You want a casting call for the characters of Wintersong? Look no further.
People have asked me what the characters of Wintersong look like, to which I always respond Whatever you want them to look like!
I’m being facetious, of course, but I think people want to know what actors I would cast in the roles. The honest truth is, I don’t really have actors in mind when I write my characters. I don’t like the idea of attaching a Real Face to fictional people,1 plus I tend to leave physical description pretty open-ended in the books. But if you really want to know what my characters look like, I’ll provide you with some visual aids I’ve drawn myself.
I was nearly two years older [my sister] but still looked like a child: small, thin, and sallow. The little hobgoblin, Papa called me. Fey, was Constanze’s pronouncement. Only Josef ever called me beautiful. Not pretty, my brother would say. Beautiful.
I never really describe Liesl in detail, but words and phrases used to describe her include darker coloring and plain, angular, horsey. Of course, bear in mind that this story is told from Liesl’s point-of-view, and at various points in the narrative, she also describes herself as having a “long, pointed nose” and a “stubby, weak chin.” Is she pretty? Is she not pretty? Does it matter?
If you see a lot of Jane Eyre in Liesl, well…that’s intentional. 🙂
The Goblin King
I could say [the Goblin King] was beautiful, but to describe him thus was to call Mozart “just a musician.” His beauty was that of an ice storm, lovely and deadly. He was not handsome, not the way Hans was handsome; the stranger’s features were too long, too pointed, too alien. There was a prettiness about him that was almost girly, and an ugliness about him that was just as compelling. I understood then what Constanze had meant when those doomed young ladies longed to hold onto him the way they yearned to grasp candle flame or mist. His beauty hurt, but it was the pain that made it beautiful.
You say the words “Goblin King” and the first person to come to mind will forever and ever be David Bowie. I don’t mind; his face will forever and ever be my Goblin King too. But my Goblin King is not necessarily Jareth, and of all the characters in my book, I probably spend the most time describing what he looks like. He has “pale hair surround[ing] his thin face like a halo, like a thistle cloud, like a wolf’s shaggy mane, silver and gold and colorless all at once.” He has pointed teeth. He is “tall and reed-thin.” Liesl says that “had [the Goblin King] been an ordinary man, he might have been called lanky.”
That can describe any elfin, ethereal person and I will confess that the Goblin King of Liesl’s story doesn’t really look like David Bowie, or anyone else. But there is one concession I make to his most famous counterpart: my Goblin King has two different colored eyes, one as grey as a winter sky, the other a hazel-green, the color of moss peeking through dead loam. Although Bowie himself didn’t have heterochromia, he had mismatched eyes too.
Käthe was the beauty of our family, with sunshine hair, summer-blue eyes, apple blossom cheeks, and a buxom figure.
Liesl compares herself a lot to her sister, whom she considers beautiful. And the world seems to agree with Liesl, as Käthe is often at the center of male attention. But they are sisters after all, do they look all that different? (They have different coloring: Liesl is dark while Käthe is fair.)
I describe Käthe as “plump,” and I do think of her as being chubby (however you choose to define that) with a slight double chin and adorably full cheeks. I took inspiration from the women in Baroque and Mannerist paintings, who have pink, rosy, healthy, and round figures.
Twilight was falling, and the shadows carved the planes of his face into sharp relief. My brother looked like an angel, a sprite, a creature not quite of this world.
Of all my characters, I think Josef occupies the most special, tender corner of my heart. (Liesl’s too.) He is a violin prodigy, and Liesl describes his playing as “transcendent” and I think that quality translates to his looks too. He’s fair like Käthe, but slight like Liesl. According to Liesl, he had “taken with scarlatina” worse than either her or her sister, and that disease left lasting effects on Josef, more than she could even know.
Twig & Thistle
[Thistle] was the size of a child, but proportioned like an adult, a little stocky, with shining white hair like a thistle-cloud about her head…. [Twig] was longer and thinner than her counterpart, built like a slender birch tree. Her hair was branches wound with cobwebs.
I mean, would the Underground be complete without actual goblins? I actually had the most fun drawing these two. Goblins also have other distinguishing features: black eyes without no whites about the pupils and long fingers with too many joints.2 Other than that, goblin appearances can run the entire gamut.
Why does the Goblin King not look like any of his subjects? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. 🙂
That’s all for this month! If you want more behind the scenes goodness about Wintersong (and maybe the occasional recipe and giveaway!), please subscribe to my newsletter! The content you get in the newsletter is exclusive, and won’t be on my blog, so don’t miss out!