Nathan Kamp is the hottest romance novel cover model around. More than a perfect set of abs, he’s a regular guy who loves life and digs the girl next door. Part I of a 2-part ExtraView series.
MB: You’re very popular with romance readers, Nathan, I think because your presence is different from what we’re used to seeing on the novel covers. And, of course, you have a lovely body.
NK: Thank you.
MB: Well you’re very welcome. Thanks for making the covers – and I know I speak for many, many romance readers.
Do you know how many covers you’ve done so far?
NK: I’m guessing around 400.
MB: Have you ever read any of those novels?
NK: I’m friends with a lot of the illustrators who do the covers, and every now and again they’ll give me one of the books that they obviously got from a friend at the publisher. There was a book called “Gypsy Lover—“
MB: That was you? That’s a wonderful book by Edith Layton.
NK: It was really a trip. I read a part of it with my wife, Elizabeth, and you know what? Honestly I had no idea that they were as steamy as they are.
When I was reading it I was like -- I was really kind of shocked. This stuff is intense, these people are really going for it. I never read the entire book; I just flipped through it and picked-up little random parts.
MB: Just looking for the good parts.
NK: Yeah, just looking for the juicy parts. And that was the only one that I ever really read. I’ve seen, obviously, a lot of the covers.
MB: Do your friends give you the artwork?
NK: Yeah, a lot give me the artwork and I just kind of file it away -- I just think it would be something fun to show the kids when I’m older.
MB: Do any people you know or love read romance novels, like, anyone in your family?
NK: Nobody that I know personally reads them.
MB: Or admits to it?
NK: Good point. A lot of people know I’m on the covers -- my family gets a kick out of them.
MB: How about your buddies?
NK: They don’t see them as much. I have a couple of friends that will definitely give me a hard time about it. They’re from the Milwaukee/Chicago area, so whenever they’re back home they’ll be in a drugstore or whatever and they’ll see one.
In the city, honestly I don’t see that many of them only because I’m not in -- you know, there aren’t supermarkets where they’re sitting there, or places where I would walk in and just see them.
I usually see most of them either through the illustrators or when I’m home. I’m from Seattle, so when I go home for whatever, I usually end up seeing a bunch of them.
MB: Do you have brothers and sisters?
NK: I have a brother who is 1 year younger than I am and a sister who is 4 years younger than I am.
MB: Do you remember when you were a kid what you maybe wanted to be when you grew up?
NK: Oh, yeah. I wanted to be -- well I had two things I wanted to be. I wanted to be a chef. I still, actually love to cook and I entertain all the time -- have dinner parties. It’s one of my big hobbies -- cooking and photography, then a couple other things.
MB: Tell me first, what do you like about cooking?
NK: Growing up, my mom was a stay at home mom, so she was always making breakfast, lunch, dinner -- always in the kitchen. We had the house -- basically all our friends hung out at our house kind of thing -- always full of people, always -- just a good energy.
I fell in love with it. I think not so much just the cooking part, but the whole attitude of -- it sounds hokey, but the attitude of love that’s generated around food and the presence of people, and being able to really kind of foster that.
MB: It doesn’t sound hokey to an Italian, Nathan.
NK: Oh, of course not. Well, it’s one of my passions for sure, really kind of using what I think is a gift of mine and really connecting, and building a lot of my friendships through that. And, I cook a once-a-month outreach dinner as part of a ministry for industry people here, too.
My wife and I build a lot of our friendships through entertaining; sitting and really growing in the knowledge of one another and our friends through that.
MB: That sounds lovely.
NK: Yeah, it works great, especially in New York, which is a tough city to really connect with a lot of people a lot of the time.
MB: Do you enjoy the east coast more than the west coast?
NK: I kind of do. It’s hard for -- it’s hard to think about when we think about the possibility of raising a family or that kind of thing. My brother lives in San Diego and he’s got 2 kids and another one almost ready to be born. My wife’s family are all in the Seattle area and they have some nieces, nephews and that sort of thing. We miss them.
It’s difficult to think in the long term, but right now it’s New York for both of us, and the east coast is great. East coast or west, there’s always going to be something good, whatever decision we make, if we do it right.
MB: You said as a kid you also wanted to be a photographer, and still enjoy it. Why do you like it?
NK: I just enjoy capturing images that are beautiful to me. It’s something that is subjective to me; what I like. In photography, as in all arts, there is no right or wrong, good or bad. Which I love.
MB: Where did you go to school? Out west?
NK: You know, I went to just a small college in Seattle for 2 years, I wrestled in college, I was really involved in sports my whole life. After a couple years my goals and plans were to transfer to Arizona State and finish wrestling there and get my degree in Broadcast Journalism. Because that was my other great love -- besides cooking -- being involved in sports on some level.
And then, almost right after I was getting ready to finish my second year, I got scouted [for modeling] in downtown Seattle and six weeks later I was on a plane to upstate New York. Basically it just started from there. After that came New York for a little while, then Miami and Europe.
Everything just started going and I never went back to school.
MB:Seems like that worked out alright for you.
NK: Actually, now I couldn’t see myself going back. I feel the experience that I’ve had over the years with just business, people, life -- I don’t know -- I won’t to say it’s better than school, but, since the goals I have in mind are very entrepreneurial, it’s perfect for me.
MB: What do you like best about what you do?
NK: I like the freedom of it. It allows me to have a lot of free time to do whatever I want as far as pursuing, you know, photography or pursuing cooking, entertaining and traveling. You know, where I can say to my wife, ‘hey, let’s go to Miami for a month,’ and we can actually do that.
I think that’s definitely the best thing about the job -- just the opportunities you have to not be tied down, not be completely committed to one place to live, or one thing to do every day. I’ve gotten completely used to it. I don’t know how I would live another way.
MB: You were you married in 2000, is that correct?
NK: Yup, we’re coming up on 6 years in October.
MB: Many of my viewers were heartbroken to learn you are married.
They also wonder what it would be like to be married to a romance novel cover guy. How do you think Elizabeth feels about what you do?
NK: She, to be honest with you, most of the time the covers she sees in the drug stores, or if the artist will give me a rendering and I show her, she doesn’t really have any sort of feeling so much about an image.
I’ve done some TV and some small films where I’ve had a scene where I’m seducing someone, or say a scene where the dialogue is kind of, uh --
NK: Yeah. She doesn’t like to watch that. She doesn’t tell me not to do it, but she doesn’t like to watch it.
MB: I always ask romance authors what type of hero they like best in real life. What do you think Elizabeth would call you, white knight or a brooding bad boy?
NK: I don’t think she’d say I’m a bad boy -- she’s known me through years where I was, not aggressive in the sense of yelling and screaming – but…
Over the years I’ve had my fair share of, you know, fistfights kind of stuff. Growing up in athletics, and my attitude being really competitive, I’m not a person that usually backs down on things. So I wouldn’t say that she would think I’m really a goody-two-shoes type.
Still, she knows I’m definitely a person that character matters to. So, she might not say I’m, you know, a ‘bad boy,’ or whatever, in the sense that I’d do whatever now without looking at consequences.
I’m not like that. She knows I know there are ways for me to get what I want by staying true to my character.
MB: It sounds like what you’re saying is she knew you when you were doing some growing up.
NK: Oh, yeah, we’ve known each other for a long time. We actually both grew up in the same area; my parents and her parents knew each other before we were even born.
MB: Sort of the girl next door. So when you wrote in your bio at www.nathankamp.com that you married your best friend, you truly did marry your best friend?
NK: Yes, I literally have known her my entire life. But I wouldn’t say, you know, growing up our circle of friends was always the same. We always knew each other socially, but when we got to be a little bit older, like high school, our circle of friends started shrinking and we ended up spending a lot more time together.
MB: Is that when you fell in love?
NK: I actually fell in love with her when we went on a mission trip to Costa Rica to work with an orphanage. Not just the two of us. We went with a big group of people, years ago, obviously before we were married.
Just watching her heart and how she dealt with people; how she was so caring and loving to people in general, not just destitute people but just – people -- was really attractive to me.
And she’s a beautiful woman, I don’t know if you’ve seen her picture?
MB: We have not got any photos of you guys together, but we’ll take your word for it.
NK: Yeah, she’s a very beautiful woman, so that was the easy part, being attracted to her physically.
But just seeing her heart, the way she was with people. She’s a really tender-spirited woman, which is amazing, especially in New York where you have all these kind of harder-edged women.
You know, you don’t want a push-over, but you want a woman who’s comfortable as a woman and is sensitive and is caring.
That’s what I want, at least. I feel pretty happy with what I’ve got.
MB: That’s something romance readers definitely appreciate hearing -- a husband talk about his wife that way.
Which makes me think I know your answer to this: Who would you choose as a romance heroine? Sultry vixen or sweet girl next door.
NK: For a romance heroine? The sultry vixen.
NK: Well, when you’re reading those books, you don’t want a sweet and tender woman, I don’t think -- that’s just my opinion.
But in real life, for a long lasting thing you don’t want a vixen. You want someone who is sweet, and has a tender heart and spirit.
Click here to read "Real Life Romance Hero Pt. II": Faith and Commitment: Kamp succeeds in a profession that tests character, and even the best marriages.