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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Scary Swamp Creatures in River Road: Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2 ~ An Interview with Suzanne Johnson

It's a special day today, since I get to have lots of fun interviewing Suzanne Johnson about her latest release--River Road: Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2. This one is a wild adventure in the Louisiana swamps with creatures I hope to never see around my part of the Gulf in Florida.

Be sure to check the end of the post for Suzanne's awesome giveaway!

The preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The storm destroyed the borders between Louisiana and the Beyond. New species from the Beyond are moving into the area. What physical/magical change allowed the division or portal to open?

Apparently, the dropping barometric pressure of a large hurricane plays havoc with the metaphysical borders between our world and the Beyond, and my wizards are the ones responsible for maintaining and guarding the borders. There had been problems with Hurricane Andrew back in the 1990s, resulting in a large influx of vampires into South Florida. Because of its supernatural history, the borders between New Orleans and the Beyond have always been thin, so the power of Katrina tore them down completely. They were damaged all along the Gulf Coast, but destroyed altogether in New Orleans.

Yikes! Vamps here where I am in South Florida. Glad to know this and even gladder that my husband insists I don’t kayak after sunset.

Wizard sentinel, Drusilla Jaco, and her partner, Alex Warin, must keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. Are the humans in danger? Have the preternaturals attacked or threatened them?

The new post-Katrina rules are that the preternaturals can now cross into modern New Orleans as long as they can mainstream among the humans—who have no idea they exist. Some species mainstream easily—werecreatures, shapeshifters, even vampires, as long as they behave. “Pretes Behaving Badly” is turning out to be a problem, however. (Not to mention some Satyrs are trying to set up an escort service for women, which is just wrong on so many levels.)

What can DJ and Alex do to keep the peace? Especially when a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish.

Well, it was quite a revelation to DJ that there were Cajun merpeople mainstreaming in the Louisiana fishing industry just outside New Orleans. It’s kind of…cannibalistic, right? But with the mermen, she’s mostly trying to broker a truce between them before they get so disruptive that they get humans involved in their feud. In the Sentinels world, merpeople are aquatic shapeshifters (born, not made), so they can shift partly into the classic mermaid/merman form, or all the way into big fish. Really big fish. And they’re quite ornery and slippery.

You can keep those in your part of the Gulf!

In addition, wizards are dying and something or someone is poisoning the waters of the Mississippi. How are the wizards being killed? The poisoned waters certainly affect human health, but are the merpeople and were-gator also at risk?

DJ first learns of the problem with the water because of the merpeople—each clan is accusing the other of poisoning the water to run the other clan out of the territory. Several merpeople have gotten sick from swimming in the water, and DJ is afraid if the contaminated area spreads it will begin impacting the humans who live and work along the river (which it does). But when DJ and Alex go to investigate, they find the body of a mutilated wizard on the riverbank, and—as the saying goes—the plot thickens.  

How might DJ’s undead suitor, pirate Jean Lafitte, be able to help her and Alex solve these problems?

Jean Lafitte is the first one to bring the merman feud to DJ’s attention—he and one of the mermen, Rene Delachaise, have some illicit business deals going. He doesn’t want his business disrupted. He goes along to help navigate the serpentine bayous and waterways southeast of New Orleans and to be a go-between with the mermen. But the sexy pirate always has an agenda, and his assistance always comes with a price.

Briefly describe the magical systems of your world. How do those who are empowered, the wizards, merpeople, and were-gators, gain their abilities?

Most species—wizard, mers, shapeshifters, elves—are born, not made. Exceptions are werecreatures like the weregators and werewolves, particularly the South Louisiana rogue Loup-Garou werewolf. The historical undead like the pirate Jean Lafitte are famous humans giving immortality in the Beyond by the magic of human memory.

The wizards are in charge of policing the borders and keeping the other species under control and off human radar. But their power is being challenged now that the borders are down and other species are seeing an opportunity to make inroads. An interspecies council is being formed, and the endgame will probably involve a big preternatural power struggle. At this point, it isn’t clear who will be siding with whom.

Thanks for having me here today, Marsha!

River Road
Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2
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

Book Description:

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.

Short Excerpt River Road:

            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.
About the Author:

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.

Tour Wide Giveaway:
1--Choice of Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Simple Touch (or $100 gift card for Amazon, B&N, or Book Depository)
5--$10 gift cards for Amazon, B&N or Book Depository
a Rafflecopter giveaway 
  ~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance: Book One, SEEKING A SCRIBE, Book Two, HERITAGE AVENGED, and Book Three, LOST VOLUMES. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE.  For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.


miki said...

Thank you a lot for this interview!!

River road is really a fabulous book to recommend or to gift for the holidays!

( and if mermen caught your interest, the short story chenoire is about them and free on suzanne Website!!)

Christina Kit. said...

This is a wonderful interview - I especially like how Suzanne factored in New Orleans' history of supernatural events and hauntings into the explanation of the barrier breaking:) I love the real New Orleans ghost stories - they're so interesting:)

This is a wonderful series - I've ordered it for a number of friends and for myself for the holidays!!

ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Roger said...

Cajun merpeople - slippery. LOL.

Christina, Now that is the way to buy the book. Great gift guys.

Always enjoy the Q&A blogs, Thanks.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Thanks, guys--and Christina, I love your gift list--LOL!

SandyG265 said...

I just started reading River Road

Allison said...

I didn't realize the merpeople could shift completely into fish. That seems useful! As long as they are the ones in charge of the fishing industry so no one else will catch them, I suppose...

Readsalot81 said...

I can't wait to start reading River Road! :)

Yes, books make EXCELLENT gifts for christmas.

The world DJ inhabits really makes me want to go to LA for a visit.

Pamk said...

love NOLA stories and especially like the way you incorporated Katrina in there. It changed that city so much it would be hard to leave her out.

bn100 said...

Fascinating information.


donnas said...

Great interview. Thanks for sharing!!

Craftgirl83 said...

You had me at were-gator... seriously, this sounds like a great concept for a book. Who knows what (and who) really lurks in those swamps...