I’m trying to draw attention to the “Unsung Heroes” of the romance novel world. Authors are, naturally, the rock stars of the literary world but I started to wonder, what about those people who are behind the scenes of it all? I mean, there’s a reason why authors have a dedication page in their books and it’s not just to thank their families. Editors, virtual assistants, cover designers and now, stock image photographers play a huge role in bringing us readers such amazing books.
Even if you don't know her by name, you've probably seen her work. Jenn LeBlanc is an author and photographer. What kind of photographer you ask? Well she provides high quality stock images that can be purchased and turned into gorgeous covers for some of the best romance novels out there and I've got her on the blog today! Yay!!! So everyone, say hello to Jenn!
About Jenn LeBlanc:
Colorado. Canon. Curls. CJs. Chuck Norris.
Born and raised in this beautiful state —very nearly with a camera in hand— I never left. I started my own family, got used to the curls, went to college, built a CJ, started a business, and totally beat the daylights out of Chuck Norris, all with a camera in hand.
Spending my days in parenting chat rooms I got highly adept with one-handed typing and I can still type just about as fast with one hand as I can with two. It’s a great talent to have when engrossed in a scene and in need of a hit of caffeine. Once I finished my first novel I quickly realized: I was born a photographer.
From the realization that someone ELSE would be shooting the cover of MY book my control-freak took over. What started as an easy cover shoot ballooned into this completely new kind of media, designed specifically for digital book readers. The Illustrated Romance.
I live and thrive off chaos and the constant flow of the creative process. I wear shorts and flip-flops year-round —much to the chagrin of my friends and family.
The images from my book started a ruckus, and from there, #StudioSmexy was born, I’ve since shot over 1,000 romance novel covers, and currently shoot custom images for very special clients.
My second novel ABSOLUTE SURRENDER did its own Chuck Norris impersonation with the charts on Amazon. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook sharing eye candy (NSFW) and being a total rock star.
|Design by AVON|
Jenn: Hi Adria! Well first, thank you for contacting me, I’m always happy to chat about my work whether it’s the words or the images.
I don’t think there’s a perfect answer to this question, I’m still trying to figure it all out. My second book, Absolute Surrender, took nearly three years from the time I started writing it until it was released, so time balance is extremely hard when you’re running two businesses but I’m getting better at it. I have an amazing assistant, Kati, who is also one of my best friends— she pushes me to get things done and wrangles my ADD brain. Though to be honest, I think that I have ADD is a benefit to my particular business because when I get bored I can easily work on something completely different and still be doing something I should be. OK, well, there are other distractions too… it’s a hazard… but I’m always working on it.
|Design by Tricia "Picky Me" Schmitt|
Jenn: Short answer? Chaos. Long answer? Depends on the type of shoot, but in general the advance work starts weeks before a shoot, planning images, and costuming and models. But the time the shoot day rolls around it should all run smoothly. We pack up the car with the gear and go to the studio to unpack and arrange everything, then we shoot—pretty much non stop— then we’re done.
I work with Kati on most shoots, when she can be there (she lives in another state, so there are logistics to deal with there as well) She runs the shoots from the shot list, making sure people are getting ready, are ready, or are leaving. She’s the boss, on shoot day.
Sometimes I have an author in as a guest art director, depending on what we’re shooting and what we need. That’s always fun, to bring in another perspective and give them a behind the scenes look at a big shoot.
Adria: What kind of gear (camera, lens, flash, filters, etc) do you use for your photo shoots?
Jenn: I shoot Canon, I own several, though most shoots I use my 5DMkII and a 50mm or 100mm. It’s a little different from most studio shoots. Lens choice is a distinct photographers choice. We all like something a little different, and the way each lens handles light will work differently. I primarily shoot in studio, full lighting control and grey background so designers can drop whatever they need to in and out of the image.
Adria: What’s the most challenging part of your photo shoots?
Jenn: The advance work. The shoots themselves are always fun, but all the hours of advance work that goes into the shoots can be maddening. Really. There’s a LOT.
|Design by Tricia "Picky Me" Schmitt|
Jenn: Lara Adrian’s covers were a really big thing when that happened, she is such a sweet lady too. I believe those have all been redesigned to market now, but I’m still incredibly proud of them. Delilah Marvelle was another huge step for me, and I love to shoot for her. Tessa Dare’s novella covers were another HUGE step.
Most recently, Nalini’s Singh’s ROCK ADDICTION covers. That took a lot of pinching and being quiet because I couldn’t say a word about it for a very long time, but it was really exciting.
I have to say I’m always incredibly thrilled to see a beautiful cover with my image, always. I absolutely love seeing my images getting good homes and it doesn’t matter the name.
However, when Anne Rice (yes THAT Anne Rice) posted about a book that had my cover on it on her page… I may have died a little from the pure epic fangirlieness of the moment. It was a bit overwhelming to think that Anne Rice had seen an image that I’d made.
|Design by Seductive Musings|
Jenn: Both. Kati and I do a lot of online stalking depending on where we’re shooting. I work with lots of different agencies for models, but I also have lots of bathroom selfies sent to me to check out. I never rule anyone out, one of my most popular models started as a bathroom selfie that was texted to me.
Adria: Of all the photographs you’ve taken for Illustrated Romance, which one(s) has been your favorite? I know, it’s like asking you to pick your favorite child ;)
Jenn: I have a few favorites. Some that really have always just spoken to me, and I’ve wanted to find good homes for. The one’s I really love are much more abstract. Something like this:
|Pretty neat huh guys?|
|Design by Tricia "Picky Me" Schmitt|
Jenn: W O W she would come up with that question. LOL. There are so many, but we play Vegas rules in the studio (most of the time) So on one of my first shoots ever with a model, I needed a shot with him in bed, under a white sheet. I told him to wear nude or white underwear for the shoot, he shows up in Superman colored underwear which can CLEARLY be seen through the sheet. So he had to remove them.
It was all good though, modesty ruled and he was covered.
So I was laying on the floor shooting him in the makeshift bed and gave him some direction (he needed to lean up and look over his shoulder) He did… but he went too far and I got a lens-full of his bait and tackle. I screeched and crawled off into the dark, while he tried to figure out what happened, and I told him to mind his business.
He and I are really good friends, that whole thing aside. We’ve had many crazy experiences working together over the past few years.
|Design by Viola Estrella|
Jenn: I see on your site that you sometimes take requests, how long is the current wait for requests and what is the one thing that gets requested the most?
There isn’t really a wait-time, it depends on how soon the author needs an image, and if it isn't something they need right away, then I schedule it for my next big shoot which is about every month or so.
Most of my requests are historical images in nature, but I get some other things requested.
Adria: After a long photo shoot, how do you unwind and relax?
Adria: You’re also an author, for those who aren’t familiar with your work like me; can you tell us a little about what you write?
Jenn: I write steam Victorian romance. Sometimes, time-travel, sometimes not.
All of my books are illustrated, actually, the shot I was talking about before? The bait and tackle? That’s in my first book. With some creative editing.
Adria: What has been one of your best fan encounters?
Jenn: Probably the first time I met Kati. It was intense, because it was my first event as an author. It was amazing, and overwhelming, and a bit insane.
Adria: What do you like to do on your spare time, assuming you have any?
Jenn: Ooo spare time. I would love to have some of that someday :)
Adria: Last movie you saw in theaters?
Jenn: I just got back from Gone Girl. I lugged through most of it, which probably says something about me. Then I asked my husband to carry my water bottle, and then told him I needed fingerprints. So that’s how I roll.
Adria: Favorite alcoholic beverage?
Jenn: Hmmm… I don’t drink often but I’m partial to hard cider ever since a bunch of men in kilts plied me with it at RenFest in Denver a couple summers ago.
Adria: Cats or dogs?
Jenn: I have both. I’m allergic to both too. But I’m dedicated.
Adria: Oh my god, I'm horribly allergic to cats but I ended up with three. What are you going to do when they desperately need a home right?
|Design by Kendra Egert|
Jenn: I don’t watch reality TV very often, but I do like some of the new TV shows out these days.
Adria: Print or e-books?
Jenn: Ebooks. I only have print books signed by friends, because I like to have options in reading wherever I am.
Adria: Photography or writing? Lol, okay that one you don’t have to answer, I just tossed that out there to throw you off ;)
Jenn: Yeah because whoa!!
Adria: Jenn, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add or would like people to know?
Jenn: Thank you Adria! I dunno, I’m pretty out there, if you find me on social media you’ll know just about everything there is to know about me. I am who I am, and that’s who you meet in person or online :) I love my #StudioSmexy Stalkers just as much as my readers, so stop by and say hello!