“If I Love This Part was a song, then this is a poem.” Tillie Walden on her new book A City Inside

ACI Front CoverTillie Walden’s beautiful and unconventional love story, I Love This Part was one of our favourite books of 2015, and needless to say we were rather excited to find out she would be releasing a new book this spring called A City Inside, courtesy of Avery Hill. With a style that is totally unique and a dream-like structure that defies description we got in touch and asked Tillie to tell us more about her esoteric and unconventional approach to comics.

A City Inside

“‘If I Love This Part was a song, then A City Inside is a poem.’”

Can you tell us a bit about what your new book A City Inside is about?

Tillie Walden: A City Inside is a difficult book to describe. Even coming up with a blurb was hard. But I’ll give it my best try, since I did draw and write it, I should be able to do this. It’s the story of one woman and the story of the places she goes through her life. It’s not a book that takes place in reality, though it does hold similarities to our world. It’s a book about discovering passion, finding a place to live that reflects who you are, and navigating relationships as you go through your life. My editor compared it to my previous book I Love This Part by saying ‘If I Love This Part was a song, then A City Inside is a poem.’ That’s really the best description we’ve got.

Your books feel very personal, almost autobiographical  so what inspires you to tell your stories in the way you do? Is it real life, or just issues that are important to you?

TW: All of my books have autobiographical elements to them. Most of my stories emerge from events or memories in my own life, but as I make it into a comic it usually takes on a life of its own, with my own personal narrative going to the backdrop. I like that my books feel personal, that’s something that I really work towards. I also like that with every book I feel like I’m seeing a reflection of who I was when I made it, and I’m seeing what I was thinking about at that time. It’s nice, my stories feel like little time capsules to me. But to answer your original question, my own life inspires me to tell the stories that I do. But it’s more then the past, I find that thinking about what I want my life to be in the future also brings up ideas for stories.

Your style feels very unique, who or what artists and creators inpire you? The City Inside has a very Studio Ghibli feel to it at times, would that be fair to say?

TW: Studio Ghibli is a huge influence, which is pretty obvious in my work. I watched their movies religiously as a kid alongside my twin brother, so I have quite an affection for the style and storytelling of those movies. As far as artists go, there aren’t many that inspire me to make comics, which seems like a weird thing to say. I don’t really read comics much anymore because I make them so often. I find inspiration from other mediums instead, usually prose or movies. My recent inspirations in prose have been the strangest mix. I’ve reading Haruki Murakami, Tana French, Michael Ajvaz, and Brandon Sanderson. They’re all insanely different from one another in genre and style and subject matter, yet they’ve all been inspiring me in interesting ways.

A City Inside

“I like seeing characters alone. I think relationships are important in a story, but at the moment what interests me most is seeing what people do with their time alone.”

Your books all have a real sense of loneliness to them, are you a particularly solitary person? Or is that just the kinds of stories that appeal to you?

TW: I’m very solitary. I’m a huge introvert, so being alone is the only way I know how to relax. That’s funny to hear – I never notice common themes in my work so it’s always interesting to hear what other people catch on to. A sense of loneliness makes sense! I like seeing characters alone. I think relationships are important in a story, but at the moment what interests me most is seeing what people do with their time alone. I’m sure thats because I spend most of my time working on ideas and drawing by myself, so I feel the need to reflect that process in my characters. I’m also really fascinated with world building and exploration, and I feel like the best way to get to know a world or a space in a story is to have someone experience it alone. I feel like that allows for the reader to step in more easily.

How important is it for you to show young same sex relationships in your stories as it seems to be a recurring theme?

TW: It only recently became important for me to show young same sex relationships. It’ll definitely be a recurring theme in my future work because after doing I Love This Part I realized how great it felt to tell an honest gay story. I also came to the realization while making I Love This Part that I had ignored putting that part of myself in my stories, and it was pretty liberating to do so. And now I’m determined to keep exploring gay characters and their relationships in my work. I also feel strongly that I want to have young gay characters in my books. I knew I was gay when I was 5, and I want there to be stories out there for kids who have always known and are dealing with that. I hate the rhetoric among adults that kids are just going through a ‘phase,’ especially when I grew up knowing the entire time. So telling the stories of young gay characters has become important to me on many levels. I want to create narratives that kids can read and relate to, but I also want to put down on paper everything that I felt while I was growing up and struggling with this.

I Love this Part

“[Same sex relationships] will definitely be a recurring theme in my future work because after doing I Love This Part I realized how great it felt to tell an honest gay story.”

We loved your book I Love This Part, in particular the way you featured the characters a giants within cityscapes, how did you get the idea to tell the story in this way? Was it a narrative choice or purely a visual one?

TW: Honestly, it was initially a purely visual choice. For those who had followed my work before I made I Love This Part, they saw me playing around with the idea of giant people and small cities a lot. I was sketching it, making one page comics, then 10 page comics about it. I was really obsessed, actually. I just loved how it looked and it was so much fun to draw. So when I decided to make I Love This Part, I thought it would be really beautiful to use this idea that I had been toying with for so long. It turned out that this concept actually really worked thematically with the book, which was lucky! When I was drawing the end of the book I had figured out how it worked narratively and worked the concept into the story so it all tied together, but the origins of the concept were simply that I was fascinated with drawing people in miniature places. Everyone always assumes that the girls are giants, but I’ve always thought that they’re normal sized, and its that the world around them has shrunk. But it’s cool, it works either way.

The architecture you draw in both A City Inside and I Love This Part, is exquisite, are the buildings based on ones local to you? How much research do you do to get things looking realistic?

TW: I wish! No, the buildings aren’t local. There are a couple local buildings I threw in to I Love This Part as a little wink towards the little town I live in currently, but most of it is made up. I spend a lot of time looking at images of architecture online, so by the time I sit down to draw I have all these images of buildings swimming in my head and the drawing just comes to me. My buildings actually aren’t that realistic, or at least I don’t think so. They look like Tillie buildings to me. No architect could build what I draw, it doesn’t really make any sense. But I don’t really want to make realistic buildings, I just like drawing what places look like when I dream. I get the feeling of places in a lot of my dreams, and when I draw I try and emulate that. When you add in all the staring I do at pictures of places, something between realism and dreamlike comes out. It’s a strange process.


“My buildings actually aren’t that realistic, or at least I don’t think so. They look like Tillie buildings to me. No architect could build what I draw, it doesn’t really make any sense.”

How did you get to be involved with Avery Hill? And how are your books receieved in the US compared to here in the UK? Which audience is more receptive? 

TW: Avery Hill actually found me. They saw my work on twitter, which led them to my site, which led them to emailing me about doing a book. But I was in High School when they got in touch with me first, and politely said no way to them. I was way to insecure about my comics then. But then about a year later they got in touch with me again, and I had kind of forgotten about them but thought hey why not, and it all turned out great. They’re such wonderful publishers, and wonderful people.
Avery Hill has actually worked to get my work in the US, and it’s done really well there, especially after the Retrofit deal. I don’t really know which audience is more receptive to my work, honestly both the US and UK audiences seem just as engaged. I do go to US shows as well and that’s probably where my main audience will be in the future. I’ll be in the UK in October I believe at a festival. Or maybe I’m not supposed to say that yet. Either way, I’ll be hopping around the UK at some point this year!

And finally what’s next from you, and how would you like to see your work develop and progress in the coming years? Will you continue to work on personal comics like this or would you like to move on to other genres of story-telling?

TW: That’s a good question. And a hard question. I’ll keep telling personal stories, even if the personal element is small. I don’t think I can tell any story without putting myself in it in some way. But I plan to keep exploring different genres and keep making up new places for my readers to go to. I don’t think I know how I’d like to see my work develop. I’ll just let it do it’s thing. I’ll keep on growing up, keep on going places, and keep on looking at pictures of buildings. I don’t know what kinds of stories I’ll come up with, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy making them.

You can pre-order A City Inside from Avery Hill Publishing along with I Love This Part and End of Summer. You can also visit Tillie’s website to see more of her work.

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.