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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Guest Post with Suzanne Johnson and Giveaway


Today I would like to welcome author Susanne Johnson to RFTC. Suzanne is on tour promoting the release of her book River Road and has stopped by to chat. Please give Suzanne a warm welcome.

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.

Places to find Suzanne:


Rewriting History, from Pirates to Voodoo Queens

One of the great things about writing a series set in New Orleans is the chance to put the city’s amazing history and culture to use. I mean, why set a series in New Orleans if it could just as easily be set in Kansas City or Atlanta or Dallas? I like to see a book use its setting.

I wanted to do justice to my hometown, so I came up with a new species to go along with my wizards, shapeshifters, mermen, and loup-garou. The Historical Undead are famous humans given physical immortality by the magic of human memory. As long as a person is remembered, his name spoken, his history studied—he can cross over from the world Beyond and walk among us, looking like any other human.

Which can be a problem when the most famous New Orleanians of all are sometimes also the most infamous. I mean, it’s kind of cool that the trumpet player down on the corner who looks kind of familiar might be the real Louis Armstrong, visiting from the Beyond. But that tall, dark-haired woman with the headscarf and big gold earrings? Can you prove she isn’t the real voodoo priestess Marie Laveau? Do you want to tangle with her to find out? And is that a dead rooster she’s carrying?

But the most famous member of the Historical Undead in New Orleans is the early 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte. French-born, tall, intelligent, and crafty, Lafitte ruled as many as a thousand pirates and scalawags from his kingdom of Barataria, in the swamps and bayous south of New Orleans.

Armstrong, Laveau, and Lafitte are all in the first book of my series, Royal Street, and I came upon the issue of reality versus fantasy. Sure, these are the “Historical Undead,” but I wanted to take the “historical” part seriously. So I read an autobiography of Louis Armstrong to get a feel for his voice, listened to a lot of his music, studied his wardrobe. With Marie Laveau, I tried to not only read some historical accounts, but also look at some newspaper accounts of the time to get a feel for what she might look like, her demeanor, how she might talk.

And then there’s Jean Lafitte. I wrote the illustrious French pirate into the first book of the series, intending to put him in one scene--making improper advances toward my heroine DJ, who’s a wizard. But a funny thing happened on my way to do a little research on “Le Capitain.”

He won me over. I brought him back for a second scene. Then a third, and a fourth.

In River Road, I finally gave in and let Jean Lafitte have his way with me…er, I mean become a major series character. Which gave me a great excuse to read, at last count, six biographies of the man.

How accurate is my rogue Lafitte in River Road? I can’t be sure, of course. Biographers agree he was about 6-2, extremely tall for the early 1800s. He was “well formed,” which I translate as “hunk.” He had dark hair, they agreed, and was fair of complexion. He spoke English, Spanish, and Italian, although his first language was French. He was charming, extremely intelligent, charismatic—and lethal. There’s a disagreement on eye color—some say dark blue, some hazel, one even claimed they were violet. So I picked dark blue.

Then accuracy gets dicey, of course, because Jean Lafitte never had access to automobiles, electricity, or telephones. Yet he’s entrepreneurial and smart enough that I think he’d adjust fine. He despairs at DJ’s wardrobe and the fact that she calls her self DJ instead of Drusilla Jane (“those are letters, not a name,” he says). And her use of slang often leads to confusion:

He stepped back and smiled. “You look magnificent, Jolie. More beautiful than even I realized.”

God help me, I blushed. Again. “You look kinda hot yourself.”

He frowned and looked down at his clothing. “But I am quite comfortable. Why would you believe I was hot?”

Oh yeah, he’s hot.


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.

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | IndieBound |
The minute hand of the ornate grandfather clock crept like a gator stuck in swamp mud. I’d been watching it for half an hour, nursing a fizzy cocktail from my perch inside the Hotel Monteleone. The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it had been hand- carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs.

They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.

The infamous Jean Lafitte had expected me at seven. He’d summoned me to his French Quarter hotel suite by courier like I was one of his early nineteenth-century wenches, and I hated to destroy his pirate-king delusions, but the historical undead don’t summon wizards. We summon them.

I’d have blown him off if my boss on the Congress of Elders hadn’t ordered me to comply and my co-sentinel, Alex, hadn’t claimed a prior engagement.

At seven thirty, I abandoned my drink, took a deep breath, and marched through the lobby toward the bank of elevators.

On the long dead-man-walking stroll down the carpeted hallway, I imagined all the horrible requests Jean might make. He’d saved my life a few years ago, after Hurricane Katrina sent the city into freefall, and I hadn’t seen him since. I’d been desperate at the time. I might have promised him unfettered access to modern New Orleans in exchange for his assistance. I might have promised him a place to live. I might have promised him things I don’t even remember. In other words, I might be totally screwed.

I reached the door of the Eudora Welty Suite and knocked, reflecting that Jean Lafitte probably had no idea who Eudora Welty was, and wouldn’t like her if he did. Ms. Welty had been a modern sort of woman who wouldn’t hop to attention when summoned by a scoundrel.

He didn’t answer immediately. I’d made him wait, after all, and Jean lived in a tit- for- tat world. I paused a few breaths and knocked harder. Finally, he flung open the door, waving me inside to a suite plush with tapestries of peach and royal blue, thick carpet that swallowed the narrow heels of my pumps, and a plasma TV he couldn’t possibly know how to operate. What a waste.

“You have many assets, Drusilla, but apparently a respect for time is not among them.” Deep, disapproving voice, French accent, broad shoulders encased in a red linen shirt, long dark hair pulled back into a tail, eyes such a cobalt blue they bordered on navy. And technically speaking, dead.

He was as sexy as ever.

“Sorry.” I slipped my hand in my skirt pocket, fingering the small pouch of magic-infused herbs I carried at all times. My mojo bag wouldn’t help with my own perverse attraction to the man, but it would keep my empathic abilities in check. If he still had a perverse attraction to me, I didn’t want to feel it.

He eased his six-foot-two frame into a sturdy blue chair and slung one long leg over the arm as he gave me a thorough eyeraking, a ghost of a smile on his face.

I perched on the edge of the adjacent sofa, easing back against a pair of plump throw pillows, and looked at him expectantly. I hoped what ever he wanted wouldn’t jeopardize my life, my job, or my meager bank account.

“You are as lovely as ever, Jolie,” Jean said, trotting out his pet name for me that sounded deceptively intimate and brought back a lot of memories, most of them bad. “I will forgive your tardiness— perhaps you were late because you were selecting clothing that I would like.” His gaze lingered on my legs. “You chose beautifully.”

I’d picked a conservative black skirt and simple white blouse with the aim of looking professional for a business meeting, part of my ongoing attempt to prove to the Elders I was a mature wizard worthy of a pay raise. But this was Jean Lafitte, so I should have worn coveralls. I’d forgotten what a letch he could be.

“I have a date after our meeting,” I lied. He didn’t need to know said date involved a round carton with the words Blue Bell Ice Cream printed on front. “Why did you want to see me?”

There, that hadn’t been so difficult—just a simple request. No drama. No threats. No double- entendre. Straight to business.

“Does a man need a reason to see a beautiful woman? Especially one who is indebted to him, and who has made him many promises?” A slow smile spread across his face, drawing my eyes to his full lips and the ragged scar that trailed his jawline.

I might be the empath in the room, but he knew very well that, in some undead kind of way, I thought he was hot.

I felt my face warming to the shade of a trailer- trash bridesmaid’s dress, one whose color had a name like raging rouge. I’d had a similar reaction when I first met Jean in 2005, two days before a mean hurricane with a sissy name turned her malevolent eye toward the Gulf Coast. I blamed my whole predicament on Katrina, the bitch.

Her winds had driven the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the canals that crisscrossed the city, collapsing levees and filling the low, concave metro area like a gigantic soup bowl.

But NBC Nightly News and Anderson Cooper had missed the biggest story of all: how, after the storm, a mob of old gods, historical undead, and other preternatural victims of the scientific age flooded New Orleans. As a wizard, I’d had a ringside seat. Now, three years later, the wizards had finally reached accords with the major preternatural ruling bodies, and the borders were down, as of two days ago. Jean hadn’t wasted any time.

Click for info.

Want to win some goodies from Suzanne? Check out whats up for grabs.

Up For Grabs:
  • 5 lucky winners from the ENTIRE tour will win a $10 Gift Card 
  • 1 lucky winner from the ENTIRE tour will win their choice of Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Simple Touch (or $100 gift card for Amazon, B&N, or Book Depository

To Enter:
  • Leave a meaningful comment or question for Suzanne.
  • Please fill out the Rafflecopter

Good Luck =)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

53 comments :

  1. ^^ I think someone like Jean would find his way easily even in a modern world, that was what made his sucess before he is easily adaptable
    I like that you made reseach because that makes us wants to learn even more too

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    1. Thanks, Miki! Yes, I too think Jean would adapt well to the modern world...as long as he didn't have to work a nine-to-five job!

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  2. I have not only had a fun read with Royal Street and River Road, but also learned a lot about New Orleans and it's cuisine. Because of reading the books I have also read about Jean Lafitte and Louis Armstrong [who I saw play at Birdland in New York]. Love The Sentinels of New Orleans series, and highly recommend them whenever I can.

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    1. Thanks, Roger--and how wonderful to be able to say you saw Louis Armstrong play live, and at Birdland!

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  3. Fun excerpt. I don't read pirate romances anymore, but they were really big when I was a teenager and Jean Lafitte was definitely swoon-worthy.

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    1. Jen, River Road and Royal Street are sooooo much more than a pirate romance. Give one a try, they are well worth the read.

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    2. LOL, Jen--Roger's right. The heroine, DJ, is not AT ALL convinced Jean Lafitte is an appropriate suitor (he is, after all, technically dead). She finds him fascinating, though.

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  4. My hat is off to Suzanne for doing all that research! That is why I don't write any kind of historical fiction... but I admire people who do :)

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    1. Thanks, Allison. I'm just enough of a geek to enjoy the research part of it!

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  5. Thanks for the amazing giveaway!! I can not wait to read River Road!!

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    1. Thanks, Amber. I hope you enjoy the book :-)

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  6. Great cover, looking forward to reading River Road.

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  7. Great excerpt, thank you for sharing. I've never read you befire, looks like I found a new author.

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    1. Thanks, Lorimeehan...hope you get a chance to try one of them!

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  8. LOVE the new creatures you've created, the Historical Undead. It's totally awesome as lore, and such a wonderful idea.

    And, yeah, Jean Lafitte does sound very hot:)

    Awesome excerpt:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

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    1. Oh yeah, Christina, he is definitely hot...which is why DJ lets herself get roped into some of his schemes :-)

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  9. I so so can't wait to read River Road. That excerpt was great!

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  10. River Road is a great book. New Orleans is a character, as well as a setting. I was inspired to look at the menu for jacque imo's restaurant , then listened to dr. john's version of Iko Iko and read the likely meaning of the refrain (jock-a-mo). Read this series!

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    1. Thanks, OldinJersey! Just got back from New Orleans and I'm still in a pout because I didn't get to go to Jacques-Imo's. Wonderful restaurant! Dr John's is my favorite version of Iko-Iko :-)

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  11. I like the cover and the description of the story is very interesting.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

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  12. great excerpt.Enjoyed reading the post
    elaing8(at)netscape(dot)net

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  13. Wonderful excerpt, thanks for sharing (did pick up my copy but haven't read it yet...)
    Thanks for sharing

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  14. those 3 are definitely the most remembered. I'm so glad suzanne did the setting in New Orleans...she made me love it because she described it so well. I've been twice since reading her first book. I even went and took pics of the areas mentioned :) This is a fantastic series. thanks for the post. I'm following along on the tour.
    Tanyaw1224(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Tanya! And I'm so glad you've been able to visit New Orleans. It's been great for me to spend this last week back there...although all the streets are being resurfaced in advance of the Super Bowl. What a mess!

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  15. Hi Suzanne! I love NOLA and loved Royal Street! Congrats on the new release and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Thanks for the awesome giveaway! bpatrick64113@sbcglobal.net

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    1. Thanks, Barb! I hope you enjoy River Road, and exploring Plaquemines Parish as well as NOLA!

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  16. I loved the excerpt and I'm getting really anxious to start this series the more I read about it.

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  17. I've never been to NOLA but I love reading about it in books. This sounds really good! jepebATverizonDOTnet

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    1. Thanks, Jen! I hope you get to go to NOLA once of these days but, if not, the books give you a pretty good sense of being there :-)

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  18. i love the idea/concept about Hurricaine Katrina damaging the barriers between the 2 worlds and how NOLA is such a hub for paranormal. I love this series and can't wait to read River Road.

    Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Anne! When I was going through the whole Katrina mess, I never dreamed I'd end up using it as the springboard for a series. I still wish it hadn't happened but am glad I was at least able to do something positive with it :-)

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  19. okay I can definitely see how current slang would be confusing to someone from the 1800's. That would be funny to read and it sounds like this book is going to have some great humor in it.

    Larena

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  20. I think it is wonderful how ou have taken historical figures and events and brought them into the future! It would be difficult for someone from a different era to live with today's technology and social norms.

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  21. Love the excerpt and great post. Thanks for sharing!

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

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  22. A hot pirate! Doesn't get much better than that! :)
    Love the cover of both books.

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  23. Great excerpt! :) Can't wait to read the book!

    maybe31 at yahoo.com

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  24. Sounds like an interesting read!
    I'm listed as April B. in the rafflecopter.

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  25. I am very happy I read this post, I need a new urban fantasy series and this sounds great :). I have never been to New Orleans but I hope I get to go one day, it seems (from what I have read) that it has an amazing culture and history.

    I love the line about DJ being letters not a name :)

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  26. Interesting timing of having this story come after Hurricane Katrina when we've just gone thru Hurricane Sandy - will there be a sequel that tell's of the effects of Sandy!
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

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  27. I moved to New Orleans after I graduated high school many many years ago and I loved it. I got homesick and moved back to Michigan but I love reading books that are set in NOLA. Putting this on my wish list. Thank you.

    proudarmymom32(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  28. I don't usually read historical fiction, but I love the scyfi twist! That is up my alley. Wizards and empaths, and pirates? Interesting. Thanks for the chance and the contest!

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  29. sounds like a great series. I was lucky enough to go to NOLA before katrina hit and its was/is an amazing city. Would love to go back soon.

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  30. Thanks for this guestpost Suzanne! I really enjoyed him in Royal Street. And I do agree with you, I like it if a special setting is used to full advantage, so I can picture it in my head.

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  31. Hi Suzanne, i love that you really doing the research for your book, so the reader gets the real situation. I also love the excerpt. Hopefully i win, so i can buy this book. I'm on tight budget right now

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