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I Belong


Author Interview & Giveaway: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Please join us in welcoming author Suzanne Johnson here today to Dark Faerie Tales.  The first book in her Sentinels of New Orleans, Royal Street, was released in April. The second book, River Road, will be released on November 13th. You can read an excerpt from the book here. Want to know our thoughts on the book? You can read Sheila’s review hereRoyal Street is also being featured in our UF/PNR Reading Challenge 2012.

Following the post enter for your chance to win a “swag bag” of goodies which includes an ARC of River Road. Big thanks to Suzanne for this giveaway.

About Suzanne:

Suzanne Johnson is the author of a new urban fantasy series beginning with ROYAL STREET and RIVER ROAD, both coming in 2012 from Tor Books, and ELYSIAN FIELDS, coming in 2013, also from Tor. A longtime New Orleans resident now living in Auburn, Alabama, Suzanne is a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and a native of Winfield, Alabama.

During her daytime job, Suzanne is associate editor of Auburn Magazine, the quarterly magazine of the Auburn University Alumni Association. She has also worked at Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of San Diego, Rice University in Houston, and at the University of Illinois. Awards include: the Robert S. Sibley Award for the best university magazine in the U.S. and Canada, for the Rice University Sallyport; feature writing awards in 2009 and 2010 from Writer’s Digest magazine; and more than 50 awards in writing and editing from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Suzanne is an active member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapters of RWA.

You can visit Suzanne around the web here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Want to read more from Suzanne Johnson?

Royal Street (Sentinels of ... River Road (Sentinels of Ne...

_________________________________________________________________________________

Welcome Suzanne!

DFT: Could you start things off by telling us a little about Royal Street?

Suzanne: Royal Street is an urban fantasy featuring wizards, undead pirates, voodoo priestesses, and other  “pretes” (preternaturals), set to a backdrop of New Orleans immediately before and after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city—and tore down the barriers between our world and the preternatural Beyond. My heroine, a young wizard names DJ, has to cope with the destruction to her beloved city in addition to finding her missing mentor, dodging the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, and solving a string of murders. It is my love letter to New Orleans, where I lived for many years (including during Katrina), and looks at what a person relies on when everything she’s built her world around is snatched away from her. Which sounds kind of gloomy, but it has a lot of humor!

DFT: Could you tell us about your main characters in Royal Street?

Suzanne: The story’s told from the viewpoint of a young apprentice Green Congress wizard named Drusilla Jaco, or DJ. Green Congress wizards are good in ritual magic but not so much in physical or mental magic. But DJ has always had a few skills she couldn’t explain, and during the course of the book we find out where those come from. Now she just has to learn to use them! DJ is headstrong, creative, and loyal to a fault, and that combination gets her into trouble—but her heart is always in the right place.

The other major characters for this book, who are also major characters for the Sentinels of New Orleans series, are Alex Warin, DJ’s partner and a combination investigator/assassin for the wizard Elders; Jake Warin, Alex’s cousin, a Marine veteran who owns a bar in the French Quarter; and the pirate Jean Lafitte, a member of the “historical undead”—famous humans who are given an immortal afterlife by the magic of human memory.

DFT: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

Suzanne: Oh, it has to be the pirate Jean Lafitte! He is such fun to write because he’s so morally ambiguous. He’s sexy, smart, charming, devious, violent, and yet surprisingly loyal—especially when there’s something in it for him. It was fun to research the historical Jean Lafitte, who lived from about 1780-1825 and is probably New Orleans’ most famous former resident, and imagine the things he might do to make his way in modern New Orleans. So on the one hand, he can get around well enough to steal a gun and a boat, but on the other he’s fascinated by things like showers and telephones—and DJ.

DFT: Do you have a favorite scene or line in Royal Street?

Suzanne: My favorite scene in this book is probably the one where DJ has been fighting Jean Lafitte, and Alex Warin shows up for the first time. It’s DJ’s first scene with Alex, and it still makes me laugh.

My favorite lines aren’t funny—they sum up my own experience with Hurricane Katrina. In the book DJ says them, but it might as well be me: “I wished Katrina had never happened, that the city I love so much hadn’t been so broken, its spirit so damaged, its naïve joy replaced by sorrow and cynicism and anger. Yet I know a lot of things I’ve come to love since the storm would never have been in my life without the pain.”

DFT: How much research went into creating this series?

Suzanne: A lot, because I draw so heavily on my “historical undead” characters and I wanted them to be as realistic as possible within my fantasy setting. So I had to do a lot of research on Jean Lafitte and voodoo priestess Marie Laveau and jazz great Louis Armstrong, as well as learning about Haitian Vodou and the magical properties associated with gemstones and plants. I also re-read all the news coverage from Hurricane Katrina because I didn’t want to write this book unless I could be as honest and accurate as possible about what we all lived through and what happened when, even though I knew it was going to slow down the pace of the book. I can’t tell you how many New Orleanians have told me it’s the most honest depiction they’ve read of what the city was like after Katrina.

DFT: What is your favorite part about writing this series?

Suzanne: Being able to stay immersed in the culture and history of New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana. There’s really no other place like it. I also like writing an unfolding story—what will ultimately happen when the preternaturals come into New Orleans for good—with a combination of humor and violence and, yes, a touch of romance, although I don’t ever foresee this become an outright paranormal romance.

DFT: Is it difficult to come up with a believable magical system?

Suzanne: I don’t think the “believable” part is so hard, because once the reader accepts that magic exists in the world you’ve built, they do believe it. I think the difficult part is making the magical system complex enough and rich enough to sustain a series without overwhelming the reader. It has to be unfolded carefully. For example in the world of Royal Street and the sequels, the wizard hierarchy has four different classes of wizards, plus a couple of tangent groups, but only the Green Congress, Enforcers, and Elders are really shown in the first book. The rest will unfold as the series progresses.

DFT: Do you have a long term plan or goal for this story universe?

Suzanne: I do have a master story arc that spans several books, because I want to introduce each major species slowly and establish how the balance of power is going to be settled in this new post-Katrina world. The series is contracted through book three, and whether the rest will be written depends on the readers and how well they like DJ and her world!

DFT: What was the inspiration for setting your world in New Orleans?

Suzanne: I lived in New Orleans for about fifteen years—only left four years ago for family reasons. A lot of books are set in New Orleans without really “getting” the city the way a resident does, so I wanted to write a story that not only paid homage to the city’s colorful past, but also the way life in NOLA is today.

DFT: Do you have a particular writing process or ritual?

Suzanne: I have a full-time day job plus family responsibilities, so I have to be very rigid with my writing schedule in order to write from two to three books per year and maintain my daily blog. Basically, I work from 8 p.m. to midnight every night, with longer hours on weekends. In other words, my house is a wreck, my dogs barely remember me, and I’m extremely dull!

DFT: What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) do you draw from while writing?

Suzanne: My biggest literary influence is Stephen King—I grew up reading his work, and still think he is a master at crafting a story. But for this series specifically, I draw on the history and music of Louisiana, especially that of Zachary Richard and Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil. I keep up with the New Orleans media and go back several times a year to keep my head in that culture. And, well, okay, I also like to watch some of those crazy Louisiana reality shows like “Billy the Exterminator” and “Swamp People.”

DFT: Which genre do you prefer to read? Do you have any favorite authors or series?

Suzanne: I read mostly speculative fiction—dystopian sci-fi, paranormal romance, and (of course) urban fantasy. Favorite series include JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

DFT: What can you tell us about River Road and any other projects you are working on?

Suzanne: River Road moves the setting to three years after Katrina, to the time when the wizards’ Elders and the heads of the other prete groups have agreed to a treaty and the borders between New Orleans and the Beyond have finally dropped. As soon as the borders come down, the first one into town is the pirate Jean Lafitte, who ensconces himself in a fancy hotel suite and is ready to collect on the debts DJ owed him at the end of Royal Street. There is a merman feud, some dead wizards, and a mysterious substance poisoning the waters of the Mississippi River. River Road is faster-paced than Royal Street since I (and my characters) don’t have to tiptoe around Hurricane Katrina. As for other projects, book three—Elysian Fields—is in production for a spring 2013 release, and I’m working on a collection of short stories and a novelette set in the Royal Street world but focusing on secondary characters.

DFT: What is your favorite magical power or spell?

Suzanne: If I could have a magical power it would be teleportation, so I wouldn’t have to deal with airports, security, or traffic jams. How cool would that be!? Among DJ’s powers, I like playing with her empathic abilities because they can be both blessing and curse, and she has to work to control how much of someone else’s emotions she lets in or face the moral dilemma of how much she’s going to poke her nose into someone else’s emotional pool.

DFT: What creature are you afraid of the most? Why?

Suzanne: Probably zombies, because they’re just…gross. And mindless. And they eat people. The whole idea of “zombie romance” just gives me the heebie-jeebies! I gave this fear to DJ, which of course guarantees that at some point she is going to meet up with a zombie or two.

DFT: I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Suzanne: Thank you—it’s great to be here!

_________________________________________________________________________________

This giveaway is provided by Suzanne Johnson

One winner will receive:

* A signed ARC of River Road, book two in the series (and man, are these rare!)
* An “I (heart) Jean Lafitte” T-shirt
* Royal Street and River Road magnets
* A “Swamp Wizards: River Road, Coming Nov. 13” poster
* A “magical” gemstone bracelet.

GIVEAWAY GUIDELINES:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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42 Responses to “Author Interview & Giveaway: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

  1. Viki S.No Gravatar
    1

    I think I’d use it to heal.
    vsloboda(at)gmail(dot)com

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  2. RebeNo Gravatar
    2

    Hmm, if I had a magical gemstone bracelet, I would love to use it to control the weather, especially after the heat wave we’ve had the last few days!

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  3. Caty RNo Gravatar
    3

    I would use it to bring a sense of calm and peace. People are less violent and anxious that way.

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  4. sandyg265No Gravatar
    4

    I’d use it to heal.

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  5. erinf1No Gravatar
    5

    Thanks for a great post and giveaway! Congrats on the new release! I have River Street high on my wishlist and hopefully I’ll get to try it soon :)

    I’d use it to keep my dogs out of trouble!

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  6. Roger SimmonsNo Gravatar
    6

    I have a magical bracelet of Suzanne’s – Haven’t used it yet – saving the power for a special occasion! Enjoyed the Q&A. Thanks

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  7. Francene LNo Gravatar
    7

    If I had a magical bracelet, I’d use it to create a pocket in space that I could hold all my books in. That way I wouldn’t have to cull them every 3 to 5 years but could just stick them in and find them later.

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  8. JenniferKNo Gravatar
    8

    Thanks for the great giveaway. If I had this bracelet I would use it for protection against the negative energy in the world.

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  9. Melissa (Books and Things)No Gravatar
    9

    Hm… depends on the magic. I guess healing… myself and others.

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  10. LisaCNo Gravatar
    10

    I’d love to make time run more slowly or stop when I need it to.

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  11. Suzanne JohnsonNo Gravatar
    11

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! Those are great uses for magical bracelets…I’m thinking I could use it for the greater good like to cure cancer…but I might be selfish and just make everything I ate calorie-free!

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  12. Kelly MillsNo Gravatar
    12

    Thanks so much for the awesome giveaway! I read and enjoyed Royal Street & am looking forward to River Road.

    Let’s see, if I had a magical bracelet I would probably use it to heal. Myself (I’m clutzy, I need it, lol) and others as well.

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  13. TimNo Gravatar
    13

    I would use it for protection. I liked Royal Street. I’m ready for River Road.

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  14. MollyNo Gravatar
    14

    If I had a magic bracelet I’d use it to poof me anywhere that I wanted to be. Wanna go to the beach? Poof, you’re in Fiji.

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  15. RickiNo Gravatar
    15

    Safety and courage

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  16. Teresa WarnerNo Gravatar
    16

    Healing for sure would be my choice!

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  17. Van PhamNo Gravatar
    17

    I’d use it to heal, or stop time lol.

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  18. Suzanne JohnsonNo Gravatar
    18

    More great answers. Healing seems to be the top choice, although I’m liking Molly’s “poofing” thing, too. Poof–I’m in Alaska. Wait…I seem to still be here.

    Glad you guys liked Royal Street! River Road is faster and a bit more of a wild ride (think Jean Lafitte plus mermen and nymphs) without the hurricane to contend with as directly.

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  19. Maureen FNo Gravatar
    19

    Shield of some sort to prevent injury or the stopping time thing is a cool idea….I always envied Hermione’s Time Turner.

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  20. LizNo Gravatar
    20

    Thanks for the giveaway! I would definitely use a magical bracelet as a teleporter. It would certainly help out with my punctuality problems :)

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  21. Ferretvamp14No Gravatar
    21

    I would want the bracelet to be used for healing purposes. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  22. elaing8No Gravatar
    22

    I would use it to heal also.

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  23. Barbara ElnessNo Gravatar
    23

    If I had a magical gemstone bracelet, I’d use it to teleport.

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  24. rissatooNo Gravatar
    24

    I’m so broke right now, that I’d love a magical gemstone bracelet that allowed me to generate the $ I need to pay my bills. *sigh*

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  25. Barb PNo Gravatar
    25

    Healing would top my list, although rissatoo’s comment sounds good too. I love Suzanne and would love to have a copy of River Road! Thanks for the wonderful giveaway.

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  26. Anne RNo Gravatar
    26

    Hmmm..a magic bracelet? so many options to chose from. I guess I would like one for either teleporting or telekinesis.
    Great giveaway, Thanks!

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  27. Rachel at theJeepDivaNo Gravatar
    27

    I have not read the first in the series yet but I would love to win. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  28. Suzanne JohnsonNo Gravatar
    28

    Thanks for the comments…Rissatoo, I’d like that myself! Hope things get better for you :-)

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  29. AbbyNo Gravatar
    29

    probably use it to heal others but, if that is what the gemstone is used for or conversing with the dead that would be neat

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  30. VanessaNo Gravatar
    30

    Healing. Absolutely. I am sure there are other things that I wiould think of given time… but right off my inclination is healing.

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  31. aurianNo Gravatar
    31

    Thanks for the lovely interview, I enjoyed reading it. My magical bracelet would be made with my favourite stone, amethyst, and I would use it to teleport. No more waiting for a traffic sign, bliss!

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  32. GalenaNo Gravatar
    32

    I’d use mine as a teleporter. No more commuting to work!

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  33. roro @roro is reading[rogier]No Gravatar
    33

    teleportation would be cool

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  34. bn100No Gravatar
    34

    I would use it to teleport.

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  35. Carin WNo Gravatar
    35

    I would use it to make my kids do what I ask them too LOL! :roll:
    Carin8)

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  36. donnasNo Gravatar
    36

    To teleport. Never have to deal with traffic and use the money from gas for other important things.

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  37. CherylNo Gravatar
    37

    I would use it to transport from one place to another instantly or maybe to make myself invisible for a time.

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  38. Emmalee GiantomassoNo Gravatar
    38

    I would use mine to see into the future, and help people! Thanks for giveaway!

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  39. kelsey dNo Gravatar
    39

    I would use it to make and grant wishes! lol

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  40. Suzanne JohnsonNo Gravatar
    40

    More great answers! I’m glad to see some others agree with me on the teleporting thing. I’m gearing up for a six-hour drive to New Orleans in a few weeks and wish I could just put on a magic bracelet!

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  41. NikkiNo Gravatar
    41

    I would use it to read people minds, as well as magically teleport places and last but not least make it give me some money since I so desperately need it. :P

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  42. LoraNo Gravatar
    42

    If I had a magical gemstone bracelet, it would definitely act as a universal translator, much like the TARDIS – it would be able to translate verbal and written languages for me! :-)

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