Lapp’s graphic memoir The Field (Conundrum, May) looks back on a 1970s summer with bittersweet nostalgia.

How were the seeds of this book planted?

The youth art classes I teach in Toronto were sort of a fomenting ground to practice telling narratives. I love a chatty class. I’d be teaching—drawing on the board—and these stories came out as anecdotal. You know, “I remember this kid had a saw dropped on his head....” One line. And the kids go, “What?” They wanted to hear more. Then I’d tell the story a bit longer. And I’d have a different story about sneaking mice in the house, or playing in the sewers. When you tell these stories a bunch of times, you inadvertently create a narrative structure. With the kids I got these automatic likes and comments right in the classroom. They would tell stories, too, and they would have the same perspective and charm and beauty I was trying to capture when I wrote the book.

As a kid roaming abandoned fields unsupervised, did you feel safe?

None of the kids had a fear of the field. It was as though it was this giant playground. And you didn’t wear a watch. You didn’t put on sunscreen. You didn’t bring a bottle of water or a snack. I look back and think, what metabolic or psychological thing gave us the capacity? Was there providence protecting us? Part of the reason I did the book was I recognized how fortunate I was to have had those experiences. Now, you’re asking about risk factors—the field didn’t represent much in terms of risk, but the other kids did.

What was behind the decision to avoid using captions or other types of narration to set up scenes?

The narrator box brings in my adult voice. I don’t want that hanging over and interpreting things, analyzing the situation from my point of view as an adult. From the get-go, I wanted just: “Let’s go play in the field!”

How do you look back on those times with your next-door neighbor Edward now?

I was younger and smaller than him. He would always know of these places in the field that I didn’t know about. I think on days I wasn’t around, he just wandered out there alone. And, you know, “I found spring water!”—your first impulse is to share it with someone. So if I’m that guy he shares it with, then I’m delighted. And it is like a miracle—cold, fresh water bubbling up out of the ground.

Did moments like that make it hard to recount the scenes of Edward’s cruelty?

I was willing to go through a lot to make the story continue. It took some really, really awful stuff. There’s psychodynamics I thought about an enormous amount when I was doing the book. He’s mysterious to me, and fascinating.