Her characters aren't the superheroes of Marvel but Sarah Laing's comics are winning new fans of the graphic novel.

Laing's graphic memoir Mansfield and Me was published in 2016 by Victoria University Press to critical acclaim and will be a focus of her session at October's Whanganui Literary Festival. It charts the parallels between Laing's life and the life and career of writer Katherine Mansfield.

"I studied Katherine Mansfield at school and she seemed like the archetypal New Zealand writer in a way but she had had to leave New Zealand to become a writer," Laing said.

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"She had to get away from that late 19th and early 20th-century Wellington society of afternoon teas and who was marrying who. Her letters and journals made her seem glamorous. Virginia Woolf and the lords and ladies thought she was 'the wild colonial girl'.

"She seemed a famous archetype of what a New Zealand writer ought to be and she continues to stir people up."

Those people include writers such as the late Frank Sargeson who was quite disparaging of Mansfield's work, labelling it small and domestic.

However, a packed room full of people at August's Edinburgh International Book Festival, where Laing ran a sold-out workshop on Mansfield's writing, might disagree.

"It was exciting to be in a room full of mainly British people who had a love of Mansfield. She is part of the syllabus over there and is quite well-known as one of the modernists."

Laing was also on a panel with British author Hannah Berry, talking about the process of writing graphic novels. Like Laing, Berry's recent graphic novel Livestock is about an influential woman.

Another influence on Laing's work has been Marjane Satrapi whose graphic memoir Persepolis documents growing up in Iran before and after the Islamic revolution. The memoir has been made into an animated film which recently screened at the Whanganui Film Society.

"It's a complex story. It looks quite simple when you look at her drawings but it's also quite complex. Sometimes you see something that makes you think 'I want to do something like that'. I was a graphic designer and I'd thought about doing illustration when I did my degree so reading Persepolis reminded me about illustration.

"The medium of the graphic novel made the history of Iran seem incredibly accessible and personal and she seemed infinitely relatable to."

Wellington-based Laing's work includes short stories, adult fiction, comics, graphic design, illustration and her blog about "reading, writing, parenting and angsting", Let Me Be Frank. She also teaches creative writing through Massey University's distance learning programme.

"There's always been a big market for superhero comics, like Marvel and DC, and there have always been underground comics. But there's an increasing hunger for true stories and you're more likely to find a comic on a bookshelf."

Laing is working on an all-ages comic book set in a fictional universe. It is a climate change story where the world has been swamped in water and the landscape is unrecognisable. She also has ideas simmering for a novel and an adults' graphic novel based on a factual scenario.

She is looking forward to talking about books, Mansfield and creative life at the Whanganui Literary Festival.

Laing appears at the Whanganui Literary Festival, in conversation with Carla Donson of Whanganui Women's Network, at 1.30pm on Sunday, October 8. Book at the Royal Wanganui Opera House.