Friday, September 5, 2014

Blonds versus brunettes: what’s your cover type?


By Victoria Curran, senior editor

I took a moment this morning to look over the four brand-spanking new September 2014 Heartwarming books and realized that, of the three covers with heroes on them, all three are brunettes. (Do you call a man with brown hair a brunette? That word looks entirely too feminine now that I’ve typed it out….)

That takes me back to my days as an editor at Harlequin Superromance, when I worked with three New Zealand authors and had relationships with a handful of unpublished Kiwi and Aussie writers I was helping move toward getting published. At the time I became aware that different continents must have different trends in male beauty. Keep in mind that this wasn’t too long ago—I’ve only been with Harlequin for 11 years!--but it wasn’t uncommon for authors in the southern hemisphere to prefer their heroes to be blond…and for their heroes to wear their hair in ponytails. And when I briefed those covers with the art and marketing teams, I could’ve won bets on the reactions: guaranteed groaning. A sure way to complicate an art director’s life is to ask for a hero with a blond ponytail. (Turns out asking for a redhead heroine can also trip them up—who knew?)
 
I once heard it said that actors with deep brown eyes and dark hair stand out more in filmmaking. (Possibly that’s because us blue-eyed people tend to get Devil Glare under the intensity of the lighting.) Maybe it’s the same with book covers? Or is it true that the trend in male beauty in North America is tall, dark and handsome?
 
Whatever the case, I’m glad to see these September books finally make it to readers' hands! Thank you to Karen Rock and Jennifer Snow for delivering consistently emotional Heartwarming stories, and to Amy Vastine for picking up momentum and proving she’s got plenty more where The Weather Girl came from! I’d also like to welcome Patricia Bradley as the latest author to join our lineup. Her story about a man torn between his ambition and his past is smart and exciting, a lovely roller-coaster of an emotional read!
 
But I have to ask: Would a guy with a blond ponytail make you think the book came out in the 1980s or would you see it as cutting-edge and want to pick that bad boy up?

Victoria
 

35 comments:

  1. Goor morning! I grew up on the East Coast filled with Portuguese, Italians, Puerto Ricans - so my preference is for the dark-haired, dark-eyed hero. But I remember that gorgeous blond man who is Shelly Long's ex in The Money Pit. Can't remember his name. He had long platinum hair - not in a ponytail, but he was gorgeous and very appealing. For me, it's about so much more than the hair.

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    1. Now you're making me feel shallow! Although I do have a handful of balding (I'm being kind) brothers, so I guess there has to be more than the hair....

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    2. No, you're looking at it from a market perspective. I get that. Ron was balding when we got married.

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  2. Hmmm...blond pony tail makes me think of a California surfer, but then I can also see it on a doctor or humanitarian working 'off the grid'...as in outback or jungle or somewhere remote-ish. It's fascinating how one visual can be perceived so differently around the world.

    The hero on Amy's cover is very, very nice :).

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    1. Amy's hero sent us back to the drawing board with our back cover shoutline. Having him and the little boy on the cover and across from the shout on the back put a whole different spin on what we'd originally written. It wasn't too terrible, but I'll let your imaginations work on that one! Creating covers is such an interesting and complex process...

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  3. Muriel,
    We are soooo alike I was thinking of him too. He was in Witness. He was also a ballet dancer, quite famous.
    This question made me think of when I was still in the dating world. I was never comfortable dating a blond with a ponytail. Hmmm, wonder why?
    Now, didn't Fabio do many blond ponytail covers? You've got me thinking.

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    1. Pamela - had to Google him. That was Alexander Godunov. He was wonderful. Cmmitted suicide very young, I believe.

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    2. I LOVED Alexander Godunov in Witness. I thought he died of a heart defect...are you sure it was suicide?

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    3. No, I'm not sure. Back to Google.

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    4. According to Wikipedia, he died of complications from hepatitis, due to chronic alcoholism. Sad, huh? Gorgeous, talented, successful - but you never know what someone else is going through.

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    5. Wasn't he also once a ballet dancer? Such a talented guy. Really sad.

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  4. Hey, Victoria! Gotta admit, I think the pony tail might send me scurrying into the past (or as Rula suggested, a surfer dude)--now long, shoulder blonde hair, that's another story, LOL (I have images of Chris Hemsworth soaring through my head right now, so thanks for that). I tend to gravitate toward darker featured heroes--not sure why, it's an interesting question to ponder. Now I'll need to go back and look at some of my favorite covers.

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    1. Glad I could put Chris Hemsworth in your head, Anna. You're welcome. I think it's those big brown eyes--kind of like a doe's eyes. Sucker for them....

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  5. I think the ponytail would have to be with dark hair.

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    1. I can't help it. I just see John Lennon's greasier days, ya know?

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  6. I have to admit--and show my age--that I still like a ponytail and I really don't care what color or time period it is. I should add that my husband, he of the retreating hairline, thinks I'm crazy and that both my sons wear really short hair. Obviously I'm ponytail deprived.

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    1. Ha! I love it, Liz. Very, very revealing...!

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  7. Lol, great discussion! I prefer dark hair to light and I'm not at all a fan of long hair. But, it's funny because my husband and I were talking about this the other night as we watched American Ninja Warrior as we were working out and a bald guy with amazing abs stood on the platform and I almost fell off the treadmill lol. My husband asked the question-"Okay, what's more important-hair or abs" and of course I stuttered, because he has...hair...and sorta abs lol. So, my vote between blonde or brunette is option c, not listed-abs:)

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    1. Aw, you and your husband work out together! That's so cute. And no wonder you're both gorgeous. Hm. I think I need a treadmill...

      Oh, the shaved-head muscular look is lovely in person and in movies, I think. But we did struggle with that look on one Superromance cover I worked on. I can't remember how we dealt with it in the end. It was a Vicki Essex martial arts hero, I believe. Must check in with her and see what we ended up with....

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    2. Oh, oh, this again took me to long ago dating days. If a guy showed up at my house with long hair, my dad (served in two wars, not to be messed with) would said, "Do you think you're a girl?"
      I'd be soooo embarrassed.
      I will say, though, I had a long haired boyfriend who was the nicest guy ever.
      My dad really should have spoke more sternly to the short-haired next guy. LOL

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  8. In looking over my book covers I realize I have more dark-haired heroes, and more shades of blonde or red-haired heroines. I like heroes who have dark, slightly unkempt hair and icy blue eyes. When I worked in pediatrics I loved little red-haired boys, but not so much after they grew up and not sure why. I've noticed more men (blond) with their hair pulled back, but not long enough for pony tail of late on TV. It's funny we're having this discussion as right before I came here I was working on my next book and the heroine is mulling over male attributes and I'd just typed: "looks weren't everything."

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    1. No, looks certainly aren't everything. But they sure help on a cover, though! Unfortunately. I wonder what would happen if we tried to place "real sized" models on the covers of books. I wrote an article for one of our national women's magazines up here in Canada (back in the days when I was a journalist) about a plus-sized model. She said the best gig she ever got was for a magazine that featured her and "regular sized" models in the same fashion shoot without highlighting any differences between them.

      I just don't see that happening on romance books...or if anybody would want to see it on romance books?

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  9. Great question! It's true that male beauty has changes with the times and cultures... as our world "shrinks" from our growing connections through social media, however, I'm seeing a breakdown in what is believed or accepted as the definition of handsome. For example, if you're an unashamed True Blood fan like me (haha) everyone loved fit, dark and handsome vampire Bill until tall, blonde, ex-Viking vampire, Erik came on the show... both men defined beauty in their own ways and their attractiveness came down more to their demeanor/personality than anything else. Of course, that's hard to convey on a cover which will, ultimately, contribute a lot to a book's sales... so picking the right coloring for an author is crucial. My next book, A League of Her Own, has a reformed bad boy pitcher I based, in looks, on Chris Hemsworth. He's tall, blonde and has been known to wear a ponytail as some athletes- and actors- do. Luckily I didn't throw that curve ball at your wonderful art department, but I was tempted... Still, we will have a blonde on a book cover in December- a present for all the "Vampire Erik" fans I suppose ;)

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    1. Yes, maybe New Zealand wasn't dated in their love of ponytailed heroes, but ahead of us at the time? Interesting thought. And interesting, too, how quickly trends change. Looking back at romance covers really makes that clear.

      I don't remember reading that in your art fact sheet, Karen, about your bad boy pitcher in A League of Her Own. So we've got a Chris Hemsworth bent in our group, I see!

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  10. I prefer short hair, any color, and have never found a pony tail on a man attractive. Maybe because I can remember when men started to wear their hair long, after the Beatles invasion. It became the style – and so many looked horrible with locks around their shoulders. I know a few women, my mother’s age, who considered cutting their son’s hair while they were sleeping. Don’t know if anyone ever did.

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    1. I was out west camping with my brother's family for a week in August and my 11-year-old nephew has what I can best pinpoint as the old Bieber do...six months overgrown. He was very proud of that hair. Had to carry his head on a tilt so he could see, but wouldn't let his mom and nonna (sp?) near him with a pair of scissors. Short in the back though. Kind of the opposite of a mullet--all party in the front. (Now, would a mullet fly on a romance cover nowadays, I'd like to know!)

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  11. I used to love all those 90's long-haired rockers back in the day. I favor the shorter-haired guys now. I don't have a blonde or brunette preference though. I tend to switch off when I write. The hero I'm writing now is blond and blue eyed. Guess he won't be making the cover! I do love my September cover (glad you got the wording right on the back!) Thanks to you and the art department :)

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  12. Hmmm....I'm not a fan of long hair on men, and as for blonde vs. brunette, I immediately thought about that movie The Avengers with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston (Thor and Loki); one blonde, one brunette, both very handsome to me. I don't think Tom Hiddleston is dark haired in real life, but I like how he looks with it. I also think dark haired men with a more olive/dark complexion and light colored eyes is VERY attractive.

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  13. I have to say I favor dark-haired guys/heroes. When I visited New Zealand I went around with my mouth hanging open (no drool, I hope). Those dark heroes were everywhere. Absolutely amazing. Maybe lighter haired heroes just don't show up as well on book covers and on the shelves (?). I remember one guy on the ferry to Waiheke Island near Aukland who was just riveting. To my husband's displeasure I couldn't take my eyes off him. Oh, and by the way he had a ponytail.

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  14. I, too, have to say tall, dark and handsome, but with blue eyes.

    And speaking of tall, dark and handsome, I tried really, really hard to be sympathetic when my husband who has amazing hair came home from his barber in a less than elated mood a couple of months ago. Not until he looked down at the clippings on the floor did he fully appreciate the degree to which his hair is graying!

    Let me amend my initial comment and add that dark hair graying can look very distinguished on a man!

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  15. You know what my husband says? Any hair is good hair!

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    1. Mine says the same thing. Woefully. :-)

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  16. :-) Believe it or not, my husband has his thinned! I envy that about him.

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  17. For me it's dark hair streaked gold by the sun,pony tails are definitely eighties though

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  18. I always find it amusing that a good friend of mine won't read stories with blonde heroines. Such a strange prejudice! lol But we all like what we like!

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