Book Review and Interview: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

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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.

About the Author:

On Aug. 28, 2005, Suzanne Johnson loaded two dogs, a cat, a friend, and her mom into a car and fled New Orleans in the hours before Hurricane Katrina made landfall.images (1)

Four years later, she began weaving her experiences and love for her city into the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, beginning with Royal Street (2012), continuing with River Road (2012), and now with Elysian Fields (August 2013).

She grew up in rural Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace, and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years—which means she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

She can be found online at her website or her daily blog, Preternatura. As Susannah Sandlin, she writes the best-selling Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series and the recent standalone, Storm Force.

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Tell us about yourself.

By day I’m a (mostly) mild-mannered magazine editor working in higher ed; by night I write about hot guys and cool women, only a few of whom are actually human and none of whom, I must say, work at universities. University politics has influenced my work, however—it’s brutal! I’ve lived in five states, mostly in Texas and Louisiana, and currently live in Alabama. I have two geriatric furkids and…that’s about it. I’m pretty boring!

Tell us about your publishing journey:

I’ve worked as a journalist since finishing college, including a stint as a crime reporter for a daily newspaper, ambulance-chasing (well I never LITERALLY chased an ambulance, but I did roust the county coroner out of the shower once…not in person…ew). Writing novels was something I never really expected to do, but after I went through Hurricane Katrina as a longtime New Orleans resident, I decided to write a journal, which became a short story, and eventually ended up being an urban fantasy. I’ve gone the traditional route. I was fortunate to get a great agent, and she in turn has been able to sell my books both as Suzanne Johnson (urban fantasy) and Susannah Sandlin (paranormal romance and romantic thrillers).

When did you discover you wanted to be a writer?

I was actually on a pre-med track in high school because I liked both math and science, but I got involved in founding a literary magazine for our school (it’s still being produced, which amazes me) and by the time I started college went straight to English and journalism. So I’ve always written nonfiction. Writing fiction just sort of happened, and now I wish I’d pursued it sooner.

If you could be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

Well, it would depend on what the supernatural world was like. If it were the world of my Sentinels of New Orleans series, I’d want to be a wizard. They have some pretty cool skills and mainstream with humans well. It’s too hot in NOLA to sprout fur at the full moon, and I’m too fond of having legs to go the merwoman route (don’t call them mermaids—they’re quite liberated and don’t like it).

What are you reading at the moment?

Actually, I’m drafting a novel, and for me that means not reading in my normal paranormal. So I’m reading a genre I usually don’t read at all—contemporary romance. It’s a book by Jennifer Crusie that I’m going to use as a textbook for a plotting course I’m teaching in October, and I have to admit, it has made me laugh out loud several times. Shhh…don’t tell anyone. The other thing I’m reading is a nonfiction book about British operatives recruited by Churchill during World War II—research for the book I’m working on.

Who are the authors that inspire you?

I wish I had more time to read! In romance, I love JR Ward, although (and I can’t believe I’m admitting this), I’m two books behind with the Black Dagger Brotherhood—that’s proof that my schedule has been insane this past year! I also always tip my hat to Stephen King, whose books I grew up reading. My favorite urban fantasy author is Jim Butcher.

What’s your least favourite part of being an author?

Writing the first draft. It’s downright painful. The words don’t flow easily, and I always swear I’m not going to make it through to the end. There’s always a point—usually around the 35-40,000-word mark, where I just think “this is all crap.” But I plow through, and it somehow works.

What’s your favourite part?

I like revisions. Revisions let me play with words and layer in emotion and description and humor. It’s a good thing for me to have deadlines because, left to my own devices, I’d revise the same manuscript over and over until one of us—either me or the manuscript—was dead.

If you didn’t write Urban Fantasy – what would you write?

I also write paranormal romance under the name Susannah Sandlin, and am working on my first romantic thriller—it remains to be seen if I can actually write a book without at least one paranormal species in it! I’d like to dip my foot into writing historical fantasy at some point down the road. One of the things I most enjoy about the Sentinels series is that I have the “historical undead,” famous humans given immortality through the magic of human memory. So I get to research and bring to life characters like the pirate Jean Lafitte, jazz great Louis Armstrong, and voodoo queen Marie Laveau.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m drafting the fourth book in my Penton Vampire Legacy series as Susannah Sandlin, tentatively titled Deliverance, and plotting the fourth book in the Sentinels series so I’ll be ready to dive into that one as soon as the Penton book is done. I also have three more books due in the next nine or ten months, so it’s shaping up to be another busy year…which is a good thing!

Thanks for having me here today, Nicky! – It’s a pleasure Suzanne, drop by anytime!

My Review:

I loved the idea of this book series and to set it against the back drop of a natural disaster was pure genius. I liked DJ as the main character – but there were a few aspects of her personality which fall into the cliché urban fantasy heroine. She was more powerful than she thought. Sexier than she could ever imagined. Had serious family issues. Was forced to work with a sexy monotone lush mountain-like man. I’m not saying that this was necessarily a bad thing – but it does feel very samey to a number of other books in that genre.

From a writer’s perspective the flow was perfect and the turns of phrase evocative. Suzanne is a great writer and this is what sets the Sentinels of New Orleans apart from other very similar themed novels. I must admit, that I was curious about other reviews for this book and so scoped a few out on Good Reads. It would seem that they range from excellent to couldn’t finish and I think I can answer why that is. It depends on how often you read this genre. Someone new to it would think it was amazing. A reader whose main genre is urban fantasy and paranormal romance might feel it lacks lustre and gives us a cookie-cutter style protagonist.

I personally think it’s a great book. The world built for this series is well thought out and interesting – I just loved the Historical Dead. I have a squishy soft spot for first person narrative and, the more I read, the more I liked DJ – hey I think we all undervalue ourselves on the beauty stakes and probably even the talent stakes too.

The front cover is magical and gives you a clear image of what DJ looks like – I hate getting halfway through a book to be faced with a description of a character that doesn’t match your imagination.

Overall I’d give Royal Street 4 out of 5 stars and, with there being two more books on offer, it’s a real treat to get your paranormal teeth into.

Buy Royal Street 

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9 comments on “Book Review and Interview: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

  1. 3more books to come that’s great but we still hope for more confirmation for those npt contracted for yet^^

    thank you a lot for the interview! and courage for Penton 4!

  2. I am so impressed with your writing schedule— 4th book in the Penton Vampire Legacy, 4th book in the Sentinels series, and three more books due in the next nine or ten months! And a magazine editor by day. You are such a multi-talented lady. Thanks for writing such fascinating books. I look forward to reading them all.

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