[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have author Carla de Guzman guest post on the site today. Take it away, Carla!]
All we wanted was to see our faces on the covers of our books.
It sounds like a simple premise, but at the time, it was a complicated thing. When #romanceclass (a community of writers and readers of Filipino romance in English) started in 2014, everyone had illustrated covers. We did it because we couldn’t do it any way else, because we couldn’t find photos of faces like ours in stock photo sites. At a time when all our favorite books had gorgeous, modelled, photo covers with faces that weren’t us, it was high time to do something to put Filipino faces on our main characters and love interests. It was time to see ourselves in the books we wrote.
So the #romanceclass covers model was born with a simple, but definite premise—offering more book cover options for Asian/Filipino authors and their stories.
There are a lot of talented people in our community, and a team was set in place. Chi Yu Rodriguez (No Two Ways) became our dedicated “emotional” photographer, Layla Tanjutco (We Might as Well Be Galaxies) took the reins as head make up artist while Mina V. Esguerra (Kiss and Cry) coordinated with our models. We had a stylist, hired a studio, got models and invited the authors to shoot book covers.
As of today, we have had eleven shoots, with nineteen different models and twenty three released books from the #romanceclass covers project. Books with Filipino models on the cover have sold really well, and that’s not even talking about the secret projects the other authors did shoots for, but haven’t released yet!
We seem to have a routine down pat, eleven shoots later. Our usual photo studio has a great pizza and pasta place on the ground floor, where everyone congregated for pre-shoot pizza, exchanged books we borrowed off of each other, and asked each other about the books this shoot was for. So far, this is what we do in a usual #romanceclass hang out, discussing what’s been going on in each other’s lives, talked about the books we’ve read, and tea we’ve missed. There’s a buzz of excitement in the air as we discuss today’s activities.
For the eleventh shoot in particular, we were shooting the cover for Catherine Dellosa’s upcoming release, Raya and Grayson’s Guide to Saving the World for the Flicker series, a few photos for the existing #romanceclass covers catalog, one for a new edition of If The Dress Fits (by Carla de Guzman) and one project by Chi Yu Rodroguez That Shall Not Be Named Yet.
(Because we do that now, have photoshoots for books that haven’t been written yet. It’s inspiration, a kick in the pants and a perfect kilig boost when you need it.)
A set of a photo shoot is always chaos, mostly because of the feelings involved. While Layla, our makeup artists started work on our models, Jeanne San Juan, Ranj Almario and Jef Flores (who performs live readings for us too!) the shoot order was discussed, and outfits were decided on.
Meanwhile in the background, we have authors freaking out they were about to see their characters come to life before their very eyes, a photographer trying to control her feelings (“because I have to see everything!”) and spectators trying to do the same. Someone brought brownies, which everyone is sharing.
The shoot starts, that’s when the real fun begins. Jeanne and Ranj get into the groove of things
quickly, and have been forewarned about the exclamations of kilig from the gallery and get into
the poses Mina and Chi call out. Occasionally someone points out a thing they can adjust, and
it’s really a collaborative effort. When Jef starts cracking jokes and making everyone laugh
during his shoot, it doesn’t really help anyone relax, but it’s a welcome way to release nerves.
There is no way you can accuse the #romanceclass community of being shy about their kilig, because when it starts happening right in front of us, we can’t help but make noises. Shouts of “oh my god!” and “excuse me, did I ask for this?” fill the room quickly as Chi takes photos. We’ve almost completely forgotten that music is playing in the background. It’s not uncommon for someone to just put down their phone and curl up in a little ball of emotion, with friends trying to pull them up because things were still happening.
Trust me. I’ve done it myself a lot. For a video demonstration, here’s a short BTS I did from the ninth shoot, with Boo and Liane.
But it’s reflective of what the #romanceclass community in general is like. We’re very expressive, emotional people, placed in a safe space where these kinds of exclamations are welcomed and enjoyed. And today’s shoot has been no exception, which is probably why we keep doing this over, and over again.
There’s always a requisite group photo in the end, the mark of a job well done. As we leave the studio, everyone talks only about two things, how excited they are for these books to be released, and where we’re going to eat dinner.
Our photographer Chi Yu Rodriguez wrote an excellent blog post on what it’s like to be the #romanceclass covers photographer, and talks about why she loves her new job. I think it’s worth the read! Check it out on her blog.
About the Author:
Carla de Guzman (If The Dress Fits, The Queen’s Game, How She Likes it) is a romance writer from the Philippines who travels to write, and writes to travel. She’s recently learned to be happy with being the weight she is, and is no longer shy to show off to the world, because let’s face it. She’s freaking awesome.
See romanceclassbooks.com for more information on #romanceclass, or follow the hashtag on Twitter. For the covers, you can visit @romanceclasscovers on Instagram, or follow #romanceclasscovers on Twitter!