photo: Julianne Havel
photo credit: Julianne Havel

Author photos can be challenging. Not only does one have to find a photo of oneself that one likes, it has to somehow convey one’s “writer personality.” There are myriad decisions. Settling on photographer, here to take the picture (indoor, outdoor, setting that reflects one’s books?), what to wear, how to do one’s hair, jewelry, makeup, pose, etc… And then, after one does all the work to get the perfect picture, the photo needs to be updated every few years. When my mom and I were first published, we used a picture of us taken for an interview by the Stanford Dailey as our author photo. Later we had professional photos taken. A particular challenge to settle on a picture in which we both liked the way we looked, but we found one. We got solo shots of each of us at the same time, and I used one of those when I first wrote on my own. When Daughter of the Game (later Secrets of a Lady) was first published I had new author photos taken.

Several years later, a friend saw a framed snap shot of me with my dog Gemma and my cat Lescaut at my house (those who’ve been to my house know I have photos all over the place, framed on the coffee table, pinned to the cork board, decorating the kitchen door). She asked if it was my author photo. Which made me realize that the picture (taken by my friend Elaine Hamlin) would make a great author photo. It’s the photo on my website and in Secrets of a Lady and the trade re-issue of Beneath a Silent Moon.. But it’s now five years old, so with Vienna Waltz coming out, I realized it was time for a new photo. I don’t know that it would have occurred to me to put my pets in the picture in the general run of things, but since Gemma and Lescaut are in my current photo, I wanted them and my new cat Mélanie in the new photo.

Fortunately, my cousin, Julianne Havel, is a photographer and wonderfully agreed to do the photos. Gemma, Lescaut, and Mélanie are used to her house and are quite good sports about putting up with family pictures. But this was going to take a lot longer than a couple of snap shots. Julianne did some practice shots of me without the animals. Then we did a series of pictures, reviewed them (the wonders of digital photography), corrected for the light and the pose, took some more, reviewed those, took a third set. Gemma, Lescaut, and Mélanie were incredibly patient about being told to sit and held while a light flashed in front of them.

The third time was the charm. The problem wasn’t finding a picture I liked, it was choosing between six or so pictures I loved. Finally, after consulting with friends and family (I’ve been emailing pictures and carrying printouts around in my purse), I settled on the picture above.

What do you like to see in author photos? Do they give clues about the author’s personality? What are some author photos you particularly like and why? If you’ve had author photos (or other professional or personal portraits) taken, how did you decide what sort of look you wanted? Was it fun or stressful or a bit of both?

Be sure to check out the Fraser Correspondence. I just posted a new letter from Mélanie to Raoul.