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Interview: Simone Lia, comic artist

07 September 2012

'It all started with a desperate prayer'

I went to the University of Brighton to study illustration, and then the Royal College of Art to study communication in art and design. In 2000, a friend at college (Tom Gauld, who does a weekly comic for The Guardian) suggested that we publish our own comics together under the name of Cabanon Press. It all took off from there.

I love working with image, text, and storytelling. Comics can encapsulate all of those things. Also, comics have a time-based quality to them, which makes it a compelling medium to work in and continually explore. Because of all the frames, you can show time in a really interesting way when you're doing a comic book. It's different from a film, because you can see all the frames in front of you. A quick glance at a double-page spread can cover a whole a century, or a second.

I think my line-drawing style possibly came from reading Peanuts. The sense of humour is a family thing.

I use a 0.7 Pentel pencil, and then a light box to trace over the work with an Edding 55 Fineliner. I then scan it into Photoshop to clean it up and/or colour it.

The first graphic novel I did was Fluffy. It essentially is about the relationship between a father (who is rather dysfunctional) and a small child.

When it came to drawing the child, however, it didn't possess the qualities that I was looking for, and so I made the main character a small white bunny, who is rather sweet.

I've been really blessed to be able to spend my time being creative, making the work, and to earn enough to carry on with it.

Please God, Find Me a Husband! was about my search to have "an adventure with God". It all started with a desperate prayer about my disappointing love life. It's a snapshot into my prayer life and my relationship with Jesus and God the Father.

At the same time, I hope that the book is funny, and that it appeals to people of all faith backgrounds, and to non-believers. I was a little bit worried about putting my faith out there, but I really felt that Jesus had put this on my heart. Although it's a story about me, having the book published wasn't about me, it's about the reader.

For my next project, I'm writing a children's book. This is a new thing, in the sense that is text-based rather than image-based. It's about a bird and a worm's friendship. Hopefully it will be hilarious.

I'm blessed to be part of a great big Maltese family. Loads of cousins and aunties and uncles. It's great. My parents still live there: they were here, but went back. I go back to visit them for holidays - it is quite a nice place to go and visit your family.

I had so many ambitions. One that I remember was that, when I became an adult, I wanted to take my children out of school and educate them through travelling around the world on horses. I have no idea where that idea came from. I was about seven at the time.

The most important choice I made was returning to God, after a period of non-belief that spanned half my life.

My greatest regret is refusing gifts of grace that were presented during my period of non-belief.

I would like to be remembered as someone who loved God.

At the moment, I'm enjoying visiting different parts of England. It is such a lovely country.

Comic books: I'm enjoying Guy Delisle at the moment - he's very funny and perceptive. Yes, you could call them graphic novels. Marjane Satrapi: she's excellent. She did that memoir of her life growing up in Iran - Persepolis.

The sea is my favourite sound. And rain on the skylight.

Jesus has influenced my life the most.

The Psalms are my favourite. I haven't quite got to grips with reading some parts of the Old Testament.

What was I last angry about? A man promoting his atheist books at a Christian festival. I wasn't angry at him, but I was upset and confused that he'd been given a platform. It seemed like a mockery.

It's really excellent being with friends and family preparing food for a party. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of cooking and lots of people and the noise of animated talking. 

But also I think I'm at my happiest when I'm in the moment. Earlier today, I walked to the Co-op to get some milk. The sun was shining, and a tall fence that had been obscuring demolition and building works for months had been taken down. There's a new school there now, and I felt happy walking with my bag of shopping and seeing a new building.

I pray regularly for the conversion of England.

I would like to be locked in a church with Brad Pitt: that was the first name that popped into my head. Why? I could do a funny comic about being locked in a church with him.

Simone Lia was talking to Terence Handley MacMath. Fluffy (£9.99) and Please God, Find Me a Husband! (£14.99) are both published by Vintage. They are available from Church House Bookshop, www.ch-bookshop.co.uk. 

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