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.
Author: Suzanne Johnson
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.