Now that the submission-ready draft of my new fantasy novel Seeker of the Lost Song is out of my hands, I wanted to share updated reference photos I used for the main cast, and an updated moodboard that shows the tone and feel of the book.
Moodboard for Seeker of the Lost Song
When I finished the first draft of Seeker of the Lost Song in 2022, I created a little moodboard for the book. After revising that draft a few times I found that a few elements could be updated – so I did!
In particular, the second image below (which was difficult to find a good free stock photo of). It’s a photo of Porvoo Old Town, Finland, with its colourful wooden 18th- and 19th-century buildings. While my book is loosely based on a period hundreds of years earlier than the 18th century, many of its towns are modelled on Porvoo Old Town. My mom lived in Porvoo at one point and I still have family there, so it’s a very special place to me. I fell out of bed there when I was four! That’s unrelated, but I have to mention it. I woke up on the way down. Just IMAGINE that.
The other images in this moodboard are either direct representations of things you’ll find in the book—like the sod-roofed wooden cottage—or things that inspired me in a more ~*~vibes~*~ way—like the Skyrim tavern and the Mud Maid sculpture in The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Character images for Seeker of the Lost Song
When I started writing Seeker of the Lost Song in 2018, I went online to find some photos to represent its main cast of characters. I’d already had an idea of how they’d look, but actual visual references always help me better describe characters on-page.
Now that Seeker is out on submission and out of my hands, I thought it was time to update those images. After five years and many iterations, the characters no longer look in my head the way they did in my reference images (with one exception). And while nobody will ever really see them but me (and now you), it felt right that I should find closer representations of these invented people who had come to mean so much to me. I wanted to meet them properly, in a way.
So, here they are, the six major characters of Seeker of the Lost Song:
Elis & Edrik Kalevi
While Elis is the main character/protagonist, I found it easier to describe her in relation to her brother Edrik, which I did this way: “His thick black hair fell straight, often over his eyes, which were near-black. Our skin was the same golden beige, our jawlines both rounded. We had the same nose, with a low bridge and rounded tip. The folds of his eyelids weren’t as defined as mine and my hair was longer, but on the whole we looked so similar that I used to wonder if we weren’t twins, the fact that my brother came along a year later notwithstanding.”
To me it’s really important that she’s perceived as Southeast Asian, though I’ll be happy with at least generally Asian (though in this fantasy setting those descriptors don’t exist). While in my mind she’s Filipino-coded, I care more that she’s not read as white.
“Kaija stepped further into the clearing, the rising sun casting a weak glow on her light, freckled skin, her golden-brown hair tied in a messy braid down her back.”
The model in the reference photo isn’t super close to my image of Kaija, but she has the perfect dreamy, faraway expression. It’s exactly the kind I imagine Elis’ closest friend Kaija has on her face as she’s sitting in the village Forest, trying—and failing—to ignore the magic humming all around her.
“The light from the fire played on the rich sepia tones of his skin and the springy dense curls of his black hair.” [TIME PASSES] “It was then that I first noticed his hair was different, neatly twisted in small rows lying flat, hugging the contours of his scalp. I hadn’t even registered that his hood had fit closer to his head before, but now that we had a moment to stop and think, I let myself admire his work, the way the hairstyle brought more attention to his cheekbones and eyes.”
Simon is a Hall of Memories Historian and studies history, but Elis frequently studies his face, let’s just say that.
“She looked a few years younger than me, about my height, with skin a mellow russet brown. She was dressed in the mottled colours of the Foresters—black from acorn cups and walnut husks, purple from the roots of a cherry tree, grass-dyed green. Garments dyed and re-dyed as the wearer desired. Her black hair was thick and wavy, skimming her chin on the breeze as she considered me.”
From day one Narra showed up in my mind as my childhood best friend Alicia. For this reason I never actually had a reference photo until now. I was happy to find a model who looked reasonably close to Alicia—and even better that she’s holding flowers, given that Foresters are in charge of growing the Leitir Empire’s timber and crops quicker than is natural.
(Fun fact: The narra tree is the national tree of the Philippines, and “Selkonen” refers to a woodland area of northern Finland.)
“She was not overly tall, with cool beige skin, white-blonde hair pulled back into a low ponytail. She stood with her hands deep in the pockets of her leaf-green cloak. Her stance was wide as if bracing for a fight, but her casual, almost bored posture was disarming.”
Much like with Narra, I had an image of Hanne in my head early on (though she went through three name changes, poor thing). I found this reference photo early in my 2018 planning process and it stuck. I don’t know if it’s five years of Seeker, but to me the set of this model’s jaw, her direct and somewhat evaluating gaze, are just so Hanne.
So, there you go! Augh, I feel weirdly nervous about sharing these photos and descriptions, even though I’m also excited. It feels almost like when I started dating my now-husband and introduced him to my friends for the first time, one by one, hopeful. Such a weirdly vulnerable thing.