I suspect that most readers tend to visualise the main characters, and often the side characters as well, while reading a book. The book cover is a helpful guide – sometimes. In the older days, when covers tended to be sketches rather than images of real people, it was harder, I suppose. But the thought occurred to me while I was watching a romcom – The Ugly Truth starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, what do readers do when they read my books?
As the thought progressed, growing in proportion as it rolled around gathering a lot more than moss and momentum, I began to realise that it might be worth sharing with you who I pictured when writing my books.
“You won’t believe how I agonise over the covers of my books.”
But before I do that, a quick word about the movie that inspired this blog. Our LL is a perfect heroine, worthy of one of my books – headstrong, opinionated, not promiscuous, looking for the perfect guy, hardly perfect herself with plenty of flaws, a little neurotic and wholly adorable. Our hero, too, is worthy of a Kyra Radcliff billionaire opus, a bit alpha but doesn’t take himself too seriously, grumpy and charming both at the same time, sweetly seductive and attractive to the womenfolk – and oh yeah, knows how to push the LL’s buttons.
But, heavens to Betsy, never once did I imagine these two when writing my novels. Nor did I imagine any of the leading actor-cum-heartthrobs out there from Brad Pitt (oo-la-la), George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Javier Bardem, Antonio Banderas … oh, okay, you get my point. Nor do I think of Emma Watson, Emma Stone, Kate Beckinsale, Margot Robbie, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, or Emilia Clarke.
Why? Because that would limit my imagination. It would cramp the way I think of them. For my heroes and heroines are not celluloid two-dimensional images. They are real-life, living beings. In my mind’s eye, of course. Their looks are important, but not overpoweringly so. You may have noticed I like to describe eyes in detail but then figures less so. Of course, they have to be fit and attractive, but they don’t need to be supermodels either, unless their characters demand that they be good-looking. One of my upcoming books – Runway to Heaven has a female lead who is a supermodel and Romancing a Star had a British heroine who resembled Princess Di. In fact, at least of two of my other leading ladies have unattractive freckles that the hero finds wholly adorable.
In that last statement is a clue. Beauty, my beautiful readers out there, is in the eye of the beholder.
You won’t believe how I agonise over the covers of my books. The publishers ask me to write out the description of the characters that I would like to have on the cover. I hesitate, tempted to screech – read the book! Then I describe them – eye colour, height, weight, body structure, scene setting, type of clothes. On occasion, unhappy with the choices thereafter presented, I do my own search. In The Italian Billionaire’s Kidnapped Mistress, I found the couple myself.
All of these help. To a degree. However, I must let you in on another, big, big secret.
It goes back to when I was an avid reader of Mills & Boon, Silhouette and Harlequin romances, two or three a day. During summer hols, more. While reading these novels, the description usually fell on deaf ears, often irritated when the breasts were described as virginal – what the hell is that supposed to mean? The cover pages helped. But the reality was that I dreamed of the main characters, different for each book, in a unique manner based on the story, the plot, the setting and my own very imagination.
The secret? I don’t describe characters in exhaustive detail because I want you, my dear readers, to fill in the gaps and imagine your favouritest characters, that which you consider attractive, when you read the books. Not everyone is like that, but one of the advantages of the written medium is precisely that. Leaving out information quite often helps. The opposite quite often detracts.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my musings. Please let me know what you think.