MEET SUZANNE JOHNSON
Over several years of blogging I have developed friendships with several authors whose writing, personalities and sense of humor all appeal to me hugely. They are all writers I know I can depend on to be right on target with their guest posts.
Suzanne is one of these wonderful people. And, she is always fun for readers to interact with too. As Suzanne Johnson, she writes THE SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS and brings us New Orleans, Undead Pirates, Jazz Musicians, and an assortment of wizards, fae and a whole slew of shifters, loup garoup, vampires and who knows what else! At this point I feel like her characters are all my friends and when I open a Sentinels of New Orleans book to read, it’s like having a bunch of strange friends over for a relaxing get together (you know like the friends you don’t have to clean up for!).
So I will ALWAYS take a tour with Suzanne as the guide when offered.
Please welcome and enjoy Suzanne as much as I do!
The Lure of Moral Ambiguity (or, He did WHAT?)
by Suzanne Johnson
We all love a bad boy. You know—alpha male, gruff on the outside, teddy bear buried inside. Sometimes very deep inside, but the right woman can bring it out of him. Bad boys make great fictional heroes.
But what about the boys who are really bad….but also really good? I call these characters morally ambiguous antiheroes, and they don’t always make good heroes because they do some really awful stuff. They don’t quite make good villains either, though, because they’re capable of heartfelt good.
They sure are fun to write.
Since I grew up mooning over the quintessential Southern morally ambiguous antihero Rhett Butler, it’s probably no surprise that I ended up with two morally ambiguous antiheroes in my Sentinels of New Orleans series (so far—I don’t promise there won’t be more). I think paranormal worlds really open themselves up to these types of characters because the author is usually building an entirely new species or putting a unique spin on an old one.
In the Sentinels series, my original morally ambiguous antihero is the early 19th-century French pirate Jean Lafitte, who is a member of the historical undead—famous humans granted immortality by the magic of human memory. Lafitte was, in his human life, quite the morally ambiguous character in reality, so making the fictional Lafitte that way was a given.
He was a pirate (however much he liked to call himself a “privateer”) who made boatloads of money overtaking Spanish ships and selling their stolen goods from New Orleans to St. Louis and beyond. He had a thousand ruffians and pirates who pledged loyalty to him, setting up a pirate kingdom in Barataria, south of New Orleans. He was brutal in his punishments, devious in his business dealings, knew how to play political sides against each other and come out the winner, and had little use for social conventions if they proved inconvenient.
On the other hand, he was generous in rewarding loyalty, scrupulous about paying his men a fair wage and on time, and protected his brothers and the women and children of his community. When he was approached by the British to help them win control of New Orleans in the Battle of 1812, Lafitte was loyal to the Americans with whose constitution he agreed, joining forces with Andrew Jackson to win the Battle of New Orleans. He was an outlaw who spoke four languages, and had such polished manners that he earned the nickname “the gentleman pirate.
Boy is he fun to write! One moment he’s hoodwinking the preternatural community of New Orleans into appointing him to represent the Historical Undead on the interspecies council, and the next he’s figuring out how to smuggle Coca-Cola into the preternatural world and sell it. One moment he’s plotting violent revenge against a former ally who betrayed him; the next, he’s sacrificing himself to save a friend.
Is Jean a good guy or a bad guy? The only answer I can give is “yes.” Of course, he has the sexy French pirate thing going for him, so his personal scale tilts toward the good guy/hero side.
Not so clear-cut is the character of Quince Randolph, aka Rand. When we first meet him, he’s making the moves on our heroine DJ even though he’s supposedly her best friend’s significant other. The key word there is “other.” We don’t find out until Elysian Fields exactly what Rand is, and even when we do, it’s not clear whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy.
When DJ is infected with the loup-garou virus that will have disastrous (probably lethal) consequences for her, Rand offers her a way out. It comes with a very, very high price. On one hand, he’s manipulating her into a no-win agreement with him that jeopardizes her personal relationships; on the other hand, he’s fighting to save her. One minute he’s trying to do mental manipulation on DJ’s boss; the next, he’s helping her escape the evil elves.
Is Rand a good guy or a bad guy? Again, the answer is yes. Only, as pretty as he is, Rand’s scale so far seems to be tilting toward the bad guy side.
Will Jean turn out to be the series hero? Or will Rand be able to salvage his reputation as a manipulating SOB?
Only time will tell. And in the meantime, those morally ambiguous antiheroes are a lot of fun to write and, I hope, to read!
Can you think of a character that has equal parts good and bad traits (hint hint…what about Trent Kalamack for you Rachel Morgan fans?). Leave a comment for an extra giveaway of a copy of your choice of books in the Sentinels series or some authorial swag.
THANKS Suzanne! The hero who comes to mind for me is Fitzwilliam Darcy from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. But he’s more a good guy with a side of jerk than actual bad. Then there’s Eric or Bill from the Sookie Stackhouse series. Really, almost any vampire is going to have heinous acts in their past.
Here’s a bit about the series:
Sentinels of New Orleans Series
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Date of Publication: August 13, 2013
ISBN: 978-0765333193 ASIN: B00CQY7TOI
Number of pages: 352 Word Count: approx. 102,000
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/2NskZi9B0gU
The mer feud has been settled, but life in South Louisiana still has more twists and turns than the muddy Mississippi. New Orleanians are under attack from a copycat killer mimicking the crimes of a 1918 serial murderer known as the Axeman of New Orleans. Thanks to a tip from the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, DJ Jaco knows the attacks aren’t random–an unknown necromancer has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans, and his ultimate target is a certain blonde wizard.
Namely, DJ. Fighting off an undead serial killer as troubles pile up around her isn’t easy. Jake Warin’s loup-garou nature is spiraling downward, enigmatic neighbor Quince Randolph is acting weirder than ever, the Elders are insisting on lessons in elven magic from the world’s most annoying wizard, and former partner Alex
Warin just turned up on DJ’s to-do list. Not to mention big maneuvers are afoot in the halls of preternatural power.
Suddenly, moving to the Beyond as Jean Lafitte’s pirate wench? It could be DJ’s best option.
ISBN: 978-0765327802 ASIN: B00842H5VI
Number of pages: 336 Word Count: approx. 92,000
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.
ISBN: 978-0765327796 ASIN: B006OM459U
Number of pages: 337 Word Count: approx. 94,000
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.
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.
As Susannah Sandlin, she writes the best-selling Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series and the recent standalone, Storm Force.
1 $25 GC to Amazon or equivalent to Book Depository
2 $10 GC
2 Signed books and swag packs
*As with all third party giveaways, this tourwide giveaway is not administered, awarded, endorsed or fulfilled by me and therefore I have no control or responsibility for this and offer the entry form in good faith as a reader convenience.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Extra Giveaway! Suzanne is offering one winner here at Fangs, Wands & Fairy Dust a choice of books from the series or some authorial swag (She has some cool swag and the books are fabulous!) Just comment and do the rafflecopter below. This is completely separate from the tourwide giveaway! It will be fulfilled by the author or her representative.
*CLAUSE FOR INTERNATIONAL WINNER
If winner is international the prize will be a book from the series, and the book will be unsigned, from Book Depository and Suzanne will mail a signed bookplate. You must live where Book Depository ships free.
Excerpt Elysian Fields:
By midafternoon, I was out of ideas and full of nervous energy that finally sent me out of doors, catching up on yard work I’d neglected all season, raking the small, crunchy leaves from the live oaks into piles a kid would love to play in.
I ignored the voice and counted to ten, hoping it would go away. Instead, Quince Randolph knelt next to a tall pyramid of leaves I’d erected and took the lid off the big green trash can he’d brought with him. He began scooping up armfuls and piling them in the can. “You should compost this down. It would make a good mulch for flowerbeds. Plus you need more color in your landscaping.”
“Whatever.” I didn’t know what mulch was, didn’t care enough to ask, and had such a brown thumb that flowers never survived my gardening efforts.
Rand wore a chocolate-brown sweater almost the same color as mine, with jeans in a similar wash. With our comparable shades of long blond hair, we resembled grown-up Bobbsey Twins, except he was prettier. Freddie and Flossie do New Orleans.
“Are you here for any particular reason?”
He squinted up at me against the soft afternoon sunlight. “I just want to get to know you better.”
Uh- huh. “Tell me what you are, and then we’ll know each other better. I’m betting elf or faery.” I was kind of betting elf— it might explain his interest in me although, thankfully, he’d never shown any inclination to plunder my brain.
He grinned. “Go to dinner with me and I might tell you.”
I noted the return of his peridot earrings. Big liar. Super-big cheater. “Where’s Eugenie? You know, your girlfriend?”
A flash of irritation spoiled his perfect features a half second before he answered. “Working. Can we—”
What ever he planned to ask, my answer would be no, but he didn’t get a chance because a clomping noise reached us from the direction of Prytania Street. Rand and I both were stricken speechless at the sight of Jean Lafitte sitting like royalty in the back of a gold and white French Quarter tourist carriage. It was being pulled by a light- gray mule wearing a hat festooned with fake flowers and driven by a smiling guy who had no idea how many daggers his undead pirate passenger had hidden on him.
The ornate carriage rolled to a stop, and the mule flicked an ear at the passing traffic. Those animals pulled tourists around the French Quarter all day, and it would take more than an impatient Toyota driver to rattle one of them. The carriages were also ridiculously expensive if one commissioned a ride outside the Quarter.
Then again, Jean Lafitte was loaded. The driver probably had a reason to smile.
Jean exited the carriage with extraordinary grace for such a large man. He was tall, powerfully built, black-haired, cobalt-eyed, a shameless flirt, and talked with a raspy French accent that made me swoon even though he was technically dead. In other words, I had a bit of a problem with Jean Lafitte and my own common sense being present at the same time.
Jean said a few words to the carriage driver, then turned to prop his hands on his hips in a broad pirate-like stance, giving Rand a disapproving visual once-over. The mule backed up a few awkward steps before pulling the carriage into my driveway.
God help me, I hoped Alex didn’t get home in time to see this. I’d never hear the end of it.
“Do you wish me to rid you of this intruder, Jolie?”