Guest Interview with Suzanne Johnson, Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans Series


Today we are pleased to have the wonderful Suzanne Johnson joining us today. Suzanne is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series. Purrs and tail waves to you Suzanne. =^.^=

Thanks for the welcome! I’m used to my character DJ’s cat, Sebastian. He hates everyone. Well, everyone except the shapeshifter. Go figure.

Please share three fun facts about yourself.

S.J. – I have lived in five states (Alabama, California, Illinois, Texas, and Louisiana), so I have a hodgepodge Southern accent. I have two rescue dogs named after professional wrestlers (don’t ask). And I have a weakness for reality TV shows. (Okay, now I feel the need to apologize for myself!)

Describe your writing style for us. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

S.J. – I’m definitely a plotter. With a full-time day job, a daily blog, and writing, I have to manage my time and plotting keeps me moving forward and organized.

When you develop your characters, do you model them off of people in your life or do they sort of create themselves?

S.J. – They usually start off as a type, and then I dig for their stories and motivations. I knew for River Road that I wanted mermen, but when I began plotting the book, I didn’t realize my mermen were Cajun twins who mainstreamed in the Louisiana fishing industry! They revealed themselves as I wrote.

How would you describe the Sentinels of New Orleans series to someone who has never read it before?

S.J. – The series developed out of a simple “what-if” question: When Hurricane Katrina sent the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the city of New Orleans, what if it wasn’t only the physical levees that broke but also the metaphysical levees? What if the hurricane tore down the borders between our world and the world Beyond? The first book, Royal Street, talks about how that happens, and the immediate consequences. The second book moves beyond the hurricane crisis and looks at the longer-term aftermath. Which all sounds really serious, but it’s a fun story with some very colorful characters!

What inspired you to write the Sentinels of New Orleans series?

S.J. – I am a longtime New Orleans resident, and was living in the city at the time of Hurricane Katrina. I started Royal Street as a way of coping with my own lingering stress over what happened, and filtered a lot of my own experiences into what DJ went through. In the process, I created a world that felt deep and rich enough to support a series—and one I wanted to spend more time in.

Did you know prior to finishing your first book, Royal Street, that there would be more adventures for DJ and Alex?

S.J. – Not while I was writing it. I’d worked as a journalist for a long time but had never written a novel, so with Royal Street, I had a huge learning curve. By the time I finished it, though, I knew there was a much bigger story arc than one book could tell, and DJ and Alex and Jake had a lot of growing up to do and a lot of issues to explore. Plus, New Orleans is such a wonderful setting.

What would you say was the most challenging part of writing River Road?

S.J. – Probably the timeline. River Road is set three years after Royal Street, for several reasons. I knew from personal experience that the city’s recovery from the post-Katrina flooding was very slow and I’d been careful in writing the first book to accurately portray what life in New Orleans was like after the flood. It took months before some areas had the water drained from them. Even in my neighborhood, which had only moderate damage, we went months without trash pickup or mail delivery. I wanted my characters to be able to move past survival mode and not have the series be only about the hurricane. So I had to make that time gap make sense and yet still be able to continue the character development I’d begun in the first book. It was tricky, but I think it works—at least I hope so!

What research did you do prior to writing your books?

S.J. – I do a lot of research. I lived a lot of Royal Street, of course, but I also re-read the daily newspaper for the entire post-Katrina period, as well as biographies of historical characters like Louis Armstrong and Huey Long. For River Road, I studied a lot of maps of the wetlands in the southern end of Plaquemines Parish, and a friend sent her husband out in a boat with a camera to take shots for me. I studied mermaid/merman lore to see what characteristics I wanted to keep and which ones I wanted to twist to fit my setting. I’ve read at least six biographies on the pirate Jean Lafitte. I even learned how to skin an alligator!  I like urban fantasy to have as much reality in it as possible, so I really try to research the books well.

What made you decide to include the historical pirate Jean Lafitte as a character in the series?

S.J. – Ah, Jean….The book names are not only the names of prominent New Orleans streets but also have some word-play. “Royal Street” also refers to the New Orleans royalty that comes into the first book by way of the Historical Undead—famous humans given immortality by the magic of human memory. I brought back Louis Armstrong, voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and the French pirate Jean Lafitte—probably the most famous New Orleanian of all. I intended to bring Jean in for one scene, and had so much fun with him that I put him in a second scene, then a third. I read a couple of biographies to learn more about him and I fell in love. He’s fascinating, enigmatic, and totally fun to write!

Who is your favorite character and which character has surprised you throughout the series so far?

S.J. – I always love DJ, of course, for her heart and her wit, but in Royal Street, I fell in love with Jake Warin because he’s so complex. In River Road, I had fun with the merman Rene Delachaise. I’m doing revisions on the third book now and have gotten fascinated with DJ’s new neighbor Quince Randolph. The biggest surprise has been Alex. He’s been a hard read because he’s so rigid and controlled, but gradually those iron-clad layers are getting stripped away from him. 

What can fans expect next from you?

S.J. – The third book in the series, Elysian Fields, comes out next August, but there will be a couple of shorts out before then, including one from the point of view of Jean Lafitte that’s a lot of fun.

If you could have written any famous novel, which would you choose and why?

S.J. – Well, I might as well shoot big and say Lord of the Rings. I mean, look at the passion and impact and power that story has after all these years. Talk about amazing world-building!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

S.J. – I’d like to mention that I’ve pledged a percentage of my royalties from River Road to the Greater New Orleans Foundation for their Oil Spill Relief Fund. Much of the book is set in Plaquemines Parish, just southeast of New Orleans, and Plaquemines took a very hard hit from Katrina, then from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and, just recently, from Hurricane Isaac. The people of South Louisiana are amazing, resilient, big-hearted people, and they’ve had a rough past eight years or so.

Thank you again Suzanne for joining us!

S.J. – Thank you!

***

Excerpt:

Short Excerpt River Road

The minute hand of the ornate grandfather clock crept like a gator stuck in swamp mud. I’d been watching it for half an hour, nursing a fizzy cocktail from my perch inside the Hotel Monteleone. The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it had been hand- carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs.

They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.

The infamous Jean Lafitte had expected me at seven. He’d summoned me to his French Quarter hotel suite by courier like I was one of his early nineteenth-century wenches, and I hated to destroy his pirate-king delusions, but the historical undead don’t summon wizards. We summon them.

I’d have blown him off if my boss on the Congress of Elders hadn’t ordered me to comply and my co-sentinel, Alex, hadn’t claimed a prior engagement.

At seven thirty, I abandoned my drink, took a deep breath, and marched through the lobby toward the bank of elevators.

On the long dead-man-walking stroll down the carpeted hallway, I imagined all the horrible requests Jean might make. He’d saved my life a few years ago, after Hurricane Katrina sent the city into freefall, and I hadn’t seen him since. I’d been desperate at the time. I might have promised him unfettered access to modern New Orleans in exchange for his assistance. I might have promised him a place to live. I might have promised him things I don’t even remember. In other words, I might be totally screwed.

I reached the door of the Eudora Welty Suite and knocked, reflecting that Jean Lafitte probably had no idea who Eudora Welty was, and wouldn’t like her if he did. Ms. Welty had been a modern sort of woman who wouldn’t hop to attention when summoned by a scoundrel.

He didn’t answer immediately. I’d made him wait, after all, and Jean lived in a tit- for- tat world. I paused a few breaths and knocked harder. Finally, he flung open the door, waving me inside to a suite plush with tapestries of peach and royal blue, thick carpet that swallowed the narrow heels of my pumps, and a plasma TV he couldn’t possibly know how to operate. What a waste.

“You have many assets, Drusilla, but apparently a respect for time is not among them.” Deep, disapproving voice, French accent, broad shoulders encased in a red linen shirt, long dark hair pulled back into a tail, eyes such a cobalt blue they bordered on navy. And technically speaking, dead.

He was as sexy as ever.

“Sorry.” I slipped my hand in my skirt pocket, fingering the small pouch of magic-infused herbs I carried at all times. My mojo bag wouldn’t help with my own perverse attraction to the man, but it would keep my empathic abilities in check. If he still had a perverse attraction to me, I didn’t want to feel it.

He eased his six-foot-two frame into a sturdy blue chair and slung one long leg over the arm as he gave me a thorough eyeraking, a ghost of a smile on his face.

I perched on the edge of the adjacent sofa, easing back against a pair of plump throw pillows, and looked at him expectantly. I hoped what ever he wanted wouldn’t jeopardize my life, my job, or my meager bank account.

“You are as lovely as ever, Jolie,” Jean said, trotting out his pet name for me that sounded deceptively intimate and brought back a lot of memories, most of them bad. “I will forgive your tardiness— perhaps you were late because you were selecting clothing that I would like.” His gaze lingered on my legs. “You chose beautifully.”

I’d picked a conservative black skirt and simple white blouse with the aim of looking professional for a business meeting, part of my ongoing attempt to prove to the Elders I was a mature wizard worthy of a pay raise. But this was Jean Lafitte, so I should have worn coveralls. I’d forgotten what a letch he could be.

“I have a date after our meeting,” I lied. He didn’t need to know said date involved a round carton with the words Blue Bell Ice Cream printed on front. “Why did you want to see me?”

There, that hadn’t been so difficult—just a simple request. No drama. No threats. No double- entendre. Straight to business.

“Does a man need a reason to see a beautiful woman? Especially one who is indebted to him, and who has made him many promises?” A slow smile spread across his face, drawing my eyes to his full lips and the ragged scar that trailed his jawline.

I might be the empath in the room, but he knew very well that, in some undead kind of way, I thought he was hot.

I felt my face warming to the shade of a trailer- trash bridesmaid’s dress, one whose color had a name like raging rouge. I’d had a similar reaction when I first met Jean in 2005, two days before a mean hurricane with a sissy name turned her malevolent eye toward the Gulf Coast. I blamed my whole predicament on Katrina, the bitch.

Her winds had driven the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the canals that crisscrossed the city, collapsing levees and filling the low, concave metro area like a gigantic soup bowl.

But NBC Nightly News and Anderson Cooper had missed the biggest story of all: how, after the storm, a mob of old gods, historical undead, and other preternatural victims of the scientific age flooded New Orleans. As a wizard, I’d had a ringside seat. Now, three years later, the wizards had finally reached accords with the major preternatural ruling bodies, and the borders were down, as of two days ago. Jean hadn’t wasted any time.

 

Tour Wide Giveaway:

1–Choice of Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Simple Touch (or $100 gift card for Amazon, B&N, or Book Depository)

-Or-

5–$10 gift cards for Amazon, B&N or Book Depository

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Want to know how to enter the giveaway for a chance at one of the prizes above? It’s simple, just visit Bewitching Book Tours, HERE, and fill out the rafflecopter form! And while you are there, please visit the other blogs participating in the tour. There are lots more enjoyable posts ranging from guest blogs, author interviews, reviews, and more! You definitely won’t want to miss out. =^.^=

***
Author Bio:

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities.  She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

Links: Website, Blog, Twitter, FB, Goodreads, Publisher Page

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Posted on November 19, 2012, in Authors. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. What the Cat Read, Thanks for the interview. Never know what might pop up. Fan of the Sentinels of New Orleans series.
    Recommend them whenever I can. Suzanne, I have not read Lord of the Rings. Shame on me.

  2. It is AWESOME that part of the proceeds goes to charity. It really shows how much you love the setting you write about. I too love New Orleans.

    I’m sure Jean’s short story will be rather naughty;)

    Thank you for a wonderful interview:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  3. I’m looking forward to reading River Road

  4. ^^ Shorts stories? i want i WANT, one from jean lafite? even better !!!! thank you in advance thank you! it’s one of the best news of the day!

  5. I too wish I had written Lord of the Rings 🙂 Great choice!

  6. Another great interview 🙂

  7. I love any books set in New Orleans – you’re right that it’s such a fantastic setting! One question Suzanne – where would DJ go on holiday – if she ever gets a chance to take one?!

    • Good question, Mel! I think she’d go to England, to try and learn something about Gerry’s family. It’s a subject that she’s starting to think about–this whole family history she doesn’t know anything about. For a purely pleasure vacation, she’d visit the Alps. DJ just isn’t a beach kind of girl!

  8. Wow! Thank you everyone for visiting our page and showing Suzanne some love, murr! And thank you Suzanne for writing such a wonderful series. You all have made today’s post one of our most popular to date, and it certainly has earned the most comments. We felines salute you all! =^.^=

  9. Thanks to you and the kitties for having me here! And thanks to all you who left comments–it was fun!

  10. I enjoyed learning the story behind the stories. Sounds like great books.

  11. I’m really enjoying this book tour, I learn more about the series and characters at every stop. 😀

  12. I honestly don’t know how Suzanne manages her time. She writes (awesome books :)) and works and keeps her Blog up to date every single day. Holy crap! I could not do that without being overwhelmed :/ so that is what makes her so great in my opinion. I’m shocked to know Jake is her favorite. You never know with authors…lol Thanks for the post. I’m following along on this awesome hop.

  13. Thanks for the lovely interview ladies, I enjoyed reading it. And I am especially looking forward to the point of view of that handsome pirate!

  14. Great questions. Thanks for the interview.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  15. Awesome interview. Now I’m kind of curious why your dogs are named after wrestlers … 🙂