Monday, November 26, 2012

Blog Tour: River Road by Suzanne Johnson (Giveaway)

This virtual book tour is presented by Bewitching Book Tours.
Click HERE to see the tour schedule.
Welcome to The Wormhole and my day on the tour.
It is my pleasure to feature Suzanne Johnson and River Road
Suzanne has stopped by for an interview:
? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In high school I was in the premed track—I was good at math and science—but now I look back and realize I always wrote. I co-founded the high school’s literary magazine, started a newspaper, wrote bad poetry…REALLY bad poetry. I don’t ever remember not writing. So I went into journalism. I only began writing fiction about three years ago.

? How many jobs did you have before you became a writer?
I still have a day job. I worked a few years at a daily newspaper, covering first crime and then features, but most of my career has been spent in higher education. I’ve worked on magazines at six universities in five states. The fiction writing is a new wrinkle, and now I’m totally hooked!

? How long does it take you to write a book?
Since I have that full-time day job, I have to write in the evenings and on weekends. If I’ve done a good job outlining a book, I can write two or three a year. Four or five months on average.

? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I write in layers—I don’t really know how quirky that is. A novel averages about 90,000 words. My first draft is usually about 60,000 words long and is really bare-bones. I call it “draft zero” because it’s too stripped down to even qualify as a first draft. Then I go back through it and add description and emotion and reaction. On the final pass, I work on individual word choices, getting the voice right. If I’m not staring down the barrel at a deadline, I’ll take it though yet another pass. I can tinker endlessly, left to my own devices.

? Do you have a routine that you use to get into the right frame of mind to write?
I usually read through the last three or four pages from my last writing session, which gets me back into the character and scene, and also since I edit as I go, it means even my draft zero is pretty clean in terms of typos and such. I have a playlist for each book, and will listen to music off and on while I’m revising and layering—but not for the first draft. No music for that one.

? Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your characters?
I honestly don’t know—it’s one of the wonderful, mysterious things about writing fiction. Where do these people in my head come from? I’m sure they’re a mélange of myself and my friends and the guy down the street, but it’s not a conscious process for me. I usually think of the type of person I need, put that person in my setting, and see what happens.

? How do you decide what you want to write about?
I have a pretty elaborate plotting process based on relationships between characters. So before I start writing, I know the beginning and end, I know how my characters’ relationships are going to change, I know what the major twists are going to be. Those ideas can come from anywhere. A major location for the third book in this series was inspired by seeing a YouTube video shot at the old New Orleans Six Flags that was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. I got the idea for a paranormal romance series that I write under a different name by driving through the countryside near my home while I had the flu. So you never know!

? What books have most influenced your life?
Authors more than specific books, I think. Stephen King has been a favorite since I was a kid. I loved those massive multigenerational gothic stories by Susan Howatch, like Cashelmara and The Wheel of Fortune. In my genre, probably Jim Butcher’s Dresden series has most influenced me. Rick Bragg’s memoir books, All Over But the Shouting and Ava’s Man, helped me find my voice.

? What is the first book you remember reading by yourself?
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I adored that book. I probably re-read it a dozen times. It was also the first book I owned (as opposed to library books); a family friend gave me a hardback copy when I was about seven or eight, and it was my greatest treasure.

? What are you reading right now?
I’m slogging through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series for an online read at I do a chapter a week, and we’ve been at it for more than a year—just started book five, Wolves of the Calla. I also just began the new Kim Harrison Hollows book, Ever After, which comes out in January. (Yes, be jealous—I got an advance review copy!) I love that series.

? What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I have a shameful backlog of DVR’d reality shows, including 18 unwatched episodes of Billy the Exterminator and 12 episodes of Alaska the Last Frontier. Unfortunately, I’m all caught up with my favorites, Swamp People and Ice Road Truckers.

? What is your favorite comfort food?
Ice cream. I’m such a sucker for ice cream.

? What do you think makes a good story?
Characters who get under your skin as a reader, who feel real and whose lives bring out emotions in you—laughter, tears, jitters, even anger. That’s a hard thing to do as a writer and I’m still trying to learn it.

? What book, if any, do you read over and over again?
Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s probably still my all-time favorite book.

Fun random questions: 
·        Dogs or cats? Dogs—I have two, an Irish terrier and a chow-rottweiler-golden retriever mix.
·        Coffee or tea? Coffee…looooove coffee.
·        Dark or milk chocolate? I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but I’d say milk chocolate.
·        Rocks or flowers? Flowers
·        Night or day? Night
·        Favorite color? Teal
·        Crayons or markers? Markers
·        Pens or pencils? Pens

More 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.

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.

An Excerpt:
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.

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


Roger said...

Kim Harrison's "Ever After", yes, I be jealous. Also reading the Stephen King's Dark Tower with you. Ice Cream my favorite is River Road I mean Rocky Road! Thanks for the Q&A.

Suzanne Johnson said...

I was excited to get that ARC of Ever After, Roger! And I think we need some River Road ice cream...except it might have some grossness in it, now that I think about it.

Steph from said...

Driving and being inspired while you have the flu? God, I could hardly get the energy to eat when I had it last year. That's why I got the flu shot this year.

See you tomorrow at my place!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Thanks, Steph--yep, I'll see you tomorrow!

SandyG265 said...

It's interesting reading about the way you write

Christina Fiorelli said...

LOVE that you have dogs!! I wonder, do they like it when you write or do they try to get your attention?

I totally get the need for an ice cream fix;)

Awesome interview! Thank you:)

ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Sandy--thanks! I don't know how different it is from other authors' processes, but it works for me :-) dogs totally DON'T like me writing. In fact, my big dog, Tanker, who's always been quiet and well behaved, has started barking at me until he gets my attention!

miki said...

if i follow your definitio of a good book then no mistake possible River Road is an EXCELLENT book!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Aw, thank you, Miki! I appreciate that :-)

Allison said...

That plotting process is getting me through my NaNoWriMo project right now :)

Suzanne Johnson said...

Woo-hoo, Allison! That's great to hear that it's working for you. Good luck on the final week's push on NaNo!

elaing8 said...

I am jealous you got an ARC of Ever After..lucky you :)
Great interview.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Thanks, Elaine! Yes, I was excited to get an ARC (of course I have to review it, so there's a price).

Barbara E. said...

I'm in awe of a writer's imagination, it's so cool how these ideas just appear and come to life in your head. That just doesn't happen for me, that's why I need to read great stories like yours Suzanne. :D

Suzanne Johnson said...

LOL, thanks, Barbara! And I think every writer (including me) is afraid she'll wake up one morning and the ideas won't come. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen!

Pamk said...

you got me curious. What is your other pen name?

Mary Preston said...

Another ice-cream lover here.

Who wants smooth sailing on the bayou?


Suzanne Johnson said...

@Mary...smooth sailing is dull!

@Pam...I write a paranormal romance series under the name Susannah Sandlin (who was my great-great grandmother!). Redemption came out in June, and Absolution in October.

donnas said...

I cant wait for Ever After.

Thanks for the interview

Bookish in a Box said...

Louisiana is a great setting, and adding supernatural creatures into the mix sounds fun. I've gotten a little tired of paranormal fiction, but River Road sounds like a fresh take.

Yipperbear said...

i'd admire those who have the ability to create. i have not got a creative bone in body