Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Author Interview: Suzanne Johnson

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming Suzanne Johnson, author Royal Street to the blog and grilling her on a few questions...
Thanks for stopping by!
First tell us a little about yourself...
I’m an Alabama native who spent many years in New Orleans before moving back to Alabama about three years ago. So I consider New Orleans my hometown, even though I’ve lived in five different states. In my daytime career, I work in magazines for universities. I’m currently associate editor of a magazine produced for the alumni of Auburn University. So during the day, I write. And then I go home…and write!
Royal Street is your debut novel – how long was the development of the story & the actual writing?
I started the book in late 2008 with the rough idea, and it took about eight months to get it fleshed out enough to start querying agents. Now, I can turn one around in three or four months, but with this first one I was really just feeling my way through it.
How would you describe Royal Street to potential readers?
I think of Royal Street as operating on two levels. On one level, it’s a fun story of wizards and pirates and voodoo—and a couple of sexy Mississippi boys—set in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina hits. On a deeper level, it’s about what a young woman learns to rely on after she’s lost all the things she pinned her identity on—her mentor, her job as she knew it, and even her city. That sounds really serious and dull—LOL—but it does have a lot of humor in it.
I loved the atmosphere you created in immediate post-Katrina New Orleans, it is obvious you have a strong feeling for the city – what’s your favourite part of the city?
New Orleans French Quarter
I do love New Orleans—it’s one of those places people either hate or fall in love with. Of course I love the culture and the architecture and the food, but the thing I love most about New Orleans is its spirit and its people. There’s a definite New Orleans sense of humor—kind of fatalistic and self-deprecating—but New Orleanians love their city fiercely and they live large. And now I’m homesick!
The Historical Dead play an important role in Royal Street – is there any famous dead person you would like to meet?
Well, I’ve become infatuated with the pirate Jean Lafitte, so I will say him…although I suspect if I met the real Jean Lafitte he’d scare the crap out of me! He’s a really fascinating character, though. Smart, smart man.
New Orleans has a strong supernatural heritage and is the setting for many supernatural stories - have you ever had a supernatural experience yourself?
Actually, I have had a couple. When I was a teenager and staying at a friend’s house, this strange ball of light came in the window and hovered in the room. Scared us to death—later, we decided it was some kind of phenomenon involving lightning since we were in the attic and there was an electrical storm. And I saw a semi-transparent figure in my bedroom in my house in New Orleans one night—a teenage boy, about 15 years old. Totally creeped me out, but I never saw him again and I’ve convinced myself I was dreaming…sort of.
What have you got coming up next?
The second book in the New Orleans series, River Road, comes out on November 13. It moves the story up a couple of years, and involves DJ working to solve a mystery involving a couple of twin mermen and the poisoning of the water in the Mississippi River. It’s a lighter story in a lot of ways than Royal Street because the immediate horror of Hurricane Katrina has passed. Book three, Elysian Fields, comes out next spring, and it really shakes things up!
Finally a 60 second, quick question quiz
 Favourite Book you’ve read?
Stephen King’s The Stand.
 Favourite holiday?
Thanksgiving, because it’s the only time my far-flung family manages to all be in one place.
 Favourite food?
I love Middle Eastern food. Labneh, hummus, falafel, couscous…and on and on.
 Favourite film?
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Awesome.
 Favourite music?
I like singer/songwriters that fall in the folk/country spectrum. Huge fan of Zachary Richard, a brilliant Louisiana artist. Also Chris Knight, Slaid Cleaves, Gurf Morlix.
 Favourite authors?
Stephen King—I’ve been reading his books since I was a kid. In urban fantasy and paranormal romance, I love Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, and JR Ward. Black Dagger Brotherhood. Sigh.
 Any pets?
Shane O’Mac, an Irish terrier, and Tanker Abbott, a 90-pound Rottweiler-chow mix. They’re both rescue dogs from New Orleans, both are named after professional wrestlers (don’t ask—really), and they’re spoiled rotten but they had rough lives before I got them so I figure they deserve to be spoiled.
 Favourite saying/quote?
“That dog don’t hunt.” It’s a Southern thing that roughly translates as “that’s B.S.” I’m also fond of: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig.”

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
Thanks for having me!


  1. Lol. Great interview! I have added Royal Street to my wish-list at home and my to-read on GoodReads. I am really looking forward to reading it!

  2. Oh great interview, it was really nice to learn more. I can't wait to learn more about the second book. I didn't know these quotes but they are amazing!

  3. Thanks, guys--and thanks for having me here, Mel! Melliane, Southerners have a LOT of crazy quotes!

  4. Nice interview and I am totally gonna use that dog don't hunt :D

    I most also say that the second cover looks awesome

  5. Thanks, Blodeuedd...I love the work artist Cliff Nielsen did on the River Road cover, too (he did both covers)!

  6. NOLA! I've visited once, but couldn't stay long. We were passing through and just stopped to see the quarter. :)

    I do like those sayings, but I'm afraid that Pailin ruined the last one for me. :D

    I wonder what that ghost boy would have said to you if you talked to him? Oh and the ball of light! I've heard of lightening phenom. I'm curious about what it looked like. :)

  7. I've been reading Royal Street all day since I read your glowing review yesterday Mel. Love the interview too and I can't wait for River Road now:)