Horror is coming to BOOM! Studios on October 7. Artist Mike Perkins (DEATHLOK, CAPTAIN AMERICA) and writer Mike Carey (UNWRITTEN, HELLBLAZER) have a new mini-series called ROWANS RUIN. We talked to the two creators about their upcoming October book.
COMIC VINE: What's your new book ROWANS RUIN all about?
MIKE CAREY: It’s about two young women – one in the US and one in Britain – who do a house-swap. It’s the kind of thing that’s become really common since the internet made it effortless to do. The American girl, Katie Shackley, is a student with a very limited budget and this is a great way to see and stay in another country without breaking the bank.
But from the moment she arrives she sense something strange and unsettling about the house she’s come to stay in, Rowans Rise. It starts with nightmares and it escalates from there. And delving into the history of the house she finds that it has been the scene for repeated tragedies. The girl who currently lives in the house, Emily, seems to have lived under virtual siege, but she won’t talk about what it is she’s trying to keep out. So Katie decides to find out for herself, with consequences that just go on getting wider and more extreme.
CV: Because of these consequences, does the book go into the surreal and if so, what are a few examples the reader will see in this mini-series?
MIKE PERKINS: I wouldn’t say that it goes into the surreal…but it definitely delves into the supernatural. Katie herself starts to remember incidents in her past where her experiences have brushed close to the spirit world and in the present she starts to get glimpses of that “otherness”.
CAREY: We're all about the realism. Obviously there are supernatural elements here, but with that proviso everything is played absolutely straight. In a sense it's a mystery story. There's a single explanation for all the weird and terrible things that happen at Rowans Rise, and the reader, like Katie, has to figure out what that is.
CV: What do either of you like about the horror genre?
CAREY: I think one of the things you go to stories for is intense emotional experiences, and – to be blunt – some of the most intense are to be found in horror. I know that’s kind of a Marmite thing – some people see the appeal and others find it absolutely baffling. I find that a great horror movie combines the power of a strong, immersive story combined with the fun of a great thrill ride at an amusement park. Narrative with switchback curves.
PERKINS: As an artist it's a chance to really play with atmosphere. To use those shadows and concentrate on feeling and character mannerisms. Most horror deals with the visceral emotions and lays them bare...thus the nerve endings are exposed and it can hit the reader deeper at a sharper, more tender, level. Mike Carey knows how to utilize those aspects perfectly but throughout Rowans Ruin he also presents us with a back story of mystery and that's what pushes the characters motivations further than just the scare factor.
CV: What movies, stories, or myth that help inspire both of your work on this book?
CAREY: I’m a huge horror fan, although I came to it late. My reference points are pretty mainstream, for the most part. I love The Shining, in both novel and movie forms. The novels and short stories of Stephen King. Joe Hill’s prose and comics work.
Far Eastern horror would also be in the mix for me. I really love the visual elegance and power of Japanese and Korean movies – and of some manga. I’d offer Junji Ito as an example of near-perfect comic book horror. He’s such a fine draughtsman, and he has such a twisted imagination. Uzumaki is a materpiece in the genre.
There's also a great tradition now of horror in Spanish, whethere originating in Spain or in South America. La Casa Muda blew me away, as did La Casa Del Fin de los Tiempos.
PERKINS: I don't know if there are specific pieces of work but you can look at the sense of feeling and atmosphere in The House on Haunted Hill or Crimson Peak and come away with an idea of the feeling we're after. If you look at any of Stephen King's novels he makes you care about those characters before he puts them though hell - and that's what we're presenting with the protagonists of Rowans Ruin. Theses are well rounded characters who are going to have a few more sharper corners carved out of them by the conclusion of the tale.
CV: Were there local spots that inspired the story or the art?
CAREY: I guess in terms of visuals, yes. There is a real house that Mike is drawing on for Rowans Rise itself, although we’ve transplanted it. And his depictions of Stratford are spot-on, geographically. If you were so inclined you could work out more or less exactly where our house is standing in relation to the river and the local landmarks.
PERKINS: But in terms of themes we made this story up out of whole cloth. We nod towards local folk traditions, which are incredibly rich, but our solution space is ultimately somewhere else. What’s actually happening in the house is – we hope – something that readers will find hard to predict.
Stratford upon Avon plays a major part throughout the story...becoming a character in its own right. There's a real sense of history there that charms our heroine, Katie, and it's that very tangible history of the town- as well as the bloody backstory of Rowans Rise that pull and push her deeper into danger. The actual house I based Rowans Ruin on is in Stratford and I was deeply inspired by the angles of the house- its very powerful from a dramatic sense of view.
CV: How did you adjust your style for the tone of this story?
PERKINS: I wouldn't say there's any adjustment as such. The sense of realism in my work lends itself to horror as it grounds the reader in order to pull the rug out from under them. It's given me the chance to play with the shadows, which I truly enjoy. I always knew the approach I wanted to take in tackling this story as it's been swimming in my head for a few years, and it's wonderful to be granted the opportunity to present this to everyone else - to scare and terrify them with the thoughts that have been swirling around in my mind for the longest time!
CV: Did either of you have to be in a certain mindset while working on this book, since you're both working with something darker and horrific?
PERKINS: Hmmm. I really want the reader to experience things as Katie does - to feel that creeping terror, to sense that creek in the floorboards, to experience the drop in temperature. In a way you have to get into that mindset in order to portray through illustration the conveyance of those moments. I sent a page in today and Mike replied with “This is really powerful stuff!” - that’s incredibly gratifying.
CAREY: Dark and horrific is my daily bread these days. My forays into YA are just a fading dream.
Thanks to Mike Carey and Mike Perkins for talking to us and make sure to check out ROWANS RUIN when it hits store on October 7.