Interview With A Graphic Novel Writer: Jamila Rowser

Interview With A Graphic Novel Writer: Jamila Rowser

Hello dears. Today is super special because I have gotten the chance to interview a comics book writer that creates diverse small graphic books that many would adore. This interview will give you insight into what it is like to be a writer, work with artists and also see into the publishing world as a writer. Comic books and graphic novels are a great piece of literature because it combines writing and art into one medium. Graphic novels are my favorite pieces of literature, which is why it was an honor to get the chance to interview the graphic novel and comic books writer Jamila Rowser.

 

 

One of my first comic book writer's that I wanted to interview is Jamila Rowser, the writer behind Wash Day also illustrated by an artist named Robyn Smith, Wobbledy 3000, The Saddest Angry Black GirlReal Realm and so many more just to name a few. Jamila is a comic books writer that also has featured in Adweek’s Creative 100 in 2021 as Artists and Authors to follow. Jamila lives in Miami, but reps The Bronx. She has worked on many projects that will bring different walks of life to the comic book world and you will want to own them all. I have followed Jamila for quite sometime and think she is a writer that should be on your radar. Now, let's get started on learning more about the creative soul named Jamila.

 

 

My parents, especially my father. He used to read to me as a kid and would really get into it making different voices for characters, so it was a really fun and memorable experience. He is a teacher and would often assign me and my siblings books to read when we were young, especially in the summer. Back then it was annoying but I'm glad he did it (don’t tell him though). But I always loved reading, what’s not to love?!

 

 

I started getting into comics when I was in college. I loved a lot of stuff adjacent to comics, like science fiction, fantasy, manga, video games, etc. I knew I’d end up liking comics too, so I started to devote time into reading them. I instantly fell in love and that passion has only gotten stronger.

I really enjoy reading manga (Japanese comics), and several years ago I started to read more josei manga, which is a genre for adult women. I felt very seen in these stories, they were more mature and about relatable experiences. I always secretly wanted to be a writer, but I never felt confident enough. Josei manga was the lightbulb that helped me realize what kind of stories I wanted to write. I wanted to create stories like josei manga, but with people that looked like me and my friends.

 

 

Most of my comics are usually sparked by an idea, a concept, or event. I then typically brainstorm and work out the story by writing in a notebook. I write down all these different ideas that come to me, things I want to happen, things I want characters to say, the type of characters that I want to create, etc. It’s like a brain dump, which I find more natural to do writing on paper rather than a computer.

 

  

 

Most of my comics are usually sparked by an idea, a concept, or event. I then typically brainstorm and work out the story by writing in a notebook. I write down all these different ideas that come to me, things I want to happen, things I want characters to say, the type of characters that I want to create, etc. It’s like a brain dump, which I find more natural to do writing on paper rather than a computer.

Once I feel like I got a good sense of the story I use Google docs to transfer my notes and start to lay out the beats of the story. By “beats”, I mean the main actions that happen in the comic. So I may have a beat that says “Jamila washes her hair.”, but the amount of comic panels and pages that that beat will need varies. Sometimes it could be one panel, sometimes it could be several pages. I usually figure that out in next stage.

This process lasts a while and I go between creating the beats and building out the characters. Once the rough beats are done, I turn it into a script. This is where I start to really form the pacing and energy of the comic. Comic scripts are written for the artist, and I really enjoy making sure they are really organized and clear so it’s easier for the artist to read and understand. I write detailed descriptions of each panel, include dialogue, and include reference images if necessary. I work on building out the script for a while until I feel like I have a good first draft, then I hit up an editor because I know it could always be better.

 

 

Writing comics is very creative, but there’s also a lot of structure that comes with it. Because the scripts are for the artist it has to be formatted in a way that’s easy to read and written in a way that’s easy to understand. I really enjoy organization so I really like the process of writing a comic script. It comes easier to me than writing prose. When I think of my stories, they are almost always comics. I see how I want them to look, the different kinds of visuals that I’d want to see, etc.

Writing comics is more than just writing a script, too. I usually take time creating a sort of mood board for the comic. It could include images that represent the setting, each of the character’s and their style, the overall aesthetic of the comic, etc. I always try to do all that I can to make the job of the artist easier, since it’s a lot of work. Lastly, creating a comic is a collaborative process so I’m always open to changes and suggestions from the artist.

 

 

Slice-of-life for sure! I enjoy science fiction and fantasy, but most of the stories I want to create are based in real life and about the day-to-day life of women of color, their experiences, relationships, etc. Like the shows Insecure and Girlfriends, but a comic!

 

 

 

My own wash days inspired the comic Wash Day. I really enjoy slice-of-life comics, which depict “ordinary” life. I find a lot of what Black folks do in our day-to-day life to be beautiful and extraordinary, and using slice-of-life to depict that is a big passion of mine. 

I wanted to create a slice-of-life story about something that means very mundane, but to Black women, we know that wash day is more than just simply washing our hair. I wanted to honor that sacred time we spend caring for the part of our body that society often deems ugly. The pride and patience we have with our hair. 

 

Most of the comics I have written are short, so they are under 40 pages. Wash Day is 27 pages long. I knew when creating it that I didn’t want to go to a large publisher to put it out because 1. I knew it would be a short comic and that’s not something they would likely publish, and 2. I didn’t want to have to change the story so it fit a wider, whiter, audience. So I decided to use Kickstarter to fund my comic. I spent my own money to pay the advance to the amazing artist Robyn Smith and the editor J.A. Micheline. Then I used Kickstarter to help fund the printing and shipping of the comic. The Kickstarter did really well and got a lot of unexpected attention. We were featured in places like Ebony and Essence which made me really happy. I wanted Black women who don’t read comics to see that comics are diverse in their stories and characters. I wanted them to relate and feel seen.

Then Robyn and I got an email from Chronicle Books stating that they wanted to publish a graphic novel version of Wash Day. We were surprised and thrilled! I hadn’t sought it out, but I was really glad to have that opportunity to reach a wider audience and expand the story. Robyn and I have been working hard on the comic for over a year now. It’s scheduled to be released in May 2022! I can’t wait for it to come out.

Outside of that experience, I’ve usually used my own funds to pay the artists and editors for the I’ve written and have used Kickstarter to help fund the printing.

 

 

It love writing stories about and for Black women. It makes me so happy for Black women to see themselves in my comics, because this industry often misrepresents us, if we are represented at all. That’s what fills me with joy. I write for Black women in a very Black feminist kind of way. It’s a radical act.

 

 

Don’t let what you see, or don’t see, in the industry dictate when and what you’ll write. Write the stories that are true to you, even if you don’t see similar stories or themes out there. Trust that you will find your audience, and at the end of the day, it’s what you will feel most proud of.

 

Did you learn anything new about writing a graphic novel or comics book? I sure did when interviewing Jamila Rowser. Being a writer sounds astonishing as well as hard work when it comes to concepts, art designing and the writing process. Jamila has a new comic book coming out called Ode To Keisha and illustrated by Trinidad Escobar that I believe you will adore. 

 

 

Ode to Keisha is an autobiographical comic about friendship, racism, and identity. In this 18-page comic, Jamila recounts her Kindergarten friendship with Keisha, and why this bond was fundamental in shaping her concept of sisterhood. Trinidad’s beautiful black and white illustrations tenderly convey how racism and shared culture impacted the budding friendship between these two 5-year old Black girls living in The Netherlands. Ode to Keisha was originally created and published by the Amsterdam-based Versal for their VERSO/ subscription box. You can find Ode To Keisha for preorders by clicking here.

This interview was a pleasure to conduct and learn from The Seasonal Pages' end. I want to personally thank Jamila again for this lovely interview. You can find out about more about Jamila's writing by looking at the information below. Until next time...Happy Reading!

 

 

 

About the Author & Publishing

Jamila Rowser

Jamila Rowser is a writer and publisher who loves creating comics for Black and brown women, whether it's through writing the stories herself, or publishing the work of others through her publishing company, Black Josei Press. Jamila is most known for her award-winning, debut comic Wash Day, illustrated by Robyn Smith. She was also featured in Adweek’s Creative 100 in 2021 as Artists and Authors to follow. Jamila lives in Miami, but reps The Bronx. You can find her detangling her hair, reading manga, and doting on her two cats Sage and Sapphire.

Website: https://www.jamilarowser.com/ 

Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlackJoseiPress

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JamilaRowser

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamilarowser/ 

 

Black Josei Press

Black Josei Press is an award-winning indie comic book publishing company focused on celebrating comics by and for women of color and non-binary people of color. 

Black Josei Press is heavily inspired by josei manga and primarily publishes comics for grown folks. We hope to change the comic landscape for the better by providing a space for marginalized creators to tell their stories. We were founded in 2018 by the Black, Latinx, Queer, and disabled comics writer Jamila Rowser.  

Black Josei Press has published Wash Day, Wobbledy 3000, The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town, and Sun and Sand Comic Anthology. BJP has plans of publishing Arrive in my Hands by Trinidad Escobar later this year and a new edition of the Sun and Sand Comic Anthology

Website: https://twitter.com/blackjoseipress 

Newsletter: https://blackjoseipress.com/newsletter 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackjoseipress/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/blackjoseipress 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published