by Suzanne Johnson
On Sunday, August 28, 2005, I piled in a car with two dogs (one a ninety-pound behemoth), an elderly parent, a friend, and her ailing cat, and left home for a short trip.
Two days later, life as I knew it had changed, and my two-day trip turned into eight weeks. I was a New Orleanian, and when I left on August 28, it was a last-minute run from a storm called Hurricane Katrina. You probably know what happened after that.
I lived on the goodwill of friends, wondering if my home had survived, if my job would still be there, who had lived, and who hadn’t. Then I went home and fought insurance companies and bureaucrats to get my house repaired. I watched elderly friends grow weak and ill from the unending trauma. I watched the city I loved so fiercely struggle back to its feet. My employer tested us regularly for post-traumatic stress.
Like many others who lived through the post-Katrina flooding in New Orleans, I wanted to write about it. I’d been a nonfiction writer and editor in higher education for years, after all. I’d been writing about Katrina since it happened.
Yet the Katrina story had been told by other journalists, by first responders, by politicians. It had been told through the lens of fiction, and of poetry.
But it had not been told through the lens of fantasy.
Urban fantasy is a genre I loved long before I ever heard the name. Anne Rice introduced me to vampires. Stephen King introduced me to all kinds of scary stuff that might be true (and might, without provocation, eat me).
The joy of urban fantasy, for me, is the “what if” factor. What if, in our real world, we could turn the corner and run into a vampire? What if the guy behind the counter at the meat market is a werewolf (who munches on beef scraps between customers)? What if science hasn’t really killed off magic in our world?
What if a wizard got caught in Hurricane Katrina? What if the levees that broke in Louisiana were not only physical but metaphysical? What if more than floodwater swept into New Orleans after the storm?
Royal Street, at its heart, is a love letter to a city I consider my hometown by choice if not by birth. It’s a story about what we do when the things we’ve learned to depend on are taken away from us, abruptly and unexpectedly. It’s about the power of human memory to keep alive those we love. And it’s about how even in the worst of times, good things can happen if our hearts are open to them.
The wizards of Royal Street aren’t real, but the post-Katrina world they live in is.
New Orleans is unique among American cities—in its history, culture, food, architecture, music, art. It is not a captain of industry; it barely wears a wristwatch. It has a different lingo, a stubborn tenacity to cling to its French and Afro-Caribbean roots, and a multiracial population more blended than divided. Its heroes are not military generals or titans of capitalism, but a French pirate named Jean Lafitte, a voodoo priestess named Marie Laveau, a cornetist named Louis Armstrong.
My New Orleans is as loud as a brass band marching down a neighborhood street in the midday heat, and soft as the whisper of wind through the twisted branches of three-hundred-year-old live oaks. It’s hot as a hurricane breeze, and the coolest place in America to find nonstop music and art and literature. It’s as violent as gunfire echoing through family neighborhoods on a Saturday night, and as laid-back as an afternoon stretched out on the grass, black and white, rich and poor, listening to music unlike anywhere else on earth.
New Orleans is Cajun and Creole, voodoo and Catholic, violent and warm-hearted, proudly eccentric and defiantly independent.
The perfect spot, in other words, for a young wizard to confront an undead French pirate, a voodoo god to stroll the streets in the rain; and a ghostly jazz musician to find work as a spy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Suzanne Johnson is the author of a new urban fantasy series beginning with ROYAL STREET and RIVER ROAD, both coming in 2012 from Tor Books (US) and Headline Publishing (UK), and ELYSIAN FIELDS, coming in 2013. A longtime New Orleans resident now living in Auburn, Alabama, Suzanne is a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and a native of Winfield, Alabama.
During her daytime job, Suzanne is associate editor of Auburn Magazine, the quarterly magazine of the Auburn University Alumni Association. She has also worked at Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of San Diego, Rice University in Houston, and at the University of Illinois. Awards include: the Robert S. Sibley Award for the best university magazine in the U.S. and Canada, for the Rice University Sallyport; feature writing awards in 2009 and 2010 from Writer’s Digest magazine; and more than 50 awards in writing and editing from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. Suzanne is an active member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapters of RWA.
ABOUT THE BOOK: As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco spends more of her time mixing potions and retrieving pixies than she does sniffing out supernatural bad guys that slip over from the preternatural beyond. It is DJ’s eccentric boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, who is tasked with protecting the city. But when Hurricane Katrina hammers the city’s fragile levees, it unleashes more than just flood waters. As the winds howl and Lake Pontchartrain surges, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld start to crumble away …
Now the dead 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 asshat as DJ’s new partner, and the pirate Jean Lafitte – who has an impressive libido for a 200-year-old – wants her to walk his plank. If she is going to survive, DJ will have to learn that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies can be found in unlikely places … and that duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.
Headline is kindly giving away FIVE (5) copies of Royal Street. For entry into the giveaway please leave a comment for Suzanne, then fill out the form below.
This giveaway is UK/Europe and ends 3rd October 2012
Oops! We could not locate your form.