Elizabeth May is the beautiful cover star of The Demon Trappers series. To readers, she may be how we imagine Riley Blackthorne – but there is a lot more to this girl than just being a star photographer and model. Elizabeth is also the author of the Falconer series.
We asked Elizabeth to tell us a little bit about her amazing journey to getting her first book published in an exclusive blog post for MKB.
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I remember when I first spotted the cover for Forsaken, book one in Jana Oliver’s Demon Trappers series. I was browsing a Goodreads list for Beautiful Covers of 2011, and there was my own portrait, staring back at me.
I contacted Jana Oliver and chatted with her about the book, and sparked what has become a wonderful friendship. Now, I have been honoured to be on all four covers in her series. It’s been unexpected and lovely.
You see, I’m not always given the specifics for a book cover. A publisher either chooses an image from my existing portfolio, or they ask if I have photos that fit a certain description. I may not know who the author is, or the genre, or the title, until after the cover is completed. Sometimes, I might not see the cover at all.
It can be easiest this way. After all, I’m not the only photographer they ask for images; this process is to see if the photograph (and photographer’s style) fits for the cover.
My first image request came in 2009. The cover designer had seen my work on the internet, and asked about a portrait of mine. Pessimist that I am, I thought it was a joke, or some scam I had never heard of. Until I noticed her email address — it was from Mills and Boon.
I could lie and say that I calmly returned her message and remained composed about the whole thing. No, that wasn’t how it went. What happened was this: I typed an email with shaking hands, and read it over about twenty times to make sure I didn’t sound ridiculous.
It was so surreal to open the package from the publisher and see the final book. The author was someone I had read since high school. Honestly, how I felt was indescribable.
Since then, my work has been on about 50 book covers worldwide. On more than half of those, I am the cover model.
This experience has been very special for me. Not because having my face on book covers has made me recognizable, or anything. It’s because I love books. Because I was raised to admire authors, and I have a profound sense of accomplishment in seeing my work on the covers for authors I grew up reading.
And because I’ve always wanted to be an author.
I wrote my first book when I was a pre-teen, years before I ever picked up a camera. The heroine of the novel was a half-vampire suffering from retrograde amnesia. I’m pretty sure this combination came about from my mutual love of urban fantasy and soap operas.
Despite how silly my first book was, I learned that the process of writing was powerful. If reading was one escape from a tumultuous adolescence, writing allowed me to exist in a realm that I had constructed myself. I could ensconce myself in words I had written, for whole afternoons and evenings. I’d write until I fell asleep at my keyboard.
After that first manuscript, I wrote nine more.
I’ve always had the desire to be published, but unlike my photography work, I was hesitant about sharing my writing. Few had ever seen my impressive collection of early manuscripts. Writing had always been my little secret, a hobby I kept hidden away between school assignments. I admit to a pervasive anxiety of not being good enough at it. That’s still something I deal with, every day.
It took a lot of courage for me to send out queries to agents for Manuscript Number Nine — and for me to deal with the resulting rejections. I wondered if I should just stick to photography. But I think many authors know, with absolute certainty, that writing is akin to breathing. I doubt I would ever be able to simply stop.
In 2010, I began Manuscript Number Ten, titled The Falconer. It was the manuscript that earned me a literary agent, and it was published in 2013.
Now, writing isn’t my clandestine hobby. It will no longer be something I hide from the world. So here I am, book cover photographer and model, turned author.