Interview & Contest: Suzanne Johnson

Suzanne Johnson publicity photoJen: Today we welcome Suzanne Johnson to Romancing the Book. Susanne, will you share a short bio with us?
Suzanne: Suzanne Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series and, writing as Susannah Sandlin, the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, as well as The Collectors romantic suspense series. Her work has won the Holt Medallion for paranormal romance (Absolution, 2013), the Linda Howard Award of Excellence (Elysian Fields, 2014), and was a finalist for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Awards in both 2014 and 2015. A displaced New Orleanian, Suzanne currently lives in Auburn, Alabama.

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Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Suzanne: My newest novel, PIRATE’S ALLEY, which released on April 21, is the fourth book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, which came from my own experiences as a New Orleanian during and after Hurricane Katrina. In the series, Katrina tears down the “paranormal levees” between our world and the paranormal world, resulting in a flood of other species coming in, undetected by humans. The Sentinels are the wizard “border guards” between the worlds. In the fourth book, as the different species are jockeying for power in modern New Orleans, possibly headed toward war, the heroine is caught between duty and friendship.

Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Suzanne: I’m definitely a plotter. Since I have a full-time “day job,” I have to maximize my limited writing time in order to hit my goal of writing at least three books a year—I don’t think I could do that as a pantser. I have a plotting system that works for me and helps me create a pretty good sentence outline before I ever start writing. I don’t plan down to the minute details, because I still want to allow that magical thing that happens when a character does something that I, as the author, totally didn’t expect. I flow with it, go back and adjust the outline, and continue writing.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Suzanne: In PIRATE’S ALLEY, the world of Faerie is introduced for the first time, so I did quite a bit of study into common fae folklore so I could determine how I could best put my own spin on it. Since the undead Truman Capote appears in the book, I did some research on everything from his wardrobe to his speech patterns to his ties to New Orleans. And because the book is advancing a plot arc that spans several books in the series, I’ve been studying the Battle of New Orleans, the final battle of the War of 1812, where the French pirate Jean Lafitte (who is a major character in the series) had a key role in how the battle played out between the Americans and British. There will be a lot of parallels between that battle and the Sentinels series!

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?  Easiest? Most rewarding?
Suzanne: The most challenging thing for me is juggling my day job, family obligations, and the considerable promotional requirements of being an author—and still finding time to do the actual writing. It’s a real balancing act. I keep a detailed master “life calendar” that I call “Oz the Great and Terrible”—because usually I think it’s going to take magic to get it all done. But, in the end, it’s rewarding to tell a story and have other people like it. I love talking to readers and getting into chats about the pros and cons of different characters as if we were gossiping about real people!

Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Suzanne: Uh…free time? LOL. Actually, in an attempt to achieve some kind of balance last year, I started making an hour each day to do something not related to reading or writing. I began doing mixed-media art, and it has become a great way for me to relax and work a different set of creative muscles.

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?  Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Suzanne: My first book was ROYAL STREET, the debut book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, and I was fortunate to be able to launch it in New Orleans. A group of six friends—we call ourselves the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Snark” since we live scattered across the country—converged on New Orleans, had a launch party at a local bookstore, and went to a special dinner at Commander’s Palace. A week later, they threw a big New Orleans-themed party for me in Montgomery, Alabama, near where I currently live. It was the most amazing thing anyone had ever done for me.

Now that I’m on book thirteen, the only special thing I do for each release is add a silver charm to my Pandora “book bracelet”—each charm has a tie to a specific book. I’m still trying to decide which one to get for PIRATE’S ALLEY…which brings us to a giveaway! I’m trying to decide between a pirate skull and crossbones (to represent my pirate character Jean Lafitte), a snowflake (in the book, New Orleans is buried under a blizzard), a pirate ship, or the symbol of New Orleans, a fleur de lis.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Suzanne: I’ll have a paranormal romance novella in a new anthology coming out this fall: DARK SECRETS: A PARANORMAL NOIR ANTHOLOGY, which also features novellas from Rachel Caine, Cynthia Eden, Megan Hart, Jeffe Kennedy, and Mina Khan. I’m also working on the first book in a new romantic suspense series (as Susannah Sandlin) focusing on the lives, loves and adventures of a team of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents. Book one, WILD MAN’S BLUFF, will be out early next year.

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24 thoughts on “Interview & Contest: Suzanne Johnson

  1. I love each of your interview^^ as for your question i think the snowflake would be great as it’s really important in Pirate’s alley ( now Jean is but he will apepars again so 😉 we can find an idea for him later) the new orleans symbol isn’t bad but not the most significant for this book i think

    ^^ now for the rafflecopter question: i never went to the New Orleans but i would love to do a Sentinel of new Orleans tour ( mixed witha NCIS one woudl be even more fantastic^^)as i was able to do a little with teh pictures Suzanne put on her blog soem time ago really to see those place in real would be fabulous

  2. Kristy Petree says:

    I haven’t been to New Orleans, but if given the chance I would try to go during Mardi Gras. And I’m a big fan of the fleur de lis. Thanks! 🙂

  3. Stephanie F. says:

    I haven’t lived their but I have visited a number of times. I love the atmosphere and beauty of the French Quarter and the cemeteries are so beautiful. The Garden District and Spotted Cat though are two places I highly recommend visiting.

  4. erinf1 says:

    it’s a dream of mine to go down to New Orleans for an extended visit. I’d love to see the French Quarter and try all the food 🙂 Congrats to Suzanne on her newest release!

  5. anne says:

    I would love to visit New Orleans and visit the French Quarter and experience Zydeco, jazz, the culinary delights and the history and atmosphere of this unique place.

  6. Karn says:

    I visited New Orleans once but now ex husbAnd was being a butthole and only drove through the area refusing to stop and walk through town! So I would love going back sometime and really enjoy the area. I love the series and just soak up the atmosphere. Which is why I also love watching NCIS-New Orleans!

  7. New Orleans is one of my favorite places to visit. I love the quarter, sampling all the food, the river walk, the shops, the jazz. But, there are also tours that take you through the magnificent plantation homes.

  8. Marissa C. says:

    I love using the charm bracelet as a means of celebration! What a great idea! Not only do you get to wear your books wherever you go, you can pass them on to someone later on – with wonderful stories about how you came to write each book and pick the charm that celebrated it.

  9. laurie says:

    I haven’t been to New Orleans, but if given the chance I would try to go during Mardi Gras.

  10. Ahhh … New Orleans! I visited the city several years ago on a bus tour through the south of the US and even though we only spent one day there I remember how charming it felt. And then, of course, beignets. *drool*

    P.S.: So how about a beignet charm for your bracelet? Just kidding. Maybe. 😉

  11. Thanks for the comments, everyone! Hm….a beignet charm. I think it would make me hungry! If any of you have a chance to go to (or back to) NOLA, go in late October or early November–the weather is perfect! The rest of the time, it’s usually perfectly humid 🙂

  12. Janie McGaugh says:

    I’ve never lived in or visited New Orleans. I would love to visit and see the French Quarter and other places mentioned in the various UF/PNR series I’ve read.

  13. Liz S says:

    I have visited New Orleans and my best memory is the food! Only had 3 days, so spent most of it in the French Quarter.
    I like the pirate ship charm for your bracelet.

  14. Bube says:

    I have never been in New Orleans, but my wish is to visit this great city one day, and if my wish come true, then first I want to visit Jackson Square, looks amazing 🙂
    Thanks for the great interview 🙂

  15. BookLady says:

    I have never been to New Orleans, but I would love to visit some of the sites that are part of the Sentinels of New Orleans series.

  16. Barbara Elness says:

    I have been through the city (on my way to Florida) but didn’t really get a chance to do much beyond marvel at Lake Pontchartrain. I would like to see the French Quarter and some of the historical sights of the city if I have a chance to visit.

  17. Maureen says:

    I have been to New Orleans and while the touristy stuff is fun, you should also ask the locals where they eat and go to some of the little restaurants tucked away in the various neighborhoods. The food is just as good and it’s a little cheaper!

  18. Galena says:

    I haven’t been to New Orleans yet, but it’s on my short-list of places to vacation to someday. I love the mix of history, culture, FOOD, music, and fun that you can find there. Luckily our easiest time to take off work to vacation (early-fall) is the best time of year to visit, weather-wise!

  19. JenM says:

    I’ve been to New Orleans once and enjoyed it although in general I prefer to go to the country rather than the city when I vacation. I’d love to go there sometime for Mardi Gras though. I’m sure that would be really fun.

  20. Jess1 says:

    Many years ago, I visited New Orleans. The food is great. I would say to visit the French Quarter.

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