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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Ever After - From A Different Angle

Writing is an odd occupation in my family of salt-of-the-earth Southerners. My people work hard for an honest wage, watch Southeastern Conference football on Saturdays in the fall (Roll Tide―or is that War Eagle?), and take casseroles to church fellowships. My people don’t do weird.

Then there’s me. I spend my days writing and editing at a university―a vague concept among my family members but respectable enough―and my nights writing novels. About wizards. And mermen. And vampires.

Bless their hearts, my family members want to understand. Case in point: my octogenarian mom moved in with me a couple of years ago, and I recently overheard a conversation between her and another 70-something relative. My mom’s end of the conversation went something like this:
―”Well, Suzanne has a book coming out.”
―”Well, it’s about vampires, I think.”
―”No, it isn’t a self-help book.”

Actually, a self-help book about vampires sounded like a really cool idea to me as I sat chortling in my study, eavesdropping. I wrote it down on a pink Post-it note. It’s still stuck on the side of a bookshelf.

So, what is this crazy thing called Paranormal Romance and why would anyone want to read or write it? Why is it so crazily popular right now?

Here are my highly unscientific theories:

―It lets us look at the human condition from a different angle. What if our jaw-droppingly sexy hunk of manhood hero never aged? What if he needed our heroine (literally) to live? What if he struggled at the loss of his humanity as he fought to contain the beast within him―a real beast? Every decision in our paranormal romantic relationship becomes amplified, has huge implications that could extend far beyond the scope of our couple and their families. Any dilemma or challenge or emotion our human couples might feel in a romance, our paranormal couples feel more intensely, on a larger stage.

―It lets us increase our taste for danger. There’s a good argument to be made that the most dangerous creature to walk the earth is man. But setting that aside, we all love a bad boy, right? Well, give that bad boy fangs, or make him a tortured soul who changes form every full moon and struggles to keep from putting your heroine on his dinner menu. We all think if we’re the right woman, we can change a man, right? Well, up the stakes and the danger for paranormal romance. Or what if he’s a nice, solid guy―real hero material―but our heroine has a paranormal flaw that could kill him if she doesn’t give him up? Big stakes, big emotion.

―It lets us test the mettle of the human spirit. Okay, that sounds really lofty. But most paranormal romance takes a human hero or heroine and thrusts him or her into a situation where only a noble spirit (and maybe a bottle of Jack Daniels) will see things through to the end. There are worlds to save, evil beings to conquer, the ultimate face-off of good and evil. In other words, the conflict is serious, and the stakes are big. (No vampire pun intended.) Yet at the heart of all the drama is the love between two people who, despite their vast differences, complete each other not only physically and emotionally, but on some metaphysical level. And since there’s often immortality at stake, it can literally mean love eternal.

Those are a few of the reasons I like to read paranormal romance. The reasons I like to write it are similar except I’ll add this:

―In addition to building deep, heroic characters, paranormal fiction gives me the opportunity to let my imagination soar. To create worlds, and whole systems of behavior that don’t have to conform to the laws of physics or reason. It lets me be weird and romantic, all at the same time, and find new ways of putting the idea out there that, at the end of the day, love is worth the struggle and the happily-ever-after even sweeter because of it.

A longtime New Orleans resident, Suzanne Johnson is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance author currently writing from Auburn, Alabama. Her new series with Tor Books begins with the release of ROYAL STREET in April 2012, followed by RIVER ROAD. She invites you to visit her daily blog at http://suzanne-johnson.blogspot.com/ and follow her on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Suzanne_Johnson .

In the meantime, here's an inside peek to Royal Street.






ROYAL STREET

By Suzanne Johnson

As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. Her boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond. Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the other world crumbled. Now, the Undead 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. Gerald St. Simon has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and an undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and the killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love serves up one bitter gumbo. Coming April 2012 from Tor Books.

EXCERPT:

Friday, August 26, 2005
“Early forecasts project Tropical Storm Katrina to turn north
and land on the Florida Panhandle by Monday afternoon.”
―The Washington Post

A secluded Louisiana bayou. A sexy pirate. Seduction and deceit. My Friday afternoon had the makings of a great romantic adventure, at least in theory.


In practice, angry mosquitoes were using me for target practice, humidity had ruined any prayer of a good hair day, and the pirate in question―the infamous Jean Lafitte―was two-hundred years old, armed, and carrying a six-pack of Paradise condoms in assorted fruit flavors.


I wasn’t sure what unnerved me more—the fact that the historical undead had discovered erotic accessories, or that Lafitte felt the need to practice safe sex.


Nothing about the pirate looked safe. Tall and broad-shouldered, he had dark blue eyes and a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth as he watched me set two glasses and a bottle of dark rum on a rickety wooden table. A tanned, muscular chest peeked from his open-collared shirt, and shaggy dark hair framed a clean-shaven face. A jagged scar across his jaw reminded me the so-called gentleman pirate also had his ruthless side.


He’d arrived by way of a stolen boat at this isolated cabin near Delacroix, a half-hour outside New Orleans, to pursue two of the world’s most timeless pleasures: sex and money. I’d met him here to play the role of a gullible young wizard falling under the spell of the legendary pirate, at least for a while. Then I’d do my duty as deputy sentinel and send his swashbuckling hide back to the Beyond, where he could rub shoulders with other undead legends and preternatural creatures unfit for polite human company.


My hand shook as I poured the rum, sloshing a few drops of amber liquid over the side of the glass. I’d finally been given a serious assignment, and I needed it to go without a hitch.


Lafitte’s fingers brushed mine as he took the drink, sending an unexpected rush of energy up my arm. “Merci, Mademoiselle Jaco—or may I call you Drusilla?”


Actually, I’d prefer he didn’t call me anything. Despite his obvious hopes for the evening, this wasn’t a date. “Most people call me DJ.”


“Bah,” he said, taking a sip of rum. “Those are alphabet letters, not a name.”


From beneath the red sash that accented his waist, Lafitte pulled a modern semiautomatic handgun and set it on the table next to the rum bottle. I knew how he’d gotten it—he’d rolled the Tulane student that summoned him, lifted the kid’s wallet and iPod, rode the streetcar to Canal Street, and made a trade for the gun. Enterprising guy, Lafitte.


I pondered the odd spike of energy I’d gotten from his hand. Touching increases the emotional crap I absorb from people as an empath, but Lafitte was technically a dead guy. Still, I’d like to say if he touched me again, I’d demand double pay from the wizards’ Congress of Elders. Triple if it involved lips.


But who was I kidding? My bargaining position was nonexistent. My boss Gerry only sent me on this run because he had something else to do and knew Lafitte might respond to my questionable seduction skills.


I’d pulled my unruly blonde hair out of its usual ponytail for the occasion, loaded on some makeup to play up my teal eyes, and poured myself into a little black skirt, short enough to show off my legs while not offending Lafitte’s nineteenth-century sensibilities.


It must have worked, because the pirate was giving me that head-to-toe appraisal guys do on instinct, like they’re assessing a juicy slab of beef and deciding whether they want it rare, medium, or well-done.


“You really are lovely, Drusilla.” The timbre of Lafitte’s voice shivered down my spine, and I fought the urge to check out the biceps underneath that linen shirt.


Holy crap. This was just wrong. I should not be absorbing his lust.


The End

Thanks for stopping by and checking out Suzanne Johnson.

4 comments:

Bekki Lynn said...

A pirate carrying fruit flavored condoms cracked me up.

I enjoyed your break down of writing paranormal. Here, I think you have your start on the self-help book. ;)

I admire those who can write worlds unknown and make me believe they are real. Kudos!

Savanna Kougar said...

Congrats on your upcoming release! And, cool premise about two worlds in New Orleans becoming entwined.

Very well said about writing paranormal. I can definitely relate.

Lafitte sounds like my kind of pirate... although, I'd tell him to lose the fruit-flavored condoms if he wants a chance at walking my plank.

Suzanne said...

LOL. Thanks, guys. I've turned into quite a Jean Lafitte fan. He started out in the first book as a one-scene wonder, and ended up a major character in the series! French pirates--how sexier can you get than that?

Lindsay Townsend said...

Tingling excerpt, Suzanne!

I love New Orleans as a setting!