Looking for a good beach read? Super Bloom, a heartfelt and delightful debut novel by author Megan Tady, follows massage therapist Joan Johnston, who, though she may work at an iconic Vermont spa, leads a life that feels anything but serene. She’s deep in debt, burnt out, and still grieving the death of her boyfriend. Enter spa guest Carmen Bronze, a hotheaded bestselling romance author, who offers Joan a chance to get back in her boss’s good graces. All Joan needs to do is slip Carmen spa secrets for her next book, but what if she wants to write it herself?
Insider’s Guide to Spas spoke with Megan recently and learned how she created her spot-on spa characters, and more.
Approximately how many people in the spa arena did you interview while conducting research for your book?
I interviewed seven body workers, one of whom had worked as a spa manager.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about the spa industry?
In service-industry settings, it’s always interesting to pull the curtain back to find out what it’s like to do the work that clients and customers enjoy. More than anything, I was surprised to learn that clients can help ensure they have the massage experience they want—something I also mention below.
Do you think your character Joan represents a majority of massage therapists?
My character Joan enrolled in massage school primarily because she could not afford college and needed to earn a living wage. It certainly was not her calling—which added to her disillusionment at the spa. I think there are some massage therapists who are drawn to the profession because it provides an income stream while they are pursuing other careers, like acting, for example. At the same time, many massage therapists are drawn to the work itself, are fed by helping others and relieving pain, are interested in wellness and the mind-body connection, love to continually deepen their knowledge and skill set about massage therapy, and/or had a transformative healing arts experience and want to give this experience to others.
You have a very good understanding of anatomy. Is that primarily from your spa personnel research, or your years of teaching yoga?
I embarked on a year-long yoga teacher training program 14 years ago, which allowed me to study anatomy and gain more insight into the wellness industry. I taught in my own yoga practice for a year after my training, but unfortunately I sustained an injury that ended the pursuit.
“I’ve always had a deep respect for massage therapy, and I often wondered what it was really like to do a job that’s so uniquely intimate and physically taxing . . .”
What was your first-ever spa experience?
During one summer in college, I waitressed at the Salish Inn & Spa in Washington State. It’s a beautiful lodge and restaurant overlooking Snoqualmie Falls. With my employee discount, I received a hot stone massage that I still remember. The space was divine—the music, the lighting, the faint aromatherapy. I loved it!
Do you spa on a regular basis?
I’ve always loved receiving massages, even from a young age. This is funny, but I remember lying in my bed at night dreaming up an invention that could massage my back while I fell asleep. Now this invention is my husband! :) I’ve been lucky enough to travel widely, and I’ve received massages all over the world in my travels, including in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and New Zealand. I’ve always had a deep respect for this profession, and I often wondered what it was really like to do a job that’s so uniquely intimate and physically taxing—the bodyworker’s body delivering relief and relaxation to someone else’s body. It’s fascinating when you really think about it! At home, I often see the same bodyworkers who run their own businesses, so I do not spa regularly. When I do, it is such a thrill!
What do you think your book teaches readers about spa therapists? About the spa industry in general?
I’ve been excited to hear this sentiment from readers: “I want to be a better massage client.” More than anything, the book is opening people’s eyes to the bodyworkers’ experience, and that receiving a good massage isn’t just the responsibility of the therapist. It’s a mutual exchange. Clients can do a lot to ensure they get a great massage—like speaking up about pressure—while showing respect for the profession.
You write, “Evian wishes there were national leaders she could turn to for advice, or a bodyworkers’ union they could vote to join. But rules and policies change state to state, and even venue to venue . . .” Did you garner this from your many interviews? Was it a recurring theme with those interviewed?
I did learn this from bodyworkers, and I do think there is a general wish to engage with each other in an increased capacity so they can create better workplace conditions across the board.
Please share the inspiration behind the title. What exactly is a super bloom?
A super bloom is the rare phenomenon in nature when wildflower seeds lie dormant for years in deserts withstanding the harshest conditions. When just the right amount of heat and rain mix, they bloom so prolifically that they’re visible from space. This is the main message in my book: that we all have seeds of potential coiled inside us waiting to bloom under the right conditions.
Editor’s Note: If you’d like to order a copy of Super Bloom, click here.