TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Suzanne: Hm…not sure how interesting it is, but I’ve developed a system that works for me. My first draft, which I call “draft zero” (and which NOBODY sees) is usually about only two-thirds the length of the finished book. Really bare bones, where I’m working out the plot with no descriptions or setting details. Then I go back and layer in the other stuff.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Suzanne: Probably the biggest influence has been Stephen King. I grew up reading his stuff, and still do. Whether or not you like horror, which has a lot in common with urban fantasy, the man can tell a good story. In urban fantasy, I love Jim Butcher. In paranormal romance, I’m all about the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Outside the speculative fiction genre, I think the writing of my fellow Alabama author Rick Bragg is brilliant. If he published a phone book, I’d buy it and read it.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Suzanne: A serious plotter. Royal Street was the first novel I’d ever attempted, and I didn’t yet realize the value of plotting. So it went through a lot of upheavals and scene cuts and bloody, brutal surgery. I recently finished the third book in the series and I think my outline was something like 12,000 words long!
TQ: What is the most challenging thing about writing for you?
Suzanne: Finding time to write, definitely. I have a full-time job as associate editor for a quarterly university magazine, plus family obligations. I’ve had to give up a lot—sleep and any semblance of a social life, LOL.
TQ: Describe Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1) in 140 characters or less.
Suzanne: Katrina topples New Orleans’ supernatural levees, monsters invade, junior wizard learns to fight. Must love pirates, voodoo queens, magic.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Royal Street?
Suzanne: I re-read all the Times-Picayune (New Orleans’ daily newspaper) coverage from Hurricane Katrina, making sure my plot followed the exact timeline of what happened when—when the lights came back on, when the water was drinkable, when Hurricane Rita came through, etc. Also read biographies of pirate Jean Lafitte and jazz great Louis Armstrong to make sure I portrayed them as accurately as I could. Quite a bit of research on voodoo. And I re-read my own blog that I maintained for a couple of years after Katrina, to remind myself of what I was bitching and moaning about at the time (which was a lot!).
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Suzanne: The easiest has probably been the pirate Jean Lafitte, because after reading several biographies of him I now find him totally fascinating. In the original version of the book, I’d planned for him to be in one scene—the first one in the novel—and never see him again. But he just kept coming back and ended up really impacting the direction the whole series is going.
The hardest character to write has been Jake Warin, a veteran who was injured badly in Afghanistan and has gone through some rough years before Royal Street begins. He’s had issues with alcohol, and sometimes his head goes to really dark places. Yet on the outside, he’s charming and flirtatious. His story arc over the first three books takes a lot of dark turns.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Royal Street?
Suzanne: One of my favorites is a scene that takes place at the Napoleon House, which is a bar and restaurant in the French Quarter that was built around 1800 as a residence. Napoleon Bonaparte had been invited to spend his exile there, but never made it. It’s one of my favorite places in New Orleans. But in the book, the Napoleon House is still closed for Katrina, and my heroine DJ ends up in a dramatic scene with a gaggle of pirates. I can’t say much more without spoilers.
I also like the scene early in the book when DJ’s new partner Alex shows up, guns ablaze. It was fun to write.
TQ: What's next?
Suzanne: Beginning in April, I’ll have “Easter Eggs” on my website for those who want some backstory on things like how character names were chosen, info on the places the characters go, what in real life inspired certain scenes, etc.
I’ll be talking about the book and signing copies in April and May in New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Birmingham, Portland, and San Diego. Dates and times are on my website (www.suzanne-johnson.com). I’ll also be at Authors After Dark in August. The second book in the series, River Road, will be out November 13!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Suzanne: Thanks so much!
About Royal Street
Royal StreetSentinels of New Orleans 1
Tor Books, April 10, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
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 Beyond crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.
To make it worse, Gerry 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 for the serial 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.
What: One commenter will win a copy of Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1) from The Qwillery.
How: Leave a comment answering one of the following questions posed by Suzanne:
Who are some of your favorite wizards in books, movies, and/or tv?
Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.
You may receive additional entries by:
1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.
2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.
3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.
There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.
Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.
Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.
*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*