Jen: 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.
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.