Hi everyone, hope you are all well this fine Tuesday morning! Today I've been a part of a tour for the amazing Suzanne Johnson and her new book RIVER ROAD! This post is something I've been looking forward to for a while now because I GOT TO INTERVIEW SUZANNE JOHNSON!! *does happy dance* Also at the end of this post is an awesome giveaway so make sure to check that out too! Alright, lets get started!
Vikki: First of all, thank you for being with us at V’s Book Life today! I am so excited because I absolutely loved ROYAL STREET, it has to be one of my top 10 favourite reads so far this year! I could not wait to read RIVER ROAD...to say this series has me gripped would be an understatement; I’m completely drawn in!
Suzanne: Thank you! That’s awesome to hear!
Vikki: First of all, I like to know a bit more about each author, so can you tell me 3 things about yourself that we couldn’t find on the internet?
Suzanne: Hmm…I like to use family names in my books: DJ is a mashup of my great-grandmothers Drusilla Jane Harris and Ida Jaco (they’d probably spin in their graves if they knew!). I was president of the “underground French club” in high school; my small school discontinued courses in French, so the club decided to stay together and meet in secret. And I grew up in a very small town in rural Alabama—my high school graduating class of 78 people was the largest in school history (the class behind us had 39 people)!
Vikki: As I said earlier I absolutely love the Sentinels of New Orleans series but how would you describe the series to those who have yet to read it?
Suzanne: It’s about what might happen if Hurricane Katrina had not only torn down the levees between Lake Pontchartrain and the city of New Orleans but had also torn down the barriers between our world and the world Beyond. So it’s heartbreaking from the Katrina angle, but once we get away from the devastation of the storm it’s also funny and chaotic and I like to think it takes some paranormal mythologies and turns them on their heads—especially in River Road. It’s about a young female wizard who’s not exactly the most kickass heroine on the block, but she’s smart and resourceful and creative…which makes her fun. (Or at least I hope so.)
Vikki: DJ is definitely fun :)! Your newest release is RIVER ROAD, which will be book 2 in the Sentinels of New Orleans series...could you tell us a bit more about it?
Suzanne: In River Road we’ve moved out of post-Katrina survival mode and the borders between worlds are dropping permanently. The wizards will still be monitoring the borders, so DJ and her partner Alex have their hands full. There are two feuding clans of merpeople living near New Orleans, and in the process of trying to broker a truce, DJ and Alex find a dead wizard and discover that someone—or something—is poisoning the water of the Mississippi River. And then the chaos ensues!
Vikki: Were there any surprises for you while writing RIVER ROAD, unforeseen challenges or did the book take a turn you didn’t quite expect?
Suzanne: There are always characters that take me by surprise. In Royal Street, it was the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, who was supposed to be in the book for one scene but then refused to leave. He’s become a major series character now. In River Road, I was most surprised by the merman Rene Delachaise. I’d planned for Rene and DJ to be enemies, or at least “frenemies,” but they ended up clicking. Not in a romantic way, but as friends. It changed the way the book developed, and he’ll factor into future books.
Vikki: One of the aspects of ROYAL STREET I loved is that everything from the historical undead pirate Jean Lafitte and the divisions of congress wizard to the description of New Orleans after Katrina is so detailed. Where does your inspiration for the Sentinels of New Orleans series come from?
Suzanne: Well, the Katrina stuff came from my own experiences as a Katrina survivor myself. I was living at the city at the time of the storm. It was an awful, awful experience, but I was able to use my own memories and observations to lend an accuracy and, I hope, a sensitivity to what my character DJ sees and experiences when she goes back to the city after the flooding. My Katrina experiences are what inspired the whole series.
As for the rest of the world-building, I’m a little OCD, so I worked out the way the magical world would function and the political structure from the very beginning. As for the rest, I do a lot of research. I’ve read every biography on Jean Lafitte I could get my hands on. I study maps. I read histories.
Vikki: So what can we expect from you next? More Sentinels of New Orleans or are you working on something else?
Suzanne: I am in revisions on the third Sentinels book, which is called Elysian Fields. It will be out in August. Before then, however, I will be doing some shorts, including at least one from the viewpoint of Jean Lafitte—which is totally fun. I also have a digital short that came out recently, “Christmas in Dogtown,” that’s a holiday story set in Louisiana but not tied to the Sentinels series.
I love the covers too! The artist for both is Cliff Nielsen, and I think he nailed the covers. I especially love River Road. He always hides little details in his covers that are like “easter eggs.” On the Royal Street cover, if you look closely, it looks as if the cover is a photo that was water-damaged, like in the flooding, and the French Quarter street is ghosted behind the main image. In River Road, there are a couple of surprises. If you look closely, in the lower right corner there is an alligator lurking in the water (his head is kind of behind the letter D), and the cover is “spattered” with mud. When you read the book, the reason for that will become clear!
Vikki: *Runs off to closely examine my covers*...Woah, that's so cool. I love hidden aspects! So, do you have a writing ritual? Somewhere you have to be to write or something you have to do etc?
Suzanne: No, I have a full-time day job in addition to my writing, plus a daily book blog, so I’ve learned to write anywhere and anytime I can grab a few minutes. Ideally, I’m in my home office with my laptop, but I’ve written outlines for scenes on the back of an envelope while shopping for groceries. I don’t recommend that, however.
Vikki: What do you love about living in New Orleans? I’m planning a visit sometime in the next 2 years and would love to know what to expect since I haven’t been anywhere like it.
Suzanne: I adore New Orleans, and I’ve learned over the years that it’s one of those cities people aren’t ambivalent about. They either love it passionately or hate it passionately. It’s chaotic and messy and inefficient, but it has a beauty and culture and passion for life that’s like nowhere else. The people, the music, architecture, food, ambience: all of it’s amazing. I always urge people to get outside the French Quarter and see what the real city is like, from the Central Business District, or CBD, to Uptown, to the Irish Channel, to the Garden District. I could talk about it all day!
Vikki: It sounds amazing! Next question...what’s your average day like?
Suzanne: On weekdays, I have a day job from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Over my lunch hour, I’ll usually read over what I’ve written the night before. I unwind until about 7:30 p.m., then I go and write until about 11. I put in more writing hours on weekends, especially on Sunday, when I’m usually at my computer for 10-12 hours. If I’m not on deadline, I’ll usually take Saturdays off or only work an hour or two. Man, how boring does that sound?
Vikki: If you could spend a day with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Suzanne: I’d like to spend the day with my great-great grandfather. I became fascinated with him while doing genealogy a few years back. He was a farmer in northwest Alabama at the time of the Civil War. He was too old to enlist himself, but he outfitted his three oldest sons, ages 19, 21, and 23, with horses and supplies, and sent them to fight for the Union. Yes, Southern boys, fighting for the Union—all three of them were killed. He was such a Unionist that he had to spend the last couple of years of the war hiding out in the hills because his neighbors in the Confederate Home Guard were trying to hang him. He was a stubborn old dude, and I’d like to talk to him. See what drove him, kept him going, gave him the courage to stand up for what he believed in.
Vikki: What is your favourite book/film/television programme right now?
Um…(shuffles feet)…I like these culture-immersion reality shows that are popular in the States right now. “Swamp People,” about alligator-hunters in Louisiana. “Ice Road Truckers” about long-haul truckers in Alaska and northern Canada who drive over frozen lakes and rivers. “Billy the Exterminator.” Don’t even ask about that one.
Vikki: And finally, what book are you reading right now?
I’m reading a paranormal romance, Cynthia Eden’s Angel in Chains, for which I’m doing a review.
Vikki: Thank you so much for stopping by, I’m a huge fan of the series and will be looking forward to reading more work from you!
Suzanne: Thank you!
You can get your hands on your very own copy of RIVER ROAD, book 2 in the amazing SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS series right now!! And now...it's time for the GIVEAWAY *cheers*!!
That's right folks, as part of the Bewitching Books Tour there is a huge TOUR WIDE Giveaway in action right now, and you can win some amazing prizes! All you have to do is fill out the form below and read the terms and conditions to be in with a chance of winning! GOOD LUCK!
V's Book Life is not the host of this giveaway and is not in any way responsible for the allocation or distribution of prizes!