Monday, 24 October 2016

Q&A with Susannah Sandlin, author of Black Diamond

Now available from Montlake Romance is the romantic suspense novel Black Diamond, book two in the Wilds of the Bayou Series by author Susannah Sandlin.

eBook 1, Wild Man’s Curse, on Sale Through the End of October for $1.99 at Amazon

The author has taken a few minutes out of her busy schedule for a Q&A about her newest novel.

When did you become interested in storytelling?

Until six or seven years ago, I was a career journalist, so I have been a storyteller since I co-founded my high school literary magazine more years ago than I care to admit. I wrote my first novel in 2009 as an exercise in turning my own experiences as a New Orleanian during Hurricane Katrina into a fantasy story. I got hooked on fiction-writing as I stumbled my way through that first book, and just kept going!

What was your first book/story published?

That first novel was also my first published novel Royal Street was the first in the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series and was published under the name Suzanne Johnson. Book five in that series comes out next month! I was incredibly blessed to have gotten a great agent and then get published my first time out.

What inspired you to write Black Diamond?

I began a new series, Wilds of the Bayou, this past spring with Wild Man’s Curse. The series is about a team of wildlife enforcement agents (i.e., highly trained game wardens) working in rural, bayou- and marsh-covered Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Each book features a different agent, a different case, a different romance, so they can stand alone. I knew I wanted to write about agent Jena Sinclair, a rare female game warden, and began reading about the rash of dangerous synthetic opioid drugs coming into the U.S. these days—“bath salt drugs,” they’re called. I started thinking about how someone might try moving drugs into and through this rural parish, which sits halfway between Houston and New Orleans, and then how my wildlife agents might get caught up in it. Add a mysterious, reclusive hero, and Black Diamond was born!

What character in Black Diamond is the most/least like you, and in what ways?

Ha! Probably the character of Paul Billiot—he’s both like me and my polar opposite. We’re both quiet, fairly reserved people. We don’t let many people deep inside; we play things close to the vest. It takes a while to break down the outer shells we’ve created for ourselves. We’re both incredibly stubborn and focused.

Ways we’re different?

His OCD takes the form of being a total neat freak whereas mine takes the form of collecting…and not in a neat way. My house usually looks like a hurricane went through it. Because I’ve worked in journalism so many years, I can carry on conversations with almost anyone if I’m pushed into it; Paul doesn’t. I also have a much bigger potty-mouth than he does, unfortunately. Damn it.

What is your favorite part in Black Diamond?

I love the scene toward the end when Jena, her partner Mac (they’re both wildlife agents), and the hero, Cole, are making their way through the pitch-black South Louisiana marsh at night—and being chased, of course. The land in South Terrebonne is part solid ground and part, well, not solid at all, even if it looks that way. It’s a treacherous scene, not helped by the fact that Mac is wounded and has to be hauled around like an 180-pound sack of potatoes most of the time. Good thing Cole has broad shoulders!

What was the hardest part to write?

It’s one of my favorite scenes but it was a tough one to write—when the hero, Cole, comes clean about who he is and what’s happened in his past that has made him retreat from society and live alone on the bayou for five years. I had to try to take myself into his experience and try to tap into those raw emotions.

What would your ideal career be, if you couldn't be an author?

I’ve spent most of my career as a magazine editor in higher education, which is a pretty awesome career…until you decide you want to write novels. So I’ll be leaving the “day job” next March to be a full-time. I can’t wait!

Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

I read reviews for the first few weeks after the book comes out, to see if there are any common critiques I can spot that might be helpful for me in writing future books—if multiple reviewers glom onto one particular aspect that makes sense to me. I have occasionally changed something in response to reviews. After the first few weeks, though, I try not to read them. My rational mind knows no book can please every reader, but some of the bad reviews are hurtful.

What well-known writers do you admire most?

I admire Stephen King for his ability to tell a complex story in a reader-friendly way and for his sheer prolificness (is that a word?). I admire Patricia Briggs and JR Ward for their ability to infuse deep emotion into their writing without ever becoming maudlin. I admire Jim Butcher for his ability to inject humor into his dramatic scenes. I’ve lately become a fan of Karin Slaughter and Harlen Coben, for their ability to weave together complex stories in fascinating, gripping ways.

Do you have any other books/stories in the works?

The fifth book in my Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, BELLE CHASSE (written as Suzanne Johnson), comes out on November 8. In January, the fifth book in my Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series (as Susannah Sandlin) is due out. After that, I hope to tackle the next Wilds of the Bayou novel!

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About the Author: Suzanne Johnson writing as Susannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also wrote The Collectors romantic suspense duology, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new suspense series Wilds of the Bayou started in 2016 with the release of Wild Man’s Curse and continues with Black Diamond. Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.

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  1. Thanks for the Q&A. Black Diamond is a great addition to Susannah's Wilds of the Bayou series. Go buy the book guys, you will like it.

  2. Suzanne,

    Thank you for doing the interview!


  3. Enjoyed the interview very much. I can see how Paul reflects some of you.


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