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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Author Interview + Giveaway: Suzanne Johnson

Today, I would like to welcome Suzanne Johnson to Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog. Her latest book, River Road, released yesterday. She is here today to answer some questions, and if you stick around until the end, there's details about the blog tour giveaway.



Sara: How would you describe River Road, for readers who haven’t heard of it before?

Suzanne: It’s the second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, after Royal Street, but it can stand alone. It’s the story of a wizard, DJ, whose job it is to police the borders between the modern world and the world Beyond. Humans aren’t aware of magic in this world, and after Hurricane Katrina opens the preternatural floodgates, she has her hands full! In River Road, she has to deal with feuding merpeople, someone poisoning the Mississippi River, and the attentions of the undead pirate Jean Lafitte.

Sara In three words, how would you describe your main characters?

Suzanne: Snarky chaos magnet.

Sara: Do you have a favorite character to write? Is there a character that’s a bit harder than the rest to write?

Suzanne: My favorite character to write -- and also the most challenging -- is the pirate Jean Lafitte. In real life, he was a famous, very powerful French-born pirate who ruled the Gulf in early 19th-century New Orleans. In my world he’s given physical immortality through the magic of human memory. So Jean is forever up to his neck in whatever chaos is going on. The fun (and challenging) thing about Jean Lafitte is to stick to the nature of the historic figure, to some degree anyway, and make him morally ambiguous as he was in life -- but also sexy and likeable. He’s like cheesecake to my heroine DJ -- addictive, sweet, and very, very bad for you in large doses.

Sara: What sets River Road apart from other urban fantasy?

Suzanne: I think it’s depth of the world-building -- not only the world of magic and the different species, but also how the characters are grounded in the culture and history of South Louisiana. You couldn’t pick up the story in River Road, set it in any other place on earth, and have it make sense whatsoever. The mermen are Cajun aquatic shapeshifters who work in the South Louisiana fishing industry, for example. (And a portion of author royalties from this book goes to the Greater New Orleans Foundation for its oil spill relief fund, by the way, to help the people of Southeast Louisiana who continue to be impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.)

Sara: Where did the idea for the series come from? Is it something you have always wanted to write or did it sneak up on you?

Suzanne: The whole idea for the series came from my own experiences as a New Orleanian during Hurricane Katrina. I’ve spent my career in editing and feature writing for magazines, and hadn’t really thought about writing fiction until the storm. Afterward, I needed some way to exorcise my own demons, and that’s how it all started. It was all built around the what-if: What if, when Hurricane Katrina pushed the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans, the storm also tore down the “metaphysical levees” between the modern world and the world Beyond?

Sara: Hurricane Katrina played a big role in the first novel of this series, Royal Street. Is there a significant event that River Road is based around?

Suzanne: Not really. Much of River Road is set in Plaquemines Parish, which lies just southeast of metro New Orleans. Plaquemines was badly impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010 (then took another hard hit from Hurricane Isaac this year), but the first draft of River Road had already been written when the spill occurred. My editor and I debated whether to change the timeline of the book to reflect the disaster, but decided not to. So it’s really coincidental. Plaquemines, which is about half wetlands and tied to the Mississippi River more than any other Louisiana parish other than perhaps Orleans, is an area I love and find interesting.

Sara: Tell us a little about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Suzanne: I’m definitely a plotter. I have a full-time day job at a university, and do a lot of blogging in addition to writing a couple of series, so I have to maximize my limited writing time. I usually write from about 7:30-11 p.m. every evening, and pretty much all day on Sunday.

Sara: Are there any genres you would like to branch out to in the future?

Suzanne: I think historical fantasy would be fun to write, but I’d have to find a historical event or era that fascinated me enough to immerse myself in all the research that would be required. But it could happen...

Sara: What are your influences both in and out of urban fantasy?

Suzanne: Outside of urban fantasy, I’m a big fan of the nonfiction writing of Rick Bragg, especially his memoirs All Over But the Shouting and Eva’s Man. He knows how to tell a story in such evocative (and funny) language that you forget you’re reading nonfiction. In urban fantasy, I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series and Kim Harrison’s Hollows. Both funny, sharp series that have kept it fresh even after a lot of books.

Sara: What are you currently reading?

Suzanne: I’m reading Cynthia Eden’s new Angel in Chains, a paranormal romance, and am on book five, Wolves of the Calla, of an online read of Stephen King’s entire Dark Tower series that I’m leading for tor.com. We started about a year and a half ago!



Thanks Suzanne for stopping by! Now, for the giveaway details. Suzanne is offering two $25 gift cards to an online bookseller of choice to two commenters throughout the River Road blog tour. Plus, a mystery book from her stash will be awarded at each stop. Suzanne will be choosing the gift card winners at the end of the blog tour, and I will announce the winner of the mystery book on Saturday November 24th. To enter, just leave a valid e-mail address and answer the following question in the comments:

What is you favorite type of paranormal character and why?

This giveaway is open internationally and will close at midnight Friday November 23rd.

Title: River Road
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Summary:
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something -- or someone -- from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who -- or what -- is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

51 comments:

  1. Really big fan of The Sentinels of New Orleans series. River Road is a wonderful sequel to Royal Street.
    If you like the cover: Bitten by Books has a cover poll on the web site:
    Best UF/PNR BOOK Cover for November 13 - 20, 2012 Book Releases
    At: http://www.bittenbybooks.com/
    You can vote for the wonderful River Road cover by Cliff Nielsen.
    P.S. River Road currently first!

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    1. A big thank you from New Orleans, Roger! The cover's winning so far!

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  2. I am a huge paranormal fan too! I have not heard of this series before, but definitely will be reading it!

    I love witches. They are more human than paranormal, but their magic makes me wish I was one!
    zenfoxflower ATyahooDOTcom

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    1. Thanks Elie! I have mostly wizards in these books, but WOMEN wizards--gotta break that glass ceiling!

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  3. î love urban fantasy and this series is becoming one of the best, it's funny, action packed and original i love this universe

    isabelle(dot)frisch(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Miki--appreciate your kind words!

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  4. I'll have to check out that series you are reading...I'm a huge paranormal reader! I love the sentinels series... I am very annoyed I have to wait a year before book #3!!!

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    1. @swhitak6...I can't give too many details yet...but there will be a Jean Lafitte story coming out between books 2 and 3, so you won't have to wait until next August for a fix!

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  5. Great interview, looking forward to reading River Road. My favorite paranormal character is werewolves/shifters. I love the ability their ability to change from human to animals/werewolf.

    Shortnsweetreviews(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I love shifters too, Van. It has been fun in this series to play around with different kinds of shifters--my merpeople are aquatic shifters.

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  6. Great interview! I love that Suzanne donated a portion of the profits to help with the oil spill relief. I'm gonna say shapeshifters are my favourite paranormal characters.

    geekbanter(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Allison! So many people think the oil spill problems are over, but this area's going to be living with it for a long time. (And I do love shapeshifters!)

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  7. Great interview ladies. I like both werewolves and vampires.Being able to shift and become something else. Vampire have the life experience ;) . Both hot and brooding types.
    elang8(at)netscape(dot)net

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    Replies
    1. "Hot and brooding" is always good, right? I agree!

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  8. I'm looking foward to reading River Road

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  9. I like witches the best! Vampires and were-animals are great too!

    Really enjoyed Royal Street - can't wait to read River Road!

    Thanks,
    Leanne
    leannessf at gmail dot com

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Leanne...I might have to put some witches in my series :-)

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  10. Love how South Lousiana history is included in your book:)

    My favorite type is werewolves!! They're awesome, strong, but also live as humans and they have to deal with the change:)

    Thank you:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Christina! I've had fun coming up with the mythology of the loup-garou (also locally called "rougarou"), the Cajun werewolf legend here in South Louisiana.

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  11. I have a special place in my heart for shifters, specifically wolves. They are always strong characters, and really sexy. I loved Royal Street, can wait to read River Road!

    areeths at new dot rr dot com

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    1. Thanks, Anne! Hope you enjoy the new one. I think we've got a lot of wolf fans here!

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  12. I like reading about the fae. It covers a huge range of supernatural beings, and I've found authors can be very creative with them.

    b(dot)cardone(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Bethany! I have the fae coming into this series in a later book in the series, and am having fun playing with the mythology of Faerie!

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  13. I love shapeshifters of any sort.

    Larena
    lrhubble@q.com

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    Replies
    1. So do I, Larena! It was fun making my merpeople aquatic shapeshifters and merging those two mythologies. And giving a different twist to the Loup-Garou as well.

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  14. I'm a total sucker for shifters of all kinds, especially cats, dragons and bears. I'm totally looking forward to reading about the mer-people.

    jen(at)delux(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Jen! I'm reading a book with panther-shifters right now, except these are not very nice ones :-0

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  15. I love all kinds of paranormal characters, but I have to say I'm partial to vampires as well as shifters. There's something about both that intrigues me. Vampires are mysterious, powerful and immortal; and shifters combine the intelligence of a human with the power and cunning of an animal, they embody the best of both worlds.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

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    Replies
    1. Yay, another vampire fan! I like both vamps and shifters, and while I know a lot of readers are tired of vampires, they're just too sexy to resist :-)

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  16. I like vampires, because they're sexy!

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  17. I'm partial to wizards, sorcerers, and the like. (Harry Potter, Harry Dresden, DJ :D)

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    1. I'm glad DJ made the list! In the very very (very) earliest draft of what became Royal Street, DJ was a shifter. When I read a piece by author Terry Pratchett about how fantasy literature had a "glass ceiling" where wizards were concerned--they're almost always male--I knew DJ had to be a wizard. The Dresden series has a few female wizards but I don't know of any others.

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  18. Thanks for the fun post and congrats to Suzanne on the new release and tour! I just got book 1 and I can't wait to start reading :) I'm a huge paranormal fan. I love 'em all... witches, vampires, shifters, anything with wings :)

    efender1(at)gmail(dot)com

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  19. I have not heard of Suzanne or this series and am so glad that I took the time to read this blog post. The series looks great!

    I'd love to win one of the gift cards but, heck, I'll be happy with an e-copy of Royal Street. ;)

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    1. I'm glad you stopped by, Jenifer! Best of luck in the giveaways!

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  20. outlandergone@gmail.com
    Big Cat shifters....just the fact that they are so strong and loyal. And they protect the ones that they love!

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    1. I do like the big cat shifters too, Donna...except the ones in this Cynthia Eden book I'm reading are not nice at all! So I like the SEXY big cat shifters (as opposed to the evil ones). :-)

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  21. Good Article in pleasant atmosphere.Keep writing same as subject.
    Yüz Germe

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  22. as long as it's a kick-ass character, it's a favorite.

    smile_1773 at yahoo dot com

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    Replies
    1. Most urban fantasy preternaturals are pretty kick-ass! DJ isn't quite there yet, but Alex makes up for it :-)

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  23. I really like them all. But I am still partial to the vampires. I think their myth allows for so much variation that the stories can be endless.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

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    1. I love vampires too, Donna (well, obviously). The vampires make their first real appearance in the Sentinels series with book three, Elysian Fields. Question is...whose side will they be on?

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  24. I love shifters (leopard and bears are my favourites) and wizards/witches.

    spav05(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    Replies
    1. Hi Spav....bear shifters! I don't know any bear shifters but I want to. Such possibilities :-)

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  25. Love shifters Big Cats and Dragons would be my favs. Also love Witches/wizards too. Your series sounds great. Am adding to my wish list.
    scrtsbpal at yahoo dot com

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  26. I love shifters, because I like the idea of being able to change into another creature.
    marlenebreakfield(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  27. I was complete encouraged to accretion this site. I basic to accede you for this adapted read. I in achievement savored every little bit of it and I acquire bookmarked you to assay out new accepting you post.
    Gebelik

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog! I'd love to here what's on your mind. :)