The daunting author photo

Well, you gotta have one! I must say I’m never attracted by authors who hide under hat brims, or are just a pair of eyes behind a coffee mug or a book. I like to see the real person, so I guess that holds true in reverse.

When I started publishing ten years ago, I went out in the garden, stood in front of a pretty rhododendron called Milkmaid, and grinned at my husband as he popped off a few shots. A bit squinty, but surely that would do?

  

But time went by, and I’d really like you to see the ‘current me’ in case you get a terrible fright if you meet me in person. So I tried again – selfies this time. I’m no Kim Kardashian who reputedly takes five hundred to get one perfect shot for Instagram, but it’s amazing how many are bad. Ooops – eyes half closed. Ooops – bra strap showing. Darn – wind making hair stand up on top.

  

And speaking of hair, my bright hair looks better on a dark background, so I stood against our upstairs bathroom door and managed to look exactly like my mother (except she never wore a metallic-printed T-shirt in her whole life.) Then I started writing the Merry Summerfield cozy mysteries and thought adding some of the animals from the covers might be cute. Hmmm… but probably not for readers of the hotter romances! That didn’t last long.

I don’t know what Amazon does when it reduces its author photos down to those tiny roundels that appear on every book’s product page. I found I'd turned into a pair of spooky glittering eyes and not much else. Can’t have that – so I changed to a shot from last Christmas with our on-the-wall tree reflected in the background. That got me through a few seasonal weeks but I was glaring at you rather sternly. Time to try again.

I’m a gardener. I thought a garden background would be ideal, but hard sun and sharp shadows don’t make for nice photos, and it’s high summer in New Zealand right now. So I went inside again and tried against the red wall of my office – harsh light from the window opposite. Against the dark grey wallpaper in the hallway – one-sided glare from either the bathroom end or the front door end. Against the flowering plants in the conservatory? Nope – just a dark silhouette.  Huh?

Back upstairs to try the teal bathroom door again, but hang on – stair wall is deep purple. I decided to give that a go. There’s a fair old clash with my curry-yellow top but I managed a nice smile (especially for you, Kathryn of Queensland) and I don’t think my eyes are ever going to look quite lined up after their cataract surgery. I should have piled some proper eye make-up on, too, but never mind...

This was the best of the bunch. Hopefully this woman looks as though she has a brain and might be able to write stories you’d enjoy!

Bonus is the background. All the way up our staircase we have family photos – mostly oldies. You won’t be able to see them properly, but just above my shoulder are my grandparents on their wedding day more than 100 years ago. Tragically he died in the Spanish ‘flu pandemic of 1919. My mother was only four.

Above them – my parents, both aged eighteen, but shot fifteen years apart because Dad was that much older than Mum. How times have changed. These are formal photos by professional photographers – probably the only ones they had taken all year.

Not like my fifty or so efforts today – smile, blink, check, curse, delete…