5 minutes with Sarah Laing – ComicFest feature

ComicFest is back for 2017! On Saturday May 6th at the Central Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on the day and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! Head over to the ComicFest Facebook event for all the details, and to receive event updates.

Sarah Laing self-portraitFirst up on the blog we have an interview with Sarah Laing, who recently authored her first graphic novel, Mansfield and Me. At ComicFest, Sarah is running a character design workshop from 10-11am, and from 12-1pm Sarah will be in conversation with Dylan Horrocks discussing how they each create longform graphic novels. It’s a super exciting line-up, and we hope to see you there!

Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: We always had comics at my house – the usual suspects – Tintin and Asterix, Donald Duck, Charlie Brown, Footrot Flats. I grew up reading them. My interest was rekindled in my 20s through Tank Girl and Julie Doucet, and later by Marjane Satrapi, coinciding with the rising popularity of graphic novels, a contentious term in comics circles! It did mean that there were more comics to get out from the library.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I drop my kids off to school then I come home and mess about a bit – I tidy up and read stuff on social media, hating myself a bit as I do it. If I have paid work – an illustration or comics commission – I’ll work on that, or else I will draw comics for my blog or work on my big project, which right now is a kids’ comic about the houseboat and giant stingray world of post-climate-change New Zealand. I try to work on paper, since I spend too much time on screens, but I find myself using digital media all the time, whether it’s google images for picture reference or it’s spotify or my podcast list for stuff to listen to as I draw.

Page from Mansfield & Me
A page from ‘Mansfield & Me’ by Sarah Laing

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: Last year my graphic memoir Mansfield and Me was published by VUP and I’m still recovering from that! It’s about me wanting to be a writer, and Katherine Mansfield, NZ’s most famous writer, and how our lives overlap. I like to think that Mansfield would’ve been a comics fan too.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I always feel like I should have tea and toast at 10am and when I get to the inking/colouring stage I get to binge listen to podcasts. I just finished S-town, which is a fascinating character study of an ordinary/extraordinary life in small-town America. I am also driven by a completion complex so once I get momentum up I work quite quickly. I try to update my blog weekly now that I’ve got a Patreon page, and I generally dedicate Tuesday or Wednesday to those comics.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: My biggest inspiration is life, observed, around me.

Flowers for the Teacher comic
Flowers for the Teacher comic from Sarah’s blog “Let Me Be Frank”

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: I hate picking favourites! And in fact I’m not sure if I believe in the concept. There are creators whose work I always really enjoy – the obvious ones, like Dylan Horrocks, Toby Morris and Ant Sang. When I was co-editingThree Words I got to know work by lots of amazing women – Giselle Clarkson, Sophie Watson, Jem Yoshioka, Sally Bollinger, Zoë Colling for starters. Indira Neville’s comics are always hilariously irreverent, and she’s just co-curated an amazing collection of LP-sized comics that go with music, Sonic Comic. Last year I enjoyed Ross Murray’s series about anxiety, Rufus Marigold. And Jonathan King’s comics are gloriously surreal. Arrgh! So many people! I’m missing people out! I always feel a low punch in the gut when I don’t see my name on a list.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I have never collaborated on comics and I think I’d really like to try that out. You know how collaborations in music always work out better? Lennon and McCartney, Morrissey and Marr… I want to find somebody or something to spark off.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I am really looking forward to talking with Dylan Horrocks about writing longform comics – his process is quite different from mine and I always find how to talks quite inspiring – they give you a fresh perspective on your niggling or roaring narrative problems.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: I don’t know, Björk? Or maybe Rachael from Blade Runner – she had the most amazing suits and hair.

You can find Sarah online in the following places:
Twitter: @sarahelaing
Instagram: @sarahelaing
Blog: https://sarahelaing.com/