A Model Story

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran. Together, she and her husband have four children, a Golden Retriever, and a Maltese Menace. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Rapid-Fire Fiction, her brand, is exemplified through her novels Dead Reckoning, a spy thriller, and the military thriller series, The Discarded Heroes, which includes Nightshade (Retailer’s Choice Award Finalist), Digitalis, Wolfsbane, and Firethorn (January 2012).

Ronie can be found at www.roniekendig.com, Facebook, and Twitter!

As an author, one of the most exciting aspects of having a book published is the cover. I admit, when my publisher sent me the cover for my debut fiction title, I was so terrified to open the document that I first emailed it to my husband and asked him if it was “safe” to look at. Sick with anticipation, I dreaded opening that file. Would it be a cover I loved? Or would it make me gouge out my eyes?

As you can see above, I’ve survived five book covers to date (Dead Reckoning not shown) and am anxiously awaiting the first cover for my new military war dogs series (the adventure begins August 2012!). When those emails with the covers drop into my INBOX, my stomach plummets and knots. I am blessed in that I’ve never had a bad cover. A few weeks ago, I got a Facebook message on my author page from someone named Brandy Billings. It read:

Hi Ronie, this is Brandy a.k.a Kazi. I wanted to say thank you so so much for the experience of being on your book cover, it was amazing. I cant wait to read this series after all the great reviews!!

The author of the wall post was the model who’d posed as “Kazi,” the heroine in Firethorn, Discarded Heroes #4 (Barbour, January 2012). Elation wove through me as I quickly jotted back a reply. What was really fantastic is that I’d already been contacted by the sister-in-law of the man who posed as “Griffin” from Firethorn. Turns out she is a homeschooling mom like me—but get this: she also teaches creative writing and she wanted to interview me for the students.

But let’s shift back to Brandy. As I stared at my screen and browsed her photos on Facebook, something struck me: she’s a real person, not just the pretty face on the cover of my fifth novel. Brandy has a story. Being the writer that I am, I wanted to know what her story was. Who is she? How did she come to model? How’d she get the gig for Firethorn? What was it like, modeling? Knowing she’d be on the cover of a book?

My curiosity got the better of me and I asked for an interview. Brandy said she would be honored, and as we spoke on the phone the next day, her story unfolded.

Brandy modeled when she was in high school, but she hadn’t modeled recently. Her life had taken a new course—the care and nurturing of her two children. She’d been waitressing one day when one of her customers asked if she modeled. I can imagine Brandy gets this question a lot, since she is pretty and carries herself with confidence. She explained to the lady that she wasn’t modeling but used to.

That customer turned out to be the art director of Mullerhaus, a design house based out of Tulsa. The director gave her card to Brandy and asked her to send some headshots. Needless to say, Brandy got the gig to model for Firethorn!

A neat little tidbit to me is that two other models’ images had been sent to me for consideration. I rejected both for a variety of reasons. When they showed me the cover mockups for Firethorn, with Brandy as the model, I was tickled!

At the time of “the call,” Brandy and her children were going through a tough transition. The whole experience, she said, was amazing! It’s neat to me, as the author to hear how the circumstances lined up perfectly to benefit both the cover and Brandy.

The day Brandy arrived for the shoot, the male model who would pose for Griffin, “Kunta,” came in as Brandy was leaving. Since I created the characters, I couldn’t help but laugh imagining these two–“Griffin” and “Kazi”—meeting at the studio. Brandy also mentioned that Mullerhaus asked her if she was okay with posing for an interracial cover. Naturally, she had no problem with it–and I’m so glad. She’s perfect!

Mullerhaus was kind enough to share and authorize me to use this “buddy” shot of the two models, Kunta and Brandy. This really made my day because it captured for me how I saw my characters. And what a feat for a cover design team to encapsulate this by a perfect pairing to represent my characters!

This past weekend while speaking in Tulsa, I had the extreme privilege of meeting Brandy in person. What a delight she is, and I really believe our paths were crossed intentionally. Seeing her, meeting her, getting to know about her and her life—like her son just broke his arm—brought the “glamour” of being a model down to earth.

We often forget that models are genuine people with stories, hurts, joys…They are more than just a pretty face. I am so grateful to have this added dimension to the creation of my covers. Now, when I see the cover of Firethorn, there is not just a great sense of accomplishment, but a tender memory. It has more meaning since Brandy, aka “Kazi,” is now also a friend.

And. . . just for fun, check out these comparison shots below. The first image is the actress Elisha Cuthbert (photo below, left), whom I used on my character sheet for Kazi. The image beside it is a modeling photo of Brandy (taken by her sister, she explained while I was in Tulsa!).

What do you think? Did Mullerhaus rock it or what?

Author’s Note: It should be noted that despite being perfect for my cover, in no way am I implying that the real life people—Kunta and Brandy—are perfect for each other. They are both spoken for.


Ronie’s latest title, WOLFSBANE, releases July 1st–just a few weeks away! Order Wolfsbane NOW!

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