The closest I’ve ever gotten to being into sci fi was having an ET doll. And that doesn’t even really count. My point being: I know nothing about either the genre of science fiction or the actual mechanics of existing in space. I always got crummy grades in science, too.
And yet, I made a sci fi book. Anything is possible, kids.
I’ve seen a few snippets of all the big popular space movies, and they always bore me. Why are they so full of white hallways and white men?
The inception of On a Sunbeam came from my perpetual disappointment and boredom towards any story set in space. At the beginning, Sunbeam was just called ‘Space Book.’ I spent almost a year just thinking about it before I actually started drawing it. I went into it with no plan. My initial goal with Sunbeam was to create a version of outer space that I would want to live in. So of course that includes tons of queer people, no men (did you notice?), trees, old buildings, and endless constellations.
I can’t stress just how much I didn’t know about this story when I started it. I was literally designing the characters as I drew them in the first pages. But it was all able to come together with a lot of hard work and a lot of help. Ricky Miller, who published my first three books, was my first reader and editor. He read through every chapter before it was published and gave me tweaks. And then at about the halfway point in the story (somewhere around chapter 10) we skyped with each other and argued about how to deal with the second half of the story. I was very close to killing Grace. I can’t even remember why.
I drew a lot of this comic while staying in Tokyo, Japan. I took the money I made from my book Spinning and instantly left the country (10/10 would do again.) I would look out my window at snowy Tokyo while I drew. It was exciting, not only because I was alone, but because the final chunk of the story is really about finding a way through a place that is foreign and mysterious, and I was feeling that hard as I wandered the streets in Japan.
When the webcomic finished, First Second published the book version in the US. My editor at FS, Connie Hsu (who I worked on my book Spinning with) helped me polish it off into the version you’ve just read.
I really care about these characters. I’m not thinking about them day and night the way I was when I was drawing this, but I still have moments where they come back to me. I could see myself making a sequel one day.
The Sunbeam book was published in October 2018. Get it wherever books are sold. Find out more about my work on my website. And I have a lil mailing list that I sporadically use to inform you about what I’m up to. Feel free to sign up here. I’m on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, all @tilliewalden.
The title of this story comes from the Belle and Sebastian song ‘Asleep on a Sunbeam.’ Give it a listen.
Also, if you’re into standard metrics of success (I’m not), Sunbeam has done very well. It won the LA Times Book Prize and is currently nominated for a Hugo Award. There’s also a review in the New Yorker. I didn’t read it, but my Mom did. Apparently it’s good.
The only direct way to contact me is to write a letter to me. I don’t respond to DM’s, and I don’t have a public email address. If you’re feeling bold, send me something here:
PO BOX 9003, Austin, TX 78757
If you have any inquiries regarding publicity, media, or appearances, you can contact my agent Seth Fishman (firstname.lastname@example.org).