I had the pleasure of meeting Suzanne Johnson through a joint blog I was invited to contribute to. An editor by day, she has the first in a fantasy series, Royal Street, scheduled for an April 2012 release through Tor Books. She also runs the fabulous Preternatura blog! If you’ve not already discovered it, you really should stop by.
M.F. Welcome Suzanne, lovely to have you here.
Tell me a little about Royal Street.
S.J. Well, Royal Street is the first in a new urban fantasy series that will come out next April. It’s set in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina. The storm’s fluctuating barometric pressure has caused breaches in the border between our modern world and the Beyond, where the beings of myth and legend live. The heroine of the story is DJ Jaco, a young wizard who evacuates New Orleans for the hurricane and comes back to find her mentor missing and the city flooded with preternatural creatures and the historical undead—famous former citizens kept alive by the magic of memory. She has to fight off an attempt by the ‘pretes’ to overthrow the borders permanently while trying to find her missing mentor and stave off the revenge-seeking pirate Jean Lafitte. Okay, and there are a couple of hot guys in the picture, too.
M.F. How did your own personal experience of Hurricane Katrina affect your life and your writing?
S.J. Honestly, I would never have written a word of fiction had Katrina not happened. At the time of the storm, I was well established in my career in higher education and had been working at Tulane University for twelve years as a magazine editor and speechwriter. Katrina turned everything upside-down.
I had moderate damage to my property from the high winds and levee breach-induced flooding, but much worse was the psychological damage. I came out much better than a lot of others, but the experience really made me step back and reassess what’s important in life. I found myself after two years still trying to deal with the aftermath. Finally, I had to turn all that anger and grief into something positive. I started writing a story, not really expecting to do anything with it. LOL. Then the fiction bug grabbed me and I found a new, very unexpected career.
M.F. It's an incredible turnaround and it's wonderful to hear something positive come out of such a devastating time. What about your day job; does being an editor by trade govern how you write?
S.J. In some ways, although it’s a different process and uses a different set of skills. I don’t think it has much influence on how I write, but it does influence how I look at revisions. As a nonfiction editor, what I do is rewrite and revise. So revisions, even extensive revisions, don’t freak me out—I enjoy the process. I always know a piece of writing can be improved, and I’m lucky to have an editor at Tor who can look at my work and hone in on exactly what needs to be done to make it better. Then the editor side of my brain can go to work and revise.
M.F. What do you like to read and which writers have most influenced you?
S.J. I’m a voracious reader—always have been. I guess if I had to pull one writer out as being influential to me it would be Stephen King. His character development is amazing, and now that I’m writing myself I go back to read his older work and realize what a master he has always been at subtly weaving backstory into his narrative and keeping his language descriptive without losing its clarity and deceptive simplicity. Current favorites to read? I’m a huge urban fantasy fan: Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, and Patricia Briggs are favorites. In paranormal romance, I adore J.R. Ward.
M.F. Stephen King is mentioned so many times on this blog alone. I'm guessing he has inspired a ridiculous number of authors. So what are you working on at the moment?
S.J. I’m in the middle of revisions for River Road, the second in my series for Tor, and hope to start a third in the series by late summer—unless that YA rattling around in my brain wants to come out first. I’m also a blog-slut! In addition to my own blog, I do a monthly series of blogs called “Fiction Affliction” at Tor.com, and just started a Tor.com read of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I read a few chapters a week and post a weekly blog on my reactions as I go. This is a seven book series, so I figure it will take me about three years! My Tor blogs can be found at http://www.tor.com/Suzanne-Johnson. Finally, I have dipped my toe into paranormal romance, and have a series proposal ready to make the rounds.
M.F. Is there anywhere readers can get a taste of your work?
S.J. I have begun a series of short stories based on my urban fantasy series and am posting them on my Preternatura blog, http://www.suzanne-johnson.com. “Chenoire” is a novelette involving a family of Cajun mermen in Southeast Louisiana—one of the mer characters is in River Road. And “Intervention” introduces two major series characters, Jacob and Alexander Warin, a couple of sexy cousins with a fierce, near-sibling rivalry and a little demon problem. Both of them, as well as upcoming stories, can be found under the “Free Read” tabs on my blog.
M.F. Now for some slightly more abstract questions... If you could have one physical possession that you don’t currently own, what would it be?
S.J. LOL. My needs are simple An iPad and a vehicle that gets better mileage than my 2002 Nissan Xterra, much as I love it. Oh, wait! Make that a ten-book publishing contract!
M.F. Well that's just greedy! You gotta leave some contracts out there for the rest of us! ;-)
If you could trade places with any person, living or dead or even fictional, who would it be?
S.J. Hmm. I’d be happy to be a “shellan” of one of JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood dudes--I’m not even that picky about which one (well, okay, Rhage). I don’t think I’d want to be any of the heroes or heroines in the books I read because they’re always in serious trouble!
M.F. If you could be a super hero, what super power would you have?
S.J. I’d like to be able to disapparate and apparate. I don’t like to fly—not because I have a fear of crashing but because I’m claustrophobic. So if I could close my eyes and zap myself to NYC or LA (or London), that would be awesome.
M.F. Thanks so much for being here, Suzanne. I’m eagerly awaiting Royal Street to be released!