Interview with Suzanne Johnson Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans Series

by | May 16, 2013 | Author Interview

River Road and Royal Street Button April May 300 x 225


Can you tell the readers a little about yourself?
I’m a seventh-generation Alabamian who’s spent most of my life outside the state—I’ve lived in Illinois, Texas, California and Louisiana, with the longest stints in Houston and New Orleans. Currently, I’m back in Alabama, in the town of Auburn. I blame the Southern Gothic upbringing with my interest in paranormal fiction.

Do you write full time?
No, I still have a “day job,” although that, too, involves writing (magazine/journalism). I do put in at least forty hours of writing a week, though, in addition to the day job, so I sort of DO write full time. Sleep? I don’t need no stinkin’ sleep J

What are 5 fun/interesting facts about you?
Yikes. Well, I don’t know how interesting they are…let me think….
1.  I was living in New Orleans during the time Hurricane Katrina hit, which spurred me to write my first novel, which spurred on a whole new second career. Who knew?
2.  I’m obsessively obsessive. I’ll latch onto a musician I love, for example, and will listen to virtually nothing else for up to a year or more…until someone else finally breaks through my noise filter. Currently, you’ll find Canadian singer-songwriter David Jalbert on all my devices. He’s on month eleven!
3.  I was once a crime reporter for a daily newspaper. My first week on the job, we had a serial killer in the area, and I had the distinct displeasure of rousting the coroner out of the shower to get quotes. Neither of us was amused.
4.  I drive a twelve-year-old SUV named Samwise Gamgee. So you know what my reading obsession was twelve years ago!
5.  My brother (who’s seven years older than me) and I were both born on Mother’s Day. I can only assume our mom thinks that was a good thing!

What are the “must haves” for you when you sit down to write a book?
A caffeinated diet soda and my laptop. With those things, I can write just about anywhere.

What made you decide to become a writer and how old were you?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, and started journaling and writing bad poetry in high school, but I was on a journalism writing path and not a fiction writing path. It wasn’t until much later, after Hurricane Katrina, that I thought I had anything to say as a novelist, so I’m as surprised at this turn of events as anyone else!

Who or what was your inspiration for writing River Road?
Readers might think it was the BP oil spill in the Gulf in 2010 because it has to do with the waters in the Mississippi River being poisoned, but actually it had already been written when that happened. Actually, however, it was inspired by the wetlands of South Louisiana and what a prime location they’d be for water species such as merfolk and nymphs. And I knew the way I wanted my heroine, DJ, to grow in this book—to mature and to begin trusting her own instincts—so I combined the two. (And of course my mermen have to be Cajuns working in the fishing industry!)

Do you feel that you can relate to one character in River Road more than any other? And why?
In the first book in the series, Royal Street, I most identified with DJ because I used so many of my own experiences and thoughts about the Hurricane Katrina experience as hers (well, except I am SO not a blond wizard!). In River Road, I still most identify with her but for different reasons. Like so many of us, she’s trying to find her place in the world, trying to discover who she is and how to relate to others. She makes a lot of mistakes, but her heart’s always in the right place, and she always gets back up when she’s knocked down.

What do you love most about writing?
There are these surreal moments in writing when the characters take over and come to life on the page. They do things you hadn’t even considered until your fingers suddenly type them, and the words flow fast and furiously. You look up and are shocked to see that hours have gone by. There’s something magical about it, and it makes up for those other days when every single word seems forced out of you drenched in blood and agony. (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but not as much as one might think!)

What is your biggest challenge when you write?
Finding the time to write. With a day job that keeps me busy from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., plus the marketing demands on writers these days, my writing time has to come between 8 p.m. and midnight. And then I really have to use my weekend writing time wisely—usually about seven hours on Saturday and from twelve to fourteen hours on Sunday.

Do you have any advice for any other aspiring writers out there?
It’s not particularly unusual advice, but it’s heartfelt: Decide how badly you want it, and be honest with yourself. If you want it badly enough, this writing life, accept that it has to be a priority. It comes before housework. It comes before going out with friends. I know very talented writers who can’t get a book finished but can find time to hang out on weekends and whose house is a hell of a lot cleaner than mine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but be realistic about what you’re willing to give up for it at this point in your life. It might not be the right time for you. If it is, go for it full-tilt.

What do you do when you are not writing?
If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing, or reading about writing, or talking about writing. (LOL. Did I mention I was obsessive?) I allow myself two hours a day to eat dinner/play with my dogs/watch TV—all at the same time. Other than that? I’m writing.

When you’re not writing what kind of books do you like to read?
If I’m actively writing the first draft of a novel (I write both urban fantasy as Suzanne Johnson and paranormal romantic thrillers as Susannah Sandlin), I won’t read in the genre in which I’m writing because I don’t want to be influenced by it. So when I’m writing romance, I’ll read horror or thrillers or science fiction. When I’m in urban fantasy mode, I’ll read romance or historicals. When I’m not actively first-drafting a book, I tend to read nonfiction in areas I’m interested in researching for future books.

Since becoming published, what has been your favorite part of the process?
Having people email or contact me on Facebook or Twitter that they have read my work and like it—it’s an amazing thing to me that these worlds I’ve created have entertained people or touched them in some way. There’s nothing like it!

If you can, tell us what is up next for you?
River Road will be released in trade paperback on June 25; it’s the second book in the series, but works as a standalone. The third book in the series, Elysian Fields, will be released on August 13—this book really jacks up the stakes in the series, and I can’t wait until it’s out! And as Susannah Sandlin, my paranormal romantic thriller called Storm Force (think Army Rangers and shapeshifters) will be released on June 18. It’s a busy summer!

Thanks so much for having me here today! I’d like to offer a commenter a choice of Royal Street or River Road, or an author “swag pack.” U.S. and Canada entries, please!


Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonRoyal Street
Sentinels of New Orleans Book One
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765327796
ASIN: B006OM459U
Number of pages: 337
Word Count: approx. 94,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerald St. Simon has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and the killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.

River Road by Suzanne Johnson

River Road
Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765327802
ASIN: B00842H5VI
Number of pages: 336
Word Count: approx. 92,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
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.

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.

Author Suzanne Johnson

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River Road and Royal Street Button April May 300 x 225

Disclosure: This Information was provided by the Author through Bewitching Book Tours. This is NOT a compensated post.


  1. miki

    Oh you are both born as her best gifts^^ that’s cute. i guess i can relate to the obessive part albeit to a lesser level^^:

    • aSuzanne Johnson

      I’m sure she has had her doubts over the years–LOL. I only made it on Mother’s Day by a minute, but it counts!

  2. Roger Simmons

    I really like the Sentinels of New Orleans series. Enjoyed the Q&A. Always fun and learn something new. Thanks.

    • aSuzanne Johnson

      Yes, I thought if I named my XTerra after Frodo’s “faithful companion,” he’d never break down and strand me on the side of the interstate. After 12 years, so far so good!

  3. Liz S

    Nice interview. Have to buy a car this year. Now I have to think of a name as good as yours!


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