My editors sent two model portfolios and asked me to choose which model best represented Charlotte Fraser, my main character in Carolina Gold. The moment I saw Julianna Stasio’s pictures, I knew I had found my Charlotte. When I learned that Julianna hails from Charleston, where the story opens, I knew I’d found the perfect match. Last week, we chatted about books, modeling, and life in the Holy City.
DL: Tell me about your family, your favorite things and what you like best about Charleston.
JS: I was born on Long Island, New York and moved to Charleston with my parents and two older brothers when I was nine years old. I love it here! Although I love traveling to New York, I couldn’t imagine calling anywhere else home. South Carolina is simply a beautiful state.
DL: I couldn’t agree more. Every time I leave, I start feeling homesick for the Lowcountry and figuring out how soon I can get back there. I know you finished college last year despite all the distractions Charleston can offer. What do you for fun, and what did you study?
JS: I graduated from Ashley Hall in 2008 and from the College of Charleston in 2012 where I majored in English and minored in film studies. I hope one day to be a director. When I have free time, I love playing with Ava, my two year old niece, watching movies, going to the beach with my friends, jogging with my golden retriever, Bella, and eating Thai food with my mom at Basil, our favorite restaurant.
DL: I have a golden, too. A six year old named Jake. I haven’t tried Basil but I’ll put it on my list. Charleston has so many great restaurants. You mentioned majoring in English in college. What type of literature is your favorite?
JS: While some of my favorite writers stem from British literature, overall, American literature has a special place in my heart. In high school I fell in love with William Shakespeare, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Emily Bronte. I had the most wonderful English teachers at Ashley Hall who allowed me to create short films based on the literature we studied. I adapted Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet. Wuthering Heights became Wuthering Marshlands and Romeo and Juliet was set during the Charleston Renaissance. In college I took a senior seminar called Shakespeare and Pop Culture. I also took a Harlem Renaissance literature class which was one of my favorites and a class in 60’s and 70’s countercultural literature.
DL: I loved reading the Harlem writers, too. Some amazing books and poetry came out of that movement. Out of all the writers you studied, who emerged as your favorites?
JS: To pick a few is such a challenge for me. I honestly enjoy reading from all genres and periods but aside from Shakespeare I’d have to say my top five writers are Emily Bronte, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, and J K. Rowling. Oh, and Gwen Bristow. Her novel Celia Garth is one of my favorites. Currently I’m kicking off my summer reading with Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility.
DL: I love Hurston, too. Their Eyes Were Watching God is a masterpiece, as is Steinbeck’s East of Eden. That’s probably my favorite of his books. Though Grapes of Wrath is better known. I’d like to talk about how you got into modeling and how you ended up on the cover of my novel.
JS: I love using my imagination and modeling was another outlet for that. That’s probably why I enjoyed shooting your book cover so much. I was playing “dress up” and just pretending to be this character, something I did many times as a little girl. My first modeling job was for the magazine Charleston Style and Design. It was great. We shot at the Mills House in Charleston, which was such a beautiful setting.
DL: CAROLINA GOLD opens with Charlotte sitting in the Mills House, waiting for an appointment with her father’s lawyer. That hotel has a long and colorful history going all the way back to when General Lee stayed there just as the war began. It is said that the hotel caught fire during his stay and he rescued a child from the flames. So what is a typical book cover shoot like? How long does it take? Do you get a chance to learn anything about the book?
JS: My agent sent an email asking if I’d be interested and available to do a book cover. One I heard “book cover” I was hooked. For this cover the shoot took about two hours. I arrived with basic day makeup already on and my hair was actually in its natural state. The photographers decided to have my hair styled into the wrap- around braid. I’ve worked with Diana Deaver and Steven Hyatt before–such sweet people and so knowledgeable in what they do.
DL: Steven was the photographer for my EVERY PERFECT GIFT cover which was a finalist in a couple of best book cover award contests. I love his work. And I think it was absolutely the right decision to braid your hair. In the 19th century, women pinned up their hair at around age 18. Charlotte is 23–close to your age, Julianna. All of the elements of this cover just fell into place. I love it when that happens. One last question. Is there a book cover you wish you could have modeled for?
JS: It would have been fun to do a cover for Wuthering Heights. It’s my favorite book. I imagine a girl with wispy hair, looking down. She’s engulfed by the moorland in which the purple heather grows. I’d love to be Cathy.
DL: I can see why you want to be a film maker. You have such a great eye. Good luck, Julianna. And thanks for being my Charlotte.