When I wrote the character known as Nikki Shea, I never wanted her to be the typical mean girl. Most people who read the novel though, automatically assumed she was a stick-thin blonde. But in my head? In my head she was Jessica Rabbit crossed with Scarlett O’Hara. She was this curvaceous brunette who knew how to work her curves, with a body built for badness, and an attitude that could slay a small country. I am happy to say that I knew no one like her when I was in high school . . . thank God.
The irony here? I DID in fact know someone who could bring Nikki Shea to life. I just didn’t realize it until I stumbled across one of Megan Jones’s Facebook photos and knew, instantly, I had someone who could nail Nikki Shea. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to convince Megan to come to the shoot, especially because she is the sweetest kid on the planet. But she did it, and once she fell into the mind-set of a bitch-on-wheels, she nailed the look.
This is the 4-1-1 on Megan Jones, aka NIKKI SHEA
High School: Barnstable High
Favorite bands / Musical Group: Everything and anything!
Hobbies: field hockey and lacrosse
Favorite Quote: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be”. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
How did you first find out about the fact that some random author (me – lol) wanted to use you as a cover model? Was it through me or someone else? I was first contacted by Kate in late May. She briefly explained her position and said that she believed I would fit the role as Nikki Shea. I have met Kate in person before and she had also looked at my pictures on Facebook.
What made you say “yes” and did you think I was insane when we talked on the phone before the shoot? I already knew she was insane because she has been a good friend of my aunt haha! I could tell how enthusiastic Kate was when we first talked on the phone, so I was excited to see what she had planned for the shoot. I also thought it would be an awesome experience, something I normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to do.
What was it like to be the physical embodiment of a fictional character? Embodying a fictional character was challenging yet fun at the same time. It was so cool to be able to put myself into Nikki’s shoes and play the role of the mean girl for once.
What did you think of the shoot when you were there? Did you have any worries? I had a great time at the shoot. I met new people and had the chance to work with a great photographer- and of course the wonderful Kate Conway. I was somewhat intimidated to portray such a bold character, but it went great!
What has your family and friends thought about the whole thing? My family and friends are excited to see the book in stores and online. My friends have seen the posters in school and love pointing it out to me. My mom even sometimes refers to me as Nikki when she means business!
You are the face of Nikki Shea – the most loathed and feared girl in school. She is both hated and adored as a bad-girl by readers and she will play a bigger part in STORM FRONT. Was it weird to try and get inside the head of this ultimate mean girl? Nikki Shea and I are complete opposites. I think that’s what made the shoot so fun. At first, it was weird trying to convey the “mean girl” look but after a few try’s I think I had gotten the hang of it. I’m excited to see what Nikki Shea is going to bring to storm front!
Would you be willing to be shot again for the UNDERTOW series in the future if need be? Maybe sign books as the character, Nikki Shea? I would without a doubt participate in another shoot for any future books in the UNDERTOW series. Signing books as my alter ego would be awesome. I can’t wait to see this series take off!
I honestly didn’t think I was going to find someone to represent Kian O’Reilly. In fact, I had started searching through RF photos (random model shots) in an attempt to find the character. I always used young Friday Night Lights actor, Taylor Kitsch, as my baseline when writing for Kian. And I was sure there wasn’t a real-life Cape Codder wandering around that could fill the dark character’s description.
Thankfully, John Sullivan (of Quahog Corner) DID know “someone who might work” by the name of Justin Blaze. When Justin walked through the door of the studio, I literally saw my character strolling in. I couldn’t believe he was such a perfect match. Taylor Kitsch got the boot pretty darn quick after meeting Justin . . . Sorry Taylor.
Here is the 4-1-1 on Justin Blaze, aka KIAN O’REILLY
Hometown: Osterville, MA
High school: Barnstable
Favorite Bands: James Taylor and Dave Matthews Band
Hobbies: Tennis and Basketball
Favorite Quote: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” – Calvin Coolidge
How did you first find out about the fact that some random author (me – lol) wanted to use you as a cover model? Was it through me or someone else? I found out about the book and potentially representing a character when I opened a Facebook message from my high school Drama director Mr. Sullivan. I was teaching tennis when I opened the message and I was kind of confused at how random this opportunity was but I was excited at the same time.
What made you say “yes” and did you think I was insane when we talked on the phone before the shoot? I said yes to the offer because it sounded like such a great idea. No, I did not think you were crazy after we spoke on the phone. I knew you were passionate about your idea and excited at the thought of your words and characters actually coming to life. Your excitement made me want to represent “Kian” even more.
What was it like to be the physical embodiment of a fictional character? It was different. Whenever I read a book or watch a movie I would always try to put myself in one of the characters shoes. But when I read this book I knew I was supposed to actually be one of the characters. The entire time I was reading, I was constantly comparing myself to this fictional person to see just how alike we really were.
What did you think of the shoot when you were there? Did you have any worries? The shoot was a lot of fun. I have done a few shoots before so I was comfortable.
What has your family and friends thought about the whole thing? This is a very different experience and my friends and family are excited to read the book and see it succeed. My mom has printed out the posters of me and hung them up. A few of my friends have saved the digital pictures to their phones and can’t wait to read it. But as for my four brothers, they try to make fun of me as much as they can. I love it.
You are the face of Kian O’Reilly – a dark character whose tormented relationship with Ana Lane gets crazy amounts of screaming fan mail. Some women even confess to DREAMING of him. Is it strange to be the face of a character that sends hearts racing? It is very strange because after reading the book I know that Kian and I are two very different people. Kian is a very dark character and I wish that I could pull that off, but in reality I am a much more optimistic and up beat person than my fictional counterpart. Although I know we are two different people, it is funny to think that readers will associate my face when thinking/dreaming of Kian.
You also didn’t know Christa Mullaly (Ana) very well before the shoot, yet you two instantly fell into the characters beautifully – how were you able to do that so well? It really helped that I read the book before the shoot, so that I knew who I was representing and the kind of relationship that Kian was involved in. The photographer really gave us no direction as to what to do other than have my right arm wrapped in front of her, so I just kind of thought of what Kian and Ana went through in the book, and attributed similar life experiences that I have had when there is really nothing to say, and all you can do is just hold on.
Would you be willing to be shot again for the UNDERTOW series in the future if need be? Maybe sign books as the character, Kian O’Reilly? We may need crowd control . . . I would definitely be willing to be shot again for UNDERTOW, but I did just get a haircut so id have to wait until the summer to grow my hair back out to look the part again! Sign books? Why not!
When I was searching for faces of the UNDERTOW characters, I found it exceedingly difficult to match a real face to a fictional character. A character who had lived in my head for YEARS. Raef O’Reilly (Paris) was a HUGE player in UNDERTOW. He is an immortal killer who decides to protect Eila against his own family. I started pouring through hundreds of faces on Facebook, using friends of friends who went to Barnstable High School. It was time-consuming and I nearly lost hope . . . until I stumbled across Colby McWilliams. To this day, I cannot picture any other kid who could be as perfect a match for Raef.
Here is the 4-1-1 on Colby McWilliams, aka Raef O’Reilly (Paris)
Hometown: Hyannis, MA
High School: Barnstable (BHS)
Favorite Bands / Musical Groups: Dave Matthews Band, The Foo Fighters, Barefoot Truth
Hobbies: Playing guitar and Wrestling
Favorite quote (from anywhere): “Dream as you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” – James Dean
How did you first find out about the fact that some random author (me – lol) wanted to use you as a cover model? Was it through Leslie or someone else? Leslie had messaged me through Facebook and had told me someone wanted to know if I’d be willing to be a cover model and told me I should contact you.
What made you say “yes” and did you think I was insane when we talked on the phone before the shoot? I said yes because I thought it would be an interesting opportunity and was flattered that someone thought I should be a cover model. When we talked on the phone I didn’t think you were crazy, but you were very passionate and I admired that. Lol
What was it like to be the physical embodiment of a fictional character? It’s very interesting to know I’m a fictional character! It feels great to know that there are people out there who really admire Raef as a character, and I feel like he’s really a part of myself.
What did you think of the shoot when you were there? Did you have any worries? At the shoot, I thought it was very cool. Green screens and cameras are always fun, and it was a great chance to make some new friends, as well as get to know some of my own friends a little better! I was actually a little worried about the shoot. I was just really hoping it would work out well and thankfully, we got a lot of great shots!
What has your family and friends thought about the whole thing? My friends and family thought it was really cool that I was doing the shoot, and they all couldn’t wait to read the book when it came out!
There are a whole bunch of women who think Raef is . . . uh . . . a smokin’ hot killer! Is it weird to be the face of a character that so many adult women adore? It can be a little awkward to think of adult women liking Raef that way, but I mean in the book he’s just so cool, it’s hard not to picture him that way! But just the thought brings a smile to my face. Lol – I think it’s very flattering!
Would you be willing to be shot again for the UNDERTOW series in the future if need be? Maybe sign books as the character, Raef Paris? I would definitely be willing to do another shoot! I thought it was a great experience and it’s awesome to know I’m the face of a character that so many people love! I would love to do book signings and anything any the fans needed!
Incredibly, one of the songs I listed to constantly while writing for Raef was the Foo Fighter’s “These Days.” I had no clue Colby liked them. Ironic, no?
When I was writing UNDERTOW, I had a huge desire to find local Cape Cod kids to be the models for the story. Finding them, however, wasn’t so easy. But when Kim Rocha, a Cotuit resident and UNDERTOW Beta reader, said she believed “Eila Walker” was the girl who lived next to her, I had to check her out.
Hands down, neighbor Leslie McKinnon was a dead-ringer for main character, Eila Walker.
From Leslie’s Facebook page, we also located Ana Lane (Christa Mullaly), Raef Paris (Colby McWilliams), and Nikki Shea (Megan Jones). Quohog Corner creator and past BHS Drama Director, John Sullivan, managed to locate Kian O’Reilly (Justin Blaze), and MJ Williams (Sean Potter). Additionally, we also photographed Rilin West (Chris Houghton), Christian Raines (Jeremy Peacock) and Eve (Sara Dever). The last three people have characters that will appear in the other books in the series.
So, without further ado, here is the 4-1-1 on Leslie McKinnon – aka, EILA WALKER:
High School? Barnstable HS
Favorite Bands / Musical Groups? Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver, Pearl Jam, and Weezer
Hobbies? Singing, Acting, Guitar-playing, Working at Burger King
Favorite quote (from anywhere)? “You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.” – John Steinbeck
How did you first find out about the fact that some random author (me – lol) wanted to use you as a cover model? Was it through me or someone else?
“I first found out about the Undertow cover shoot when Kate messaged my mom on Facebook to ask her permission to ask me to be on the cover.”
What made you say “yes” and did you think I was insane when we talked on the phone before the shoot?
“I’ve actually always had this dorky dream of being a model ever since I was little, so I wasn’t hesitant to say “yes”! I also knew I probably wouldn’t have another opportunity like this, especially with people I already knew from my school. I have to admit, when I first talked to Kate on the phone I did think she was a bit… eccentric (haha) but I could tell she was definitely very friendly and passionate about her novel.”
What was it like to be the physical embodiment of a fictional character?
“As someone who acts, the shoot just reminded me of being in another drama production. I always had to be in character and remember who Eila is, not who I am. At times it was definitely tricky, but I relate to Eila quite a bit which made it easier. It was really fun and comfortable state of mind since I’ve had experience with theater before.”
What did you think of the shoot when you were there? Did you have any worries?
“I had no idea what to expect walking into the shoot, but I actually had a really awesome time there. My only worry was actually getting all snuggly with Colby! I was afraid it would be awkward, since I know him from school, but it ended up being just fine (he’s cute, which didn’t hurt at all..). It was really great to have Christa there as Ana because she is my best friend in real life! All of us who were modeling got to bond and just had fun with it, which I loved.”
What has your family and friends thought about the whole thing?
“When I tell people about the book cover, the most common response I get is, “What?! That’s insane!” Most of my friends are really excited to buy the book, and now that some posters are up in my school’s library, there’s definitely a buzz about Undertow. My family can’t wait to buy the book and display it in our living room!”
Eila has been called the ultimate heroine and been put in the same league as Katniss Everdeen. Is it weird to be the face of a character that so many readers and reviewers seem to adore?
“Honestly, I’m very proud to be the face of Eila. She’s a strong character who wants to protect everyone that she cares about. I admire her and can relate to her a lot in many ways. It’s awesome to think that when people think of Eila, they might think of my face!”
Would you be willing to be shot again for the UNDERTOW series in the future if need be? Maybe sign books as the character, Eila Walker?
“Yes yes yes! I’d love to be able to be shot again for Undertow, as well as sign books as Eila. This whole experience has been great; I’ve really appreciated the opportunity. Thank you Kate!”
No, no – seriously. I mean, my current M-F job (plus some weekends, when my mouth turns mutinous and blurts out, “Yeah – I’ll drive the team!”) is as a school bus driver. No, not the small suckers that had the butt bitten off by the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, or the 15 passenger vans with the cute little lights on top that look like ET landed.
We are talking SCHOOL BUS. Big sucker, filled with screaming, occasionally cursing, kids.
The yellow banana of the road that every driver on the planet will try to get past because, obviously, the bus is a ticking time bomb.
Tick . . . tick . . . STOP SIGN! Wait . . . wait . . .wait some more.
It moves until . . . STOP SIGN! Wait . . . Wait . . .
Come on!! You know the sight of one makes your eye twitch. Makes my eye twitch too! Which begs the bigger question: WHY THE HELL DRIVE ONE? Well . . . for the same reason above. I am stupid.
Driving is a fun fest (*snort*) especially when someone in a Pinto cuts me off. Then I just want to crush their little fastback into the guardrail and turn them into a clown car. Don’t cut off bus drivers. We are MANIACS.
Oh yes – and the words, “I think I am gonna throw up,” literally send chills down our bright yellow vested-backs. Frigid cold mornings, when we are forbidden to idle, also rank high on the Suck-O-Meter, as do enraged parents, sneaky kids, and the most dreaded TRAFFIC. A couple of our drivers even managed to add “Oh s**t, the engine is on fire!” to the dreaded list.
But for sheer torture, and ranking NUMBER 1 on the most dreaded aspects of bus driving, is without fail THE CHILD CHECKMATE SYSTEM. Also known as the Psycho Female Voice that demands I run to the back of the bus 64 times a day. She is also known to be an unpredictable witch and hurl random demands at the most inopportune times, such as telling a driver to walk to the back of the bus and check for sleeping kids WHILE THE BUS IS BEING DRIVEN. HELLO???? THE FREAKIN’ KIDS ARE ON THE BUS! Here – let me just send my SHADOW to the back while I navigate the HIGHWAY at 50!
We are given a hefty 30 seconds to run to the back of the bus (dodging legs, instruments, and backpacks stuffed so huge that they’ve GOT to contain a family of elves) and press a button AND lift a handle. If you don’t make the finish line in 30 seconds? HORNS! LIGHTS! KIDS GET EJECTED THROUGH THE ROOF HATCH! Well . . . okay, the last one is more of a wish.
So yeah – the job can truly suck, but hey – it’s a paycheck and lets me write about dark, killer teens between my runs. Can’t imagine where I get the character ideas from . . .
Oh and FYI – We are ALWAYS looking for more DRIVERS. Care to be stupid? ;)
WHY INDEX CARDS ARE A WRITER’S BFF
So, recently I finished the first novel in a new series I am working on, known as UNDERTOW. You’re like, “No kidding? I would have never known except it is ALL OVER YOUR BLOG!”
Well . . . let me tell ya a secret: I didn’t write UNDERTOW from Chapter 1 to 24. In fact, I never write from page 1 onward, and by doing so, I rarely hit any form of writer’s block.
Knock on wood.
Care to guess HOW I wrote UNDERTOW?
I did it in SCENES.
Nope – I’m not crazy. Well, I am, but not about this, and here’s why:
Ever watch a movie and you love it because of the scenes? You watch it again and again, not because every second is perfect, but because you love a certain line, a certain kiss , a certain showdown. You watch it for those scenes that play endlessly in your mind, tempting you to make that one movie (or book) climb onto your “favorites” shelf.
Even int he world of film making, movies are not shot in order. They “story-board” what they need to shoot and then go from there. Sometimes they even shoot the last scene first. Where the magic comes in, is how they weave all these independent scenes together.
I basically did the same thing with UNDERTOW. It is what I am also doing for STORMFRONT and CRUEL SUMMER.
See, I tend to daydream, especially when I listen to music. And I will replay a scene (that I am to write) over and over in my head for almost a week before I sit down and start to write it. I know I’m ready to put it down on paper when the scene replays the same, over and over, in my mind — not because I force it to do that, but just because it works so well that way.
Since I write in scenes, I DO need to know (approximately) which scenes I will need in a book. I write these down on index cards. I aim for 1 scene PER CHAPTER, removing as much dull fluff as possible.
Fluff is bad – readers start skimming when you get boring.
I write down a major scene on each index card and aim for 20 to 24 or more. So for UNDERTOW, these were a few:
Elizabeth and Rysse in the Harbor Square.
Eila waking in her new room and meeting MJ.
The first day of school with Raef and Nikki . . . blah, blah, blah.
Now here is where I avoid the writer’s block thing: I don’t write the scenes in order. I write the ones I WANT TO WRITE on any give day. What am I in the mood for? What scene is solid in my head?
Whatever scene you choose to work on doesn’t have to be complete – write the parts that you see clearly. You will always go back and edit and fill out the scene, but the bones are there. Don’t over-think it either, or you will go insane.
Of course, you need to be a little bit insane to be a storyteller in the first place :)
I know. You’re like, “Poor woman . . . her brain is finally fried. She thinks you can diet by reading.”
YOU CAN! Want to know why? Because this series is so RIDICULOUSLY ADDICTIVE you forget to eat. Stop showering. Skip walking the dog. Miss a few bills. Yeah . . . I’m serious. It’s that insanely fun. And to PROVE I am not exaggerating, I suggested it to a kid on my middle school bus and SHE BECAME OBSESSED with the stories. Buried herself in the books while I drove.
Anyway, The Lux series is about aliens – WAIT! Don’t walk away!!! I know, I know!! ALIENS???? YES! Never in a million years would I ever think that I would be so thoroughly addicted to FRIGGIN ALIENS!
The premise starts out with this high schooler (Kat) moving to a middle-of-nowhere town after her father has died. There isn’t much to do there but she befriends a girl next door, Dee, who is stunning and bubbly and all-together thrilled to have a pal in Kat. Her brother, Daemon, however, ain’t so thrilled. He wants Dee to stay away from Kat and is pretty darn insulting all around. He and Kat go at it tooth and nail, but then one night Kat gets attacked near the library and Daemon steps in . . . and heals her. Turns out Daemon and Dee are aliens and, in healing Kat, he has made her all glow wormy which can only be seen by his kind . . . and the Arum. The bad, dark, light-sucking aliens.
How Armentrout writes is EXACTLY how I think all upper YA / New Adult should be written. She has a flawless grasp of teen hood, linking laugh-out loud scenes with run-for-your life moments. In fact, if you love UNDERTOW there is NO WAY you should bypass this fabulous series. Below is one of my favorite moments from the movie BOLT, when the Hollywood pigeons pitch an alien-take on his show. KILLS ME.
If you have managed to get your hands on one of the ARC copies of UNDERTOW, you know two things for certain:
2. Their home isn’t on land.
When I was working through the technicalities of UNDERTOW I knew that the Mortis (Raef and Kian’s race) were basically drifters. For them, friendships were a liability and . . . well . . . they don’t age. You can’t exactly own a home and kick around looking the same for centuries. Plus, how could they sell a home in today’s market?!
In addition, Kian and Raef wouldn’t be the kind to set down roots, but Kian finds a reason to stick around the summer before due to Ana Lane. Unfortunately their love falls to pieces. UNDERTOW picks up a year later and Ana is shocked to see Kian again. To say she is a “tad icy” to him, is an understatement. Their relationship and history from the summer before will be released as a novella, known as CRUEL SUMMER down the line. In this prequel novel, Kian purchases a yacht he names CERBERUS. This fabulous vessel also comes back with Kian in UNDERTOW.
So, I had to come up with an insanely fly yacht suitable for a young, morally compromised millionaire . . . I basically though about Hollywood stars. Since I myself only own a 10′ dingy with an electric motor, I knew first-hand ownership knowledge was not in the cards for me. Instead, I used the Internet, HGTV and THE TRAVEL CHANNEL. With the help of all three, I located CERBERUS and wrote the story with printed pictures at the ready.
I did add in some things I loved while watching the SuperYacht show on HGTV, including a round bed for Raef’s room, a ruby-colored hull for the yacht, and interior tones of burgundy and black. I also gave it a full set of controls on a flybridge.
As a writer it was critical that I had an accurate accounting of the yacht – of everything in the story. If you have read the story, you also know that CERBERUS plays a large part in the later half of the book and becomes a safe haven for the five friends. The yacht gave me an opportunity, as a storyteller, to confine the characters into a space so that they must deal with each other, question what they want and need from one another, and come up with a half-baked plan to find answers.
It took a while to name the yacht. At first, I was set on calling it the REDRUM, obviously from Stephen King’s THE SHINING (redrum is murder spelled backwards and appears in his terrifying book). But then some of my AWESOME BETA READERS pointed out that Raef and Kian, while they had a gruesome past, were trying to be better. Kian wouldn’t have named it something so dark, especially when he bought it with Ana Lane in mind. So I went back to the drawing board, and started thinking of what else would be appropriate. I started digging though myths and legends and came up with CERBERUS: the three-headed dog that guards the underworld. He prevents humans from crossing into the river styx of Hell and the dead from escaping. It was a perfect play on who Raef and Kian were.
See if you can find a CERBERUS twin on the Barnstable docks :)
Because this blog is sizable at this point, I thought I should highlight a few things with quick links. Call it a MUPPET NEWS FLASH type of thing :)
This blog is currently taking indie books for review: Click here for details: BOOK REVIEWS
I am also looking for reviewers for my ARC (advanced reader copy) novel. Not published yet – trying to get reviews to go in the actual book. Details on the story here: UNDERTOW Sample chapters of UNDERTOW are here: CHAPTERS
A few past posts geared towards my fellow writers can be found throughout CAPE COD SCRIBE. I linked them below. Enjoy!