Lee Lai whose debut graphic novel, Stone Fruit, was published in May by Fantagraphics.
Jillian Tamaki author or coauthor of nine books, including Boundless, published in 2017 by Drawn & Quarterly.
Lee Lai is a cartoonist who centers bodies: how they are held, the space between them, the way they touch and are touched. Bodies communicate as much as words in her work, and they illuminate the underlying truths of the overlapping relationships in Stone Fruit. At the beginning of Lai’s debut graphic novel, we see Bron and Ray’s relationship at its best: caring for Ray’s little niece, Nessie. In the forest, the couple running wild and anchored by the exuberant child, the world kind of falls away. But when their coupledom starts to fissure, both women are set adrift and left to confront fractured family ties alone. Bron returns to her childhood home and strict family, looking for understanding, while Ray attempts to broker a detente with her resentful sister, Nessie’s single mom. Personal bonds—romantic, platonic, familial— are examined unflinchingly and tenderly in Stone Fruit. The complicated nature of care is threaded through much of Lai’s work, which has ranged from zines to webcomics to now a full-length graphic novel.
I am curious as to your path to comics. Were you always focused on comics as a medium? Or did you start with an interest in drawing or writing first?
I have always drawn pictures, and as a kid I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator—something I still think about, but it’s always struck me as a level of challenging that I don’t think I’m equipped for yet. I spent a few years in my adolescence making stop-motion animations—that have mercifully all disappeared from the internet by now—and I think it schooled me in fostering patience for laborious processes, as well as an appreciation for trying to represent motion. I didn’t know I liked writing as much as I do until taking on this project. The first few years of making comics were spent figuring out aesthetic preferences and the technical bits. Even though I still think about these things a lot, when I started really grappling with how to build characters and dialogue, my interests swung more heavily in that direction.
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