ComicFest 2019 – 5 minutes with Katie O’Neill

ComicFest is back for 2019! On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 to 4 of May at the National Library there will be panels, talks and workshops all day long for comic-lovers of all ages. You can also pick up a free comic from us on May the 4th and celebrate Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC! For full programme click here and follow our updates on our Facebook event.


Next in our “5 minutes with..” series we have Katie O’Neill. Katie is an Eisner, Harvey and McDuffie-winning illustrator and graphic novelist from New Zealand. She is the author of Princess Princess Ever After, The Tea Dragon Society, and Aquicorn Cove, all from Oni Press. She mostly makes gentle fantasy stories for younger readers, and is very interested in tea, creatures, things that grow, and the magic of everyday life. Katie O’Neill appears at ComicFest with the support of the New Zealand Book Council.



Q: What first got you interested in comics?
A: I was fortunate to have dial-up internet early enough to be deep into the craze as a kid, and a big part of that was the rich creative community that formed around the virtual pet-raising game. The in-game weekly digital newspaper featured both ongoing storylines and one-off gag comics, and really got me started viewing comics as a natural way of expressing stories and characters from a young age.

Q: What is your average day like?
A: I’m a full time freelance illustrator at the moment, so it’s really important to me to have structured days with clear down time. Mornings give me good energy, so I try to get up at around 7.30 and have a solid, uninterrupted morning of work until lunch. Then I take a few hours off to make food, go for a walk, do yoga, or get coffee with friends. After that I either continue working on a different project, or do some studies or research depending on how much energy I have left. Evenings are a work-free zone! I love to cook, and relax with reading, podcasts or TV.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?
A: I’ve recently wrapped up a couple of graphic novels for Oni Press- one is the second book in the Tea Dragon series, which is due out in September, and the other is yet to be announced but was for much younger readers, which was a ton of fun! I also took a few months off at the end of last year to decompress and spend some time experimenting and growing my skills in a new direction.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?
A: I live by the Pomodoro technique- working for 25 minutes, then taking a break for 5. I notice a huge difference in my focus, productivity, and mental and physical health when I get up to stretch, drink water, and bother my cat frequently.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?
A: At the moment, I’m looking for a lot of inspiration and motivation outside of the art world. I love hearing stories of older people who have lived active, engaged and meaningful lives through their daily activities, connection with nature, and community.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
A: New Zealand webcomic authors are making incredible things at the moment! Rachel Smythe, Jem Yoshioka, Chelsey Furedi and Kale de Wild just to name a few.

Q: What is your dream comic project?
A: I’m very lucky in that I’ve already pretty much made it- The Tea Dragon series is exactly what I wanted it to be, with so much wonderful support from my publisher and readers. I’ve never needed to compromise anything, and it’s full of the elements and themes I love most. That said, I’d love to work on something collaborative in future!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!
A: I’m really excited to design some dragons with our younger attendees! Kids always come up with such wonderful ideas, and it’s really fun to be able to bring them to life with them.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?
A: Howl from the Ghibli movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle.

You can find Katie online in the following places:
Twitter: @strangelykatie