A while ago I did an interview with the legendary C.J Hollenbach. His interview has continued to receive hits on my blogs, so I decided to update some of the questions and information and re-post an updated version. C.J. was glad to answer my new questions and update me on new happenings in his life. So for this Valentine’s Day I invite you to sit down and get comfortable and enjoy reading my wonderful interview with Christopher James (CJ) Hollenbach, Romance Cover Model and “Fantasy Hunk of 2001.” In the beginning I sent C.J. a swarm of questions and asked him to answer 10 or 15. He chose to answer them all. What a guy! Hold on, Ladies and gents. And keep that cold shower ready.
Mary– “Tall, blond, muscular, smart and sexy all rolled into one! C.J, welcome, and thank you for this wonderful interview!”
– “I learned a long time ago to never argue with a woman and I’m not about to start with the comments you’ve made in your introduction of me. I will completely agree with you!” CJ
1. Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I always thought I would be an artist. I was a fine arts major in college, painting. There was one professor who said I was the only freshman that year with any talent. I finally figured out what the term “starving artist” meant and switched to graphic design.
2. Q: If it wasn’t modeling, did you pursue that career before your modeling career began?
A: I did a lot of free lance design and illustration for a while after college. Unfortunately for me, the whole college experience was ruined by the powers that ran it. It made me sad that I no longer had the desire to do the thing that I really loved doing and was so good at.
3. Q: What was your first thought when someone suggested you should model?
4. Q: Was it hard to land your first cover, to break into the business?
A: It was incredibly hard! It took me 8 years to get my first cover! Who else would be crazy enough to stick with something that long, but I always knew I could do it. I believed in myself when nobody else did. I’m very proud of myself for it too….Follow your dreams! Sometimes they come true…
5. Q: After your first cover shoot and you went home that night, what were your first thoughts about being a real cover model?
A: Actually, I didn’t wait until I got home that night. As I was leaving the photo studio in NYC this lady stopped me on the sidewalk and said “Hey, you look like one of those guys on the cover of a romance novel!” I smiled and could honestly say for the first time “I AM one of those guys!!!” I will never forget that moment…
6. Q: Do you keep your hair long for covers, or for you?
A: It’s both. There are a million guys with short, dark hair and great bodies. If you want a long haired blond, I’m your man these days. I think when they use cheap wigs on the models it just looks fake. In my everyday life it just bothers so many people for some reason. I think I keep it long just to tick them off too. It’s just hair folks. Most people can grow it!
7. Q: What does your mom think of your covers….and posing for Playgirl?
A: My family never did understand my modeling career. My mother did say once “You should give up this modeling business. You’re not that good looking anyway, and I don’t know who ever told you, you were!” Ouch! She’s seen some of my covers and likes them, especially when her friends see them and ask about me. I never asked her permission about the Playgirl thing. I told my family about it afterward.
UPDATE: The printed version of Playgirl went belly up a while back. I kid my cover bud, Julian Fantechi, who was their last “Man Of The Year” that he was the one who put them out of business. They are only on the internet now…
8. Q: How long does a typical shoot take? Briefly tell us about one?
A: Generally, any shoot in New York will take EXACTLY one hour. They have it down to an art there. For me, there are always a fan or fans blowing my hair around. I have to stand there and look “heroic.” Sucking in my gut and pushing out the pecs. Pretty standard stuff.
9. Q: Today’s female models are hot, as well as the men! Have you ever worked with the same model more than once? Any romance?
A: On behalf or the men, thank you! I did 2 covers with the same girl, but we shot them both one right after each other. She was incredibly beautiful. Since I am from Ohio I am always out the door as soon as I’m finished shooting to catch a plane. The women are also out the door to their next shoot or go-see. It’s a business…Wish I could tell you something more juicy!
10. Q: Brokeback Mountain was popular and controversial. Would you ever model for a novel cover with male/male or M/M/F, etc. heroes?
A: That’s really a great question. I found out at my last RT convention that those types of novels are becoming VERY popular with women, which surprised me. At that convention, I also met Julian Fantechi, who is the Playgirl Man of the Year. We became good buddies and he did an interview for my website. In it he suggested WE do one of those types of covers. Julian has a big Gay following. He loves to shock people and push the envelope. You don’t have to be Gay to be on one of those covers. The models are “representing” the characters in the book, just like they do on any other cover. It’s hard to say since I haven’t been asked to do that type of cover yet. If the price was right, never say never!
UPDATE to the same question: Since the last question was asked a couple years ago, and this genre has really evolved, I thought we should have an updated answer as well.
A. I have found the “Gay Romance” genre to be VERY big lately. I was rather surprised at how big it is. (NO sexual pun intended!) The question of whether I would pose for a “Gay Romance” novel is a good one. It’s a slippery slope for me since I’m well known in the business. Some people tend to confuse the guy on the cover as being REAL. I’ve never been a sea captain, a pirate or Robin Hood but I’ve still posed for the cover. As soon as I posed on the cover of a “Gay” novel a lot of people would assume “He must be GAY!” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) See what I mean? It’s a job like any of the other covers. If I was posing with another guy we’d both be fighting for the best light and camera angle like I do when I’m working with women. Ellora’s Cave has asked me to “consider” doing a “Gay themed” cover. I told them “I’ll think about it….”
11. Q: You have met some of the authors of the books you model for. Do any of them ever show up for a photo shoot?
A: I’ve never had an author at a shoot. Then, again I’ve never visited an author when she was writing her book either.
12. Q: I know you like to write, and I have heard you’re a pretty good writer. What kinds of things do you write? Are you published?
A: People tell me they enjoy reading my work. Others can’t believe I wrote it! I have generally been writing autobiographical pieces. I’ve lived a very interesting and colorful life that people seem to enjoy reading about.. I’ve been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. One of these days I’ll get that novel finished.
13. Q: As a writer I always knew I wanted to write. Did you always feel it, and do you want to pursue a writing career?
A: I just sort of fell into it in high school when I started writing articles for the local newspaper for pay. Then, in college my English professors would always comment on how they enjoyed reading my papers. I plan on pursuing more writing….
14. Q: Can you share a little about your favorite story or article you’ve written?
A: My favorite one was about my being in the first “Mr. Romance” contest many years ago. Originally, it was supposed to run in Playgirl magazine. But, the editor who asked me to write it got canned and so did the article, “Confessions Of A Male Beauty Contestant”. It’s still being shopped around for a possible movie deal. I just signed another contract for it recently.
15. Q: C.J, you have a very nice physique. Okay, I really want say a smoking hot body. What is your work-out schedule like?
A: Thanks for noticing! I workout 6 days per week. Breaking up the body parts. Legs one day, arms another, chest another. Abs and calves everyday. Cardio at least 3 times per week for 40 minutes.
16. Q: An author’s book tour can be grueling with making lots of stops in a short time. Are there any upcoming events you want to tell us about?
18. Q: Have you done other types of modeling?
A: I think I’ve done every kind there is. I did the mainstream stuff years ago when my hair was short. For J.C. Penney’s and all that. I’ve also done hand and hair modeling. I even did a shoot for senior citizen’s support hose. They paid well..
19. Q: Do you mainly work on your own or do you have an agent? Are you contracted by a publishing house?
A: Most ALL of my work has been through networking. Agents in Ohio really have no idea what to do with me, but are more than happy to take 20% for taking a phone call. I am without an agent and get all my jobs from referrals.
20. Q: I wanted you for the cover of my book, but my publisher used their own models. If someone is self publishing, or they suggest you for a cover how can an author or publisher contact you for a cover?
A. I’ve always thought most publishers could care less who they put on the cover. If I charge the same amount as a model they usually use and I have a fan base that will sell more books WHY wouldn’t you use ME? It’s just stupid business on their part. I do more to promote the books I’m on than any other model I know too. That’s just smart business for me. I can be contacted several ways. My website, facebook, and if you ask around you’d be surprise how many people know me. I’ve been in the romance business for 17 years! I’m very reasonable, by the way!
21. Q: Would you ever pose nude or semi-nude for a cover?
A: I’ve already posed nude for several covers and calendars, but all the “good stuff” was tastefully hidden. You really can’t sell a novel in Borders Book Stores with a nude man on he cover. The internet is a different story. There is one company that used a nude shot of me on several of their covers.
22. Q: I love long hair on men. Is there anything that would get you to cut it?
A: I think about cutting it all the time. I would never cut it for a photo shoot. If they can put long haired wigs on guys with short hair they can put a short haired wig on me! No plans to cut it anytime soon.
23. Q: What do you do when you are not modeling?
A: Working out, writing and working on my website…
24. Q: Do you read romance novels? Favorite movie?
A: I’ve read some of the ones whose cover I’m on. They are written from a woman’s POV and men would never write it like that. I’ve read a few good ones… I have too many authors in the business who are friends of mine to say whose book is a favorite! I have several favorite movies. “Titanic“, the original B/W version with Clifton Web and Barbara Stanwyck. “The Birds” are favorites of mine…
A: I wouldn’t, but I have been told I am. I just do the “little things” that I don’t even consider a big deal only to find out later that they are. I used to make my own Valentine cards. Those always seemed go over well. The artist in me, I guess…
26. Q: Have you ever considered acting?
A: I have, but nobody’s ever asked me to! I’m open to the possibility.
UPDATE: Any new radio, TV, Acting in the near future?
A. I’m still doing a lot of radio interviews in Ohio. I may look into some acting when I’m in LA in April.
27. Q: Most exotic place for a photo shoot?
A: Probably for a calendar shoot I did in Florida. I shot naked in the Gulf of Mexico in waist deep water. It was my idea to shoot commando. Wearing a shirt in the water seemed stupid to me. I just kept waiting for the shark attack, though. The shots turned out great in the end.
28. Q: How do you get in the mood for those hot and steamy covers?
A: Yet another good question. I’ve never really thought about it. The outfits, if there is one, help. I just keep my chin up and hope for the best most of the time. The photographer can guide you along as you go too.
29. Q: Who does your designs for your covers? Does your photographer come with you?
A: The covers are usually designed by the art directors from the publishing houses. I have a photographer I work with here a lot in Ohio named Dennis Roliff. He always makes me look better than I have any right too, but he’s never come with me on a business shoot. Some photographers will give/sell me prints from the shoot if I’m lucky.
A.I have a photographer I use in Ohio named Dennis Roliff. I’ve worked with him for over 2 decades. We work very well together. He is always sending me photos of models he’s shot asking for my opinion…and I ALWAYS give it!
30. Q: You were named “Fantasy Hunk Of 2001.″ How did you win, and how did it feel to win?
A: Fans from all over the world voted. That’s what was so cool about it. I did get a lot of mileage over that title. LOL Check this out.
31. Q: Describe your Playgirl experience?
A: I sent in some photos to them when my career was at a stand still. Who knew they would contact me within a week. It only took 2 years to get me in the magazine! It’s a very, very long story, but they’ve asked me to be a centerfold no less than 3 times and we always hit a snag. I was even on a TV show where I was supposed to be picked to be a centerfold. That didn’t work out either. I’m not dead yet. Maybe I can be in their Sexy Senior Citizen issue!
NEWS: C.J. is back with Ellora’s Cave. Here is what he says:
I recently have reconnected with Ellora’s Cave Publishing and was their guest of honor at their 10th anniversary celebration. They feted me at their Romanticon convention. It was quite a nice weekend and happened to be in my own backyard in Ohio. They flew me to
Florida to shoot several new covers. One of which was for owner/publisher, Jade Black’s first novel, “The Empress’ New Clothes” It was quite a HOT shoot. I have also done some more covers with Dark Castle Lords Publishing. I’ve done several great covers for Canadian author, Kate Hofman. She calls it her “Golden series”. All the heroes are blond. Woo hoo!
Thank you so much, C.J. for granting me this interview. I’m sure my readers will love meeting you, and believe me, the pleasure was all mine! Happy Valentine’s Day.
Visit these links to see more of C.J, and more, and more…
C.J also has a DESIGN business now. Please check it out by clicking the link below.
Be sure to check out some of C.J’s writing while visiting his site.
http://www.brazenheroine.com/cj.htmFantansy Hunk himself!
Kelli Salkin did a great video with photos of C.J. Check it out on You Tube. I did and I will again!
One more thing– Have a question or Comment? C.J. will give away a signed picture to one lucky commenter. Get in the drawing before Midnight Wednesday, February 16th, by leaving a comment for Mary or C.J. Like I said in the beginning– What a GUY!
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