I am honoured to be on the #blogtour for M R Carey’s latest thriller SOMEONE LIKE ME and delighted when Mike popped over for a Quickie to talk about his latest book:
Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?
Someone Like Me is a psychological thriller about doppelgangers and split personalities. The main character, Liz, is a gentle, well-meaning woman and a good mother. Her ex-husband, Marc, is abusive and controlling. One day, when he assaults her in her own kitchen and seems to be about to murder her, she feels herself taken over by a completely different persona – a version of herself that is confident, assertive, and not at all shy about fighting back. Liz turns the tables on Marc, and survives.
But after that first incident, her other self starts to surface more and more, and its recklessness and aggression become real threats. Liz has no idea what’s happening, or where this other self came from. She decides to get psychiatric help, and then to try to start up a dialogue with her stronger, fiercer alter ego. But things don’t go at all as she expects.
Meanwhile, the same theme is playing out in a different key through another character, Fran Watts – a teenage girl who was abducted when she was six years old and has mental health issues as a result. Fran has an imaginary friend, a fox named Lady Jinx. And when they meet at a psychiatric clinic, Jinx doesn’t like Liz at all. She warns Fran that Liz is a monster, to be avoided at all cost. But Fran is drawn more and more into Liz’s life, whether she likes it or not.
As the two women’s lives collide, and as Marc starts to stalk Liz with a view to revenge, the mystery of what’s really happening grows and the real monster – because there is one – gradually becomes apparent.
If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?
Umm… maybe One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. That was the pattern for almost twenty years, when I was trying to get into writing. I was a very slow starter. My friend Peter Gross says there are three mistakes you can make when you’re starting out as a creative: aiming too high, aiming too low and not aiming at all. I was mainly guilty of the third. A lot of manuscripts stayed in my sock drawer and never came out. Then when I did start sending submissions, I did it in an overly tentative way that did me no favours at all. “Would you like to read this pitch for a novel? No, of course you wouldn’t. I’ll call security and have myself escorted out…”
What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?
The movie of The Girl With All the Gifts premiered at the Locarno festival. A French journalist asked me if the movie was a parable about the dangers of open-door immigration. Presumably with the hungries representing immigrants. Or something. I just sat there with my jaw wide open. Then I managed a “Holy shit! No, it seriously is not!” The observer is part of the system, I guess.
I got a request once from a charity for some of my old notebooks, to be put up at auction. They were very specific that that was what they wanted – rather than, say, signed copies of books. I sent them two, and I’ve always wished that I hadn’t. I doubt they brought in any money, and I now have a hole in my memories. My notebooks are full of defunct ideas, weird mnemonics and rambling conversations with myself. I use them the way sane people use diaries.
If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?
I co-wrote two novels with my wife, Lin, and our daughter Louise. It was a wonderful experience. I’d like to do the same thing with my sons. With all five of us together, actually.
But if we’re talking celebs, I’d love to collaborate with Ursula LeGuin. She was a brilliant writer, and her intelligence, insight and humanity were extraordinary. If I could go back in time and brainstorm a story with her around about the time when she was writing Lavinia, I’d do it in a heartbeat. It wouldn’t have to be a novel. A short would do. Her short stories are perfect.
Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).
I play Dungeons and Dragons. I have two characters on the go. One is a cat-man, and a thief, very vain and very venal. The other is a golem that gained sentience. It’s a family game, currently running every Sunday. My daughter and her partner take turns as dungeon-master, and they do a wonderful job. There’s something about tabletop role-playing that I love, and get endless pleasure out of.
Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.
Chime, by Franny Billingsley. My friend Tom Pollock lent me this book. It’s a fantasy set in an alternate UK, in the steam age. The heroine, Briony Larkin, is a teenage girl living in the town of Swampsea, where humans maintain an uneasy balance of power with the magical races known as the Old Ones. That balance is catastrophically tilted when the human residents decide to start draining the swamp, and Briony finds herself with divided loyalties. It’s an awesome book, with mystery and horror elements brilliantly interwoven.
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. Novik has a gift for taking well-work fantasy or folkloric tropes and turning them into something utterly original and unexpected. Uprooted is a perfect example. It starts when a young girl, Agnieszka, is chosen to be the household servant of a local wizard. The wizard, who goes by the name of the Dragon, is both cold and demanding, but Agnieszka gets glimpses of another personality under that forbidding exterior. So far, so clichéd. But where the story goes from there is astonishing.
Rosewater, by Tade Thompson. Aliens land in Africa, bringing strange gifts to some. Kaaro, a thief with a very checkered past, is one of the beneficiaries, gaining spectacular mental powers that bring him a measure of wealth and comfort. But when others like him start to turn up dead, he is brought to question both his strange abilities and their source. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. I loved its style, and its unique take on the well-worn first contact narrative.
To read my thoughts on MR Carey’s latest book – click here
Don’t forget to follow the other amazing bloggers on the blog tour below: