Readers who’ve been longtime readers of Tillie Walden’s webcomic are in for a treat: On a Sunbeam is now becoming a book, and it’s coming out next fall! This release has it all: queer romance, boarding school goings-on, and science fiction elements to keep readers eagerly turning page after page. Here’s a look at the book’s official synopsis and a short excerpt:
Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long lost love.
An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.
While you pine for a physical copy of the book based on the beloved webcomic, we’ve got something to keep you busy. We’ve chatted with Tillie Walden about the adaptation process, her illustrations, and what readers should pick up during the countdown to her book’s release.
Bookish: What originally inspired On a Sunbeam?
Tillie Walden: I really wanted to make a comic set in space, and that was the true impetus. When I tried to expand the idea to be a little more than just ~space~ I started to really find the story. I’ve always had an interest in architecture and building, and so why not mash that in with the idea of space? On a Sunbeam really grew out of those two concepts.
Bookish: This story began as a webcomic online. Did you run into any unexpected challenges when adapting it into a graphic novel?
TW: I don’t know if any of the challenges were unexpected, but they were still there. On a Sunbeam was initially designed for the web in its entirety. Meaning the pages I was making were really meant to be scrolled through. And I knew that bringing it into print would have its challenges and require some changing. But it’s actually been a fun process to sort of reimagine my pages for this new form.
Bookish: Which element of the original story changed the most when reworking it as a book? What was important for you to keep the same ?
TW: It was important for me to keep the core story the same. I don’t want anyone who read OAS online to pick up the book and gasp in horror. I would say the layouts changed the most, and that was really so the pages would work in print. Oh, and it was important for me to keep the colors pretty consistent. I think the colors really define a lot of parts of this story, and I didn’t want to lose that.
Bookish: Mia’s past is drawn in shades of blue, while her present is purple. Why did you choose those colors in particular?
TW: I always knew that Mia’s two storylines would need to be different colors. And I also knew right away that her past should be in shades of blue. I’ve always loved the colors that contrast blue, especially orange. And for Mia’s past I was thinking there would be a lot of moments that called for a dramatic and striking contrast, so I went with blue for my base color. As far as the present, I really agonized over that purple. I just couldn’t seem to find a color that would click. But when I finally landed on a purple that had some pink to it, I made my peace. I like that Mia’s present color palette is close to her past. It connects them.
Bookish: Can you talk about the significance of the color yellow in the comic?
TW: Sure! Yellow is significant in my last book Spinning as well, haha. I obviously have a thing for yellow. In OAS I feel like the yellow represents reality for Mia. The moments that are hard, that are wonderful, any moment that blazes with an emotion so strong that it pulls Mia and the cast down to the ground, to themselves, has that yellow.
Bookish: There’s a strong focus on the past in this book, both in Mia’s flashbacks and in the crew’s mission to rebuild crumbling structures. What drew you to this theme?
TW: I think the past is interesting. I think the way we deal with our own stories and how we share those with others can really shape us. And everyone in this story, not just Mia, has something broken and crumbling behind them. And it just seemed so perfect that the work they do together involves rebuilding and restoring. The work they do is what they need, emotionally and physically.
Bookish: What other graphic novels or webcomics do you recommend for readers as they await On a Sunbeam’s release?
Tillie Walden is a cartoonist and illustrator from Austin, Texas. Born in 1996, she is a graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies, a comics school in Vermont. Over the course of her time at CCS she published three books with the London-based Avery Hill Publishing, one of which, I Love This Part, was nominated for an Eisner Award in the best single issue category. When she is not drawing comics, Tillie can be found walking and listening to audiobooks or asleep with a cat. She also enjoys studying architecture and tries to incorporate that passion into her comics.