Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Confessions of...CJ Hollenbach

Today I have a special guest. You've seen him on the covers of your favorite books. Beautiful blond hair, piercing eyes and yeah, a body to make women melt.

Please welcome CJ Hollenbach

CJ, thank you so much for stopping by the blog! We met at RT in Houston, but that was quite a few years ago. You are a recognizable face and body, but now we know you are so much more than eye candy. Now recognized as a talented and accomplished writer. I'm so excited to showcase your novel about your experiences in front of the camera, Confessions of a Romance Cover Model. 
To Purchase On Amazon
To Purchase at Barnes and Nobles

In the opening pages of your book, we quickly learn that you have as much flair penning stories as you do in selling books by putting your image on the front. It’s written with a wicked sense of humor and an honest look back at the things you’ve done and seen. Congratulations on such an accomplishment.
   Thank you. It was 20 years in the,writing! Actually, I wrote the first chapter after the first "Mr. Romance" contest. It was supposed to be in Playgirl magazine, but it didn't work out...

Now that you are both author and cover model, which do you prefer?
    Writing for me is effortless and cathartic. I think modeling these days for ME takes more work getting ready than it used to. When did that happen? At least I'm on the cover of my own book and they didn't use an younger look-a-like!

What was the spark that set you on the path of becoming a writer?
     I started writing for a local newspaper when I was in high school as their "teen reporter". And, NO, I didn't cover the Lincoln assassination! ( It was McKinley's. He was from Ohio!) When I was in college the professors were always saying my papers were such a pleasure to read. It just sort of evolved from there. I guess....

As a cover model, you've been in the publishing business a long time. But did anything about the writing process surprise you?
    I shouldn't be surprised at how many people in the romance industry have embraced the book and have been more than happy to help me get the word out about it.It has been truly touching. That's one of things I love about this business. On the flip side, I have been surprised at some of the promises that have been made by sources I know well that have been recanted or back pedaled on.

Now that the book is released, were there things you wished you would have added?
If so, would you like to share a memory?
   I have to save something for the movie! Seriously, I have been told that I don't have any "nasty" stories in it and that I don't "bad mouth" anyone. I guess people want to read dirt. LOL I just tell them  "Hey! I still have to work with these people!" Maybe when I'm out of the business I can tell where all the bodies are buried.

What was your favorite part of writing your story?
    So far, since I am writing about my life experiences, it's living that life!

Is there a most embarrassing moment from your life as a cover model you'd like to share?
Is it in the book?
     Probably when I got stuck in a service elevator during the first "Mr. Romance" contest with David Alan Johnson, who went on to win the title. We were both in skimpy Speedo bathing suits with a few female conventioneers. It was a tad awkward at the time. It's in the book in great detail!

What was the one chapter that had you smiling, just remembering the moments from your life being retold?
    One of my fondest memories that I tell all the time is when I met Heather Graham and her husband, Dennis Possezzere at my first RT convention. They could not have been nicer to me when I was just some nobody cover model wannabe from Ohio. I met them at a party Virginia Henley was having in her hotel suite. She was so sweet too. We're all still friends to this day. 

Another moment of mention.

"Last year I was feted with a dinner at the RT convention in Kansas City for my 20th anniversary with them.  Renown cover artist, Lynn Sanders drove over 3 hours to present me a framed painting she did of me. We had worked together several times and I have never been so humbled or touched. How cool was that?!"

Was there a chapter that was particularly hard to write?
   Maybe the chapter when I met Fabio for the second time in Cleveland. He was selling his cologne at a mall there. My father who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer was at a hospital nearby. I picked him up from there after a month's stay right after I left the mall. The people at the mall went crazy when I showed up and they had me take photos with Fabio, who didn't seem too happy I was there. LOL I even need up with a nice write-up in The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper the next day. A bittersweet day. I thought God evened things out for me that day.

Are you working on a sequel to Confessions of a Romance Cover Model?
    Everybody is asking me that. We'll see how this one goes. Although, so far so good and never say never!

Have you thought about writing fiction? Romance?
   It would probably be "thinly" disguised from personal events. I've lived a VERY colorful life. The sex scenes would be great. I assure you!

Any regrets? such as turning down a modeling job or taking one you shouldn't have.
   Years ago when I had just moved back from LA I got a call from a record company. They wanted me to do the cover of a Meatloaf album. I turned it down because I thought it would be "too much trouble" to fly back out for the money they were paying. Even my agent said "It's only Meatloaf. He hasn't done anything in years! Don't worry about it!" It turned out to be the "comeback" album of the year and I wanted to hang myself. I still can't listen to a Meatloaf song on the radio without cringing.

Is it fun to work with other models? What's the most difficult part?
   I hate to say I like to work alone. Then, I don't have to share the cover. LOL You have to worry too much about blocking the other model or them blocking ME! God forbid! I have had fun with other models though. I had one photographer tell me I should hold the female model tighter in our clinche. I told her "If I hold her any tighter she'll get pregnant!"

Om my god, that's hilarious.

As the man on the cover, you know your image represents what women believe a hero should be. Do you feel romance books give average men a bad rap?
    Women write the heroes of their books they want men to be. The "average guy" could learn a few things about what women want if they read one. (It's not rocket science, guys!)

Do you read romance novels? Have a favorite genre?
    I've read a few of the ones where I'm on the cover. I can relate more to the modern day novels...

What is your shooting schedule like?
    It used to be just one hour. You're in and out. Today they want you for several hours and you shoot hundreds of stock photos. You make less money. The business has changed so much...

I know you grace the covers of Ellora's Cave books. Do you also model for other publishers? Do you do contract work for indie authors? If so, how can they contact you?
    I've worked with just about every major publisher in the business. You name it and I've worked for them. I don't have an exclusive contract with anyone. I have worked with several indie authors. Anyone can contact me with legitimate offers at  or on Facebook "CJ Hollenbach."

What is the most exotic location you've been on for a modeling shoot?
    So far it's been naked in waist deep water in the Gulf of Mexico....

We know the hot CJ on the cover, tell us something about the real CJ.
    The "real" CJ is a loyal friend. He's also smarter than most people think. I get that a lot!

Favorite hobby? Working out...a necessary evil.
Favorite food? Chicken fajitas
Favorite color? Purple
Favorite season? Spring in Ohio
Favorite holiday? Halloween or Christmas
Favorite quote? "Never say never."
Favorite movie? "The Birds", or the original B/W "Titanic" and you can't beat "The Wizard Of Oz!"

Do you have a pet? Sadly, no. Not at this time. I do feed the squirrels in my yard, though...

What was the best birthday gift you ever received?
It wasn't for my birthday, but the legendary cover artist, Jon Paul gave me 2 of my covers he did for "Her Master And Commander" that he printed on canvas. If there's ever a fire in my house those are what I'm taking out first!

What was the worst gift you ever received?
I think it was this horrible shirt my aunt gave me for Christmas. It had a hideous design on it and she said "I saw this and thought of YOU!" Thanks!

Is there a question you wished an interviewer would ask, but hasn’t? If so, here is your chance to answer
that question.
     What's your best feature/asset? Since you didn't ask I won't tell you!

No need! You don't seem to have a bad feature. And we know how the assets look in the tight jeans. :)

You can find out more about CJ at

A special sneak peek into -


Barely Famous

My parents say that even as a toddler, I could never seem to keep my clothes on. I was forever running around the neighborhood naked. So it isn’t too surprising that I ended up on the pages of Playgirl not once but twice. Alas, I’ve yet to have my own centerfold spread, though.

For those of you who don’t know, the centerfold is the featured model of the month. His picture is on the cover, and he gets the biggest spread in the magazine with a fold-out, pin-up-sized picture in the center of the magazine. The magazine has asked me to be a centerfold three times, but for some reason it never panned out. There’s still hope. I’m not dead yet.

My first experience with the magazine was less than stellar. I sent them photos on a dare when my modeling career was in a lull, just to see what they would say. To my surprise, I heard back from the editor in less than a week, with rave reviews. “You’re gorgeous!” the letter gushed.“Would you consider becoming a centerfold?” It also asked for more photos.

Two years and hundreds of photos later, I finally landed in the magazine— with a splash. When you decide to appear in “that magazine”, there are lots of factors to consider other than, Do I want the whole world to see my wiener? Living in Smalltown, USA, I also had to weigh the impact on my family. They weren’t exactly turning cartwheels at the prospect of my exposure. After I told my father, he said, “Just don’t embarrass us!” I laughed and thought, Oh, NOW you tell me! I also informed my boss at the grocery store where I worked as an assistant manager (Yes, can you believe it?) that I was appearing in Playgirl. He didn’t mind. He figured it might be good for business, and it was.

I had no idea the firestorm that would follow my appearance in Playgirl. The local newspaper ran a front-page story with a huge photo captioned, “Sneak a Peek at a Familiar Face in Playgirl,” and another paper ran “Local Man Bares All for Playgirl.”

My mother faced the public’s disapproval as well at her hair salon, Betty’s Curl Up And Dye. She overheard two women chatting about that scandalous man who was in Playgirl. “I don’t think he’s so hot,” one commented. The other blue-haired harpy agreed. My mother, who must have been high on the smell of the perm solution finally screamed, “That’s my SON you’re talking about!” The two old crones clammed up. Go, Mom!

Being in Playgirl isn’t without cache, but there is a stigma that goes along with it too. It did open a few doors, and I know it closed a few as well. People called for TV and radio spots. I also got a few job interviews out of it, but I think some people just wanted to meet me and were a tad disappointed when I didn’t show up naked. While I was still working at the grocery store, an irate customer called and demanded that I be fired. Luckily, I took the call. I asked the uptight priss,

“Have you even seen the magazine?”
“No,” she replied.

Thank you so much for your time. I wish you so much success with your writing. It's been a pleasure having you today.

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Nona Raines said...

Awesome interview, KyAnn and CJ! CJ seems like a guy with a lot of smarts and humor. I see he's on at least one of your covers, KyAnn. I'm jealous!

LOL about the grocery store. I'm sure it did plenty of business when female customers stopped in to check out the Playgirl centerfold. I know I would have been there!

Much luck with your book, CJ! I can't wait to read it.

Fedora said...

Terrific interview, CJ! Looking forward to reading your book--sounds like you're a smart, handsome guy with a fascinating story to tell! Best wishes for all continued success!

Mary said...

Fabulous interview.CJ does give good interview - and everything else LOL
I am so proud of him. Watching the book taking form and then become a reality has been a treat. The man is amazing.

Julianne Keller said...

That was a great interview. A lot of new questions. I want to read that romance novel with lots of sex scenes. :)
You're great CJ!!!