A woman emailed me not long ago saying how much she liked the Haunted Guesthouse books (and all such comments are completely welcome, believe me!), and how she was glad that finally there was a heroine in one of these books who wasn't blonde and gorgeous. I thanked her for her kind comments, and left it at that, but I did wonder how she knew Alison is not blonde and gorgeous.
I do my very best to avoid writing physical descriptions of my characters. In the Aaron Tucker series, all we knew was that Aaron was short and clean shaven (because he makes reference to shaving), Abby has--at least according to Aaron, who I always thought might be a touch biased--the most gorgeous legs on the planet, their daughter Leah is a peanut at the age of eight and their son Ethan is good-looking and possibly might achieve average height.
In subsequent series, I give even less description of what the characters look like. I don't believe I ever commented on Elliot Freed's looks in the Double Feature Mystery series, and his ex-wife Sharon was not ever described, except that Elliot thought she looked good, but he wasn't specific. Chief Barry Dutton of the Midland Heights Police Department was a large African-American man. Sharon's new husband Gregory was bald.
And in the Haunted Guesthouse series, I'd be surprised if I said anything other than that Paul Harrison, the dead private eye, is muscular and has a goatee.
I've always wanted the reader to decide what the characters in my books look like. If there's no reason in the story for the character to be built one way or another, I never mention it. It's much more likely you'll get a description of the character's attitude or their overall behavior, perhaps even their clothing, but not the way the character looks physically.
For example, when I write Detective Lieutenant Anita McElone (rhymes with "macaroni") in the Haunted Guesthouse books, I have a certain actress's voice in my head. I'm not going to say which actress because that might color your impression of the character. Suffice it to say it's probably someone other than who you would picture.
Which is fine with me; that's on purpose. The less I tell you, the more you can assume for yourself. And readers, bless 'em, assume away with unabashed abandon. I love hearing that from people. Emailers will tell me how Sharon wears her hair a certain way or Alison's eyes are so blue. I think that's terrific; it means I've done my job right and for the reader, these characters are real people. The readers have a mental image of my characters that I did not provide, but they'll swear on a stack of pancakes that they've read said descriptions in my books.
They're not there, friends. You can trust me on this. But I sincerely invite you to imagine them looking exactly the way you think they should look. Cast them with real actors if you prefer. Make them look like people you know, or make them look like you. I won't mind.
The more you imagine, the more you are involved in my story. And that is an author's greatest reward. Aside from the money. I mean, we do need to pay the bills.