Tillie Walden's ON A SUNBEAM

I have fallen in love with On a Sunbeam created by Tillie Walden. On a Sunbeam reminded me so much of the television series Firefly, but with an all-female cast (which I didn’t even realise until I was well into the book), and I am as addicted to this new world as I was to the the world of Firefly. The shocking thing is that this extremely well-done and captivating story is offered online for free, although the book is available for purchase as well. (You’ll want to buy it.) If you’re into graphic novels, you may already be familiar with Tillie’s work. But if you’re new to them, you are in for a treat! Tillie stopped by to discuss her brilliant On a Sunbeam - enjoy!
e: Tillie, what is your creative process/medium for creating graphic novels, can you walk us through it?
My creative process is a little ridiculous. I just fly by the seat of my pants. I have an idea, and I just get my blank pages and pens and start making it. I was literally designing the characters for On a Sunbeam as I was drawing the first pages. It’s not a process I would really recommend, but when I get excited about something I can’t really hold myself back. So, I draw like mad, and then I rely on editors to make it coherent. In a nutshell, that’s my process.
e: You offer On a Sunbeam online for free - why is that? Did it lead to traditional publishing for you?
I had worked with traditional publishing before putting OAS up as a webcomic. I wanted it to be accessible. And not everyone has 20 bucks to drop on a book. A lot of my audience is teenagers, and I put OAS up for free really for them. I don’t want there to be any barriers for people to access good queer stories. And I mean, of course I worked with publishers to get the book version out there and to make some money so I can keep doing what I’m doing, but the webcomic will remain up for all eternity.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of On a Sunbeam?
Well, for those who have read it, you know about the character Grace. And while I was drawing the first chapter I was like, I have to kill Grace. Grace must die. She doesn’t, of course. And reading the story now it would make no sense, but I was planning for some major annihilation of characters at the beginning, but then I began to love them so much I couldn’t pull the trigger. And I’m glad I didn’t!
e: Me too! What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
I think if the person was feeling joy while they were making their art, that’s where the magic is. You can see that in someone’s work. And in OAS, I think it’s apparent I love what I do when you look at it.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Favorite? Spending my days in my own head and drawing whatever comes to me. Most challenging part? Book tours, promotion in general.
e: Is there something in particular about On a Sunbeam you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
No, not really. Readers can take whatever they want. I’ve never felt like I can control what a reader thinks. That’s the road to madness, I think. I made the book with my own intentions, but once its out there, what people take from it is out of my hands. Its up to you, y’all.

e: You have several other graphic novels available here (I’ll include a link to your website). What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I have a book coming out later this year called Are You Listening? Which is another fictional graphic novel. And then of course I’m working on… three other books. Maybe four. Who knows. I’m working, I’m drawing, more will come!
Thanks Elizabeth!!

e: Thank you, Tillie!

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