Cover Model Envy – Interview with Model Kate Duncan

Song of the day: SexyBack by Justin Timberlake

Ever wonder about the cover models who grace

Yes, that’s Kate! Lucky girl…
The cover is by Hort Damn Designs.

romance novels? Who they are and how they ended up on the front of your favorite book, posed just right, enticing you to delve into the magic within the pages?

I asked just that of Kate Duncan, the  red-headed model on my book BLOOD AND TREASURE. Kate was kind enough to participate in  my, ahem, inquisition.

Welcome, Kate!

You’re a model and a photographer. Tell us more about Kate Duncan.

Photo shoot with St. Louis photographer Charles Barnes-

I just finished my freshman year in the Honors College at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. I am majoring in anthropology with a focus on forensics and paleoanthropology. I have been modeling since 7th grade; my first job was a local St. Louis runway show for designer Mark Shale. Since then, I have modeled mainly for St. Louis designers doing both print and runway. I am one of the “original” models for Hot Damn Designs and am currently on 100+ book covers that they have designed, an unknown amount of covers that other publishers and authors have used, and a handful of trading cards and author websites and blogs. In my precious free time, I am a loving girlfriend of almost three years, an award winning jazz singer, a cat lover, and the world’s biggest bookworm.

I first picked up a camera my freshman year of high school on a trip to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I literally photographed EVERYTHING. I kid you not: the two and a half weeks we were there I shot almost 5,000 pictures. Luckily, one of those pictures turned out good and won a national photo contest. From then on I was my high school’s sports photographer (partly because it got me out of the sports requirement) and was later appointed the Chief Photo Editor for the yearbook and magazine up until my graduation. In 2010, I applied for a National Geographic Student Expedition to Florence, Italy and was accepted! I spent part of the summer exploring Italy alongside Nat Geo expert photographer Massimo Bassano. It was honestly one of the greatest moments of my life and was responsible for the huge leap in the quality of my photography. In addition to sports, I specialize in headshots/senior pictures and weddings.

A swim meet at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, North Carolina. Photo by Kate Duncan Photography

How did you meet Kim Killion of Hot Damn Designs?

Through my mother, actually! They are both members of the Missouri Romance Writers Association. Around September of 2010 Kim sent out an email asking for props for Hot Damn Design’s very first photo shoot, and my mom sent her some of my headshots, volunteering me as a model. I have shot with Kim for almost every photo shoot for which I have been in town ever since!

Awesome! How is modeling for book covers different that other types of modeling?

Modeling for book covers tends to be very scripted, whereas fashion modeling is not usually. Kim always has a smorgasbord of poses in mind with everything is placed in a certain manner, sometimes even down to the positioning of hands. Despite the staged couples shots, Kim has me do some single shots in which I have more freedom with posing and prop usage. Also, fashion modeling is mainly focused on marketing the clothing or accessories the model is wearing, whereas the book covers are focused on marketing the book, so the emotion and relationship between the models is at the forefront which, for me, requires more acting then modeling.

Has anyone recognized you from a book cover?

No one outside of friends and family! However on a flight from Charlotte to Saint Louis a woman was reading Caribbean Scot, one of Kim Killion’s recent works, on which fellow model Brooks Johnson and I grace the cover. I was caught so off guard at the rarity of the situation I spent the entire flight pretending to sleep and analyzing how I should handle the situation that I ended up not saying anything at all. My friends tell me I should have said, “Wow, that’s an awesome book cover! What a gorgeous girl!” just to see if she would have caught on and realized it was me.

Now that is freaky cool!
What are your favorite poses? Favorite costumes?

Anything involving a corset or medieval wear. I am OBSESSED with the Tudor era and know much more then I should about that time period, so anytime Kim has anything resembling clothing from that period I beg to shoot in it! And I don’t really have any favorite poses; as graceful and alluring as they look, they actually are quite uncomfortable, and it sometimes is painful to hold some of those positions for more than a few seconds.

I’ve heard that those gratuitous butt poses with women looking over their shoulders is uncomfortable and painful. And I bet the “dip” poses really work those ab muscles. <g>

I know it’s purely professional, but how awkward is it to pose in – ahem – compromising positions with male counterparts?

Hahaha, I knew this question was coming! For me, it isn’t that awkward. This is

Cirque Eloize ID rehearsal in Paris, France. Photo by Kate Duncan Photography

a job that I’m getting paid for, so I am always in a professional mindset because, without it, Kim wouldn’t be getting the best pictures and we would just be wasting her time. At least five people are always standing around- fixing hair or make up, adjusting positioning of clothing or props, aiming reflectors, and of course Kim and Angie (the photographer)- so it is honestly the least romantic setting possible, which helps keep the air of professionalism. The few times it has gotten awkward were when a male model finds out I am so young, sometimes even half their age. I try to not talk about my age until after we have completed our set because it may affect the pictures, no matter how good the model is.

Hmm…interesting note about male models. Guess I’m in the clear should I ever decide to model.

What is the most outrageous, embarrassing, or hilarious thing that has happened on a photo shoot?

Surprisingly, nothing too outrageous has happened that I can recall! The one thing I do remember though was I was getting my hair done in the bathroom of the studio and this female model (who shall remain nameless) walks in butt naked and starts talking to me about the weather. It was very uncomfortable for me, especially because I refuse to shoot nude. Despite my affinity for boudoir shoots, I am pretty modest. Keep in mind, I was sitting down getting my hair done, she was standing right in front of me, and I couldn’t really move my head…so yeah, that was awkward…

Ack! Aside the occasional modesty-deficient model, what is the toughest part of the job? It must be grueling to work alongside all those sexy men.

Test shoot with St. Louis photographer Bernard Mallala-

Oh yeah, it’s sooo tough working with good looking men. But really, the worst part for me is the waiting. After a shoot I tend check Facebook obsessively to see if Kim has magically designed a stunning book cover within 24 hours of the shoot using some of the new shots. And then once she posts one I’ll check it even more frequently to see if she has done a few more. It doesn’t sound bad, but for me, it is honestly torture. I am very impatient when I am excited about something. 

I know the feeling!

Okay, something a little different. Did you really work for the St. Louis Medical Examiners office? I’m dying (no pun intended) to know more about that.

Yes I did! Last summer I spent two weeks apprenticed to Gwen Haugen, an investigator and anthropologist at SLMEO, for my high school senior project. I spent time in all the departments, helping prep samples in toxicology, observing autopsies performed by Dr. Mary Case, a famous medical examiner, and going into the field with Gwen. You can read more by scrolling to the bottom of this page –

 Where can we learn more about you? What’s next for Kate?

I actually just recently deleted my Facebook fan page because I hate the idea of people “liking” or “being a fan” of me, but people can check out some of my book covers and other modeling adventures on my account: . I am in the process of getting a website up for my photography, so for the time being you can check out some of my work on my flickr page:

I am looking to get agency representation in New York as a commercial model and hope I will be signed by the end of the year!

I am also in the process of writing up my first research paper on patterns and timing in the fusion of cervical vertebral ring epiphyses in individuals from the ages of 10 to 30 (try saying that five times fast), which, if my abstract is approved, I will be presenting at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting this coming February. That is, of course, if I can tear myself away from Wales, where I will be attending my spring semester of college and conducting further research in rates of epiphyseal union.

Don’t hate her because she beautiful…and smart…and ambitious…and studying abroad… 🙂

Have a question for Kate? Wanna just say hi? Comment away, my friends!

17 Responses to Cover Model Envy – Interview with Model Kate Duncan

  1. Great post..and hate for Kate here! 😛 In fact..Umm..anymore “test shoots” I’d be more than happy to look at them 😉

    P.S. I always wonder about the poses with the hotness…if it was truly all “professional” or if there was ever a reaction. I mean after all, we are all human!


  2. jbrayweber says:

    I guess if you have a dozen or so people staring at you, giving directions, shoving equipment at you, the level of iintimacy is fairly chilly, Nick. Especially when the a/c is cranking and you’re half naked. Lol.


  3. Haha I was with ya all the way until you said ‘naked’.. LOL Guys think differently, I suppose.


  4. What a fun read. I’d have found some way to say something about that cover! LOL ^_^


  5. jbrayweber says:

    Me, too, Kayelle. I might even blurt it out. Hey! That cover turned out great! Best $1000 bucks I’ve ever made! Hahaha! Okay…maybe not. And just for the record, I’ve no idea how much kate or any other cover model makes.


  6. Suzan Harden says:

    Dang, I was half-expecting to see that Kate also fixed the optical sensor problem in the CERN super-collider.

    Kate, did you deal directly with families of the deceased while at STMEO? If so, how difficult was it emotionally?


  7. jbrayweber says:

    Lol! Good one, Suzan. Kate has done some pretty amazing things for her age. Makes me look at my bucket list and realize how empty it is. Ha!

    Great question, too. I’d be interested in knowing hoow it felt to find a dead body, too.


  8. Tess says:

    Great to meet someone on the other side…great shots and great pics!!!


  9. jbrayweber says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Tess. 🙂


  10. girldrinkdrunk says:

    I’ve got flat belly envy! Great story, Kate!


  11. jbrayweber says:

    Me, too, Kristen. Me, too.


  12. jbrayweber says:

    Hey MuseTrackers.
    I want to apologise. My area had a big storm yesterday that knocked out power for 10 hours. Though I have power, I’ve no phone, internet, or TV. Boo hiss…
    I am attempting to reply on my cell phone, which is laughable.
    My apologies should I mangle words.

    That said, I want to thank Kate for being my guest today. It’s a real pleasure!


  13. Kate Duncsn says:

    Nick, I can honestly say there has never been any attraction…on my side at least haha. One of my fellow cover models, Christina says that “all that stuff about the uncomfortable poses and the least romantic setting being a studio is so true,” so its not just me 😀

    Suzan, I did not directly interact with the families. Gwen, the anthropologist I was shadowing only spoke to them on the phone while I was present. She also had a case of a new baby dying but I did not go with her to the scene to talk to the parents as she was concerned about the fragility of the family since the child was so young.

    Everyone else, thank you for reading my interview! I’m glad yall enjoyed it 🙂


  14. jbrayweber says:

    Thanks again, Kate, for being a guest! Good luck in all your ventures. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of you!


  15. That was a really wonderful interview. Good luck in your future. You have a great start.


  16. jbrayweber says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Ella!


  17. Meghan Cook says:

    Kate is so beautiful and talented but more importantly, she has a sharp wit and a boundless warmth in her soul. I’m so lucky to know her!


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