INTERVIEW: Mike Carey / M R Carey

Words by Olly MacNamee / Pic of Mike Carey @ Charlie Hopkinson

Warning: This interview contains some spoilers for M R Carey’s book The Girl With All The Gifts.

With an impressive writing career in comics, as well as a growing sideline as a novelist and screenwriter, Birmingham Review caught up with Mike Carey at Waterstone’s in Birmingham City Centre – talking about his new novel, Fellside, his previous novel and soon-to-be film, The Girl With All The Gifts, his comics, heaven, hell, and how ‘we think we live in the real world’.

Olly MacNamee (OM): I like the multiple perspectives you present in The Girl With All The Gifts. Is this a narrative technique you adopt in your new novel, Fellside?

Mike Carey (MC): It is, although in the first draft it was a single point of view.

OM: Was that Jess, the prisoner at Fellside?

MC: No. Actually it was Sylvia Stark, a very minor character in the novel; an evil, obsessive nurse who tries to kill Jess right from the outset. I chose her because she’s tangential to the story, someone who is looking onto the tragedy that unfolds and a tragedy she doesn’t understand, or her own part in it. But it didn’t really work because it forced me to talk around Fellside by M R Careycertain things, and delay certain reveals, so I recast it with multiple points of view. Yes, it’s the same kind of storytelling device as The Girl With All The Gifts, but it isn’t in the present tense, like Girl.

I was very concerned not to do a follow up to Girl; the same kind of flavour, the same kind of storytelling. I wanted to branch out a bit and it is a very, very different book. Fellside is a ghost story and, as such, the balance between the real world elements and the fantastical elements is different in Fellside. If you take away Alex, the ghost, Fellside is a prison narrative – in some ways reflective of other classic prison based narratives, with familiar character types such as Harriet Grace, the woman who runs all the rackets in the prison, and Dennis Devlin, the corrupt warder…  What I wanted to do, also, was to say something about the present state of British prisons.

Private prisons, sadly, are the future because they are so cheap compared to the public alternative; it takes it off the government’s books and places it into the hands of corporations who pick up the tab. The cost of such as system is that you then get the perverse incentives of Capitalism kicking in. You are talking about companies whose product are prisoners, and so they can only increase their profit if they either have more prisoners or if they keep their prisoners for longer. So these companies will be lobbying the government to change the law, to put more people in prison and for longer time too.

OM: Were you aware of these issues before researching for Fellside?

MC: It’s part of the reason why I chose a prison setting, although there were lots of other reasons too. For example, claustrophobic settings, I love them. I love settings where a small cast of characters are forced to interact with each other. The military base in The Girl With All The Gifts is another such place, Fellside even more so. From a dramatic point of view it’s irresistible.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M R CareyOM: Fellside is a thought-provoking novel. Is this something we could do with more of in comics? After all, your work on the Vertigo comic Lucifer looked at the notions of free will, whilt your other Vertigo comics’ series, The Unwritten, looked at the very nature of reality itself.

MC: Well, when I come up with an idea, it’s always characters and a setting first, and then I build the story. I’ve learnt the hard way over thirty years, for me it’s the only way that works. If you start with the story you end up with two-dimensional characters, you build the story around the characters. So I’m never consciously thinking of themes that my story will address.

Having said that, I don’t think you can write without it coming from your perspective, from how you look at the world around you. In The Unwritten that is an exception, as we definitely set out to write a story about stories and the extent to which stories are the only things that really matter. Ambrosio says in the first issue that stories are the only thing worth dying for. We have a more radical position even than that: stories are the only thing there is. We think we live in a real world, we don’t. We live in stories about ourselves in the story of the real world. There is a lot of psychological research to suggest that the self, our sense of self, is a narrative.

OM: Of course, our first lessons in morality come from fairy tales and folklore when we’re just toddlers. Your Lucifer is based on concepts explored by Milton in his epic narrative poem, Paradise Lost. And whether William Blake wanted to create a hero out of the Devil in his book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he did. What is it about character of Lucifer that draws writers to him?

MC: I think Lucifer is powerful figure because he’s got such a wide range of possible meanings. I think that all myths that survive do so because you can apply them in so many different ways to life and your own life.Lucifer by Mike Carey

Lucifer starts off as the adversary to God, the embodiment of the darker impulses in our nature. The moment you do embody him the more he becomes attractive and glamorous. You are thinking, ‘actually, he’s pretty cool.’ Milton does not set out to make a hero out of Lucifer in Paradise Lost. He’s supposed to be the bad guy but he’s the most interesting character in the story. In Books 6 and 7, the War in Heaven, it’s basically heroic fantasy with Lucifer the big guy holding the biggest sword, like Conan. You end up rooting for him.

OM: Finally, it was announced recently that the TV series of Lucifer will be renewed for a second season. You’ve written the screenplay for the film adaption of your novel, The Girl With All The Gifts – would you be interested to write the odd episode of Lucifer?

MC: Damn straight. I would totally do that and do my damndest to sneak in a story from the comic book series. I think American networks will go with known American writers with proven track records, but you never know.

M R Carey’s Fellside is available now in hardback, whilst his previous novel, The Girl With All The Gifts is available in paperback. Mike Carey’s comic book work is also available as trade paperbacks.

For more on Mike Carey / M R Carey, visit

INTERVIEW: Scroobius Pip

Scroobius Pip /

Words by Olly MacNamee

Bringing that beat back once again to Birmingham, Scroobius Pip’s We Are Lizards returns the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) this Saturday 30th January – for direct gig info & online tickets, click hereBirm_Prev-logo-MAIN - lr

Olly MacNamee caught up with the club night’s well versed founder for a quick Birmingham Review Q&A – sharing a slightly graying love for comics, 12” acetate and the lure of the second city.

BR: What is the draw to Birmingham, given your club nights tend to run in London?

SP: It’s a bit of a second home for me because I went to Wolverhampton University, the only place outside of my hometown I’ve ever lived. With a lot of my friends at Birmingham University I spent a lot of time there around 2001.

Yeah, the people at the Hare & Hounds… every time I’ve gone there, I’ve always got on really well with them. I’ve performed at their Spoken Word nights, Speak Up, that they used to put on. I liked everyone, I liked the venue, I liked the place, so really, although I tend to do the We Are Lizards club nights exclusively in London, Birmingham tends to tempt us back. I’ve also sent artists from my label there (Speech Development Records); B Dolan went there. I’ve also done the Speech Development tour there, with Warren Peace and B Dolan.

BR: As long as you avoid Broad Street, it’s a great city.

SP: Yeah, definitely. And I’ve been in a bit of bother on Broad Street in my time, but that’s Broad Street for you.

Scroobius Pip presents We Are Lizards @ Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) 30.01.16BR: You’re better off staying in the Hare & Hounds.

SP: Yeah, yeah. I agree. The whole Kings Heath area was new to me. The first time I performed at the Hare & Hounds was with, amongst other people, Musa Okwonga, who is a god of the spoken word, and a guy called Ed Sheeran who’s done quite well since. It really is a good spot.

BR: So what can people expect from a Scroobius Pip/We Are Lizards club night?

SP: Simply, a really good party. And another reason we keep on coming back to Birmingham, and specifically the Hare & Hounds, is that the people seem to just get it. Although the music does tend to lean towards Hip Hop, Funk and RnB and a bit of Indie, we never actually have any set rules. As long as people are getting into it and dancing, we’re happy.

I’ve been doing it in London, monthly nights for four years now, then when we took it to the Hare & Hounds and realized it was busy enough for us to come back, we were sold. The next two times it was rammed out and people were getting into it. What I liked, and it is a bit of a Midlands thing, is that the crowd was straight onto it. They were all up for it and up for a dance. In London it can be a slower start, but in Birmingham, and after a live band maybe – offering local talent a stage – we get the DJs on, including DJ Destruction who’s a former DMC champ. People were coming up to him all night long asking who he was, when he’s back, when can they see him again. He’s our jewel in the crown.

The club night in Birmingham is a bit of a weird one for me too. I don’t often drink these days, I’ve just drifted away from it really, but in Birmingham I do always tend to drink. I don’t think I’ve even drunk in 2016 yet, so the We Are Lizard club night might well be the first time.Hare & Hounds / By Ed King - Birmingham Review

BR: I’ll buy you a drink if I see you on Saturday. But moving away from We Are Lizards, like your namesake (‘The Scroobius Pip’ by Edward Lear) you seem to be something of a career chimera – with your Distractions Pieces podcast, your club nights, music, and even a graphic novel. Anything else we should know about?

SP: I’ve got a couple of comic book ideas, but they’re bouncing around with a lot of other projects at the moment. But on Monday I’ve got Kieron Gillen (comic book writer) and Jamie McKelvie (comic book artist) who did the comic, The Wicked + The Divine, coming in to record a podcast that should be out sometime in February. Gillen is currently writing the Marvel Darth Vader comic, so I’m a huge fan of them and looking forward to that. Jamie is the first comic book artist I’ve interviewed, having already interviewed comic book writers like Alan Moore (Watchmen) and Garth Ennis (Preacher).

BR:  And what about your tastes in music? With the way we can access music now, have you found you’ve become more eclectic? When I was younger I had just enough money to buy one album a week, and one only.

SP: Yeah. In my day at school, like you, if you were into Punk, like I was, you were into Punk and that was it. But when I worked in HMV, and before ‘free music’ over the Internet, that was the first place I found I could try out different genres of music more readily. Then people who worked in record shops knew their stuff, they were hugely knowledgeable of the particular section. They knew their shit. You could talk to the Hip Hop guy and he could tell you what was good.

Speech Development - lr, BR web coloursI worry that, because music is a bit more disposable, we are going to see people that don’t have those (physical) albums that changed their lives, that spoke to them. I agree, in my day I could afford a couple of albums a month and that meant that those albums were played inside and out and I knew every lyric to every song, B-sides included. Now you can just grab a hundred songs in moments, skip through the bits that you like only. But I try not to focus on that ‘coz you can come off as the bitter musician asking people to, ‘stop stealing my music’. But yeah, it does sadden me.

The amount of repairs my mum used to have to do to my coats, because the CD Discman didn’t quite fit into my pocket. But again, I would only take the one CD to school, not three or four. I used to have to get the train to school and listen to Punk, Metal, whatever.

BR: Any stand out albums that mean a lot to you? One’s you go back to.

SP: Three albums that stand out for me particularly in my formative musical years was Rancid’s Out Come the Wolves, Offspring’s Smash – which was a great record, Green Day’s seminal album, Dookie. Those were my teen years and I loved them. I’ve still got nothing but love for Green Day, even though I’m not that much into their new stuff.

BR: With the clock ticking… again like your namesake, are you ‘the wisest beast’ of them all?

SP: I think I definitely am (laughs). I feel like I’m old as fuck now, and that translates for me into wisdom.

hare-and-hounds-logo - transScroobius Pip presents We Are Lizards at the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) on Saturday 30th January – featuring Scroobius Pip, Destruction, Push Music, Redshift Rebels, Disco Stu + The Oddysee (live) For direct gig info & online tickets, visit

For more on Scroobius Pip, visit

For more on the Hare & Hounds, visit - f square, rounded - with colour - 5cm highTwitter - t, square, rounded, with colour, 5cm high