Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann Pho­to­graph/ Cameron Bur­nell

Sarah Laing (left), 44, is a car­toon­ist, fic­tion writer, il­lus­tra­tor, and graphic de­signer. Sarah Lang, 37, is the books and cul­ture writer for mag­a­zine, and a free­lance jour­nal­ist. The writ­ing Sarahs share a co-work­ing space in Welling­ton. SARAH LAING/ Sarah ac­tu­ally in­ter­viewed me for Sun­day mag­a­zine, fun­nily enough.

I’d writ­ten a book of short sto­ries and she was get­ting all of these ran­dom con­grat­u­la­tory texts and peo­ple telling her that she was a bit of a dark horse and they didn’t know she was ac­tu­ally a fic­tion writer as well as a jour­nal­ist. I too had been re­ceiv­ing ran­dom com­pli­ments for these book and film re­views I had not writ­ten, but I was like: “Oh, I did write for the Dom Post in the 90s – maybe they’re talk­ing about those...”

You al­ways have this anx­ious feel­ing when you’re be­ing in­ter­viewed that ac­tu­ally per­haps the jour­nal­ist hates your book, but Sarah said she liked it.

Af­ter that we had a se­ries of other funny co­in­ci­dences. I went to the den­tist and it just so hap­pened I came straight af­ter her ap­point­ment. She’d had like, thou­sand-dol­lar den­tal work done and my teeth were rel­a­tively clear, so I think the den­tist had fun talk­ing about how we could mix up our teeth records – I could get ran­dom im­plants and she could walk away with her mouth still crum­bling.

Once at 2am one of her ex-work mates drunk­enly rang me up be­cause she wanted to rem­i­nisce. I was liv­ing in Auck­land and my name was in the phone book. Be­cause I was half asleep, it took me quite a long time to fig­ure out that it was not me she was want­ing to rem­i­nisce with. It was the other Sarah Lang.

Sarah moved to Welling­ton first. She ad­ver­tised on Face­book she had an of­fice at Toi P neke and wanted some­body to share the space with. I mes­saged her and said that sounds great – I love liv­ing in the sub­urbs but I’d love to come into town and feel like a proper per­son. I wrote my Mansfield and Me graphic novel there, but at the mo­ment I’m teach­ing short fic­tion on­line and my in­ter­net con­nec­tion is bet­ter at home.

I’m very eas­ily dis­tractible and could quite hap­pily chat away for way too long and waste way too much time. Sarah’s su­per fo­cused, she sits there go­ing type-type-type-type-type-type-type and I’m think­ing: “How can you type for so long?!” I’m check­ing Twit­ter and Face­book and get­ting up and mak­ing my­self a cup of tea. I’m slightly in awe and in envy of Sarah’s in­cred­i­ble fo­cus and stamina when it comes to her work.

Her mother is mar­ried to Lock­wood Smith. When my mother was at univer­sity in the 60s in Palmer­ston North, he’d taken her on a date. My mother would al­ways say to us: “I went out on a date to a dance with Lock­wood Smith, but there was not a flicker! He was not at all in­ter­ested in me!” So I thought it was kind of funny – this other Sarah Lang, her mother ended up mar­ry­ing Lock­wood Smith. Be­cause, ob­vi­ously, there was a flicker be­tween them. SARAH LANG/ I’m in the of­fice ei­ther three or four days a week. She has a desk in there. She works mainly from home but she likes to work from town oc­ca­sion­ally.

Sarah al­ways has 101 things she’s try­ing to do at once. I can never keep up with all her dif­fer­ent pieces of work – comics, de­sign­ing book cov­ers, tu­tor­ing… I cover books for Cap­i­tal mag­a­zine and she of­ten sug­gests peo­ple to me. She’s very much part of the lit­er­ary clique in Welling­ton. I’m on the out­skirts look­ing in.

She won the Sun­day Star-Times short story com­pe­ti­tion in 2006. I got so many phone calls, voice­mails, texts, emails con­grat­u­lat­ing me. I kind of started feel­ing quite proud of my­self. Then I felt slightly miffed when I had to go: “Oh, no ac­tu­ally it wasn’t me.” I’d started feel­ing quite im­pres­sive.

I did a story on her once – that’s how we met. I thought she was in­cred­i­bly shy. She’s not like that, ac­tu­ally, once you get to know her. Then we were kind of ac­quain­tances but we’d email each other when we got mixed up. At a writer’s fes­ti­val some­one thought I was her and tried to usher me on to the stage... We had the same den­tist and for some rea­son, we’d booked in on the same day. He al­most got our treat­ments mixed up. She’s had late-night phone calls meant for me. I get emails meant for her all the time. It’s got the point where I’ll get in­tro­duced to some­one and they’ll say to me: “Oh, I love your books! I love your graphic nov­els!” So I al­ways in­tro­duce my­self as “The Other Sarah Lang”.

Shar­ing an of­fice took us from be­ing ac­quain­tances to be­ing friends. She has a very, very dry sense of hu­mour, which I like.

I love her comics. They’re of­ten about just funny things that hap­pen – par­ent­ing, men­stru­a­tion – things that hap­pen in women’s lives. I thought her graphic novel on Kather­ine Mansfield was very, very brave. It told Sarah’s story as well; there were some naked scenes in there…

I think she finds it hard to say “No”, so she ends up do­ing too much. She’s got three chil­dren. She’s of­ten a bit fran­tic and wish­ing she was do­ing a lit­tle bit less. She keeps ob­ses­sive track of so­cial me­dia – she ac­tu­ally tried to do a so­cial me­dia black­out for a month but she only lasted a few days. Sarah and Sarah are speak­ing at sep­a­rate ses­sions held at the same time on the Saturday night at LitCrawl Welling­ton, Novem­ber 10-12. Sarah Lang is hop­ing peo­ple don’t come to her ses­sion think­ing they’ll see The Other Sarah. See litcrawl.co.nz.

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