Saturday, January 26, 2008

Details, details...

I'd like to welcome Jenyfer Matthews as our guest blogger today. You may recognize her name. She's a regular poster on Killer Fiction. Her wit and opinions have been so appreciated by all of us here at Killer Fiction. Jenyfer is also a writer. So take it away...Jenyfer!

From time to time I am asked what sort of research I do for my books. Honestly? The last time I did any serious book research I was writing a term paper on the Suez Canal Crisis for a political science class I took in college. I really prefer to rely on personal experiences embellished by my imagination. Fortunately for me, my interest lies in writing character driven stories in contemporary settings so I can get by with that.

It’s not that I’m totally lazy about doing research (though there is that). I like to think of research as a watercolour painting, where the research details provide brush strokes of color and atmosphere and the characters are the main focus. And as a rule, I find it much more fun to do my research firsthand when practical.

Since living abroad I’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively and I’ve tried to be open to new experiences along the way - because you just never know what will inspire you later. I’d tell you about the time I ate “happy pizza” in Cambodia but I don’t want to incriminate myself (*) and…um…the details are a tad fuzzy. Instead I’ll tell you about a spa night I enjoyed this week with my friend.

Dedicated as I am, I accepted my friend’s invitation purely for the sake of research and my relentless pursuit of collecting realistic detail for my writing. (Hmmm…wonder if the IRS will buy that as a deduction?) Treatment of choice? Moroccan bath.

Moroccan baths are sometimes done communally, but this was a private event - well, just me and my attendant. Upon arrival at the spa, I was taken to a changing area where I traded all of my clothes and modesty for a towel and some flip flops – then sacrificed those ten steps later, inside the treatment room. It’s hard to maintain any dignity laying naked on a tile table, no matter how lovely the mosaic work is. After a short time in the steam, the attendant came back and slathered me from head to toe with gritty goo and then rinsed me off. She then began to scrub every inch of me with the loofah mitt I had purchased on arrival - between my fingers and toes, behind my ears and even my face (thankfully more gently!). It’s both gross and fascinating to see the rolls of gray, dead skin lying on the table. I might have politely ignored the detritus of the scrub but the attendant was quite proud of what she’d accomplished and insisted that I admire it too. Since she didn’t speak English and my Arabic vocabulary doesn’t extend to these sorts of situations the entire session was conducted with taps, pokes, hand gestures and facial expressions. She massaged me as she did the final soap down – and cracked all of the joints of my fingers and toes! She then washed my hair and once again showered me off. I began to feel as my own children must feel when I’m bathing them.

(Except that if I tried the loofah-mitt-knuckle-cracking routine on my children I’m sure that they would object. At top volume.)

Now, what exactly I’ll do with the details of this experience, I’m not sure. I may use it in my current WIP – my heroine is traveling and will be making a stop in Cairo. Steam, water, nudity - just think of the potential for fun in this scene! And surely kinder to my character than afflicting her with a case of the chicken pox, as my children afflicted me last summer. Though I am determined to use that experience sometime. I might as well get something out of that episode other than residual pock marks…

(*) Applicable laws vary by locale!



Wendy said...

Ooh, I want a Moroccan bath! It sounds cool except the admiring the dead skin, ew.

Love the post, Jenyfer! :)

Tori Lennox said...

I could really go for a spa treatment right now. Loved hearing about your experience, Jenyfer!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Jenyfer! Your books sound like they'll be a lot of fun to read, too!


Christie Craig said...

I agree, I want a spa treatment. Getting naked with someone who pops my fingers and is proud of dead skin is a tad pushing it, but hey...I'd probably do it for the massage and the experience.

Thanks again for guest blogging Jenyfer!

Crime Scene Christie

Jenyfer Matthews said...

The spa was divine - I'm already trying to figure out how soon I can go back again!

FYI - having a little contest on my own blog at the moment to celebrate the one year anniversary of my first book. Stop by and leave a comment and you could win a PDF copy for yourself (you too, Christie!!)

Estella said...

I have never had a spa treatment. Am a little shy about going.

Lucy said...

I had a similar spa experience in Hot Springs. Difference was, I went down in my bathing suit because I refused to get naked and then walk around, escorted by someone else. The woman didn't really know how to deal with a "dressed" woman and tried to force me to strip.

Aside from that, it was a good experience.

By the way, love the book covers. :-)

catslady said...

I've never had any kind of spa treatment or ever been to one but that sounds fascinating - definitely should make it's way into a story lol.

Gemma Halliday said...

That sounds so cool, Jenyfer! That's it, I need a spa day soon.

I've been thinking about you lately with the issues in Egypt. Hope you and your family are well and unaffected!


Teri Thackston said...

Hi, Jen,
Great post...I could almost feel my own skincells sloughing off.

Teri Thackston said...

Hi, Jen,
Great post...I could almost feel my own skincells sloughing off.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I'm not sure why, but it's easier to get naked with someone who doesn't speak your language??

Gemma - we've been keeping a close eye on the situation on the border here. Some of the nicest resorts in Egypt are very close to that area, but we won't be visiting there any time soon. So far so good in Cairo.