to know about Mike Carey?

I’m a nice guy, and you should buy my books. All of them.

Thank you very much Mike. You heard it folks. Off to the book store and stock up on Felix Castor. I finished reading Dead Men's Boots on the weekend and it is terrific. My review will be posted tomorrow.

I have a first prize of 5 copies of the DEAD MEN'S BOOTS hardcover available to giveaway to lucky readers. I will select the winners for these tomorrow (July 17).

But that’s not all. I also have 3 GRAND PRIZES consisting of Mike’s first three books, THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, VICIOUS CIRCLE and DEAD MEN'S BOOTS to giveaway. I will draw winners for those on July 23 – launch day.


The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada (sorry no P.O. boxes).

All comments or questions for Mike will receive an entry. You can also enter at my original contest post here - just follow the contest rules). Feel free to enter both places, if you haven't already.

All entries are eligible for both draws, however if someone from the tomorrows draw also wins the Grand prize a new name will be selected for the earlier prize.


  1. Great interview. I have been hearing about the Felix Castor books lately and they sound great.

    Do they follow in order? It is something where you definitely want to start with book 1?

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  2. Hi Mike and Doug!

    What an unique take on were-creatures and zombies. I've never thought of actual animals being taken over by a life obsessed spirit creating were-critters. Where did this idea come from?

    There are also lots zombie hunters and raisers out there in novel land. And yet this is a different view on zombie-ism, how did you come up with this different way of seeing zombies and their disposal? And are they gone for good once Felix gets rid of them?

    I love the noir quality of some of the urban fantasy books such as Mario Acevedo and now I've found another. I'll look for your books, haven't read them yet, but they look great!

    Thanks Doug and Mike for the wonderful interview, interesting new ideas that I can't wait to see where they go.

    Dottie :)

  3. One of my blogfriends keeps asking me why I haven't read any of Mike Carey's Felix Castor books yet... Um, no good reason - I guess I'd better get reading, as they sound very intriguing.

  4. Enjoyed the interview, count me in!

  5. Great interview. The Felix Castor books sound good. Love urban fantasy.

  6. Thank you for introducing me to a new author. Will definitely be looking for the first book of the series when I go to the bookstore again.

    cheleooc [at] yahoo [dot] com

  7. Donnas - they do have an order, yeah. Each book is free-standing, with a self-contained mystery, but the lives of the main characters progress through the books, with some significant developments along the way...

    Dottie - I'm not sure where the werewolf/zombie idea came from. I just didn't want to have lots of different supernatural mechanisms operating, so I was consciously looking for ways to unify them.

    Are they gone for good? That's a very big question in the books, which gives Castor a lot of sleepless nights. We do eventually get an answer, but not until the sixth book.

  8. Thanks, Mike! I now have more books to add to my to be read list! Great article! Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

  9. Thanks Mike for stopping and answering my question.

    Your books sound wonderful, I will be adding to my next order.


    Dottie :)

  10. Hi Mike,
    Great interview. You are a new author to me. I have just found another series to add to my tbr list!

    chey127 at hotmail dot com

  11. Great interview I have heard alot lately about the Felix Castor books They definitely sound like something I would like to read.

  12. So very glad I have at least five more books to get to know Felix better. Mowed through THE DEVIL YOU KNOW a month or so ago. I had it as my bedside book and barely slept enough for work each day until I finished. EXCELLENT! Sent it to my sister, she's now a fan.

    I know you don't necessarily have a favorite book, TV show or movie, but how about tunes? Do you have a favorite band or singer who puts you in the mood to write and create? Do you work in silence or with background noise?

  13. Oh, Doug, I commented on the announcement post and I posted an announcement on my blog for today's interview and Q&A

    VWinship at aol dot com

  14. Thanks Mike for stopping by, and thanks Doug for hosting such a great interview. I'm going to be in England in September, which means I can pick up all four Castor novels I'm missing! Very exciting.

  15. Great interview! count me in!
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  16. Hi :)
    Thanks for having Mike Carey on your blog. I had never heard of the Felix Castor books and now that I've read the blurbs and the interview I MUST read them! Fresh and unique and intriguing.
    I'm looking forward to them now.
    From Canada

  17. Hi Mr. Mike Carey. I've heard so many great things about this book from Doug here and other authors. Now reading your own blurb of this series, so does sound unique with alot of goodies to look forward to. I do love books set in London, since I've read that setting and been fascinated with it. Do you live there or visit there to feel the setting? I definitely too must share your graphic novels with my son who is a young adult. Are these geared for adult readers? One last question, I promise, how long from the time you wrote your first book until you were published? Again, a joy to meet you and read your fab interview!

    (Doug, I posted on the other post too when it was posted :)

  18. Heh heh, I'm almost done The Devil You Know and I was wondering if you picked the name "Felix" for the irony. Good to know. :)

  19. Thank you Mike for coming by and answering questions and sharing your thoughts. Dead Men's Boots was a fab read. And thank you to everyone that left a comment. Thanks Vickie for the link, Caitlin for the kind words. My review is late - hopefully Monday.

  20. Vickie - thanks for spreading the word. :) There are a whole lot of bands I play when I'm working, but only at certain points in the process - usually the parts where I'm most confident about what I'm doing and least worried about distraction. At the moment it's mainly Shearwater (the latest album, Rook, is amazing), Okkervil River, Tunng, and Grizzly Bear, plus some older stuff by Leonard Cohen.

    Caffey - I live just outside London, in one of the Northern suburbs, but I go into the centre a lot. I was born in Liverpool and lived there until I was 19, so I came to London late. I think that means I see it a little differently than people who grew up here.

    Most of my graphic work is really intended for mature readers, with a fair amount of violence, swearing and so on. I did do two young adult books, though - Re-Gifters and Confessions of a Blabbermouth - and they're among the things I'm proudest of having written.

    How long between starting to write and being published? It depends how you count, but it was a fairly long time because I was very tentative about it. I wrote reviews and articles for fanzines for many years before I ever dared submit a script or a pitch to anyone - and before that I was doing the classic thing of hiding my writing in my sock drawer, not showing it to anyone. The first time I got a story published in any format was 1991, when I was already past 30. I think if I was a different kind of person, I could have got further, faster... :)

  21. Great series - wish I'd written it myself :-)


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