My first two books were published by a small press, and as such, I was given some input into the decision about whether or not to have my photograph on the back cover. My answer was very firmly NO.
Like many folks, I am not fond of having my picture taken, but I believe I am exceptionally not photogenic, even among that crowd. I don’t mean that I’m hideous. I’m just very difficult to take a decent picture of, as several of my photographer friends can vouch for. “These photos don’t even look like you!” is a frequent refrain. Accompanied by such plaints as, “Why can’t you keep both your eyes open?” and “If you could just keep your face still,” and the always amusing, “Uh, can you, uh, do … something with your hair.” (Answer: No. I’m not the boss of my hair.)
So when I was first asked for my official author photo by the lovely people at St. Martin’s Press, I delayed. I wasn’t lying when I said, “I don’t have anything appropriate.” Boy, did I not have anything appropriate. The closest thing I had to an author photo was fifteen years old. The most recent photos of me all featured various angles of my dogs and cats (frequently their butts), and me giving the camera a googly-eye, or half a snaggle-tooth, or the Flehmen response. As you do.
Now, I could have set out the very next day in pursuit of a contemporary author photo, but I didn’t. Instead, like the worst chess player in the world, I engaged in the Fat Girl’s Gambit. There’s something about being obese that works like a pause button on certain portions of your life. You find yourself thinking, I’ll do that after I lose this weight. You hate to buy new clothes, because you’re going to lose that weight! You are. You have a plan. Or plans. Or notebooks full of plans and inspirational quotes.
So back in September, when I was asked for an author photo, I said to myself, “Self, you are going to lose this weight before you have your picture taken.” And I did lose a lot of the weight, but then I regained most of it, because that’s the danger of the Fat Girl’s Gambit. It’s too often an open-ended game with a long view, and you’re stuck in the present.
This is where I found myself on Monday, when St. Martin’s emailed me again to say, “So, about that author photo.” Oof. Chickens coming home to roost on this fat girl.
I did the only thing I could do. I disassembled my dining room and my office to create a suitably literary backdrop, and then I called the skinniest, craziest friend I have. Because that’s how the world works. If you’re feeling fat and you’re forcing yourself to take pictures, you will invariably need the help of that friend who is always trying to gain weight.
As proof of how little the camera loves me, out of 400+ photos, we found four that we thought were acceptable. Of those four, this is the one that reached the middle ground between “menacing” and “dreamy.” This is the official author photo coming to a bookstore near you.