Under the Hill, Rogue's gallery

I may have mentioned before that I’m not the kind of writer who sees a movie in their head and writes down what happens from that. I’m the kind who has a head full of grey fog above a dark and unseen lake of words. I don’t have pictures of anything. If I want to know what something in the book looks like, I have to stop writing, make a concerted effort to visualise and then reach for the words.

And I can do that fine for scenery. Houses, reed beds, dust bowls, Elven spaceports? No problem. But I don’t seem to be able to do it for people.

This is why I now go out and find photos of people who look relatively right for my characters, gather them together in a folder on my computer, and periodically revisit them so I can hold their faces in my mind. Previously I’ve only bothered to cast my two heroes this way, but for Under the Hill I did all of the main cast.

Having done it, I thought I might as well share them. If you don’t like having someone else’s picture of what a character looks like thrust upon your imagination, look away now 🙂


OK, so this is Chris, our fearless but somewhat bemused fish-out-of-water leader


whom you may remember as an extra in an episode of Dr. Who. He appeared for about three seconds, had no name and no dialogue, and stuck in my mind so much that he ended up as the inspiration for the entire two volumes of UtH.

This is Ben, who is in the narrative position of being the damsel in distress – which at some level he is aware of and it annoys him mightily.


I sent these two pictures to the art department of Samhain when we were in the cover art design phase, and while they haven’t got people who are exactly the same (naturally – how could they?) I am really happy with how close they came.

If I’m going to carry on assigning characters tropes that don’t really fit them, then Flynn is the Princess in the Tower. Flynn was an easy man to find a picture for because that’s not really his name, it’s just what his mates used to call him because he looked so much like Errol Flynn:


Then we have Chris’s team of eccentric ghostbusters. Here I moved away from actors and trawled iStockphoto instead, but they still turned out a little more glamourous than they ought to be.

Grace is the local vicar and the team’s heavy-hitter in terms of supernatural ammunition.


This lady is close, but you’d have to imagine her with pink hair and a pink clerical shirt. She’s more hippy chick than business chic.

Phyllis is the team’s photographer – which is cleverer than it sounds since most of the things she photographs are invisible to the human eye. She started out birdwatching and moved on to ghosts for the challenge.


While Phil might look like this if she was going out to a party, normally she’s more likely to be found dressed for hiking and weighed down with numerous camera bags.

Stan is the obligatory computer whizz-kid, to whom the team are indebted for their technology, which he cobbles together during woodwork lessons.


Meanwhile, back in Elfland we have

Sumala, who is slightly more literally a princess in the tower. That is, she is an Apsara princess, and like Flynn – with whom she teams up in an attempt to escape – she is being held prisoner by the elves.


This doesn’t look an awful lot like her, tbh. For a start, she would never wear those shoes. This http://lightinthedarknessoflife.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/copyright4.jpg is actually a lot closer in appearance. But while the playfulness and sexiness of the linked picture is definitely part of her character, I like the sense of power and intelligence of the iStockphoto one more. Sumala may look like a sex kitten but you shouldn’t judge her book by its cover.

And the antagonists of the piece:

Oonagh, queen of the elves


and Liadain the leader of the elvish resistance


(She’s a tree, actually.)

And really these photos don’t look a lot like them either (particularly Oonagh, who shapeshifts to suit her mood.) It’s pretty impossible to find good photos of elves – for fairly obvious reasons. But these were a good combination of beautiful but eerie. Both of them like to look fragile, even though they drive the plot by machinations, lies and ruthlessness. Those things are only good political acumen when you’re an elf, after all.

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