You may have seen my review for this week, the latest two issues, six and seven, of NPC tea, a beautifully illustrated comic by the lovely Sarah Milman. (If you missed the post you can check out spoiler-free reviews for Issues 1-5 here or issues 6&7 here). Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you all a little Q&A with the illustrator and author herself!
First off, thank you so much for taking part in this Q&A for my blog. I realise you must be super busy with the Kickstarter for the latest issue of NPC Tea being live and working on the issue itself. I’ve been reading NPC Tea for some years now but for those who may not have heard of NPC Tea before how would you describe it?NPC Tea is about a tea shop run by orcs, elves and other fantasy creatures in modern day Cardiff, and it’s inspired by D&D, Final Fantasy and LOTR. That’s the elevator pitch, anyway! The comic is about fantastical beings trying to live a normal life but finding their pasts difficult to escape. It has themes of pacifism and historical revisionism, and also orcs and elves kissing. You know, all the important stuff.
How have you found using Kickstarter to fund each issues initial run? Were there any particular pros and cons?
I’ve really enjoyed using Kickstarter, but it’s difficult to switch off from! I’m quite an anxious person who tends to stress a lot, so the campaigns are both really exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s easy to obsess over numbers, and if you don’t like self-promotion it can get painful at times! That said, it’s incredibly satisfying when a campaign succeeds, and it’s allowed me to connect to people from all over the world. NPC Tea wouldn’t have been possible without it.
On average how long does it take to complete an issue?
It’s condensed a lot over the years. Issue 1 took about three months to draw, while 7 took 3 and a half weeks. I aim to complete two pages a day, but with recent issues, I’ve tried to pace myself. As a freelancer it’s hard not to overwork, and to force yourself to step back or take time off.
What is your favourite aspect of creating comics and what particular element gives you the most personal satisfaction?
This is difficult – I find most of it very satisfying. There’s nothing better than nailing the script, especially when it takes a while to get just right. I really enjoy looking back on older pages and seeing my progression – even if I might cringe at some bits of artwork, I like to think that I keep improving with each issue that I make.
Do you have a least favourite aspect?
Colouring! This is why I initially chose to use limited colours for NPC Tea – I enjoy all the other elements apart from colouring, and I think it’s my weakest area. Though I’d like to get better at it, and will probably go back to full colour in future projects. It’s not strictly comics related, but I hate admin and promoting myself too – I actually freeze up when I have to send out business emails, even if it’s in response to something good…
What tools do you use to create comics and what makes them the “right tools” for you?
I make my comics completely digitally, and NPC Tea was all made with OpenCanvas. I’d like to switch to Clip Studio paint though – OC can be a bit buggy, but I haven’t found a program that has the same kind of line quality that I like. I also use Scrivener to write, though to be honest pen and paper works in a pinch.
How would you describe your typical work routine?
Chaotic…? I tend to write best very late at night. So, when I’m writing scripts or thumbnailing, I tend to stay up late and get out a draft in one or two sittings, then edit the script with a cup of tea over the next few days. When it comes to actually drawing, I’m a lot more disciplined, and I’m at my desk at 10am, working through till about 7. I like to work to podcasts and cartoons – my favourites are Swindled and Avatar the Last Airbender. As a freelancer I can work whenever I like, but that’s not always a good thing!
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
I find that travelling helps me to write. Especially on trains, it’s easy to let my mind wander and come up with dialogue and new ideas. The indie comics scene in the UK is so diverse – reading other people’s comics and seeing what they’re creating is inspiring. My favourite thing to do is have a nice bath while reading comics! I also play games, though as a completionist they tend to make me procrastinate…
I’d like to have more hobbies that make me go outdoors. I am very pale and weak.
Do you have any advice to give to others who may be thinking about creating comics?
I’d say start out with something short, and gain the experience of getting it printed. I made the mistake of starting a long form comic straight out of the gate, and that was a difficult learning curve. Also, make something that you’d like to read! If you’re stuck for ideas, there are always a lot of anthologies out there to join.
What is next for NPC Tea? Is this the end?
Well, I’ve written this volume to stand alone, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have ideas for a series two! I’ve written a lot of short stories too – it’s been a long time since I’ve written something not NPC Tea, and I might want a break from orcs and elves when all this is over… but that’s looking unlikely. I think I’m going to see how people react to the finished story, and go from there. If people want to see more from Hanny, Oz and Bryn, I won’t need much convincing to continue.
You can order issues 1-7 via Sarah’s Etsy store here right now if you want to catch up asap or if you back the Kickstarter you can choose to receive all of the single issues (with an exclusive slipcase to keep them all together neatly) OR a hardback bindup of all of them! Not forgetting Sarah also has a Patreon where at the $1 tier you can read up to issue 6 digitally right away!