I really should confess that I've never been a big fan of "cover model pageants" where studly young models strut their stuff in loin cloths with biceps flexing, taut ab muscles rippling, a teasing smirk playing around their flawlessly sculpted lips...oh, wait...where was I and why have I never been a fan of these pageants? Oh, yeah--dignity! That's right. I think it's an insult to their dignity to be paraded in front of a crowd of leering, hooting women like so much prime beefcake on an auction block, their well-defined muscles glistening with sweat, their eyes twinkling with a come-hither look, their broad shoulders...oh, sorry...lost my train of thought again!
What I meant to say was that cover models deserve our respect (and their dignity) because they're an essential part of the romance genre. They serve as "placeholders" for the heroes in our books. They may not be an exact representation of the image the reader will eventually hold in the eye of her imagination but they do act as a starting (and a selling) point.
Several models in the genre have been talented and prolific enough to develop name recognition. John DeSalvo, Steve Sandalis (the Topaz man), Cherif Fortin (you can find him on the exquisite piece of pre-Raphaelite art on the original stepback for my book CHARMING THE PRINCE) and of course the legendary Fabio, who has been clever enough (despite that unfortunate goose incident on the roller coaster) to parlay his 15 minutes of fame into 15 years. HEATHER AND VELVET, my very first book for Bantam in 1992, was one of the last romance covers Fabio posed for before retiring from modeling to pen (cough, cough) his own romances. I've even had the pleasure of crossing paths with a few of these models. Here I am above with Guy Davis (who appeared on several Katherine Sutcliffe covers) way back in 1990. (In case you couldn't tell, I'm the one with the big hair and the very small dress.)
I was recently introduced to a hot new name in the business when I received the preliminary cover art for my upcoming October release THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME. We hear so many horror stories about authors getting covers with heroes who look like Howdy Doody or Elvis or who have the wrong hair or eye color. Who can forget Suzanne Brockman's legendary "Pillsbury Doughboy" cover for GET LUCKY? She had to send out smiley face stickers so her readers could cover up his face! (And I'm sure this wasn't a commentary on the cover model, but on the artist.) So you can imagine my delight when I received this in the mail:
The devilishly talented art department at Avon had managed to find a cover model who was not only gorgeous, but the perfect embodiment of Julian Kane, my sweetly sardonic vampire hero. Since I'm usually running a little behind (cough, cough), I was actually writing the first love scene of the novel when the artwork arrived. I immediately tacked it up over my computer and found it to be VERY inspiring indeed!
Turns out the cover model is none other than Nathan Kamp, a fast rising star who has also done a guest stint on my favorite soap GUIDING LIGHT. He's appeared on several recent books from authors Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor, Susan Sizemore, Karen Hawkins, Karen Marie Moning and a host of others. You would probably be shocked if you realized just exactly how many covers you've probably seen him on because he has the most essential gift of any cover model--the ability to transform himself into any number of heroes without losing his own identity OR being overexposed.
Although I would certainly never want Nathan to compromise his dignity by strutting across some stage in a loin cloth in front of a crowd of hooting, leering women, I would like to leave you with a couple of pictures so you can admire him as a human being. Purely in a spiritual, entirely platonic, aesthetic sense of course ;)