Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Blog: On Location Research and the Blood Coven Series by Mari Mancusi

Please join me in welcoming Mari Mancusi today, who is here to talk about visiting one of the foreign settings of her Blood Coven settings, with really cool photos as well!  The newest installment of the Blood Coven series, Blood Ties, comes out next week so I know all you Blood Coven are anxiously awaiting that release.  To tide you over, enjoy this guest blog today.

One of the things I love about writing the Blood Coven series is picking the settings for the
books. I try to place each book in a very scenic, very different place. For example, the twins start
their adventures in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, then go to England, Vegas, the Swiss
Alps, Ireland, Fairyland, and, in Blood Ties, Tokyo, Japan.

I, myself, got the opportunity to travel to Japan a few years ago with a friend. At the time, I
had no idea I'd be using the country as a setting for a future book. But the experience was so
amazing--and the country so different than anything I had ever seen, by the time I left, I knew I
had to put it all in a book someday.

Many of the places you will read about in Blood Ties are places that my friend and I journeyed to while at Japan. For example, like Sunny and Jayden, we stayed at a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese Bed and Breakfast, right out of the Edo period. There are no beds--you sleep on futon mats on the floor. There are no chairs either--only pillows around a small table with tea service. (My Westernized back was so not happy about this!) Of course, while the furnishings
were decidedly traditional, the toilet was from the 22nd century--with crazy buttons and heated seat. The Ryokan also featured communal baths--which freaked me out a little, I must admit. Luckily our room also had a shower...

In Blood Ties, Rayne, Sunny and Jayden try to find blood at a Vampire Cafe. My friend and I ate at this cafe, which is located in the Ginza neighborhood in Tokyo. The place is Goth dream come true, decked out with red and black decor, candles, roses, and a huge coffin in the center of the restaurant. When you arrive, you're escorted by a French maid or butler to a small, private booth, closed off by a red curtain, and served a price fixed meal in which every food is shaped to look like something vampire related. It was perhaps one of the coolest restaurants I've ever eaten at and I highly suggest it to any vampire fan who finds him or herself in Tokyo.


We also visited a Cat Cafe, like Rayne and Jareth and Magnus do in Blood Ties. Evidently Japanese work long hours and have small apartments--so there is often no room or time for a pet.  So these cafes allow you to go and spend time in a room full of cats--to get your pet fix anytime you need one. While the cats were adorable and very friendly, I felt a little weird sitting on the floor, drinking coffee. (Which you were required to order as part of the price.) Also, the litter boxes could have been cleaned a little more often.

Another stop? Harajuku station, where Sunny, Rayne, and Jayden go meet up with the cosplay coven. That was definitely a highlight of my trip. Outside the subway station were dozens of teens, dressed in the most amazing costumes ever. Some were based on popular manga or
videogame characters--others were totally made up. The teens just hung around, looking bored, as tourists snapped picture after picture. I noticed that many of them carried rollaway suitcases with them. Perhaps they changed out of their cosplay gear before heading home to mom and dad!
Harajuku also featured an amazing outdoor mall, filled with really cool teenage clothing shops.

Sadly, being American, I barely fit into any of the clothes--but they were so cute! I did manage
to purchase an really cool Gothic Lolita dress that I still wear to fantasy conventions to this day.

In all, I had an amazing experience in Japan and it was so much fun to look through all my
pictures and videos when starting to write Blood Ties. I hope the book inspires people to
consider a trip to Japan. It's a fascinating country--and so different than our own--I think
everyone should experience it at least once!