Publisher’s Weekly recently interviewed young adult author Lois Duncan about the reissue of her long out-of-print young adult title Debutante Hill. I took particular notice, because I read several of Duncan’s books as a youngster. She’s known best for I Know What You Did Last Summer, but her supernatural books appealed most to me. I rapidly tore through A Gift of Magic and The Third Eye. (As an adult, I translated her Hotel for Dogs into French, but that’s a tale for another time.)
While the story of Debutante Hill and its history since 1957 is interesting (she originally submitted it to Seventeen as a short story), what really got my attention was a revelation about the cover of the new edition. That’s a young Lois Duncan herself, pouting petulantly in the passenger seat of the blue Jeep. The photo was taken by her father, pro photographer Joseph Janney Steinmetz, at a local drive-thru.
|That's Lois Duncan, sulking in the foreground.|
“All the cars are jammed together,” Duncan said, “and I’m in the picture at age 16, sitting in my blue Jeep sulking because I let some creepy boy drive my beautiful blue Jeep.” PW asked if “the creepy boy” knows he’s on a book cover, but the author hasn’t a clue: “I have no idea who he even is! I can’t remember. I had a car. It was easy to attract boys back then if you had your own car.”
Lois Duncan’s appearance as a cover model on her own book got me to wondering if other authors have appeared on their novels. Sure, lots of writers appear on their own non-fiction works, but what about fiction? Anybody else using themselves to represent a character?
The first person I thought of was Kinky Friedman, who’s in the unique position of being both the author and the main character of his mystery novels. The Kinky Friedman in the novels is a whiskey-swilling, cigar-smoking Texan who pals around with people like Willie Nelson, and wrote a song called “They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore” with Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys. The real-life Kinky Friedman is a whiskey-swilling, cigar-smoking Texan who pals around with people like Willie Nelson, and wrote a song called … well, you get the idea. (He’s worth a read, if you haven’t read him. He’s a pretty entertaining narcissist. Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola is a hoot-and-a-half.)
|The Kinkster, as both author and main character.|
And then there’s Stephen King, who, while not quite on the cover of Misery, appears inside the paperback edition on a faux cover for Misery’s Return, the book Annie Wilkes forces Paul Sheldon to write while captive. King is depicted in full-blown Fabio mode, tongue firmly in cheek.
|Stephen King, ripper of bodices.|
Speaking of Fabio, as a cover-model-turned author, it only makes sense that he appeared on the covers when he started writing his own books. While his titles are said to be “collaborations” with more experienced authors, I’m guessing that he contributed about as many words as he contributed to his I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! commercials.
|The pen may be mightier, but (ahem) author Fabio is more comfortable with a sword.|
If we’re going to talk about ghostwriting, then there are a whole pile of celebrities with novels that bear their name, if not their actual writing. Because the books’ publishers know that the only reason the books will be bought in the first place is because of the celebrity name on the cover, the cover model is always the star-turned-fake-writer, whether it's Snooki or Nicole Richie. In the case of Pamela Anderson, her debut novel Star (about a men’s mag model who lands a role on a TV show in a segment called Hammer Time) has a cover that unfolds to reveal a splayed and nearly-naked Anderson printed on the reverse.
|To see more of Pamela Anderson's work, read the book -- or just unfold the cover.|
Maybe every author should follow suit. Perhaps Philip Roth should publish his next hardcover novel with a fold-out centerfold. Joyce Carol Oates could don a wig and a white halter dress for a new edition of Blonde. It would be interesting to see if George R. R. Martin could sell another gazillion books by appearing on his fantasy covers in leather armor. He’s already got the beard. I’ve always believed we should treat writers more like rock stars (which is why I got such a big kick out of Jeffrey Eugenides’ billboard). Bring it on, I say.
Can you think of any other authors who appear on his or her fiction covers? Are there any authors you picture as the characters in their books?