One of the things I’m repeatedly asked is whether or not I base my characters’ physical attributes on real people, and if so, who they look like? Honestly, I never do. When my characters first begin talking to me, I come up with the details – hair color, eye color, height, and skin tone – and an image of my hero and heroine takes shape in my head. I have problems with my characters looking “just like INSERT MOVIE STAR NAME HERE” because they aren’t that movie star. In my head, they are Justin, Paige, Isabeau and Noah.
However, as a reader, I can understand the interest in who a character might most closely resemble to the author who created him or her. So a while back I went in search of images, specific photos of people, who best represented the visuals I have in my head.
Let’s start with the hero of After Midnight, singer/front man for the rock band Black Phoenix, Noah Clark.
Gorgeous isn’t he? Okay, so this isn’t really Noah Clark, he’s actually Gabriel Aubry. I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about this guy beyond the fact that he is a very close representation of Noah Clark. The closest I’ve found for any of my characters.
And this is how I imagine my heroine, child prodigy pianist turned bar owner, Isabeau Montgomery. I found this photograph while searching iStockPhoto for pictures for my trailer. The moment I saw this model I knew she was the closest I was going to get. She’s got Izzy’s mouth, and beautiful ebony hair.
Now here’s a look at how they meet:
Isabeau Montgomery sat in the dimly lit bar and shook like an amateur before her first recital. Her gaze, blurred by the sudden threat of tears, settled on the keys before her. Her stomach cramped painfully, yet the need was too great to ignore.
With ability as natural to her as the color of her skin, she began to play. The waterfall of music filled the air, washed over her, completed her in a way nothing or no one else ever had. Against the razor sharp sting of memories, she fought…
She was young, vibrant, and born with a raw talent rarely seen. Classical, jazz, or rock and roll, she played it all. Loved all the genres—loved to create. All that mattered was her joy, her love for the instrument beneath her fingers and the music she was so skilled at creating.
For a good ninety seconds, joy returned, the rush of adrenaline and, conversely, the sense of belonging. In those seconds, time slowed, the lines between the past and the present blurred, and she was a child again. There was no longer pressure to be something she couldn’t be, no fear of what her future would hold.
And with the innocence of youth, no idea that everything she held dear could be lost in the blink of an eye.
The song built to a crescendo then quickly faded as pain, her old friend, returned with enough force to quash her joy. Her stomach roiled. Her breath caught.
Tears gathered in her eyes, and she dashed them away. Isabeau ran her hands up and over her face, pushing her long mass of ebony hair away from her forehead. She struggled to pull herself back together. Her fingers were chilled, cooler than normal, yet perspiration pooled at the small of her back. She closed her eyes, took a deep, slow breath.
“I didn’t expect that old thing to be in tune.”
She jumped at the deep baritone voice, slamming her knees into the piano. The key cover abruptly closed, and she startled again. Heart racing, she rose and faced the double doors she’d obviously forgotten to lock.
She swept her gaze around the bar’s dim interior until she spotted a dark, male frame. “The bar is closed.”
Her tone was sharp, curt, and left no room for argument. Under different circumstances, she wouldn’t inflict such rudeness on a customer, but he intruded on her privacy, her pain. Her emotions were too close to the surface for niceties.
His voice rang with a clipped British accent and the tone of someone unaccustomed to being questioned. “I was here earlier.”
She remembered the voice and didn’t need him to step out of the shadows to recognize him, which he did anyway. She’d served him a few hours ago—dark lager, no glass—and shared with him a smile as powerful as it was sexy. “We were open earlier. Now, we’re closed.”
His eyebrow shot up. His mouth shaped itself into an ironic curve. “So you have said.”
“Then perhaps you should leave.” Hands unsteady, she bussed the table closest to her and carried the glasses to the bar. His words stopped her cold.
“You’re very talented. How long have you played the piano?”
No, no, no. This wasn’t happening. She closed her eyes on a wave of emotion, doing her best to will him away. But even then she knew. The man at her back was not going away.
She focused her gaze on his reflection in the mirror that ran the length of the bar. He was tall and lean, with eyes that shone with intelligence, even in the dim light. His hair was a mix of medium and dark blonde, worn long enough it fell across his forehead, nearly into his eyes, and brushed the collar of his shirt. Dark stubble shadowed his jaw.
The fine hairs on her arm stood on end as he crossed to her. She edged to the side and turned to face him. “I don’t play.”
“Of course you do. You were playing when I entered.”
“You’re mistaken.” She countered his step forward with one in retreat, ensuring that she remained out of arm’s reach.
With a frown, he stopped. “You have nothing to fear from me.”
It never occurred to her to fear for her safety, even though the bar was empty but for the two of them, the lights dimmed in deference to the late hour.
“Let me start again by introducing myself.”
“I know who you are.”
Of course she did. He was the person who brought back her desire to create, whose presence in the room made something inside her sing out. He was the reason she’d been driven to play tonight, after years of resistance. The reason the siren song continued to play in her head, louder than ever before.
Thirteen years--that's how long Isabeau Montgomery has been living a lie. After an automobile accident took her mother's life, Izzy hid herself away, surviving the only way she knew how. Now she is happy in her carefully reconstructed life. That is until he walks through the door of her bar...
Black Phoenix singer/front man Noah Clark came to Long Island City with one goal--one that doesn't include an instant, electric attraction to the dark-haired beauty behind the bar. Coaxing her into his bed won't be easy, but he can't get her pale, haunted eyes nor her skill on the piano out of his head.
Can Noah help Isabeau overcome the past? Or will her need to protect her secret force her back into hiding and destroy their chance at happiness?
Sarah Grimm is an award winning author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, two sons and three miniature schnauzers. Between mom's taxi service, parts runs, and answering the phone for the family marine repair business, Sarah can be found curled in her favorite chair, crafting her next novel.
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