Have you ever seen a book cover and thought, huh, I think I’ve read that before. Maybe you’re just seeing the same stock photo. It’s no secret in author circles that the best stock photos make the rounds … a lot. It’s also virtually impossible to find a good enough range of poses from a single model set to support a series. That’s why I decided to do a custom photo shoot.

Thanks to my massively talented friend Adrian Hale, an Austin-based hair and makeup artist who works with photographer Josh Baker of AzulOx Photography and a host of models, we arranged a shoot while I was visiting Austin featuring the gorgeous Callisto and David:

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The setup: Adrian’s house. The girl let us totally mess up the place, bless her heart.

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Time to pose. While David and Callisto were total pros, I was over in the corner with Adrian accidentally making totally inappropriate comments (oohs and aahs and that’s hot and I’m going to need a moment alone). We saw the shots pop up on a tablet in real time, and that allowed us to adjust as we went. In most cases, the last shot was the best. Josh said, “I know when we’ve got it right. That’s when we stop shooting.”

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Screenshot 2015-03-30 11.28.37Screenshot 2015-03-10 08.36.24Here’s one of the photos from that pose (left) that didn’t make the cut for the book cover because Callisto’s smile is too light-hearted for the political drama unfolding in The Phoenix Campaign.

We took inspiration from Pinterest, stock photos and other book covers, and especially from the idea of a push-pull dynamic that’s present in Grace and Jared’s relationship throughout the series.

The models were actually pushing and pulling on each other during the shoot (right), which makes their muscles flex and makes the pose more dynamic.

The mood during the shoot was light and fun even though you’d never guess it from the dramatic tension Josh created in the final photos. Callisto is helping David stretch here:

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My favorite candid shot is pure improv, not a pose. She’s a trained ballerina and he’s an acrobat, so they know how to move their bodies in amazingly beautiful ways. I think Callisto was imitating Kate Winslet’s moment on the bow of the Titanic, played by David.

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They were preparing for a pose like this. What a difference lighting and perspective makes (comparing my shot from the side vs. Josh’s professionally lit photo, shown here on his camera).

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Now for the hard part: choosing a favorite image. I loved this photo for David’s amazing abs and the dynamic shape of his body, but some folks felt that it didn’t show enough connection for the characters as a couple, and made my Jared character look cocky and aloof.

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In the end, I chose the photos that felt right–right expressions and tone, right connection (we favored the couple looking at each other rather than looking away … after all, the Grace Colton novels are an erotic romance series with lots of, er, togetherness.) Here’s the before and after for The Phoenix Candidate, the first book in the series:

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And here’s the before-and-after for The Phoenix Campaign, book 2 in the series:

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The photo shoot did more than solve my stock photo problems–I have fodder for a few more books, though I’ll need to be judicious about how the photos are used and treated to avoid confusion with the series. Josh is right–I never want to go back to stock again. I hope you enjoy the series!

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Screenshot 2015-04-09 17.32.41P.S. Just for laughs … I struggled with what to name the final book in the series. A lot. Finally, my author friend Katie suggested a totally ridiculous title. A bunch of other author-friends demanded this book happen. I’d make a bajillion dollars, they said! Preorder now! Operators are standing by! I hope you get a kick out of this moment of sleep-deprived silliness. I showed my editor Jim and, though he’s no stranger to my steamy scenes (obvs), he said “You just made me spray beer on my laptop!” The title is nothing if not … descriptive.

2 Comments on “Behind the scenes at a sexy photo shoot

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