Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Here’s an interesting conundrum. I’m putting the finishing touches on my new book, which, as I mentioned earlier, is a quasi-historical novel set in Northern California in the 1880s through 1900 or so. I’ve been using for inspiration a photograph I found of a man from that era who’s a dead ringer for my protagonist, Henry O’Farrell — so much so that when I look at the picture I see Henry O’Farrell and not some feller or other. His face has just the right gaze of a man going through what Henry’s going through, but more than that — since I found the picture early in my writing of the book — this is the face of the character in my head.
The problem is, he’s a semi-well-known historical figure, at least in his field, so it’s possible that if I were to use this image on the cover (which I’d love to do), some yahoo or other out there will screech, “That’s the famous Mr. X, not your ridiculous fictional character!” The man was apparently quite popular in the 19th century but his star faded into the 20th, so I doubt that many average readers will make the connection. I know I didn’t!
The question is, is it reasonable to take the chance and use the image (assuming it’s in the public domain) even though someone might recognize the man himself?
I’m inclined to do it, but I just wonder if there’s a sense that it’s not kosher somehow.
What’s the conventional wisdom out there?
(The pic above isn’t the one I’m talking about. That Edgar Allen Poe staring at a large talking crow.)