Chatting with Suzanne Johnson
Q: Welcome! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your book?
Thanks for having me! River Road is the second in the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (with a big dash of romance), although it can be read as a standalone. It’s about the aftermath of what happens in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina tears down the borders between our human world and the world Beyond, where all the paranormals live. In this book, we have two clans of Cajun mermen feuding over territory in the Louisiana wetlands, someone is killing off New Orleans wizards (and the heroine, DJ, is on the hit list), and something is poisoning the water of the Mississippi River. And did someone mention weregators?
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written—journals, bad poetry, horrible short stories. But I never really considered being a writer until it came time to choose a college major and I realized journalism and English interested me a lot more than biology and physics. Until that time, I’d been following a pre-med path. So I became a journalist. I only began writing fiction about four years ago.
Q: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
Definitely a plotter. I don’t have time to be a pantser. I have a full-time day job and am writing two series, plus a daily blog, so I have to maximize my time. A week or two up front plotting a novel can save months of drafting and revision.
Q: What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up revisions on the third book in the Sentinels series, Elysian Fields, which comes out next August, and working on proposals for two new projects. And I have a new digital short for Kindle and Nook, Christmas in Dogtown, that just came out. It’s set in Louisiana but isn’t tied to the series.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
Don’t dabble. Ask yourself how badly you want to be published, and what you’re willing to sacrifice for it. Because being an author is hard work, even after you’re published. You’re going to be working long hours, and you’re most likely not going to get anywhere near rich. I have friends who are talented writers—really, really talented—but they always have a reason for not writing. The house needs cleaning. The new episode of Supernatural is coming on. I’m tired from my day job. Honey-pie wants to go out to dinner. My head’s just not in the right space now. On and on and on. If you wait to write until you have time and all the stars are aligned, you don’t want it badly enough. It has to be the top priority.
Q: What book or series can you read over and over again without getting bored?
JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Those books are a clinic in writing flawed, emotional characters. And, um, they’re sexy!
Q: If you decided not to be a writer, what would your other dream job be?
I’d love to be a hermit and live in the mountains. Oh, wait. Guess that’s not a job. I would be a fabric artist. Before I got caught up in writing, I enjoyed making paper-pieced art quilts and loved playing with color and design. One of the bad things about writing novels is I don’t have time to do that anymore.
Q: What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
Going through Hurricane Katrina as a New Orleanian. I was evacuated for more than six weeks, sleeping on a friend’s daybed. I had one pair of shoes and two days’ worth of clothing with me. For over a month I didn’t know if my house had survived (it was damaged but salvageable), whether my friends had made it out (some did, some didn’t), whether my job would be there when I was allowed to return (thankfully, yes), whether my city would ever come back from it. I was scared and I was heartbroken. I learned a lot about myself during those days, good and bad, and thought a lot about my life. It led to some major changes—one of which was writing my first novel. Six novels later, I say that was the best thing that came out of it.
Q: Who is the one person that has singlehandedly inspired you the most in your life?
Probably my mom. We fight like crazy, but she’s incredibly smart and strong and resilient. I hope I got my mom’s strength and my dad’s kindness.
Q: If you could take a trip to any foreign country RIGHT NOW, which one would you choose? Why?
Scotland. I’ve done a lot of my family’s genealogy, and most of my ancestors came from Scotland back in the 1600s. Some of the Clan Sandilands (Americanized to Sandlin) castles and such are still standing and I’d love to visit the area of the lowlands they came from.
Q: What is one talent that you’re hopeless at, but you wish you had?
Singing. I love music. I’m a music junkie, and love singer-songwriters. But my singing voice is somewhere between sick monkey and banshee.
Q: What TV show are you most addicted to?
Swamp People. Love that show. Ice Road Truckers is a close second. Yeah, I know. Pathetic. At least I can say I’ve never watched Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo.
Q: If you were stuck on a deserted island, name three objects and three people you would want with you.
Well, I assume there is no way to charge batteries so my Kindle and iPhone are off-limits. I’d take singer-songwriter Zachary Richard because he could sing to me and help me with my French lessons. Eustace Conway of the “Mountain Man” show because he could figure out how to survive. My BFF Dianne because she could make me laugh (once she got over being pissed off at me for dragging her to a deserted island with a Cajun songwriter and an eccentric survival dude). Objects: a guitar for Zachary; a big tent; and a bigger knife.
Q: What is one trait or physical characteristic that you are proud of/love about yourself?
I’m loyal to a fault.
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.
Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Number of pages: 336
Word Count: approx. 92,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository Indiebound
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.