First, thanks so much for having me back, and thanks for such a great question. I LOVE doing research! (Where was this gene when I was in high school????) But these days, I can get lost on the internet for hours looking up one obscure fact. And I got lost quite a bit for I Dream of Genies, my January 2011 release. It’s the first in my Bottle Magic series and soooooooo different from my Mer world. As different as night and day—or ocean and desert, as the case may be. I knew a lot about the ocean before I started writing the Mer series, and I knew a lot about Greek gods and goddesses. For the Genies… notsomuch. I mean, I am familiar with Egyptian mythology, so that was easy, but I didn’t want to pull a lot of that. I wanted to stick with the origin of the djinn: the Middle East. I don’t know a lot about that area, so I was on a major fact-finding mission.
Plus, if you read the story, you’ll see that gems and flowers play a big part in the story and while I’m fairly conversant on those topics, there were nuances that I had to clarify. Tough job looking at beautiful flowers and sparkly gems, let me tell you. :-)
Anyhow, first order of business was to call my best friend from high school. You’ll remember her from Wild Blue Under, where she lent her name to my heroine, Valerie. Well, my Valerie (the real-life version) is married to a guy born and raised in Egypt. Arabic is his first language. Tarek and I have become GREAT email buddies, let me tell you. And then there was the night the 3 of us went to a Moroccan restaurant for research for Genie Knows Best (but that’s the next book, in stores in November 2011. Hubs was out of town, in case you’re wondering.)
Tarek was my first line of questioning and after I’d talk to him, I’d have some direction to look online. What I utterly LOVE about research is when I need something to be a certain way to fit the story, something that I’m positive I made up in my imagination, and voila! It actually exists. The Hadhayosh in this story is one instance. I wanted a creature, similar to a bull that would challenge my hero and heroine, Matt and Eden. I found the Behemoth in the Bible, but I didn’t want to go Judeo-Christian. A little more digging and I found the perfect counterpart: the Hadhayosh. Things like that not only tickle my funny bone, but also let me know that I’m on the right path with the story. It’s as if the Universe is saying, “Yes, that’s it, this is the way to go with your story.” (I should probably mention that I’m a pantser versus a plotter, so a lot of the story surprises even me as it’s written.)
When it came time to design Al-Jannah, the magical djinn city in the middle of the Sahara, again, I wanted to pull from Middle Eastern history/architecture/design. I didn’t have far to go for research because I’d lived in Spain at one point which has HUGE Moorish influences. I simply looked at my twenty-year-old photographs, brought up a map of old Sevilla and planned my own town.
The one truly truly surprising thing I found out was about a plant. I needed something like hemlock, and I was planning to go with that or nightshade, but I dug a little deeper (no pun intended—unless you laughed; then it was intended), and I found the Mandragora. Now, imagine my surprise as a huge Harry Potter fan because I’d thought J.K. Rowling made that up. I mean, who didn’t giggle over the screaming creepy baby-like things? But, lo and behold, they’re Actual Plants. But I couldn’t use them because everyone would think I’d stolen her idea, right? Right.
HOWEVER… It turns out that one of the common names of Mandragora is “djinn’s eggs.” All. Bets. Were. Off.
If the Universe is handing me a deadly plant called “djinn’s eggs,” I’m using it. I figure, J.K. Rowling put her own spin on it; I’ll put mine. But that coincidence/karma/serendipity/whatever you want to call it just shocked the heck out of me. So you’ll see the “djinn’s eggs,” but don’t expect screaming baby genies; that’s not what the plant is used for. (The word “deadly” might be a clue…)
It’s always sad when I finish a story because I’ve lived in this world, know these characters, fall in love with the hero and heroine, and laugh at the wise-cracking sidekicks, but the beauty of doing a series is that I get to live in the world a little longer, fall in love all over again, and hopefully out-sarcasm some of the secondary characters.
It’s also sad because then I have to come back to the real world and the pile of laundry has turned into a mountain…
Here’s a scene in Al-Jannah, but at the Egyptian goddess, Bastet’s, temple. Obo, the smart-aleck sidekick talking cat has come to see her about gaining her favor for his Afterlife.
You’ll see with Obo, things never quite go as planned:
Obo crawled out from under the aqueduct’s lowest arch and into the shadows surrounding the goddess’s temple. The moon reflected off the water in the fountain before the portico, bathing Bastet’s statue in jade from the stones that surrounded the pool.
Coast clear, Obo raced across the plaza and hid beneath the lip of the stones. A pair of dodos pecked near a pomegranate tree on the opposite side, but he wasn’t worried about them. If they even saw him. There was a reason the name had crossed over into everyday English.
A cloud passed in front of the moon, casting enough of a shadow for Obo to run across the plaza and up the steps of the temple without the birds seeing him, and he zipped behind Bastet’s statue before the cloud drifted away.
His paws made no sound on the lapis lazuli mosaics that led into the worship chamber within the temple. Pyrite, carved into tiny statues of every breed of feline, dotted the tiles in a haphazard pathway. When the moonlight hit them, the gold flecks in the mineral gave off soft, twinkling light like the strands mortals put on trees for the winter solstice. It was a nice ceremonial touch, and tonight, goddess knew, was all about ceremony.
At the altar, Obo stopped. For all his talk, this meeting was nothing for him to be flippant or sarcastic about. It would determine his Eternity.
He removed the bag’s cord from around his neck, slipped Cleopatra’s amulet from it, and placed it on the floor. The Egyptian queen had been a favorite of Bastet’s, and vice versa. Whichever way the favor went, Obo would take all the help he could get.
“Oh mighty Bastet,” he said, bowing before the marble statue of the goddess, a human with a cat’s head seated on a throne.
He felt her essence enter the temple. Saw the statue shimmer as she inhabited it.
“Ah, Obo.” The goddess tsked—never a good thing. “You cannot hope to gain your Eternal Reward by bribery.”
“But goddess, the amulet is what you said would earn me Celestial Paradise.”
“That is true, Obo. But not to buy my favor. That works for corrupt politicians, not gods of the realm you seek to enter. What were you thinking?”
Obviously not what she was.
© Judi Fennell, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2011
I DREAM OF GENIES BY JUDI FENNELL – IN STORES JANUARY 2010
“The nonstop cinematic gee-whiz results will keep the reader enraptured. Fennell also tosses in sultry sex scenes, a bubble-gum-sweet but passionate romance, quick-moving action, and a variety of puns and riddle-making beasts.”
—Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW
He needs to change his luck, and fast!
Matt Ewing would gladly hunt down a fortune in lucky pennies if he thought it would help save his business. But for all his hoping, Matt’s clueless when his long-awaited lucky charm falls in his lap in the form of a beguiling genie. He just can’t believe that this beautiful woman could be the answer to his prayers…
She’s been bottled up for far too long!
Spending 2,000 years in a bottle would make any woman a little stir-crazy. So when Matt releases Eden from her luxurious captivity, she’s thrilled to repay him by giving him the magical boost he needs…
But for all her good intentions, Eden’s magical prowess is a little rusty and her magical mistakes become more than embarrassing. And though Eden knows falling in love will end her magic and immortality, she can’t help but be drawn to the one man who wants her just for herself…
About the Author
Judi Fennell is an award-winning author and writes what she calls “fairy tales with a twist.” Her romance novels have been finalists in Gather.com's First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, and have won numerous RWA Chapter Awards, including the FF&P Prism Award, and the New Jersey Golden Leaf Award. Judi lives with her family in suburban Philadelphia, PA, where she is working on the next book in the Genie Trilogy, Genie Knows Best, set for release in November 2011. For more information, please visit http://www.judifennell.com/.
-- Lynda Again
Wasn't that a great answer to my question? How other authors do their research always fascinates me. I hope you found it interesting as well :-D
As I mentioned above, Sourcebooks has offered a copy of I Dream of Genies to two Star-Crossed readers. Here's how you can enter the drawing.
By Friday, Jan. 28
Send me an email at Lynda@lyndakscott.com
Put Genies in the Subject line
In the body, answer this question: What is the name of the smart-aleck, wise talking sidekick cat?
Include your name and address
Leave a comment for Judi so she'll know how much we appreciate her visit :-)
Have a great week!