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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Suzanne Johnson: Guest Blog: A Touch of Romance in Urban Fantasy - Just a Touch


As my debut novel, Royal Street, makes its way onto store shelves this week, I’ve had the pleasure—and really, it’s always a pleasure—to keep up with early reader reviews over the last couple of months, particularly on Goodreads. What do readers like and think works? What do they dislike?

I’ve learned three interesting things from reading these reviews.

First, the genres of urban fantasy and paranormal romance have meshed a lot more than I realized. Royal Street is an urban fantasy with “romantic elements.” The relationships being formed are not the main focus of the story. So the complaint from a few readers that there’s not a fast-moving romance surprised me. I mean, the characters are coping with death and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They’ve met under stressful circumstances. Family members are missing. And they’re supposed to say, hey, never mind all that--let’s fall madly in love and have some sex? I had to laugh. I figure if people are anxious to see the relationships develop, as they will over time, then the characters have resonated in some way. Otherwise, they wouldn’t care.

Second, people HATE love triangles. LOL. Who knew? So not only is there a slow-moving romantic storyline but there’s a hint at a possible rivalry between two guys over the girl. It’s not a serious rivalry, its purpose was to show something about the nature of my heroine, and it gets sorted out in the second book of the series. But you’d think I’d publicly murdered a litter of kittens by having even a hint of a triangle.

Third, it’s amazingly gratifying when readers “get” you. I was worried about people thinking that my setting of New Orleans during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina was exploitative, even though I lived through it and pulled heavily from my own experiences (and, believe me, falling in love with anybody was the last thing on my mind at that time). But every single reader so far, even those who began the book with reservations or who got snippy at the hint of a triangle, have agreed that the tone is respectful and filled with love for the hometown I came so close to losing. A couple of the reviews even made me cry. That’s a good thing, and an unexpected gift.

Which is all to say, I guess, that even though the mantra among authors is “don’t read the reviews,” I look at it as a learning experience. Sure, some can be hurtful and spiteful. Most are thoughtful and some are downright heartwarming. People spent several hours of their time reading my book, and for that I’m appreciative.

BLURB: ROYAL STREET(Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 1)
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 floodwaters. 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 roux.

BIO:
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. Her Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series begins April from Tor Books.

7 comments:

jean hart stewart said...

FAscinated by your blog. The idea of having reader reviews is a new one to me, believe it or not, although I'm on my 25th book. Gotta investigate that. The book looks fascinating to me., Suzanne...

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I get nervous enough to read what my crit partners think of my writing...maybe it's a good thing that I'm not far along enough to have reader reviews!

I think it's really awesome that you've been able to take such a tragedy as Katrina and turn it into creative fuel.

Cara Marsi said...

This story sounds terrific. I want to read it. You are incredibly brave to seek out reader reviews. I do like romance in everything I read, but if I know from the beginning that a book isn't a romance but has romantic elements, I'm okay with that. Congratulations on your debut novel!

emmad said...

I figure if the reviews have allowed you to learn something and provide some objectivity then they are doing a good thing. While reviews in general are more readers I like the idea they can help authors as well. Provided of course that the reviews are actually well written themselves and not just rambling thoughts :)

I've been following some of the blogs you've been posting in and really looking forward to reading this book.

Katalina said...

Suzanne, the cover is gorgeous and your story sounds wonderful. I'm sure good word of mouth will steer readers toward your book.
XXOO Kat

donnas said...

Great post. Looking forward to picking this one up.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Thanks for the comments--I'm on the road on a (yikes) book tour so my computer time has been limited. I'm learning from the reader reviews (man, do they hate triangles!) but there are enough positive comments to offset the negatives that I haven't gotten all paranoid. Well, mostly!

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