Lightning to publish graphic memoir of literary icon Katherine Mansfield

The UK publisher has acquired rights to a New Zealand graphic book celebrating that country's proudest literary daughter

Lightning Books has acquired UK rights to Mansfield and Me, a graphic memoir by acclaimed New Zealand author and comic book artist, Sarah Laing.

Mansfield and Me is part biography of Katherine Mansfield, a giant of New Zealand literature, and part memoir. Laing tells the story of her discovery of Mansfield's work and her own desire to become a writer, charting, in comic book form, her journey to publication and parenthood.

Scott Pack, editor-at-large at Lightning Books, acquired UK rights from Fergus Barrowman at Victoria University Press in Wellington.

He said: ‘I visited New Zealand in 2016 to speak at some festivals and met Sarah towards the end of my stay. I really wanted to read her book but I was already pushing my baggage allowance limit so figured I would grab a copy when I got home, but when I did I discovered it wasn’t available in the UK and the cost of ordering it from New Zealand was close to £50.

‘A year later, I met Sarah again at the Edinburgh Literature Festival. She had been invited over to do some events and I finally got my hands on a copy which the festival shop had imported and was clearly selling at a loss. I loved the book, and it seemed daft that it wasn’t properly available over here, so I gave Fergus at VUP a call and it just so happened that they were about to reprint, and the deal was done.’ 

Katherine Mansfield (right) was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in New Zealand in 1888. She left her native country at 19 and settled in Britain, where she befriended DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf.

She led a bohemian life and became a prolific modernist short-story writer before dying of tuberculosis in a French commune, aged just 34.

When she heard that Mansfield had died, Woolf wrote in her diary: ‘I was jealous of her writing—the only writing I have ever been jealous of.’

Sarah Laing (bottom right) is a fiction writer and graphic artist from New Zealand. The author of a graphic memoir, two novels and a collection of short stories, she has also illustrated children’s books and designed and co-edited an anthology of New Zealand women’s comics.

In 2013 she was the University of Auckland/Michael King Writers Centre fellow, where she worked on Mansfield and Me.

She lives in Wellington and is a mother of three.

Lightning Books publishes Mansfield and Me in May 2018.

Published on
May 1, 2018