Having established himself as one of the comic book industry’s most inspired creators on such titles as Lucifer and Hellblazer, British writer Mike Carey has turned his attention to the literary arena with the Felix Castor books.
Set in a semi-alternate London in which the dead have returned to bedevil the living, Castor is a freelance exorcist trying to return those spirits to the great beyond. The latest book, The Naming of the Beasts resolves a long-running arc that began back in book one.
In a recent conversation, Carey discussed his plans for the series, as well as several other current projects…
The Naming of the Beasts picks up immediately from the events in the previous book, Thicker than Water, doesn’t it?
I wrote those two back to back, because Thicker than Water ends on a cliffhanger, so it resolves a major plotline but ends on something unresolved, so The Naming of the Beasts plays out the rest of that storyline. I’ve never done that before. There’s usually a long gap between the books, but I kind of saw these two almost as two halves of the same story.
Did you have a long-range plan in mind from the beginning or did it start coming together as you began working on the first book?
It’s kind of built into the logic of what’s happening. The events and revelations in book six are where I whip the sheet away and say, ‘Look, this has been what’s happening all along!’ so there is a unifying logic to that whole six-novel sequence. What happens beyond that is still up for grabs; because the resolution leaves it open for further stories to be told.
In an ideal world, how long do you see the books continuing?
I don’t know. At the moment, I’m really enjoying spending time with these characters and that’s the key thing. They don’t feel stale. It feels like there are still more stories to tell and I can tell them in a way that will feel fresh and interesting. I don’t know how long that will last.
I would like to give all of the main characters a resolution. The Naming of the Beasts arguably gives two of the characters a convincing resolution and the sixth book will do the same thing for another character, but it would be cool to have books that explored Nicky’s situation more, or Juliet’s situation, because they’re both enormous fun to write.
Let’s talk about some of your comic book work. Your series The Unwritten offers some interesting commentary about SF/fantasy fandom, doesn’t it?
It’s a blast to write. We’ve done pages from the novels, pages from the movies, online discussion, message boards, online news feeds and so on. We want to give a sense of an informational biosphere; a realm in which stories and ideas are constantly flowing backwards and forwards.
Information is circulating so fast that you can’t control or limit it, which is a big part of what the story is about. We live in an age of instant communications, where legends are created literally overnight.
You’re also working on a series featuring the Golden Age Human Torch?
It’s sort of set in the present-day, although it does look back to the Torch’s creation and it has a payoff that takes us right back to that origin. As with X-Men: Legacy, I wanted to tell a story that was in current continuity but would give past storylines their full weight and would deal with the way the past impacts on and determines the present.
We also felt that in some ways having an inhuman protagonist allowed us to ask the question, ‘What is a man?’ more easily than if you have a regular human being, because humanity is something that despite his name, humanity is something that was never a given for the Torch; it was something he had to earn or build for himself.
I guess that was the big hook for me: the idea of taking the Torch back to bedrock and saying, ‘Let’s look more closely at how that process happens; how humanity and personality accrete for somebody who is basically if not a machine, a tabula rasa.
What other projects do you have in the works?
I’m working (very slowly) on a non-Castor novel, which I’m writing with my wife and daughter. I previously collaborated with my daughter on Confessions of a Blabbermouth for DC’s Minx line and really enjoyed working together, so we came up with this idea for a suite of stories that would grow into a novel and after a year or more of just talking about it, we’ve finally written the first few chapters, so that’s quite exciting. It’s fantasy, but fantasy with a social or political edge.
The other thing I’m working on at the moment is a movie outline for a UK production company Slingshot Pictures, which I’m really excited about. Trinity is a horror piece, but again, a horror piece that has a lot to say about the real world, particularly about the war on terror.
Where do you see your work going in the future?
I think my biggest asset as a writer ironically, has always been my insecurity. I’m constantly driven by fear of work drying up and starving to death, which I say in a frivolous way, but it’s true; I worry when I’m not working. When I’m not working, I almost immediately have to find something else to do and sit down and do it; consequently I’ve never really had a plan beyond getting more work or getting more stuff written.
I love writing, but I’m driven more by neurotic insecurity than anything else, so I’ve never had a long-term goal I’ve been working towards.
It’s wonderful that I’ve been able to write mainstream superhero stuff and adult fantasy, horror and science fiction, and humor and romance books for Minx. I find that stuff incredibly rewarding and I could not see ever giving up writing comics; it’s too big a part of my life.
Writing the Castor books stretched a completely different set of muscles and is equally rewarding in a completely different way. I guess I’m now in more of a position to sit back and say, ‘I want to do this and I don’t want to do that!’ but the truth is I want to do keep doing everything!