Golden Czermak: Photographer & Writer

I first met Golden at the Hard Rock Café Event in Tulsa OK four years ago along with friend and blogger, Sheena Lumsden, and the model Tyler Gattuso (cover model for my books The Traveling Man, The Traveling Woman and One Careful Owner). I’ve met Golden a couple of times since then at other events, and he’s always such a gentleman—despite being totally ripped and top-to-toe muscles!

Starting out as a photographer, he’s also become known for his writing, especially his paranormal and steampunk stories. But let’s hear from the man himself.


Your career in the romance world has been in two parts: as a photographer and as a writer. Let’s start with the photography.

 

How did you start becoming a photographer of cover models?

I started the business back in 2012, born out of a hobby that included graphic design and photography to supplement (since stock photos were and sometimes still are fairly strange and unusable for a lot of projects). Business quickly picked up as did my social media following, leading to more clients and diversity. Things changed direction onto their current course in the early days when I had a client who owned a local nutrition store ask to shoot some of his sponsored athletes. A billboard and ads came from that, as did my love for that style of photography (versus infants and toddlers lol). I went to fitness shows thereafter and began to have authors ask about custom photo shoots for their book covers. Nearly 1000 covers and 2M followers later, here we are <3

 

What attributes do cover models need? I imagine it’s not just about a great body/handsome face.

They definitely need to have a passion and a drive for this kind of thing. The bodies are nice, as are faces (both being what can sell an image), but their personalities are definitely the driving force behind it all. When there is a combination of all three, the magic definitely happens and the work shows.

 

Do you have a favourite model? Why is that?

I love all my clients for different reasons, all of which contribute to me and my life in different ways, as well as experiences and memories. That said, I have grown closer to a handful over the years when our personalities mesh. Jake Wilson is one who I’ve known the longest and I consider a close friend/family. Chase Ketron (my number one seller) and RJ Ritchie are others.

 

Do you have a favourite photoshoot memory?

I do and it’s a simple one. I was driving to a photo shoot one day in St. Louis and as I was looking out at the countryside, it struck me that I am doing something many dream about – a job that isn’t really a job but a passion. I felt blessed at that moment and vowed to always stay humble and ethical to the best of my ability.

 

What sort of things can go wrong on photoshoots? Biggest disaster?!

LOL! There have been lots of issues from wardrobe malfunctions to models not looking like their photos (yikes!) but the two most harrowing incidents involved the near-loss of my camera. One was a shoot with RJ Ritchie locally in a muddy riverbed and the other was a shoot with Andrew England in the oceans off the coast of Tampa. In both cases nature tried to claim my gear and was 99.9% successful in doing so. That 0.1% that saved the day was pure luck.

 

Who (or what) inspires you as a photographer?

My late mother inspires me. She was always so proud of everything I did and I think her knowing that her son has the freedom he has these days would make her smile.

 

Is there anyone you’d like to photograph, given the chance?

I would love the chance to do a photo shoot with Chris Pratt or Chris Evans. It doesn’t have to be a long set, or even one with many photos, but just being able to see my watermark on one of their pictures would literally make me cry. And yes, I have a thing for them… secretly. Shhhh.

 

When did you start to feel like a writer, the moment for you when you thought, Yes! I’m a writer!

I think for me it’s when I wrote The Secret Life of Cooper Bennett. It was my 15th book or so, but I feel as though that book is my “true” voice as a writer. Listening to it on audio there were literal moments I had chills. Almost imposter syndrome in that “there is no way that I wrote that!” That made me feel great. Now, I need these new guys I’m photo shooting to give me a break so I can continue on the writing front! LOL

 

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?

Seeing the thing come together after the long process of writing, editing, formatting, cover designing, uploading and publishing. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing your words in print or in hand as a paperback/hardcover.

 

As a writer, what is the piece of work of which you’re most proud?

I touched on this earlier but The Secret Life of Cooper Bennett is my most cherished book.

 

What do you want to achieve next?

Finishing the Cooper series and working on Steam Tycoon 2.

 

You’ve lived in the UK and the US (which is now your home), do you think that’s affected the way you write or what you write? Or if not, why not?

I think so. I’ve pulled from experiences on both sides of the pond and used them to shape the way I write. I think it made me wordier, but in a good way. My readers love the way they “feel like they are in the story” while “reading a movie.” Which is exactly the way I visualize things, so that means a lot to me as a writer to hear.

 

Is there any genre/topic that you’d never write?

I don’t think I could write historical… at least accurate historical. I would need to put a spin on it and make it some alternate universe thing to cover the inconsistencies I am sure to introduce (since I like more visual, action-oriented scenes).

 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received: about life / about writing?

Don’t quit. It’s a mindset I’ve used in fitness, photography, and writing. There is a lot of hate out there, and when I say that I am not understating it. True loathing exists for people that “make it” in capacities others cannot and you have to learn to push through it when times are difficult. Imagine getting hate atop of writer’s block. Or trying to push for sales of calendars while encountering a wave of negativity. It’s hard. But you must press on… and realize too that no matter how small your steps are, it is still forward progress.

 

What is your favourite reader experience, either in messages or at an event?

Having readers approach that are unable to speak because they are so nervous. I am the most approachable person ever, but something about that experience is humbling. Also, getting messages from readers/fans that just say “thank you for being so inspirational and positive”. That is all the medicine anyone needs to remedy a cloudy day.

 

Do you think writers are different to other people? Are we observers? Creators?

I think we tap into things and see them differently, yes. Now is that for the better or worse? I can’t say. I DO know though it allows us to see things beneath the skin, to read situations differently, and to plan and have backup plans accordingly. Well, unless you’re a pantser (versus the superior planners…) #CastThatShade lol <3

 

Have you ever written with a friend? What was the experience like? How did it differ from writing by yourself? What were the pros and cons?

I haven’t! I would love to do a co-written piece down the road.

 

A few years ago there were maybe just one or two male romance writers. What do you think has changed?

I think it has become more acceptable, but there’s also a long road ahead for more acceptance. I’ve been at events where readers avoid the male author tables (I mean not even coming up to snag swag or an information rack card) and that is sad, since they are missing out on some truly good stories. I think the realms of diversity too are changing for the better, though that is a whole other topic of discussion I would love to have with others some day similar to the panel I did about Own Voices at Apollycon.

 

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Still merrily chugging along.

 

What is your philosophy in life?

Keep rising, as limit is only a word.

 

Describe yourself in three words.

Positive, Real, Humble.

 

How would your best friend describe you?

Crazy

 

If you were an animal, what would you be?

I would love to be a dog or a bird, but would likely be a slug or something lol.

 

Most likely to say…

Don’t Quit

 

Least likely to say…

Give Up.

 

What is your favourite colour and why?

Red. It oozes power and looks good as tank tops and undies. LOL

 

When you’re having a bad day, what cheers you up?

Carbs… all of them.

 

What would be your ideal day? Where would you be? Who would you be with?

I would be able to do what I do now but travel more with my other half.

 

Mountains and snow, or beaches and sunshine?

Beaches and sun, though sand gets in everything.

 

What message would you like to give to the people who read your books?

Give my work a try if you’d like genres with a spin (I mean how many authors have a book where the character talks to the reader, eh?). I think you’ll enjoy the ride.

Links
Twitter.com/onefuriousfotog
Facebook.com/furiousfotog and facebook.com/authorgoldenczermak
Instagram.com/furiousfotog
Furiousfotog.com and GoldenCzermak.com

Gergo Jonas: fitness trainer & model

Interview with Gergo Jonas
© Jane Harvey-Berrick, December 2018

 

Gergo is a new name to the romance cover world, very new. I met him on a long-awaited holiday to Japan in 2017, somewhere I’d wanted to go since I was a child. Life got in the way and I never made it, but two years ago, I decided to do it. Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t fit enough to do a backpacker’s holiday, so I was travelling with my girlfriend, Libby.

There was a small, international group of 12, led by American Alan Clayton Williams who lived in the south of Japan, along with a woman from Poland, one from Ireland, four Germans, four Brits and one Hungarian, Gergo.

I thought that he was a good-looking guy, but the more I thought about him, his shaved and lean, austere appearance, the more I thought that he’d be perfect for a military romance that I was working on about a bomb disposal officer, a story close to my heart.

So I asked him.

“I write romance novels. Would you like to be on the cover of one of my romances, a military story?”

“Hmm. I have never done this. I will say yes.”

It could have sounded horribly sleazy, but we were in a group at the time and my friend could vouch for the fact that I really was a writer LOL

Six months later, I arranged the photo-shoot for Tick Tock and the sequel Bombshell in Gergo’s adopted home town of Brighton in southeast England, with his friend the photographer GG Gold.

Although Gergo had never done a romance cover shoot, he’s a fitness trainer with his own website, so he’d been photographed a lot for that – although he assured me that’s a very different experience.

Gergo is quiet and introspective, but not shy or lacking in confidence at all. He’s a very determined man who knows exactly what he wants to achieve and where his career is heading.

I was fascinated to see him with readers at a small book event in Brighton last year, British Book Bash . He was so sweet and friendly with everyone he met, bending his 6’ 1” frame in half to fit into photographs with most readers (and me).

Our interview, fittingly, takes place in the small café outside a gym, alongside his stunning girlfriend, Vivien, who is also from Hungary.

 

Q You told me once that you were overweight. Tell me about your journey to health and fitness.

It didn’t happen overnight. Since I was a kid, my weight was always up and down. I wasn’t at fit kid, I wasn’t active. I preferred computers and I was’t active. When I was 10, I started to shoot basketballs, and my friends played every Thursday with my father. So that’s how I started basketball, being around them. When I first started to play I was 10, and started to go to training for 2-3 years. I was on a school team at secondary school, aged 13 or 14.

I was still fat, and we were doing training once a week. I weighed the same weight as now 80kg (176 pounds) with zero muscles, but I was 5’ 5” so really overweight.

The first year of high school, they were recruiting for the basketball team and I wanted to be on it, so I started training three times a week, just doing basketball. I worked really hard that summer when everyone else went to the beach. I lost 20kg and grew 20cm and became tall, 67kg (167lb) and the same height as now, so really skinny and tall and tanned because I was always outside. The teachers thought I was a new student – they didn’t recognise me.

Every year, we had to go to the medical centre and they didn’t recognise me either – because it was such a huge difference.

Since then, I played basketball in three teams, and in an age group above my actual age, for the city and the county. Every day was basketball.

When I was 17, I had some injuries. My lower back was bad, probably too much jumping and I grew too quickly. I tore my ankles and knees – typical basketball injuries – so I had to stop. Instead, I started to lift weights.

I also began teaching 10-year-olds to play basketball, and some older kids, 14 to 16.

When I was 18 or 19 I went back to play basketball in amateur league, but the injuries came back again.

 

Q Were the injuries part of the motivation to move to the UK?

We were really poor, and England and America were like a dreamland and you think you’ll make a lot of money. But when you move there, you realise you have to work just as hard.

I moved to Brighton because someone I knew had already gone there. I fell in love with the city by the sea and I realised how much better it was than Hungary. I decided to stay.

I had to work as a cleaner because I didn’t speak English, and I had three jobs because the wages were low. I learned English self-taught, there was no money to study in college.

I stopped doing any exercise, so I put on weight again. I’ve always had a problem with my weight. I’m either all-out focusing on sport, or nothing. I was eating chocolate and ice creams, a very bad diet, and my weight went up to over 100kg (220lb).

I decided I needed to lose the weight. I went super hard. Eating nothing and training every day. I lost 20kg in eight weeks. I don’t suggest anyone does that! I lost 25 – 30kg after 6 months.

I hadn’t joined a gym, I was just doing a lot of running. I didn’t know much about weight training. Then I broke up with my girlfriend and I got into bad habits. I got my first tattoo. I was living a bachelor life for two years, eating and drinking too much, partying.

At 27, I decided I needed to do something with my life and figure out what I like what I was good at. So I went back to sports. Being 16 was a good experience and I wanted to find that again.

I got a job in Sports Direct (a shop that sells running shoes and training clothes), and really ejoyed it selling shoes and equipment. I started to read about what sort of training gear and shoes to wear. I learned a lot. I was there for a year and I started to train in a gym. I wanted to build muscle because I’d got really skinny again. I was reading books in English about how to gain muscle. I decided to do a course to be a Personal Trainer just so I could learn to teach myself. I still had two jobs, cleaning in the mornings. I didn’t have time to go to school, so I learned online.

I started using my knowledge to train myself. Friends and colleagues asked me how I’d changed. And I realised I was coaching my friends in my free time. My friends were getting results and I started talking to them about what to eat. I was soaking in knowledge. I decided to try and do it for a living.

Pure Gym  offered me a place, and I’ve been there for three years. I started teaching body transformation, and I’ve been doing that for three years.

I started training in a more athletic way – not just about losing weight. I wanted to train athletes. I looked for a course to specialise in athletes. I got my Strength and Conditioning Certificate. Mostly, I train people for team sports like basketball, cricket, soccer – but I also get people ready for marathons or the Mud Run.

Training is everyday. I’m really active, walking or running. I do fewer sports because I don’t want to get injured. That’s why free weights are good because you can get stronger without getting injured.

You need balance, in terms of training.

 

Q When did you make the decision to become vegan?

Three years ago. When I was getting ready for my Personal Training exams, I read a lot about nutrition and healthy eating. The more I read, the more I realised how much healthier a plant-based diet is compared to anything else. I experimented with other diets like keto, low carb, high protein, high fat etc and decided to try vegan.

I knew dairy wasn’t good, so there was no point going vegetarian, so I switched to vegan and I started to enjoy it. I saw benefits in the gym as well becasue of the high carbs and the anti-inflammatory aspects of all the fruits and vegetables, and so I was recovering more quickly. I dropped a little weight too, because fruit and vegetables are lower in calories. So I could eat more. Good for me! I’m a big eater. You can eat a lot without gaining weight and super healthy.

It’s a theory that if you’re on a plant-based diet that you can’t build muscle, but that’s not true. In fact, it’s great for endurance sports where you need a lot of carbs which is fuel for your body. It gives balance in my physique. I eat lot, but I don’t get fat. People can’t believe how much I eat. [Yep, definitely true—two piled plates at every meal!]

If you want to have a healthy relationship your body, you need to find an eating pattern that isn’t a diet, but a lifestyle. Choose food that you like to eat, not just something you do for 6 or 8 weeks then go back to something else. That’s what I used to do, but you need to find something you can enjoy for a lifetime.

 

Q What are your favourite recipes?

I never cook with oil, so I grill and steam vegetables. I love those. Beans is a must if you want to get healthy and build muscle at the same time. Bean stews, I like those. I eat a lot of fruit. Also baked vegetables, and I eat a lot of raw food as well.

 

Q What do you eat for a treat?

Scones! Baked goods and pastries are my weakness. If you don’t see my sixpack, it’s bakery season! I love baguettes. Especially in the winter.

 

Q Tell me about being a model

I wouldn’t call myself a model! The first time was with you for Tick Tock. I wanted to look my best, so I was dieting for 12 weeks before. The first 10 weeks was just keeping everything clean, no bakeries! The last two weeks, I went crazy hard, not much excess fat. Not much water between skin and muscles. Normally, I drink six litres of water a day. Two days before the shoot, I reduced that to one litre, then zero, so you look really shredded. It only works if you can already see your six pack. You have to work hard and then when you’re under 10% body fat for men, 15% for women. You can do a ten-day diet.

I do a lot of photos for my website and IG, but these are fitness shoots. Usually just a friend taking pictures, but that’s just me so I do’t have to pretend to be someone else, and I’m doing what I like, lifting weights. So I’m confident about that.

 

Q Tell me about your photo-shoot with Franggy.

I had to be a bar owner. That was familiar, I’d been drinking for 10 years, but I don’t drink now. I haven’t drunk for five years. I don’t miss it.



 


 

 

 


Q Was it hard going vegan?

My girlfriend Vivien is a big help. I was vegan first and after a while she changed to a plant-based diet too.

 

Q I’ve noticed that you prefer to use the term ‘plant-based diet’ rather than ‘vegan’. Is there a difference?

People think veganism is militant, you’re labelled. People think of animal rights protests, so it has a negative connotation, but it should be the opposite. I just want to open people’s eyes to see how unhealthy a western diet is, but also how badly animals are treated, and its bad for the environment too. Which is worse? Killing animals or seeing a vegan being militant and aggressive. That’s not what I’m about.

 

Q When you go back to Hungary, what do they think of your lifestyle?

It’s a meat-eating country. Lots of meat and dairy, really old-school. I think it’s more open in the UK, and there’s a bigger culture around vegetarian, or plant-based diets. But back in Hungary, not so much. They think you’re crazy if you don’t eat meat. Any occasion, you’ll eat meat. Even bakeries prepare their food with eggs and milk.

But there are substitutes for everything you like. You can make plant-based food for everything. It’s what you get used to, I guess.

 

Q What would you say your philosophy of life is?

I think you should never stop learning. You’re never too old to start anything, whether it’s eating or training or learning mew stuff, never too late to change something in your life. Lifelong learning is what’s important. Educate yourself. Life is not just what you learn in school. Don’t just rely on the system. Help make the world a better place.

 

Q Describe yourself in three words.

[Gergo goes silent, so after an uncomfortable few seconds, Vivien jumps in.]

“He’s confident and sticks with his opinion when he believes in it.” She turns to him. “Even though you’re an introvert, when someone gets to know you, you’re a really nice person. You’re hard to get to know.”

 

Q Coffee – what does it mean to you?

I didn’t used to drink much, but I have for two years now and it’s become really popular. I started to experiment with different blends, different milk, soy, rice etc. I tried latte with different blends in different places. Now, I like to have flat white with oat milk – that’s my favourite, Colombia blend.

 

Q Vivien – what’s he like without coffee?

He’s moody! And it’s the same if he doesn’t get food! [smiles]

 

Q Tell me about your clothing company, AesthEthic Culture

This is my fitness clothing company that I’ve just started. It’s to show people how you can look good and be healthy, because it’s all vegan, ethically made and it looks good, too.

All the clothes are ethically made – the minimum impact on the environment. We use bamboo which you can grow a lot of without harming the environment. It uses less water than growing cotton. It’s lightweight, a little more expensive. The ink is water-soluble so no chemicals are used, there are no waste products. It does’t produce waste products that would otherwise go into the water. That doesn’t happen with water-soluble ink. Don’t wash it on high temperatures and the colour stays. Besides, it’s better for the environment to wash at low temperatures.

I describe it as Aesthetics with ethics – that’s where the name comes from.

 

Q When did you come up with the idea for the clothing company?

I was looking for vegan clothing that looked good, but I couldn’t find anything. I’d rather pay more and have fewer clothes but good quality or a nice design. So I decided to make my own.

I looked for material first and found bamboo and organic materials, and learned about printing techniques.

AesthEthic Culture has been going half a year now. Finding the right company to provide the materials and ink was important. We ship worldwide and try to stay sustainable. We only have 25 pieces per design right now, but that’s going to grow. The clothes are made in India where they grow the bamboo and cotton, and the providers work to an ethical standard for workers.

 

Q What has it been like being part of the Gift Box Team and travelling to Brazil?

They’ve been really kind, really taking care of us. When our flight was cancelled, they did everything. They always make sure we have everything we need, even though we have plant-based nutrition, don’t drink alcohol or speak Portuguese. But they make sure we have everything we need. They’re funny and friendly.

 

Q What are you expecting at the Gift Day book event?

I heard that Brazilian people like hugging, they’re very affectionate!

My first signing was in Brighton which was intense, but you said it was a small event. For me it was busy! If if this is going to be bigger, it will be fun as well.

 

Q What would you like to say to readers?

I hope you enjoy the stories and that I can be the character on the cover for you!

 

Q What’s your favourite joke?

Silence

 

Q Any final words?

Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t listen to negative words. Go for what you want, no matter how crazy it sounds. If you have big dreams, go for it. When you achieve your goals, go for new goals.

I came from a different country, working as a cleaner; now I’m helping other people. Anything is possible.

 

Traincompleat | AesthEthicCulture | Instagram

 

Franggy: author & model


Interview with Franggy Yanes
© Jane Harvey-Berrick, December 2018

 

Franggy is best known for the book covers he’s been on, notably Brittainy Cherry’s much-loved story, The Air He Breathes, and there are another 60 out there for collectors. But Franggy has been working hard at his passion, photography, and moving out from under the shadow of being a model.

He’s tall, well over six feet, and has a commanding, almost intimidating presence that is softened by his delightful smile, sense of humour and innate kindness.

Originally from Venezuela, his family now live in Spain, but Franggy is based in Amsterdam, the same city as his younger brother, Manu, who made his modelling debut on the cover of Brazilian author Carol Dias’s romance novel, Cuida do meu Coração.

As we sit down to chat for this interview, he seems uncomfortable, his legs and hands moving restlessly, his answers short, but insightful.

 

Q Tell me about being a cover model.

I never really considered myself a model despite being on 60 something covers. Gina Maxwell (the romance author) saw my IG account and got in touch, and it went from there.

 

Q Would you say photography is a passion or a job?

In Venezuela, I couldn’t think about photography because I didn’t have access to cameras, but when I moved to Europe at 15, it all changed. Slowly, I started to realise that I wanted to give it a try because I could see things in a different way from other people.

 

Q How did you know you saw things in a different way?

I compared my photography from the places I’d been to others, and felt that I saw things in a different way.

 

Q Would you say you have a particular style?

I just want to feel emotion with a picture and then I click the shutter.

 

Q What sort of photography moves you most?

Historical street photography, how places used to be.

 

Q Can you give me an example?

I love cities in the past, 50s and 60s—it was a time of revolution in street photography. You can see how much we’ve changed in a short time.

 

Q Who are your influences?

Vivian Maier was a street photographer working in the 1950s. She worked as a nanny but her passion was really photography, and she started capturing New York. Her negatives were only discovered recently. I saw an exhibition in New York in 2014—amazing.

www.vivianmaier.com

 

Q What was it about her work that captured your imagination?

Photographers inspire you in different ways, but I felt I understood why she took a certain picture. In particular, the self-portraits she took wherever she went. They were funny but also as a woman people didn’t approve. It gave a different perspective to everything she took.

 

Q Would you say that she unlocked something in you?

I’m struggling with the idea of getting in people’s personal space in street photography, but I learned from her that there’s a way you can do it.

 

Q Where would you like to work?

Asia, because I think their world is so distant to ours, it’s almost a different planet. Current photography is so overdone, it doesn’t feel special anymore, but Asia is very different. China, definitely. So many characterful populations, the cities or the farming that looks like it’s from the 1920s – it’s a way of travelling in time.

 

Q What do you enjoy about photography in Brazil?

I feel very connected, similar to how I grew up. It feels close to home.

 

Q Gergo Jonas is new to modelling – this is second photo-shoot for romance book covers. What was it like working with him?

He was open to listening to my advice whilst being surrounded by women, and shirtless! I like to be friendly first, explain what we’re going to do in a relaxed way. I explained what Andy Collins (the client, a Brazilian romance author) wanted to get from her shoot.

 

Q What makes a good model?

Someone who’s not afraid to be themselves. You don’t have to be anyone else.

 

Q What is your greatest passion in life?

Photography, but that’s a bit clichéd. Photography doesn’t sound as big now as it was in the past.

 

Q If that’s the case, what is the relevance today of photography?

It depends. If you’re doing it for a commercial purpose, that has its own relevance. But being a photographer isn’t see as being a person with skills. It’s great that people have access to equipment, but before it was rare.

I’ve finally found a way that I’m happy with my work. It feels like it’s not a hobby anymore.

I definitely think photography is relevant! The world needs to sell, we need visual arts. It’s more relevant than TV or commercials.

 

Q What do you want people to take from your work?

I want them to feel something – hate, love, connection with emotion. That’s my goal.

I treat the shoot with respect, I don’t intrude. Photographers who have overstepped the line, that’s not a natural picture.

 

Q What makes you laugh?

I love to laugh, but I’ve never analysed what makes me laugh.

 

Q What makes you uncomfortable?

Being pushed out of my comfort zone. We need challenges so I have to go through it constantly.

 

Q You definitely have a bromance with Stu Reardon. What makes you click?

His personality. I never met anyone so charismatic. He never has issues, he never gets mad; he’s always super happy and positive. I need that energy.

 

 

Q What makes him a great model?

The fact that he’s comfortable in his own skin. You can see that in every picture. Confidence.

 

 

Q Describe yourself in three words.

Stubborn, over-thinker, happy – finally.

 

Q What’s your philosophy of life?

My dad always told me to believe in myself, that I’m the one who limits me. I always keep that in mind.

 

Q How do you feel about working in romance novels as a photographer?

I feel covers are important and authors should give priority to every single cover.

 

Q What makes a bad cover?

One that’s not connected to the story.

 

Q What’s it like working for the Brazilian publisher Gift Box?

They’re the only publisher that I’m working with at the moment. I’ve been working in the world for four years now, and now Gift Box is the only one because they made us feel at home, they made us feel like family.

 

Q What do you expect from a Gift Day event?

Fun, hugs and noise!

 

 

Q Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

In the middle of the forest with a few published books, my girl and family by my side, a relaxed life.

 

Q What advice would you give to 10 year old Fran?

Enjoy your life a bit more. And to hug my dad a lot more.

 

Q What’s your favourite thing to do other than photography?

Being at home with my girl, being disconnected from the world, a rainy day with a nice movie.

 

Q Which movie have you watched the most?

Super Bad! It’s so funny but I’m not normally a comedy person. I nearly pee my pants. My girl says, “I can’t believe you’re watching this again!”

 

Q What’s your favourite book?

I’ve never completed a book without being told to. [Jane’s jaw drops open in appalled shock as Fran keeps talking]. I’m more of a visual person.

 

Q Favourite song?

A band called ‘Young the Giant’ and their song Amerika. Because it gives me positive energy, and it’s my song with my girl, because I heard it at the beginning of our relationship.

 

Q “On Sunday afternoons I’ll be…”

Ordering ribs and watching a movie.

 

Q “Working out at the gym with Stu makes me…”

Tired and excited. Because I see that I can last longer so it motivates me. Especially with Stu, he really pushes me.

 

 

Q Who’s the messiest out of the two of you when you share a room?

Me, Fran. Stu is a clean freak, he tidies up. So I try to behave around him.

 

Q What makes you angry?

I don’t really get angry, but sometimes I expect the world to be as fast I am, but that’s my issue, not the world’s. I’m not patient.

 

Q What moves you to tears?

Nothing, I didn’t think I was human. But then my dad died. Now, any stupid movie or emotional thing can move me to tears.

 

Q Has a photograph ever made you cry?

It’s made me emotional, never to the point of crying, but definitely emotional.

 

Q What advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a photographer?

ADon’t go fast. Try to focus on your own style and not copy anyone else. That’s hard. It took me five years to call myself a photographer.

 

Q Can you sum yourself up for me?

Most of what you have seen of me isn’t even close to what I want to be. There’s a lot more to come.

 

Once the interview is over and the laptop is returned to its case, Franggy’s smile breaks out again. I can see his passion for photography and videography, his desire to learn and improve from the places, people and photographers who’ve gone before him. He’s insightful and thoughtful and more than happy to talk about his passions—especially once the interview is over.

Gotta love this guy—fun, funny, kind and thoughtful. What’s not to love?

 

You can see more of Franggy’s work at www.takeoneinmotion.com

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Sybil Wilson: cover designer

Interview with Sybil Wilson

Sybil Wilson is a graphic designer who has worked on a number of my covers: Behind the Walls, Battle Scars, Tick Tock and Bombshell, as well as Undefeated and Model Boyfriend for my books with Stu Reardon.

She lives and works in South Africa.

 

Tell me about your journey to becoming a graphic designer?

I always had a thing for books and a thing for art. I was the kid who drew on walls and loved books, too, and I always knew that I wanted to do something with art, so I took art lessons at school. When I had to think about a career where I’d be able to provide for myself, I decided to study graphic design. After graduation, I did a bunch of corporate jobs, logo design, corporate brochures etc. But it’s quite limited creatively – there are lots of rules.

After a few years, as an outlet, I started doing book reviews as Pop Kitty, and I had fun producing fan-made teasers. Then authors started contacting me through the blog to do promo graphics for them.

I was able to resign from corporate design three years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Everything just sort of came together.

 

What was your first romance cover?

I can’t remember the first cover I did! I’ll have to check! Wait, I do remember! It was Abby Gale One Night Only.

 

Do you work with any other types of authors/genres?

It’s mostly romance, specifically indie romance. Some of my covers are used by foreign publishers, and I’ve recently been contacted by a traditional publisher, so who knows?

 

How do you start each book cover?

With a new client, I ask them to fill out a brief which gives me an idea of what they’re like and what they’re looking for. I ask about their characters, what the book’s about, other covers that they like.

For existing clients, it’s easier as I already have an idea of what they like. But creative channels are open! Sometimes the author provides me with an image, but if they don’t have one or they don’t have a vision of what they want, I’ll look at stock photos. I might Google images to get the creative juices flowing. Music helps, too.

For Tick Tock and Bombshell, I listened to a lot of rock, Highway Tune by Greta Van Fleet. It’s similar to Led Zeppelin; it’s got that Vietnam/Afghanistan sound, you know?

Watch YouTube Trailer

If I’m designing a cover for a romantic comedy, I’d listen to pop music like Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande. What I’ve discovered is that a lot of 80s music works for me then, like Kylie, A-Ha, George Michael, all those kinds of guys who were really big.

 

What is the most rewarding part of being a designer?

A finalized cover! When the author just loves what I’ve done, and then they’ve launched the cover reveal and started getting feedback from readers. No matter how difficult it was to do, or how many revisions, if the feedback is good, it feels amazing.

One of the most difficult parts is when I have an idea of what I want the cover to look like, but the result doesn’t match. I get obsessive and then I end up ruining the cover if there’s too much back and forth. Sometimes an idea works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s hard when a client doesn’t know how to communicate well. If they don’t like what I done, that’s fine, especially with first-time clients, I’m not in their head. But if they can’t communicate well and they don’t know why they don’t like it, that’s frustrating. I can’t fix a problem if they can’t describe it.

 

Do you have a favourite cover?

I have a few. My favourites tend to be the more creative ones where there’s a lot of layer work, like your book Behind the Walls, also Beautiful Inferno by Abby Gale is another.

 

Q Have you ever designed a cover you didn’t like? What if an author asks you to make changes that you don’t agree with?

Lots of times! If an author asks me to change to something and I feel that they’re making a mistake … that’s hard. There are rules to design: like the title needs to be big enough to be seen on a thumbnail, the same with the author name. As long as they don’t disregard those rules, then it’s just a difference in taste. But it’s their book, so I’ll make the changes so long as I don’t feel they’re making a mistake.

 

Q What is your favourite feedback?

When the author doesn’t have the words to describe how much they love it!

 

Q How does living in South Africa affects how you design?

It hasn’t been a problem except recently when we’ve had problems with electricity supply. That can put me behind. I plan and schedule work that I can still get things done, but that can be difficult.

I’ve never lived anywhere else, so I can’t say how the environment affects me, but it’s a very creative country, multiracial, and with beautiful landscapes, so I have a lot to draw from.

 

Q What is your philosophy in life?

Don’t be an asshole! That’s for everything! People have different values, religions, especially here. There isn’t just a predominant Christian or Muslim society, so you learn to respect everyone around you. It takes nothing to be a decent person to everyone around you.

 

Q Describe yourself in three words.

Sarcastic. A dreamer. Creative. You need to live in your head to be creative – most of the time!

 

Q How would your best friend describe you?

Sarcastic! Most of my friends describe me as snarky, hilarious and honest to a fault.

 

Q If you were an animal, what would you be?

A monkey! Why? Because of how they approach life! They make space in their lives for their society but they also have fun just for the sake of having fun. Also, I find them to be lateral thinkers, how they solve problems – something I admire.

 

Q Most likely to say…

Don’t be an asshole! Or maybe I’d choose something less vulgar! I get so angry when people are being rude or wilfully ignorant.

The actress Laverne Cox said, “You have to admit that you are wrong in order for you to change”.

I thought that was a great thing to say; I cannot abide people who are rude. You have to be open to seeing another side of an argument or another person’s world view. Basically, don’t be an asshole!

 

Q Least likely to say…

Can we go to a party?

I’m quite an introvert, I prefer smaller groups rather than going to a club. That just drains my energy completely. I can’t do small talk and chat about the weather either.

 

Q What is your favourite colour and why?

Green! It’s an invigorating colour. Just looking it makes me happy. I love nature. You can put me on a mountain and I’d be in my element.

 

Q When you’re having a bad day, what cheers you up?

Music cheers me up. It’s amazing what affects music can have on your mood. I’ll put on something happy and dance around the house like a lunatic. I love My Sharona.

Watch YouTube Video

That never fails to put me in a good mood.

And I love my cats! I’ve got two: Ahmed, who is always trying to nibble people’s toes; and the other is all black and she’s called Refilwe, her name means ‘given’ in Xhosa. They’re both rescue cats.

 

Q What would be your ideal day? Where would you be? Who would you be with?

My sister works in a game reserve and I love it. It’s in Limpopo Province and her house is right in the middle of the bush. It gets very hot and humid and you can sit out on the deck and listen to the lions and the hyenas crying in the distance. That is my absolute happy place.

 

 

Q Mountains and snow, or beaches and sunshine?

Mountains and snow. I’m not much of a beach-goer. I don’t know what to do on a beach. Sit there and do nothing?

 

Q Do you think designers are different to other people? In the way you see things?

I definitely think so. I think we see different details. We don’t really see things at face value. They teach you in design ‘form follows function’. So if you’re looking at a streetlamp, for example, and the light was at the bottom, it wouldn’t be as functional. So any piece of art or a movie with great CGI, you think about what techniques they’ve used.

I could watch Tim Burton’s movies over and over again and find a different detail each time, rather than concentrating on the story itself. I don’t watch many dramas or thrillers for that reason, because I get lost in the details. It can be frustrating, but I really enjoy analysing things and looking at the details. It’s annoying for my friends because we got for a meal and I’m saying the menu design sucks!

 

Q Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time? What do you want to achieve?

I would like to be living on a smallholding, hopefully in Cape Town. I’d still be doing design, I can’t function without design in my life.

It’s always been a dream of mine to have an animal sanctuary and take in animals that would otherwise have been put down, and let them live out the remainder of their years with dignity.

 

Contact PopKitty Book Reviews 

 

Author Jane Harvey-Berrick

Interviews with people from the wonderful world of romance publishing

This series of interviews started because I’m fascinated by everything to do with our world. If you’re not ‘in it’, then it probably seems a little strange – or a lot strange. But being a writer means that I’m always interested in people’s lives, what makes them tick – so what better way than to talk to the people I know and work with.

And because I spent time asking them a ton of questions, I thought I’d better start this series by answering some of them myself…

I hope you enjoy them!

 

Interview with Jane Harvey-Berrick

Jane Harvey-Berrick is the author of the taboo romance The Education of Sebastian/The Education of Caroline, and possibly the luckiest woman in the world, because she also co-authors with model and former professional rugby-player, Stuart Reardon.

 

Q So, what’s Stuart Reardon really like?

Well, I’d say that ‘what you see is what you get’ because Stu is very straightforward, also very calm and even tempered. But there’s a lot more to his handsome face and cover-worthy body. He’s also smart, resourceful, thoughtful and kind. Yes, I think that’s the word I’d use to describe him, kind.

He’s very determined and hardworking, but he’s also stubborn LOL. If he doesn’t agree with something, he won’t lose his temper, but you won’t win that argument either.

He’s also very loyal and he’s become a good friend. I absolutely love him to bits.

 

Q When did you start to feel like a writer?

It wasn’t when I wrote my first book, or even my second or third, it was several years before I didn’t feel like a fraud when people asked me what I did for a living. Even now, in the tiny village where I live, most people don’t know what I do. They see me walking my little dog and drinking coffee at the beach café with my husband—they have no idea that I’m planning and plotting my next book. And that doesn’t bother me at all.

 

Q What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?

There are so many rewarding parts—creating a universe of people from your mind; seeing that become a book; and getting messages from readers that the story has touch them in some way. That’s an incredible and humbling feeling.

 

Q What do you want to achieve?

To write, forever. I have the best job, despite the odd hours, the intensity, the aloneness. I wouldn’t say ‘lonely’ because my world is filled with hundreds of made-up people. But it’s a strange existence. I spend 95% of time alone, and then go to an event where it’s full on. It does lead for a rather split personality at times.

 

Q What is your favourite reader experience, either in messages or at a Gift Box event?

There have been many. One that always comes to mind is a reader who emailed me after she’d read The Education of Caroline. It’s set largely in Afghanistan, and US Marine Sebastian Hunter is in love with Caroline. He gets badly injured and it’s touch-and-go whether he’ll survive.

A reader wrote to me to say that Sebastian reminded her so much of her love, who was also a US Marine, but he never came home from Afghanistan.

I realized then that being a writer comes with a great responsibility to tell the truth within the framework of a fictional narrative. I don’t always get it right, but I take research very seriously.

On a lighter note, Brazilian readers give the best hugs. I’ve learned that there are two kinds of hugs: a British hug, which is friendly and nice, rather quick and gentle; and a Brazilian hug where your heart beats next to the person who’s hugging you. AmaZing!

Thank you for giving me that experience, Gift Box.

 

Q What is your philosophy in life?

Simple: be nice.

 

Q Describe yourself in three words.

Born to write.

 

Q How would your best friend describe you?

Ooh, ouch. Okay, um: driven, moody, loyal.

At least I hope they’d say that.

 

Q If you were an animal, what would you be?

My little dog Pip has a great life. But maybe a bird like a golden eagle, soaring over the mountains. No, wait! A dolphin, swimming through the world’s oceans.

 

Q Most likely to say…

I shared a room with author MS Fayes, and she very quickly picked up the word ‘bollocks!’. It’s a very British swear word. Yeah, sorry about that.

 

Q Least likely to say…

I don’t read books.

 

Q What is your favourite colour and why?

Yellow, because it’s cheerful.

 

Q When you’re having a bad day, what cheers you up?

A good book and a hot chocolate.

 

Q What would be your ideal day? Where would you be? Who would you be with?

Walking on the beach with Pip, then going for a coffee with my husband, then going home and writing a bestseller. Two out of three is pretty good, right?

 

Q Mountains and snow, or beaches and sunshine?

Can I have snow on the beach?

 

Q Do you think writers are different to other people? Are we observers? Creators?

Yes, definitely. We make things up for a living. It’s magical but weird when you think about it.

 

Q Have you ever written with a friend? What was the experience like? How did it differ from writing by yourself? What were the pros and cons?

Yes! Stuuuu! It was fascinating and I loved it. We can’t wait to write together again soon. We’ve got soooo many books planned, we just don’t have the time.

I spend so much time alone, it was great to be part of a team again. He has my back – I know that without question.

There have been no cons. I’ve made a friend for life.

 

Q Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Giving my Oscar speech for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ or ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’. Failing that, right here, writing another book.

 

Q What message would you like to give to the people who read your books?

Thank you. Without you, there is no me.

 

Stuart Readon: author & model

 

Interview with Stu Reardon

©Jane Harvey-Berrick, 2019

Stuart Reardon is a rare figure in the world of romance novels—he’s a man, he’s a cover model, a fitness trainer, a photographer and videographer, and he’s reached the highest level of professional rugby it’s possible to achieve, having played for his country. So how do all those fascinating and diverse parts fit together?

Q Do you remember any books you read as a kid?
Pinocchio. Because it taught me never to tell lies—I didn’t want a big nose.

Q What books did you read to your son when he was young?
Bob the Builder was one, but mostly I made up stories for him. He used to love them, and I have a good imagination—some were based in reality, some fantasy.

Q What’s the book you most wish you’d written?
The Bible.
And now I have Jesus-hair…

Q When did you start to feel like a writer?
I still don’t. Maybe after a few more books, or a world tour, signing books in every capital city!

Q What has writing taught you?
Everyone has a story in them.
Or possibly … never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Q What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?
Meeting my amazing my co-author Jane Harvey-Berrick. A class act.
And then all the great places we’ve visited and the fantastic people we’ve met.

Q What do you want to achieve?
In life? Hmm, interesting. I don’t know… does anyone know their purpose?
I’d like world peace, to end famine, and for everybody to live together in peace and harmony. [said like a beauty pageant contenstant]
No, seriously, my personal goals? To get to a place where I’m comfortable in life, financially, too: a simple life with Emma. She works a lot of hours.

Q What is your favourite reader experience, either in messages or at a Gift Box event?
When they write and say that the story resonated with them. One reader from Samoa had a brother who was a professional rugby player and he got injured. She said Undefeated reminded her of him, and it made her very emotional. I felt very proud then of what we’d written.
I’ve been to Brazil three times now and every time I enjoy it. Roberta and the girls at Gift Box have become friends. They really took a lot of time and showed us around Brazil. We’ve been to Roberta’s family home, too. By far the best people I’ve met in this business.

Q What is your philosophy in life?
Say yes more than no.

Q Describe yourself in three words.
Dy-na-mite.

Q How would your best friend describe you?
Crazy!
No, calm, collected … no wait … a good person. A crazy good person!

Q If you were an animal, what would you be?
A lion. An old, scarred, battle-hardened lion.

Q Most likely to say…
“Don’t be grumpy, Fran!”

Q Least likely to say…
The correct pronunciation of anything Portuguese when I’m in Brazil!

Q What makes you angry?
People who are mean.

Q What makes you swear? Because I’ve never heard you swear. Do you save it for when you’re with guy friends?
Sometimes. I don’t feel the need. It can be aggressive. If someone gets aggressive with me, I can get aggressive back, it’s a sign of anger.

Q In Brazil, you shared a hotel room with Franggy Yanes. What’s he like as a roommate?
He’s cool. A good guy. I’ve known him four or five years now, and on trips I always share with him, so it’s easy for me now.
He’s my brother from another mother.

Q What did you think the first time you met him?
I thought he was a cool guy, a bit hard to read. But then again, the first time we met, I don’t think he understood anything I said because of my accent!
It’s easy to get on with him. He’s a good person, he’s helped me.
Sometimes he needs time on his own, but I think that’s true of all of us.

Q Who spends longest getting ready?
Fran will say me! I’m always late! He says, “I’m not waiting for you anymore,” and walks out the room. But that’s because he always gets in the shower first.

Q Who’s the messiest/tidiest?
He’s not messy, and I’m not either. Although Emma would said I’m messy! We’re both really tidy but our girlfriends wouldn’t say the same.

Q You’re working on a photographic book project with Fran. What’s that been like? What have you learned?
It was really cool. Every time I’ve met him he’s taught me loads. How to shoot, how to use my camera properly, frame rate, shutter speed, the technical side. He helped me with editing and to set up my light room. How to correct things, composition—just a lot. Every time we meet, he teaches me more.

Q What is it about photography that you love?
The creative side: something that looks good, it’s timeless, the originality of it.

Q What is your favourite colour and why?
Black and white, probably black. I wear a lot of black—it makes my muscles look big [laughs].

Q When you’re having a bad day, what cheers you up?
I listen to music or an audio book, see Emma. Usually, I can snap myself out of it. You have to put it in context—there are a lot people worse off than me. I’m pretty harsh on myself.

Q What would be your ideal day? Where would you be? Who would you be with?
Lying on a beach in an all-inclusive hotel!
Bora Bora or Mauritius, or in one of the wooden huts, relaxing and chilling for a week. Then I’d start taking pictures.
I don’t really take many holidays. That’s why the first week would just be about relaxing. If I’m photographing, I’m thinking about that—it’s nice just to recharge and enjoy somewhere with Emma.

Q You’ve probably already answered this, but mountains and snow, or beaches and sunshine?
I like mountains and snow, too, but that would be about climbing and skiing, whereas a beach is just relaxing.

Q Do you think writers are different to other people? Are we observers? Creators?
Everybody has something they want to do, something they’re passionate about, but writers and photographers are always thinking about what they’re going to create next. Some people are creative with cooking—it’s what you’re interested in. People have different passions—that’s what drives you.

Q Have you ever written with a friend? What was the experience like? How did it differ from writing by yourself? What were the pros and cons?
Pros: she’s great! And it’s less stress than writing a book by yourself.
Cons: I can’t think of any. Oh, wait! The other author always wants to be on the cover. [Stu laughs, Jane doesn’t]
There’s so much to writing, so much more than just the plot. The flow is really important, the highs and lows, the characters. There’s more than people know about, I think.

Q Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
Hopefully still alive! With my family with Emma in a nice house, more freedom. Yeah, maybe near a beach or in the country—you can get both at the same time in England. I think I’d probably still be in England, although there was a time when I wanted to live in Spain, but there are lots of great places here in the UK.
I used to think that far ahead but I don’t really now.

Q What message would you like to give to the people who read your books?
Thank you for the support. I hope the books inspire you and that you enjoy them.

Q Looking back at everything that you’ve achieved, how does it make you feel?
I’m proud of the stuff I’ve done. I think I could have done better. I could have had a better rugby career but I got injured a lot. If I could change anything, it would be that.
I’ve definitely always tried my best.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If we all had that, we could all live perfect lives. I’m proud of what I’ve done but there’s more to do.
I had some good times playing for my home town, playing for my country. Not bad for a skinny kid from Bradford.

Q What’s next for you?
A famous YouTuber! No, an established photographer and videographer with YouTube as my platform. I don’t have a foolproof plan yet, but I’m going to try and make that happen. I don’t class myself as a photographer yet, but I will be able to soon.
And I’m going to climb every mountain in the UK this year. Because I want to be proud of what I created, and I’m making videos as I do it. This Christmas, I thought I’d create things that I want to do, that I can be proud of.
I’m cutting back on travelling this year—so I’ll climb every mountain instead. I’m going to try and do one or two a week.
The biggest ones in the Lake District and Scotland will be in the summer time.
And I’m writing a book called Gym Or Chocolate? It’s going to be a bestseller!

There’s so much going on under that easy-going smile and beautiful eyes. Don’t underestimate the enigmatic and charismatic Mr. Reardon.