Mela Rogers is a nonbinary femme graphic novelist and illustrator who loves to create optimistic and whimsical art and stories full of heart!
MELA ROGERS (she/they) is a nonbinary femme comic artist, illustrator, and musician currently based in Savannah, Georgia. Originally from southern New Hampshire, she moved to Savannah to study comics at the Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated with a BFA in Sequential Art. Mela uses their art as an expression of optimism, and likes to tell stories informed by their own experiences as a queer person, as well as writing LGBTQ+ stories that aren’t centered around coming out or struggling against hate.
Find more of their art at melarogers.com and follow them on Instagram and Twitter at @mela_adele.
When and how did you start writing?
I always loved telling stories growing up, but I started writing in elementary school, after I joined my school’s writing club! Then in the 4th grade I started on a story that was basically just a rip off of my favorite comic, but it definitely made me excited to write every day. In middle school, I started drawing autobiographical comics, and I’ve been making comics ever since!
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you?
I was a really avid reader as a kid, but books about kids who love art and make believe like May from the May Bird trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson really resonated with me. (And I adored the covers by Jonathan Wayshak). Princess Academy by Shannon Hale also particularly stuck with me! I loved the mountain setting and the friendship between the girls. The first series that made me want to write AND draw was +Anima by Natsumi Mukai. The art is gorgeous, and I was really obsessed with the animal powers and found-family dynamic between these kids.
Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
Hayao Miyazaki for sure! Studio Ghibli movies completely dominated my headspace growing up—I think the first one I saw was Castle in the Sky when I was 8, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Those movies are what made me want to draw, and be a storyteller (they’re also why I started playing piano).
Can you talk us through your career so far? What were the key moments?
I graduated from school in May 2020, and in the year and a half afterwards I signed with the wonderful Chelsea Eberly after meeting through DVPit, and then got my first book deal with my debut graphic novel LOVE LIGHT. LOVE LIGHT began as my senior project for school, so all the support from my friends and professors really helped me after graduation.
I think one of the biggest moments for me was in 2018 was when I went to the Angoulême International Comics Festival and got to see the vast range of work there. Before that point, I was getting really demoralized and felt like I’d never be good enough to work professionally in comics. But then I found all of these books that really inspired me—your work doesn’t have to look a certain way or be the best art ever in order to be impactful, and I don’t think I really internalized that until the festival!
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I basically have two types of work days: either I get super absorbed in work for hours at a time without realizing the time is passing, or I work in small chunks throughout the day and take breaks to play music or go on a walk. I do really enjoy working at coffee shops because being around others helps me focus.
I tend to keep a list of everything I need to get done in a week, and tell other people what my goals are helps hold me accountable. Self-discipline is tough but really important when you’re working on your own!
When I need inspiration, I’ll either read a comic I love, watch a movie, or go outside and hang out with people! I’m pretty extroverted, so being around my friends can help reignite my creative spark when I’m feeling burnt out. I draw from my experiences for my work, so getting out in the world and doing stuff is a really good reminder of why I make art in the first place.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Make friends with other writers, especially ones who are in the same stage of their career as you! It’s so helpful to have other creative friends you can get feedback from, and it’s also really great to have a strong network of support so you can all cheer each other on. Also just remind yourself that the only way you’ll get seen is if you put yourself out there! It’s important to learn how to advocate for yourself.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?
1 - I’ve learned that the scariest thing for me is a blank page. I get anxious about writing something wrong, so I’ll be paralyzed until I remember that nothing is perfect, especially not on the first go around. So you might as well just do it, so you have something to edit!
2 - Giving myself space to recharge and remind myself why I create is so important to keep motivated. When I start feeling stressed, I always look to the things that inspire me to get exciting again. Taking breaks is an important part of the writing process!
3- Lived experience is SO helpful when creating characters and a dynamic world. So live and do things and have adventures!
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party?
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki are both creators who I would love to talk to and pick their brains! I love how grounded their works are, their books are some of my go-tos when I want to get inspired.
And if this was a time-defying dinner party, Tove Jansson! I got the full Moomin collection a few years back, and I’m obsessed with her art style and how unique her characters’ voices are. Also Moomin Valley is such a dreamy setting! I’d also love to sit and draw with Richard Scarry—as a kid I would stare at his books for hours. His style is so lovely.
What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?
BMO from Adventure Time! I love how he’s a mix of chaos and innocence—he can be so cute and weird but also really profound. Super charming character all around.