Once my children leave after our summer vacation together (and my birthday in mid-August), I start getting organized for the fall. I begin writing again in September, in true back-to-school spirit, and I spend the last half of August, clearing things off my desk, working on the outline of the book I’ll be starting, and doing projects related to my work. And every other year, I pose for the photographs that appear on the back of my books.
I try to make the photographs relate to the subject of the book, if possible. We shoot several book covers over two days, in different outfits and different locations. And it may not seem like it, but it’s a lot of work.
The photographer who usually does it is a wonderful French woman name Brigitte Lacombe, who works all over the world and is based in New York. She travels to exotic locations, and does beautiful portraits of her subjects. There is a book out of her work. She is brilliant at what she does and has photographed a lot of well known people. She is discreet, charming, intelligent, unpretentious, enormously talented and very modest. And the results are excellent. It’s a real pleasure to work with her. Scheduling our sessions together takes time, because her schedule is so full, and she usually has to travel from halfway around the world to meet me. Today she came from Korea, via Tuscany and then LA, and we met in San Francisco, and spent two days photographing in different settings around my house, in different outfits, for about 10 hours a day. She works the way I do, and likes to power through until she gets the shots she wants.
We did many set ups, in a big antique chair, at my desk, in a vintage chair from the 60’s, in front of a 17th century tapestry for a historical novel I have coming up. We did some head shots in front of a large roll of plain paper for a simple backdrop, and in a family living room. This time, we stayed mostly in the house, although sometimes we work outdoors. And I changed clothes for each set up. We hope to get several book jacket photos out of the last two days work. She has three assistants who travel with her, and she arrives with a mountain of equipment, and an assortment of very fancy looking cameras. One of my assistants works with us, and a hairdresser and a make-up artist…and by the end of the day all I want to do is wash my face, rumple up my hair, and put on jeans and an old sweater. But I try to look decent in the photographs for my readers—it seems like the least I can do! This was the first time we took photographs of me at my desk, which is usually sacred territory, in my tiny little office, filled with mementos from my children, their framed nursery school reports, and treasures they have made me over the years. I spend most of my time there, with a view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Brigitte had to stand on the fire escape to photograph me at my desk, because the room is so small.
In the past, in our outdoor photo shoots, we have taken photographs in front of the Golden Gate Bridge (for Amazing Grace), in a garden (for Bungalow 2), and last year in Paris (for Rogue and Matters of the Heart, and several of my upcoming books). Because both our schedule are so tight, we try to do several covers at one sitting, once every two years. But today, we stayed inside, looking for cozy settings in my house. We even took a photo of me with one of my dogs once (for Sisters), because there were some very funny dogs in that book. We try to keep each cover different, and interesting for the readers. And next week, I will be shooting videos to be shown on the Internet. So that’s what I’m up to. It’s keeping me busy and pretty soon I’ll be hard at work on a new book, locked up in my office, pounding away on my typewriter. I can hardly wait!!!