This weekend, we’ll be launching Do Aliens Play Basketball? Written by Lizzie Boyle and drawn by Vashti Hallissey, it promises to cover the major mysteries of the universe in just 20 pages. It may also make you cry.

We first met Vashti when she got in touch after a call for submissions on Twitter (See? It does work!). The story for Do Aliens Play Basketball? was in need of an artist who could capture something very deep and moving in a style that was still innocent and playful. Vashti’s artwork immediately caught our imagination.

When I said we “met” Vashti, that was an exaggeration. We’ve never met Vashti, as she’s been travelling around South America for the whole period of the book’s gestation. We asked here, therefore, to tell us about her travels. Here’s what she said:

teaserEddie, Mason and Suzanne from Do Aliens Play Basketball? have accompanied me for many months on my journey as a freelance writer and cartoonist travelling around South America.

The characters first joined me in Bogotá, where I dipped cheese into hot chocolate for breakfast, saw a disco light show in an underground cathedral made of salt and rode on a bus with a picture of Jesus next to a waterfall on the back.

The next stop was Ecuador, which has mountains everywhere you look. In Baños, I shocked everyone I know by doing outdoorsy activities such as rafting, horse riding and trekking. I even swung on a rope over the jungle tree tops, but it was so terrifying I froze in fear and I couldn’t move my legs to stop swinging. I have destroyed the video evidence.

In Guayaquil, Ecuador, I went to a park full of enormous iguanas that people stroke and feed. They’re especially fond of bananas. There’s a park full of cats in Lima, Peru, but they just stare into your soul.

I travelled to Cusco, Peru and went to Machu Picchu. It was just as incredible as you would expect. There’s the shape of a man’s profile in the mountains behind the ancient site. If you turn a photo of it to the side, Machu Picchu is directly in front of the nose. Apparently that was one of the reasons why the Incas chose to build it there.

In La Paz, Bolivia, you feel closer to the sky and as if you could reach out and touch the clouds. Here I took a boat trip on the magnificent Lake Titicaca, explored the witches’ market and visited the salt flats of Uyuni. Eddie would like it there because, with its glittering pyramids of salt and pure white landscape, it feels like being in space. I also went to watch the Bolivian Wrestling Cholitas, women who fight wearing the traditional clothes of braided hair, bowler hats and multi-layered skirts. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Here in Santiago, I have realised that my typical traveller outfit of llama-patterned clothing, multiple friendship bracelets and fake North Face doesn’t really cut it with the fashionable Chileans. To fit in here, I need to get several tattoos and dress like a New York hipster. In this city, I have visited vineyards, travelled to the beach-side bohemian town of Valparaíso and queued up for an hour for an ice-cream that tastes of roses. It was worth every minute.

Last week I was doing some work in my flat. I wondered why I was rocking backwards and forwards, and thought that maybe it was time for a break. When I looked up, I realised that the whole building was swaying from side to side as we were in the middle of an earthquake and, when I heard a loud crack in the door, I thought that it was all over. Being on the 14th floor, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do and I just ended up hiding under the kitchen table.

teaser 2The next stop is Buenos Aires where I’m heading by bus. I’ve mainly travelled around South America by bus and it definitely puts my old Tube journey into perspective. Sometimes these long bus journeys are brilliant as you can look at the Mars-like landscape of Northern Peru or at the stars above Chile shining more brightly than you’ve ever seen them. Sometimes they’re not: spending 40 hours on a bus when you have food poisoning or sleeping with socks on your hands because it’s so cold is not something I want to repeat. But no matter how the journey goes, on every single one, they play The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

During this trip, I’ve seen lots of street parties, drank one too many pisco sours, taken about three million photos and learnt a lot about living as a British person within Latin culture (people make direct eye contact on public transport!). I’ve used my broken Spanish to ask where I can find the vulvas in a supermarket – I was looking for light bulbs – and I’ve also had the fantastic experience of illustrating Do Aliens Play Basketball? while on the road. I’m sad to say goodbye to Eddie, Mason and Suzanne and I hope we meet again one day. Maybe Mars in 2023, Eddie?

Do Aliens Play Basketball? will be launched by Disconnected Press at ThoughtBubble on Saturday 23 November. Find us in New Dock Hall to buy your copy or order online from Saturday  for £2.00 plus P&P.