A Little History with my Paranormal-Fantasy-Romance, Please by Suzanne Johnson

Please help me welcome Suzanne Johnson to my blog. Be sure and leave her a comment to be entered in the drawing for her prizes.

suzanne-johnson3 (1)_2These days, genres are blurring all over the place, especially in the paranormal arena. We have science fiction-romantic-thrillers, and historical-fantasy-romances, and Victorian-meets-wild-west steampunk and—my own personal favorite—the paranormal-fantasy-romantic-mystery.

One of the reasons for the blurring of genre is that the market has gotten oversaturated with the paranormal. The glut has on the one hand given a boost to genres such as contemporary romance and romantic suspense, as paranormal-weary readers want to take a break from even their favorite fanged or shapeshifting critters.

For those of us who write paranormal fiction and want to continue to do so, the market saturation has forced us to become super-creative. If I’m going to write a paranormal fantasy (a more accurate term for what many still call urban fantasy), I sure as heck better figure out a way to make it stand out from the crowd of other paranormal fantasies coming from both traditional and self-published authors. Here’s the method behind my own particular madness.

The wizard protagonist of my Sentinels of New Orleans paranormal fantasy series is female, kind of a geek, doesn’t own a stitch of leather clothing, and would probably shoot her own foot off (or worse) if handed a gun. She is SO not kickass. She doesn’t have a tattoo. She does have a potent weapon in the form of an elven staff she found in her mentor’s attic after Katrina, but mostly so far, she sets things on fire with it (not intentionally).

The series is set not just in New Orleans—nothing unusual about that—but in a New Orleans where Hurricane Katrina has torn down the “metaphysical levees” between our world and the world beyond. As a resident of NOLA who went through Katrina, I’ve been able to use my experiences to fuel my fiction (and also work off some post-traumatic stress).

I have shapeshifters, and some are even werewolves. But there are also loup-garou, a special rogue breed of werewolf found in Louisiana. And mermen who are aquatic shapeshifters: they can walk on two legs (in fact they mainstream in the Louisiana fishing industry, which is kind of cannibalistic), or partially shift into classic merman or mermaid form, or fully shift into a ginormous tuna. There might also be weregators. Yes, I swear it’s true. Some of these shifters have turned into love interests. In fact, one is putting some pressure on my little wizard these days, and she just might be ready to give in.

My elves bear no resemblance to the noble, pointy-eared beings of Tolkien, and my witches are so low on the magical totem pole they might as well be (gasp) human. I haven’t rolled out my vampires and fae yet…but they’re coming. I’m just figuring out how to make them different and yet consistent with the world I’ve built.

Zombies? Nope, I decided against zombies (although I reserve the right to resurrect them at some point). Instead, I wanted to use the history of New Orleans to enrich my world. So instead of zombies or ghosts, I have the Historical Undead. You’ve heard the sentiment over a loved one who’s died: She lives on in my memories. What if that were literally true? In my series, deceased humans who were famous enough to be remembered by many people are literally given immortality by the magic of human memory. Thus, famous New Orleanians such as the early 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte, the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and jazz great Louis Armstrong are among the characters who fill my world. (In fact, I became so enamoured of Jean Lafitte, he became a series regular.)

And, of course, there’s a magical mystery to solve. In River Road, the merpeople are on the verge of a civil war, something has poisoned the water of the Mississippi River, and someone’s killing wizards. Parnormal-fantasy-romance-mystery. Old genres, new twists.

What are some of your favorite blended genres? I’ll choose one commenter to win your choice of Royal Street or River Road, or a $10 Amazon or Book Depository gift card/purchase. Open internationally.

River Road by Suzanne Johnson
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 weregator….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

river-road_2Excerpt: River Road, by Suzanne Johnson

The minute hand of the ornate grandfather clock moved with the speed of a gator stuck in swamp mud. Determined to be late, I’d been watching it for a half hour while nursing a fizzy cocktail from my perch at the rotating Carousel Bar inside the lobby of 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 more reliable.
The infamous Jean Lafitte expected me at seven. He’d summoned me to his French Quarter hotel room by courier like I was one of his early nineteenth-century pirate wenches, and I hated to break the news to him, but the historical undead don’t summon wizards. We summon them. He’d have to wait.
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 7:30, I finished my drink, took a deep breath, and marched through the lobby toward the bank of elevators. My heels clicked on the marble, their sharp tap tap tap contrasting with the squeaky shuffle of the clusters of tourists around me in their clean, white tennis shoes. I dodged them as they stopped to gape at the sparkle of crystal chandeliers and brass fittings. The old wives’ tales about Jean Lafitte’s hoarde of gold and treasure must be true if he could afford a suite at the Monteleone.
On the long dead-man-walking stroll down the carpeted hallway to his door, 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. I’d been desperate. 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 when summoned by a scoundrel.
He didn’t answer immediately. I’d made him wait, after all. I paused a few breaths and knocked harder. Finally, he flung open the door with a flourish, 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 looked as sexy as ever.

38 thoughts on “A Little History with my Paranormal-Fantasy-Romance, Please by Suzanne Johnson

  1. I love the world you created and it’s really interesting for me. The historical undead are part of my favorites ( the mermen too^^) and Dj is so funny.

    if i have to think about another series how mixed somegenre and that i love the result it would be the bloodhoundfiles series by DD Barant, yes it has werewolves and vampire but as the majority ( human are nearly extinct) and i love the intrigues, tension, suspense in that series ( mixed with romance and paranormal) for me it’s a mix of criminal minds,and “les experts” but in a paranormal universe

  2. Vary interesting post today. Love “The Historical Undead” in your series. Gasp!! = Leave the zombies where they are!!! DD Barant has been on my “Maybe” list for awhile, since miki likes it, I think I’ll give the series a try.

  3. Hmmm, I really love Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series. I’m undecided if it’s a Urban Fantasy or Science Fiction. It seems to fall somewhere between the two. Either way, I love to recommend it to others. It’s lots of fun!

    • I haven’t read the Diana Rowland series, Rebe, although I love the Dan dos Santos covers for them! I do have the second book in my TBR pile (signed, no less) but need to get the first one first.

  4. I’m currently reading American Elsewhere and I have no idea what genre it fits in. I’ve noticed a lot of books like that coming out lately. Fortunately I just look for books with good stories and don’t worry too much about genre.

    • I really do too, Sandy. I just started getting caught up in genre when I tried to categorize things for my columns. Then, as an author, a publisher needs a genre as a reference point for how to market the book. I think it’s getting fuzzier and fuzzier, though (which I think is good).

  5. Sounds fascinating Suzanne. We have a loup garou up my way too. (Wisconsin) I wrote about it in my recent novel. It’s fun to use the real legends, isn’t it? I do believe I’ll be reading yours. 🙂 Best luck.


    • Loup garou in Wisconsin! I didn’t know that, although there are loup-garou in francophone Canada so maybe it moved into the upper midwest? It’s really just French for “werewolf,” so there may be loup-garou legends in other areas as well.

  6. I really enjoyed Julie Kagawa’s Immortal Rules, a melding of vampire/paranormal and dystopian times.

    You could write a whole book just about your sexy technically dead pirate and it would sell, he is one of my all time favorite characters. 🙂

    Jen K Jovus

    PS I choose Royal Street, It’s at the top of my wish list.

  7. Despite the market being “over-saturated” by paranormal, I still do not tire of it. I do however, enjoy a blending over the paranormal
    with romance, history, YA, horror,mystery and suspense. When my palate does get a bit hairy(from to much wolf) or bloody(to much vamp)I simple pull out a non-blended romance, historical,horror,YA, mystery or suspense and generally by the time I finish it, I digging out my next paranormal to satisfy my need.

    • I don’t get tired of paranormal either, although I do start to see a lot of the same old-same old. I really got burned out on the YA “young girl has heretofore-unknown powers and suddenly must save the world with the help of the mysterious new boy in school” trope. I do keep getting sucked in by the damaged-immortal-warrior trope, though!

  8. Great post Suzanne, thank you. I love Moira Rogers books, they sure combine a lot of genres, especially her Bloodhound series. (Though I have not yet read them, they are on my TBR). But I don’t think I will ever get saturated on paranormal books, there are still so many series on my TBR and my wishlist. And thank you for not putting zombies in your books!
    As for DD Barant, I have read the first book, and it is so very obvious that the author is a man. It lacks things I like in a book.

  9. Hi Suzanne!! I followed you on over from your blog! I love both PNR books and UF! I usually read something because it sounds interesting and most of the time, to me anyway, the lines between the 2 blur quite often. As you know I loved Royal Street and can’t wait to continue the series! Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

    • Thanks for coming over, Barb! The lines between PNR and UF are often VERY blurry! From a reader’s standpoint, at least. From the writing standpoint, they’re incredibly different. Which is strange 🙂

  10. Hi Cynthia and Suzanne 🙂

    I’m trying dystopia genre now, sometimes too many genre make me overwhelm but still I want to read all of them even if mix or not mix genre

  11. Blended genres are so much fun. I love it when an author pairs historical and paranormal and if you throw in some mystery it’s all that much better.

  12. I love genre benders. It allows both the author and the reader to have some fun. I highly recommend the Bloodhound series, the Iron Druid series, A Discovery of Witches as examples. Both your series are awesome. Definitely need more Jean Laffite!

  13. Hi Suzanne – please no zombies in the Sentinels series! (Can you tell I’m not a zombie fan?) My favorite example of a blended genre series is Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I like to describe it as a Victorian Comedy of manners with vampires, werewolves, and some steam punk thrown in for fun. It shouldn’t work, but she’s such a talented writer that I found the whole series to be hilarious.

    • Oh I agree. This is a wonderful series. Her newest book is Espionage & Etiquette. Think spy school with fans and handkerchiefs as weapons. It was great!

    • I’ve heard great things about the Protectorate series but haven’t read it. LOL. DJ is afraid of zombies. I mean, really afraid of them. In the third book, she thinks a zombie is after her but it’s really another member of the historical undead so, while that’s scary enough, at least she doesn’t have to worry about her brains being eaten!

  14. Loup Garou!! I haven’t heard that term in ages! Of course, I’m sci-fi rather than paranormal so it could be used more than I realize.
    My genre’ blend science fiction, crime thriller, romance-ish, and dark themes. Sometimes they’re all in there together, sometimes only one or two depending on story line.

    • Your blend of themes sounds awesome! I love science fiction mashed up with other genres and am glad to see sci-fi romance making a bit of a run in the marketplace. Actually you don’t hear loup-garou very often. I think Jim Butcher had loup-garou in one of his early Dresden books (but not the Louisiana version of the legend). I’m sure there are others I’m not aware of.

  15. Love this post! The differences was what drew me to pick up the Sentinels books in the first place and the gorgeous cover helped of course! So nice to see a non leather-clad woman for a change. 😛

    I’ve been reading so many ‘genre-benders’ that I don’t really notice it anymore…until it comes to time to tag my GR shelves. While it’s really fantastic if the author comes up with something fresh/new way to depict a certain paranormal creature, it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes the concept is intriguing but it doesn’t really get fleshed out. But no in the case of Sentinels though, the Historical Undead are fascinating! Very glad Jean Lafitte became a recurring character. 🙂

    • LOL. Lynn, Jean Lafitte had originally been intended as a one-scene character to kick off the first book. Then he wouldn’t leave! Actually, I started doing some research on him and became fascinating–what a complex and interesting man he was!

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