Mike Carey and Mike Perkins have told their fair share of horror stories between work on Lucifer, The Stand, and Hellblazer, and now they're doing one for themselves with Rowans Ruin.
Rowans Ruin is a new creator-owned four-issue limited series launching this October from BOOM! Studios. In it a young woman house-sitting in an English home finds it has some scary stories behind it's well-maintained facade. Inspired by the likes if The Conjuring and Nailbiter, Rowans Ruin is a new take on the haunted house formula with nightmares, British history, and a little bit of Florida sun.
Newsarama: Two Mikes here, so it’ll make things interesting. Mike(s), what can you tell us about Rowans Ruin?
Mike Carey: This is a story that originated with Mike Perkins, and then the two of us developed it together. Mike was keen to tell a creepy supernatural story with a lot of twists and fake-outs, and he came up with the perfect vehicle in this idea about two young women doing a house-swap – only to find that one of the houses has some unsettling history to it.
I loved the basic premise, but I have to say that the main attraction for me was the chance to work with Mike again. We haven’t teamed up in a while – I believe not since the Thor story we did together, which would be almost five years ago. It was way past time.
Nrama: And what about Katie -- what's her story coming into this?
Carey: Katie Shackley is a very ordinary girl in her late teens who runs a blog, is in between boyfriends, is not particularly well off or well-travelled. But she’s outgoing, adventurous, intelligent – and when the chance comes up to see a little of the UK without breaking the bank, she takes it. It seems like a really sweet deal. Her little studio flat for a huge old house in Stratford. Shakespeare country.
But you know what they say about things that are too good to be true. Rowans Rise, the house Katie comes to stay in, is harboring some unpleasant secrets. Katie is troubled by bad dreams. Then she starts to have even more disturbing experiences that aren’t so easy to rationalize. And the more she learns about the house, the worse it gets.
She tries to get Emily, the girl she did the swap with, to tell her what she’s facing. But Emily doesn’t seem happy to talk about it, and Katie soon uncovers some horrendous tragedies in the other girl’s past. It seems that Emily is fleeing from something terrible, leaving Katie right in the line of fire.
Nrama: This features a Florida girl doing a house-swap for the summer with someone from England. You're both from England, but I recall Mike Perkins here as spending some time in Florida for Crossgen. From your perspective, how would a typical Florida resident deal with moving to a place like Rowan's Rise?
Mike Perkins: Pretty much how our main protagonist - Katie - handles it. She's level-headed and knowledgeable but is overwhelmed by the sense of history that seeps from every stone of England. In Florida you're generally dealing with a part of the country that has only been truly developed for just over a hundred years. Katie lands herself in Stratford-upon-Avon and has to confront the fact that Shakespeare was actually born there - it was already a fairly large town at that time. Of course, most of the visitors don't have to deal with any supernatural elements and the weight of "bad things happening"!
Nrama: Mike, how about you – any visits to Florida for “research”?
Carey: Not really, unless you count going to MegaCon once. But Mike Perkins lived there for many years so we’ve got that covered. And to be honest, most of the action takes place on the other side of the Atlantic.
Nrama: Rowans Rise, the house -- is it based on anything specific to you?
Perkins: There is a house that I've based Rowans Rise upon but it's more of an object for that sense of history and a means to an end to tell this story of a girl who ends up experiencing things that are not of the natural world. It starts off as "The Holiday" and swiftly progresses on to "The Haunting of Hill House"!
Carey: The look of the place, exterior and floor plan, is based on a real place that we chose. And we’re drawing on strands of folklore and local legend in places, so this is very much a West Country kind of tale. We felt that the sense of place was going to be important and we’ve done our best to layer it in carefully and authentically so that readers will feel they’re in a realistic locale. We believe that will pay off when the scary stuff starts. If the real world elements are solidly grounded, the horror feels that much more plausible.
Nrama: Who else is in the series besides Katie?
Carey: Katie’s parents are important characters, although once she’s come to England we mostly see them in Skype calls and email chains. There’s a friendly cop, James, who Katie gets involved with at one point and who gives her some information about the house she’s living in. He’s set up as a potential knight in armour type, but it’s not really that kind of story and Katie isn’t the sort of woman who believes in that stuff.
Then there’s Emily, Katie’s opposite number, who clearly hasn’t told Katie everything there is to know about Rowans Rise and is carrying a burden she doesn’t want to reveal. Emily is much more taciturn and guarded than Katie, harder to read. And at one point Katie suspects she may be actively lying. Their relationship, even though it’s long distance, is very important to the story.
Oh, and there are some dead people. But I think I’d rather not say too much about them at this point.
Nrama: Style-wise, what are you aiming for with Rowans Ruin?
Perkins: I'm always enamored by the use of shadow. The thrills of ghost stories are difficult to achieve in a medium such as comics. We don't have the advantage of the screeching violins or the lack of music just before a resounding clash of instruments. We have to try and emphasize this tension through that use of light and dark - the conflict of the chiaroscuro. Those are the elements of style that have to be tackled in such a project as Rowans Ruin.
Nrama: And one of the big selling points in this is you once again working with Mike Perkins. You two have done several projects in the past, but lately Mike's been pretty busy with the Big Two. How'd he get involved?
Carey: We’d been talking for ages about getting back together for another collaboration, and we’d discussed a whole lot of possible ideas. This was the one that stuck. Mike proposed the core concept, we brainstormed, I worked up a pitch, and when it seemed like we might finally both be free at the same time we approached BOOM! And asked them if they were potentially interested. This was just as Suicide Risk was winding down, so the timing was good in that respect. They seemed receptive. We sent the pitch in and the rest is – we hope – a cool miniseries.
Nrama: Mike Perkins, what made you interested in Rowans Ruin to break out of your string of being pretty much exclusive to the Marvel these past few years?
Perkins: I'm still exclusive with Marvel - and enjoy being so - but they have granted me a little wiggle room to fit in creator-owned projects as long as it doesn't interfere with my work there. Rowans Ruin has been playing around in my head as an idea I would like to approach and develop for a fair few years but it was proving almost impossible for me to get it down on paper until Mike Carey and I sat down to chat and went over a few ideas together. Rowans Ruin jumped out at him as something he felt we could truly collaborate on. As for the prospect of the story itself, well, I love illustrating the darker aspects of the human condition...the shadows and moody atmosphere inherent in the mystery and horror genre - and Rowans Ruin delivers it by the shovel-full.