The wonders of wandering like a cloud (without loneliness) only fabulousness!
Helen Led here: thank you Morag for sharing your fascinating process, knowledge, and that holy grail about where you get your ideas from. I must book a train journey immediately…
Morag Lewis, on the 2020 Humorous Graphic Novel longlist with A Pocketful of Clouds
What comes first - the graphic image or the funny idea for story?
It’s almost always the story idea, since that’s where the humour comes from in A Pocketful of Clouds.
What publications are your dream places for publishing your work?
Ooh, that’s a hard one! It depends on the work. I have had one short story published in the Phoenix (written by me and illustrated by Paul Duffield) and I’d love to have more in the future.
How long does it take to draw one picture and how many do you need for a novel?
It depends on the comic and how I’m rendering it. A Pocketful of Clouds is in colour, which adds time, but the lineart is pretty simple so that makes it quicker. When it was updating online, I published two strips of four panels each per week, and that was manageable. Each graphic novel is a year’s comics, which is 52 weeks’ worth - 104 comics, about 416 panels.
What’s the different between cartoons and a graphic novel?
I would say that a cartoon is a single panel or set of panels which is complete in itself, and that a graphic novel is a story told in pictures, which could be constructed out of a sequence of cartoons.
When did you first hear about the CWIP Prize and was your entry specifically written for it or were you working on it already?
No, I was working on it already. A colleague told me about the prize.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing graphic novels?
I'm a Christian and a research scientist; I study the genetics of progressive hearing loss by day and draw comics at night. And the weekends. I’m an avid reader, I love storytelling, and I’ve been making comics for over twenty years.
Panels taken from A Pocketful of Clouds © Morag Lewis
Can you describe what your graphic novel’s about in two sentences?
It’s a gently humorous fantasy/slice of life comic about a community living in a village in the sky. It’s about cats, clouds, and the little things which are important.
What made you write your graphic novel? Where did the idea or impulse behind it come from?
A Pocketful of Clouds is my fourth webcomic, and I wanted something which I could upload regularly where each update could stand alone. Humour generally works well for that, so I thought it was worth a try.
Where do you start when writing a graphic novel? Is it with an outline, writing the story, or storyboarding that?
I have never been able to plan out an entire story before starting, so it’s a mix. I have an outline, then I plan out the first comics, then I write and storyboard, then when I’ve drawn that bit I have to go back to the outline and plan the next ones.
Do you enjoy the flexibility which using a combination of words and images gives you when writing a graphic novel?
Yes, very much. When you write prose you have to write everything that matters. In comics, it’s just all there in the frame.
Did you set out to write a funny book? Where does the humour come from in your graphic novel?
I suppose I’d say it’s based on character and situation. Yes, it was meant to be funny, in a gentle, whimsical way. I wanted to make people smile. It’s not sharp political humour by any means.
Can you tell us about your writing routine and where you write/draw?
I think of ideas and make notes on them whenever possible. My daily commute is over an hour on a train twice a day (at least, it was pre-coronavirus, when I was writing A Pocketful of Clouds), so quite a lot of the planning and initial writing, and even thumbnailing, was done on the train. The actual drawing takes place at home, on a normal table. I draw in purple pencil, then ink traditionally using dip pens and brush pens. Compiling the comic and adding text and colour happens on the computer.
Can you read (funny) graphic novels when you’re writing your own? Who do you enjoy reading?
Yes, and I do. I like a wide variety of comics. At the moment I am enjoying several different manga series, including Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story, and I am looking forward to finishing the Nameless City trilogy by Faith Erin Hicks. I love the variety on the UK indie scene and I don’t have space to name all the brilliant artists whose work I like.
What difference has being longlisted for the CWIP prize made to you? What would you say to anyone thinking of entering?
It’s been a fantastic surprise, and I would say to anyone, “go for it”. I honestly never expected to be longlisted, so it’s always worth a try. Humour is an individual thing, and you can never tell what is really going to chime with someone else and make them laugh.
Me again: lovely insight there Morag. As I always say – one person’s joke is another person’s groan but viva la difference says I! x
Morag Lewis likes telling stories and drawing, and started her first webcomic in 2002. She has been enjoying the storytelling ever since. A molecular biologist, she studies the genetics of progressive hearing loss by day and draws comics at night. She is also a member of Sweatdrop Studios, a UK-based independent publisher and comics collaborative. A Pocketful of Clouds is her fourth and longest-running webcomic.