Behind the Scenes: the Rock Kiss Series
1. Rock Addiction (September 9th, 2014)
1.5. Rock Courtship (September 30th, 2014)
1.5a David’s Memo To Thea (newsletter exclusive)
1.5b Thea’s Reply (newsletter exclusive)
2. Rock Hard (March 10th, 2015; Charlie and T-Rex’s book)
3. Rock Redemption (October 6th, 2015)
4. “Sunshine” (newsletter short story)
5. Rock Wedding (July 19th, 2016)
6. “With This Memo” (newsletter short story)
7. “That Lip Ring…” (newsletter short story)
1. The band’s name is a private joke. It involves a choir tryout Fox, Noah, Abe, and David were forced to attend as students, and where the four of them first met. What happened at that tryout is still legendary among the students who came up after them, and infamous among the teachers. (You find out all about it in Rock Courtship, Sep 30th, but I’ll tell you now that it involved a very dirty song and the clutching of pearls.)
2. At the instant their initial hard rock single hit the airwaves, the four of them were sitting in a diner, eating burgers for lunch before they returned to their jobs (Fox and David were hauling furniture for a moving company at the time, while Noah was working construction, and Abe had a job playing piano at a fancy country club. Some free advice: Don’t ever ask Abe about that if you value your skin. Seriously.)
3. None of them slept the night of their first—sold out—concert. They were so pumped that they partied till dawn, and David, the “Gentleman of Rock” woke up covered in fake tattoos that looked so real the others had him believing he’d gone under the needle while drunk. At least until he stepped into the shower and the tattoos started to wash off.
4. Their first music video was shot partly in the tiny apartment the four shared while trying to break into the music business.
5. Fox, Abe, David, and Noah are family. They might fight, might get pissed with one another at times, but when push comes to shove, they stick together. That sense of family, of friendship, has held them together through all the crap that comes with fame. Each man knows he can rely on the others, no matter what.[/showhide][/two-thirds]
This interview with photographer Jenn LeBlanc of Studio Smexy was completed just prior to the shoot for Rock Hard. I planned to ask Jenn some follow up questions re: the Rock Redemption cover shoot before we posted this interview, but thanks to an unexpected set of circumstances, I got to attend the photo shoot for Kit and Noah’s book, so you’ll be getting some direct behind the scenes information soon!
Tell us about Jenn! Where are you based?
In the shadow of the Rocky Mountains at a mile high in Denver, Colorado!
How did you get into romance cover photography?
This is a long story, I’ll try to nip it. I fell into it backward because my book was illustrated, and the images in it struck a chord with authors who saw it and wanted the same quality of photography for their books.
You’re also a writer. How do you balance the two sides of your career?
Yes I am! I’m balancing much better these days, I was waylaid for a while, working on shoots and not writing much, but my second book finally came out in April and I’ve already got two more books about half finished. Primarily, I had to cut back on shoots, so I don’t shoot covers as often, and when I do, it’s primarily for custom covers (like yours) and special authors (like you) 🙂
When I first contacted you to shoot a cover for me, I asked you to find a dark-haired model who had an arm sleeve (tattoos over his whole arm). How did you go about that process?
First I had a bit of a dance party in my living room because WOW NALINI SINGH!!! 😉 Then I told my assistant and she had a bit of a dance party in her living room in San Diego. THEN we hit the interwebz for some model stalking. I work with several modeling agencies so I went to them first while Kati (my über-assistant) checked out an indie modeling website for any matches. It is a bit time consuming, but let’s be honest, it can be fun.
So basically, you (and your assistant) look at hot men all day long?
Pretty much that’s the way it works. Yep.
The ROCK ADDICTION model isn’t usually a cover model. Is this his only cover? Did he have fun being a rock star for a day?
This is his one and only cover. He is ALLLLLL yours! He was an international fashion model, but retired to Colorado to start a completely different sort of business (I will just let your readers guess what business that might be. In Colorado, with the new laws. Making lots of money). When his agent asked him if he was interested he jumped at the chance because it sounded fun, which apparently was a good thing because his usual day rates are way out of my budget. In the end we had a great time and he had a lot of fun being a rock star, We shot exactly what you asked for and then we played around a bit, just to get a range of images. We turned up the music and he really sang! He really did get into it.
The props for the ROCK ADDICTION shoot were a microphone, and a studded leather belt. For ROCK COURTSHIP, it was a pair of drumsticks. How do you source props? Do the models sometimes wear their own clothes?
The models often wear their own clothes, those are his jeans. Because jeans are one thing that just don’t look right if they aren’t yours, so one of the requests I have is they bring jeans to any shoot. We also had the lip ring. He was awesome about the fake lip ring—he mentioned his piercer would be upset if he came in with new holes he didn’t put there… Then I checked him out… ears… eyebrow… nipples… he had no visible body piercings! Then he just grinned at me. I did not ask for clarification.
On the day of the shoot, what happens? Tell us all!
SO MUCH. The shoots are usually chaotic, because I have to make sure I have all the costuming and props for the requested images, not to mention all of my camera gear, computers and pink gaffer tape (safety first!).
For Rock Addiction, Steven and I were in the studio on our own for a couple hours, because he was there for a single cover. I set up the studio, pulled up a bunch of stage images from the internet to play with, and gave him his costume. Then we goofed off for two hours. Loud music, bright lights, and cameras! Just like a real rock show.
David got there for his shot, and it took another hour to play around with the drum sticks (I had no idea there are so many ways to shoot drum sticks that look silly). His shoot was much quicker, because I knew we had it. Sometimes images just jump out at you like that and you just know.
The third shoot was super chaotic because I actually shot about 8 custom images, and we were in the studio for 8 hours, with 12 different models coming in and out at different times!! This kind of big shoot takes a lot of advance work and planning to be sure we have everything that day.
I’m REALLY VERY EXCITED about the third cover shoot for you, because it is SO SEXY. I love the model I’m working with for the cover, not to mention the premise and props and… everything. I have to say, bringing other authors’ characters to life is so much fun for me. Especially when I get a description like “he’s not particularly civilized” I just get all kinds of giddy.
Since your image was one of the easier for costuming and with a single person we shot him first that day. I love shooting custom images first when I know it’s going to be awesome and set the tone, I handed Tris the rugby ball and he just rolled with it. It was AWESOME.
My shoots have been for exclusive images, meaning the photos were shot specifically for the ROCK KISS series. However, you also shoot stock photos. How is the process different in comparison to an exclusive photo shoot?
Stock shoots are fun because I get to do whatever I want, it’s like playing dress up with life-sized, flexible dolls. I get to pick the settings, the costumes, everything. Kilt? YES. 007? You betcha. Cowboy? OKAY!! It’s all based on my mood and what I want to shoot. The biggest difference between the two is the gear needed, I take EVERYTHING to a stock shoot, all the costumes, all the props, everything. Because I have no idea what I’m going to come up with when I get there, and if I leave the bull whip at home, it will be the one thing I’ll need.
While we were talking about the next cover shoot the other day, you mentioned you sometimes end up having strange conversations with your models. Any stories you’d like to share?
LOL! Ok, yes I do end up having strange conversations. I’m still not used to talking about body hair with men. I don’t think I ever will be. One of my guys is a Brit and we ended up talking about his underwear for 30 minutes and I had NO IDEA. Because in America pants are pants. But in Britain, pants are underwear and trousers are pants. What are they in New Zealand? I find it funny that we all speak English… but we don’t. I didn’t know until the shoot the next day that I’d been talking to Tristan about his underwear the entire conversation, someone I had never met. And he was totally cool about it! What? Yeah, the modeling world. It’s all good. Happy trail required, and while you’re at it, keep the chest hair please. 😉
Of course sometimes the conversations are with others, I had to buy the rugby ball and I ordered one online, when it arrived it had to be blown up! I had no idea it would come deflated, it makes sense I guess but I don’t have a ball needle or pump! So I took it with me to the gym, I figured they would have one since they have a court and basketballs, right? So the guy at the front desk (who googled me the other day and now harasses me—in a funny way) he gets the hand pump and tries. And tries and tries and tries. It doesn’t inflate. He says the ball has a leak.
So after my workout I take it to a sporting goods store and the lady at the front desk pumps it up in less than a minute with a hand pump. So… the next day back at the gym I tell him his ball pump has issues and he laughs, so I said, “Well, it could be user error” and he says “How hard can this be?” (making the motion of a HAND PUMP!!) and I raise my eyebrows and say, “Well, ok, if you say so, maybe it’s just that girls are better at that than boys” and he was speechless so I walked away. He had NOTHING to say to that one. YEP.
Nalini thank you!! I had so much fun shooting these covers for you, and I hope we get to work together again, maybe sometime you can visit my studio for a shoot and play art director. 🙂
Update August 2015: By pure luck and chance, I did get to attend a shoot! It was such a blast – Jenn and the model were both amazing. More behind the scenes details to come once the cover is revealed!