Following the success of Princess Princess Ever After, writer and illustrator Katie O’Neill is once again teaming up with Oni Press to release The Tea Dragon Society, a completely charming all ages graphic novel.
Taking some time from her busy schedule, Katie has been kind enough to talk with us at Comicosity about the book and what’s next for her.
Kelly Richards: For any of our readers who aren’t already familiar with The Tea Dragon Society, can you give us a quick overview of the story?
Katie O’Neill: The Tea Dragon Society is a slice-of-life story about a young apprentice blacksmith named Greta, and the world of fussy yet magical little dragons she encounters. She isn’t entirely sure about her future as a blacksmith, but discovers parallels in the way the old fashioned practice of Tea Dragon husbandry yields tea that preserves memories and experiences. Throughout the story she discovers more about the pasts of Minette, a mysterious girl with no memory, and Hesekiel and Erik, the pair of retired adventurers who own the tea shop she visits.
I wanted to celebrate the everyday magic that happens between friends, as well as on your own when you take time to make a cup of tea for yourself. It’s also about finding community, the value of traditional crafts, and of course, taking care of dragons!
KR: It’s really lovely so far. Every character, including the Tea Dragons, are so wonderfully conceived and beautifully realised. What, if anything, inspired this story?
KO: Thank you so much! I’ve always loved stories about creatures, and I’m always doodling imaginary species and worlds in my spare time. The idea of Tea Dragons came very much on a whim and was intended to be a one-off picture, but I received such lovely feedback online and many inquisitive questions that made me realise they’d be so fun to develop and extend into a story!
KR: Much like Princess Princess Ever After, The Tea Dragon Society is an all-ages comic with a diverse, inclusive cast. What is it that drives you to tell these kinds of stories over those specifically targeted at mature readers?
KO: I definitely feel very strongly connected to the works I read as a child—they influenced me so much, and particularly how I saw myself and the kind of person I wanted to be. Thinking about how deeply books affected me growing up, I would love if I can provide that same experience to children and help them feel safe, included, and strong in who they are. I also think the stories I want to tell are fairly simple and joyful, which suits the all-ages range
More pragmatically speaking, shorter works also suit my style of art—I really enjoy painting my comic pages, however it’s a rather time-consuming process. I haven’t been able to find a more economical style that really communicates what I have in my head the way that I want to, so working on children’s graphic novels is the perfect balance.
KR: What’s next for you? (Crosses fingers for Tea Dragon Society merchandise)
KO: In fact, yes—which I’m so excited about! I’m currently working with Oni Press on some merch, including a Chamomile Tea Dragon plushie with the absolute softest ears imaginable, as well as a card game that I’ve had a chance to play test and can safely say goes perfectly with a cosy afternoon and a cup of tea.
KR: Thank you so much for your time. Are there any other projects you’d like to talk about?
KO: Thank you very much for interviewing me! I’m currently working on another book for Oni Press, another all-ages graphic novel with strong ties to the sea and ocean life. It’s already taking shape with page art underway, and I’m so excited to be working on it!
Currently available to read as a web comic, The Tea Dragon Society will be published by Oni Press in October 2017