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Visualizing Your Characters

It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when characters depicted on the cover of a book don’t match the author’s description of them in the story. Part of the fun of reading is using your imagination, but we can’t help being influenced by artwork associated with a book.

I know what Tommy and Careen look like in my imagination, and I want readers to picture them in a way that helps them connect with the characters. I kept their physical descriptions to a minimum, and up until now, readers have been free to picture them any way they want.

My daughter Keri was fifteen when I began writing Counteract. When I described the story to her, she wrinkled her nose and asked, “I’m not in it, am I?”

No honey, of course you’re not. How could Mom completely capture your essence in a mere character?

Two years later, when it came time to shoot cover art, Keri willingly agreed to be the model for Careen, and she sighed with something like regret. “I’m not really in it…am I?”

Of course you are, sweetie. Bits of you can be found in several of the characters. And on the Counteract cover, you see just a bit of her beige blouse because the focus is on the necklace she’s wearing. For behind the scenes photos of the cover art shoot, see this page.

When Keri read Counteract in its published form, she said, “Mom, I know I’m not in it—I’m not Careen. She’s way more you than me. But when I read the book, I kept picturing myself as her.”

That made me glad.

Keri has the same hair color and skin tone as my beloved maternal grandmother. My ink-and-paper daughter Careen doesn’t resemble Keri, and I never wanted to cast Keri as Careen.

But today when I took a good, long look at a 1930s portrait of my  grandmother as a teenager, I saw Careen in her bone structure. Okay, Grandma wasn’t Careen either, by any stretch of the imagination. But she’s certainly a striking model. She never realized how beautiful she was.

I sent Grandma’s portrait with a request to alter the hairstyle and clothing to an artist at Fiverr.com, and I hope he nails it and the resulting caricature captures Careen. Stay tuned!

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