Sarah Millman is a web comic artist and illustrator who lives in Wales and makes a great cup of tea! She also happens to be the creator of NPC Tea, a comic about orcs, elves and demons who start up a tea shop in her hometown of Cardiff.
Hi Sarah! Where did you get the idea for NPC Tea?
It’s difficult to say! I started with the characters and it was a very different story to start off with (Bryn was first, and he was a demon – there were no RPG elements in the beginning). I also used to wonder what happened to summons when they weren’t being, uh, summoned, and what would happen to a fantasy world like Tolkien’s over time; if it developed into something similar to ours. And, finally, the tea element came in as I wanted to write a story about pacifism, and there’s nothing more peaceful than sitting down with a good brew and a comic. Eventually, I started writing NPC Tea at the beginning of 2015.
Why did you choose to set it in Cardiff?
I live in Cardiff! A big part of NPC Tea is the clash between the mundane and the fantastical, so it was important to me that it was a recognizable place. Also, if there were orcs out and about in everyday life, they’d probably be in Cardiff.
What’s been the biggest challenge in going from idea to print?
Sounds dull, but budget. It’s always the biggest stumbling block. If you can afford larger print runs, it’s a lot easier, but then there’s the risk of not selling them. That’s why running a kickstarter for printing issue three will be such a help! I hate doing promotion too – especially as it’s just me working on this series. It’s difficult to keep perspective and be able to promote yourself when all you want to do is draw and write stories about goofy elves and orcs.
What have been your biggest influences in producing this and what inspires you?
Obviously, fantasy and RPGs – I was obsessed with Final Fantasy as a teenager (FF9 is my favourite), and Dragon Age as I got older. Also the desire to play more Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder – it’s heartbreaking when you find a good team and it’s too hard to schedule a time to play for everyone. Art-wise I love Dave McKean, Shaun Tan, Yoshitaka Amano and Gurihiru, and as for authors, Diana Wynne Jones, Robin Hobb and Neil Gaiman are my favourites. I’m massively inspired by the creators around me and the comics community in the UK too. But I think my biggest push to make this has been being angry at the news – it’s upsetting to see how desperate some people are to go to war, so I needed to write something about the benefits of being peaceful to deal with it.
What would you like to see more of in comics?
More indies please 🙂 Honestly, there are so many interesting stories being told, and hardly any of them are in mainstream comics. I’d love to see a more hospitable job market for comic creators where indie stories are being told on a mainstream level. But that’s a boring answer, isn’t it? I guess… elves? Elves are fun.
Making a comic must take time! How do you balance everything?
I’m terrible at this! I aim to finish an issue of NPC Tea and get it to print every two months – so I work pretty much full time on the comic for about 6 weeks, then send it to print and sleep for two weeks. I love working on it so it’s really difficult to take time out, as I always find myself slipping back into work! I started making comics full time this spring and that was a big, terrifying step for me.
Where do you hope to go with NPC Tea?
At the moment I’m just reeling from people reading it and enjoying it haha! I’ve planned it as an eight issue story, which ultimately I’d like to collect into one volume – but that all depends on how the single issues do. I’d love to write more about the universe and maybe do another series, but again, I’m going to see how this series does first. There’s a lot of stories I could tell about Hannah, Oz, Bryn and the gang, it just all depends on whether people want to read them or not!