The Best Way to Kill the Magic is …

to see the author’s picture.

On every list of handy hints for writers, there is the one about having a wonderful, professional picture. This is so the readers can feel close to the author, I guess. I’m odd in that I really don’t care what authors look like. Any more than I care what the person in customer service, radio personalities, or the technician who reads the results for my blood work looks like. There are just some jobs where looks don’t matter. And, in fact, the author’s looks or lack of may just kill the mood.

E_L_James50 Shades of Grey is all the rage. Still. I haven’t read it but I’ve said on this blog that I’ve read erotica and specifically bondage stories before. I get the drift. As 50 Shades began its literary life as Twilight fan fiction, a strong thread of wish fulfillment holds it together. As Laura Hile calls it, “teen girl squad fiction” with a lot of leather and rope on the side. Gotcha.

Deal is, talk shows have been making hay about the book and some have invited James to appear. They all blush and giggle–yeah, tell me again about how sex is just like a handshake–when E. L. James shows up. I spend the entire time wondering if this plain looking woman and her husband did any “product testing.” (Heaven help us if there is a 50 Shades line of bondage wear and  play products in development.)

I looked quickly for pics and found this one posted of her, but found none with her husband. I assume, like most of us, they are a spectacularly ordinary looking couple. No super models them. I have noticed that she is almost always in black so her publicists keeps telling her “it’s slimming.” As I said, ordinary.

Erotic stories hold up only when set the scene as attractive people doing unspeakable things to one another. Romance is pretty much the same in my opinion. This being the case, I think the author’s looks really should remain a mystery. Why ruin the spell by putting up your picture? If you’re a stunner, go ahead, but then you have the problem of people putting YOU in the story and can that be good?

I think that the Science Fiction/Fantasy writer, Anne McCaffrey was the wisest of them all when she didn’t have her picture associated with her books. She said that her eyes were green and her hair white and that the rest changed without notice. My eyes are blue, the hair is rapidly going grey and the rest stays pretty much the same.

Do you really care what an author looks like?

Take care–Susan Kaye

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13 thoughts on “The Best Way to Kill the Magic is …

  1. Sophia Rose

    Haha! Yes, I’m with you Susan. I’m just not that curious. Its not because I’m worried the appearance would ruin the story because I do think most of the people on the planet fall in the ordinary looks range; its because I get the book for the story the author wrote not the author’s real story. I read non-fic when I want real stories.

    Now all that being said, I will admit that when I read a truly creative sex scene, a really touching dramatic moment or a hilarious event in the story or with certain interesting story characters, I do wonder if it has its basis in the author’s personal life or worse that it involves people he/she knows. I’ve never yet heard of an author admitting anything of the sort, but yet— ;D

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      We live in a litigious society and most authors aren’t stupid. In fact, Ann Lamott, in Bird By Bird said outright NOT to use real life experience unless you camouflage it thoroughly. Good advice.

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  2. Robin Helm

    I don’t care anything about knowing what an author looks like unless I’m friends with her. I have not yet put an author’s pic on any of my books, and I will avoid it as long as I can. Since we write what we know or research, I can only assume that either the writer did what she writes about, she’s read books with that information, or she’s researched it. Those are not ideas that I really enjoy entertaining in my tiny brain.

    That’s a very flattering picture of James. Google her for a full-length shot.

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      I purposely chose a good shot of her. I didn’t want to get one of those eyes-rolling-into-the-back-of-your-head sort of shots. I’m sure there are pics of her with spinach in her teeth and ones that make her look like a crone. No need to be snippy. 😉

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to have so many photos, flattering and not floating around the world. I figured that I’d choose the best of the lot.

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  3. Laura Hile

    I don’t mind seeing the author’s picture if the book is a cheerful slice-of-life read, or an autobiography.

    But a romance? Not so much. Especially since romance authors—most notably, Harlequin authors—gravitate toward the glamour shot pose. Feathers and authors don’t mix! We are not our heroines!

    Look, if I were beautiful to look at, I wouldn’t have had to develop an imagination, right?

    So if I become rich and famous, don’t expect my face to be plastered on websites or book jackets. But a Laura Hile bobblehead, that I might go for!

    Here’s Mark Twain.

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    1. Robin Helm

      You are beautiful to look at, Laura, and your inside is as beautiful as is your outside. I like a person who has some character in her face rather than a plastic female under layers of make-up. I really think the over-done makeup is a way for some women to hide. They are afraid to show any imperfections. It’s a cruel world.

      I’m not slamming make-up. If the barn needs painting, paint it. I’m talking about heavy, slathered on, pageant or model make-up.

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      1. Susan Kaye Post author

        I wonder how much of the Harlequin, feather boa look is required by publishers. Adventure novels targeted to men in the past required that the author be shown cradling an elephant rifle in one arm, a glorious, buxom woman on the other and his foot on a freshly-shot tiger’s head.

        I guess it’s universal that consumers will identify with the pitchmen and women.

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        1. Laura Hile

          Now there’s an idea for my next author photo. Cradling a period firearm in one arm, a grappling hook in the other. Must remember to write one of each into the next book …

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          1. Susan Kaye Post author

            I suppose if I were using props from A Plan of His Own Making, I’d use a broken bucket, a black silk kerchief, and a bale of wool. Yeah, it’s kind of an odd story.

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      2. Laura Hile

        LOL, Robin. Painting the barn fixes only so much!

        I feel the same about young girls I see with heavy eyeliner — raccoon eyes, I call it. They’re beautiful—they have no concept of the lovely rose of youth—and yet they’re hiding. All that black eye makeup screams insecurity. It is a cruel world, yes.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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