Do you have a daily word count goal or do you just write when you can fit it into your schedule?
If I’m actively working on a story or novel, I definitely set a daily word count. I take my deadline and divide the number of days until deadline into the word count I want to hit. If I fall behind, then I try to make it up on the weekends. Right now, I’m focusing on my launch of WILD MAN’S CURSE and have a lot of promotional material to write, so I have X projects due per day rather than a word count. But as soon as the month’s done, I’ll dive back into another book.
What do you need in a story to label it as suspense?
I think there has to be a sustained and escalating danger to the main characters. That’s not to say a suspense novel can’t have romance (of course) or even humor, but the conflict and tension needs to stay pretty high and keep building throughout the story. The other elements, even the romance in a romantic suspense, have to fit around the suspense. The point you want to reach, at least by midway through the book, is to keep events moving at such a taut pace that the reader doesn’t want to stop until the very end. And after so much suspense, the end has to be satisfying.
What is your favorite genre to write?
I label everything I write as “suspense/thriller,” whether it involves humans as in WILD MAN’S CURSE, or vampires as in the Penton Legacy series, or even wizards and elves as in my Sentinels of New Orleans series, written as Suzanne Johnson. I’ve written a few sweeter novelettes (both paranormals), but for the most part any novel I write will either be paranormal romantic thriller or romantic suspense or urban fantasy thriller. I think I read too much Stephen King as a child…and adult. And I apparently like to blow up things.
How many books are you planning in the Wilds of The Bayou Series?
Well, my publisher bought the first two books, but we’ll have to wait and see how they sell. They’re very reasonably priced, so I’m hoping they do well. I have five books planned, one for each of the five wildlife enforcement agents (think really badass game wardens) assigned to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, in WILD MAN’S CURSE. Gentry is the hero of that book; his partner, Jena Sinclair, is the heroine of the second book. Another of the agents, Paul Billiot, is trying to lure me into writing his book third, but I had originally planned him as fourth. We’ll see who wins that one!
Can you tell us about your current work in progress or what’s next on your release schedule?
The next writing project I have on my schedule is the fifth and final book in the Penton Vampire Legacy series. I hope to get it out by the end of the year. The second Wilds of the Bayou book is written and about to go into revisions soon, so it will likely come out late this year, and BELLE CHASSE, the fifth and penultimate Sentinels of New Orleans novel (as Suzanne Johnson) will be released on November 8.
Many of your books take place in Louisiana, what are some of your favorite things about Louisiana?
Oh gosh, I love it so much. The culture is a true melting pot in the best sense of that term. The people are warm-hearted, generous, and truly eccentric—LOL. The sounds from my house in New Orleans, from the clattering of the streetcar to the foghorns of the ships on the Mississippi River to the sound of wind moving the massive branches of towering 300-year-old live oaks. The music. The food. The bayous and marshlands of the coastal parishes. It’s easier to ask the things I don’t like: the humidity, the traffic in New Orleans, nutria, and evil buck moth caterpillars. Don’t even ask about the latter two. They’re too gross to even talk about.
What is your favorite genre to read?
I actually read a lot of nonfiction—some for research and some for pleasure. In terms of fiction, I enjoy urban fantasy and, if I really want to escape, historical romance. Dystopians. I’m a pretty democratic reader. The only genres I don’t read much are epic fantasy and hard sci fi. I enjoyed YA for a while, but got burned out on whiny teenagers with suddenly-found special powers pretty quickly.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading HOW DOGS LOVE US by Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist who uses functional MRI to try and decode the emotional lives of dogs. I lost both of my 16-year-old furkids in the last year and am not emotionally ready to get another dog but having those two for so long and watching how they responded to me in different ways and learned from each other made me want to read this. I’m about halfway through so I don’t know his findings yet! I’m also re-reading the New Testament and am about halfway through Kendra Elliot’s ALONE, which is romantic suspense. I usually have a couple of books in progress at any given time.
What books are in your to-be-read stack?
Kim Harrison’s first Peri Reed novel, THE DRAFTER, is up next, then her Kindle short, SIDESWIPED, which has Peri Reed and Rachel Morgan in it. I’m reviewing them for my blog in advance of a guest post from Kim (stops for a fangirl moment). Her second Peri Reed book comes out in November, so I’ll be ready for it! I’m also woefully behind on some of my favorite series, most notably Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, so I need to get caught up.
Wild Man’s Curse
Wilds of the Bayou Series
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date of Publication: April 5, 2016
Number of pages: 284
Word Count: approx. 86,000
Cover Artist: Michael Rehder
The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.
While on an early morning patrol in the swamps of Whiskey Bayou, Louisiana wildlife agent Gentry Broussard spots a man leaving the home of voodoo priestess Eva Savoie—a man who bears a startling resemblance to his brother, whom Gentry thought he had killed during a drug raid three years earlier. Shaken, the agent enters Eva’s cabin and makes a bloody discovery: the old woman has been brutally murdered.
With no jurisdiction over the case, he’s forced to leave the investigation to the local sheriff, until Eva’s beautiful heir, Celestine, receives a series of gruesome threats. As Gentry’s involvement deepens and more victims turn up, can he untangle the secrets behind Eva’s murder and protect Celestine from the same fate?
Or will an old family curse finally have its way?
The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.
Eva Savoie leaned back in the rocking chair and pushed it into motion on the uneven wide-plank floor of the one-room cabin. Her grandpere Julien had built the place more than a century ago, pulling heavy cypress logs from the bayou and sawing them, one by one, into the thick planks she still walked across every day.
She had never known Julien Savoie, but she knew of him. The curse that had stalked her family for three generations had started with her grandfather and what he’d done all those years ago.
What he’d brought with him to Whiskey Bayou with blood on his hands.
What had driven her daddy to shoot her mama, and then himself, before either turned forty-five.
What had led Eva’s brother Antoine to drown in the bayou only a half-mile from this cabin, leaving a wife and infant son behind.
What stalked Eva now.
The bones said death was coming and, once Eva was gone, the curse should go with her. No one else knew the secrets of Julien Savoie and this cabin and that box full of sin he’d dug out of the bayou mud back in Isle de Jean Charles.
Might take a while, but sin catches up with you. Always had. Always would. And the curse had driven Eva to sin. Oh yes, she had sinned.
She’d known her reckoning would catch up with her, although it had taken a good long time. She’d turned seventy-eight yesterday, or was it eighty? She couldn’t remember for sure, and the bones said it didn’t matter now.
On the scarred wooden table before Eva sat three burning candles that filled the room with the soft, soothing glow of melting tallow. She’d made them herself, infusing them with the oil of the fragrant lilies that every spring spread a bright green carpet over the lazy, brown water of the bayou. The tools of her ritual sat on an ancient square of tanned hide passed down through generations of holy ones, of those blessed by the gods with the ability to throw the bones.
A small mound of delicate chicken bones, yellowed and fragile from age, lay inside the circle of light cast by the candles. Daylight would come in an hour or so, but Eva didn’t expect to last that long. Death was even now making his way toward her.
She leaned forward, wincing at the stab of pain in her lower back. Since the first throw of the bones had whispered her fate two days ago, she’d been cleaning. Scrubbed the floor, worn smooth by decades of bare feet. Washed the linens, folding them in neat piles in a drawer at the bottom of the old pie safe. Discarded most of the food in the little refrigerator that sat in the corner. Dragged the bag of trash down the long, overgrown drive past LeRoy’s old 1970 Chevy pickup that she still drove up to Houma for groceries and such once a month. Left the white bag at the side of the parish road for the weekly trash collection.
She’d spit on LeRoy’s truck as she passed it because she couldn’t spit on the man who bought it. He was long gone.
Now the cleaning had been finished. Whoever discovered her raggedy old body wouldn’t find a mess, not in Eva Savoie’s house.
A few minutes ago, with the old cabin as clean as she was capable of making it, she’d thrown the bones one last time. Part of her hoped they’d read different, hoped she’d be granted a few more days of grace.
But the bones still whispered death. Eva accepted it, and she sat, and she waited. At least the girl, Celestine, would inherit a cleaned-up house. The girl, Antoine’s granddaughter, knew nothing of the secrets, nothing of the curse. Eva had made sure of that….
Eva waited for her heart to fail—that seemed to be her most likely way to go. As she rocked she noted each steady beat, biding her time for the instant when the thump-thump-thump would falter and her breath would catch, then stop. She reckoned it would hurt a little, but what if it did? The curse had doled out worse ends to those who came before her.
She’d doled out worse herself.
The buzz of a boat’s motor sounded from outside the cabin, faint but growing louder. Wardens on patrol already, most likely.
The boat’s engine grew louder, finally coming to an abrupt stop so near, it had to be right outside her door. Silence filled the room once again, until through her bones she felt the thud of someone jumping onto the porch that wrapped around the cabin. The porch formed the platform on which the house sat, linking it to the spit of land behind it when the water was normal. When storms blew through, it provided an island on which the cabin could sit or, if need be, float.
As heavy footfalls crossed the porch, Eva struggled to her feet. Every pop and crackle of her joints knifed streaks of pain through her limbs as they protested the cleaning they’d done, followed by the sitting.
Prob’ly a game warden, checkin’ on her. Too bad he hadn’t stopped a little later, after she was gone. She didn’t like to think of her body having to bake in the hot cabin for days before anyone found her.
But the curse was what it was, and the bones said what they said.
The knock, when it came, was soft, and Eva reached the door with the help of a sturdy cane she’d carved herself. Opening the door, she squinted into the glare of a flashlight that seemed almost blinding after the soft light of the candles. She peered up at a young man with eyes that gleamed from beneath the hood of a jacket. He was not a game warden, and it was too hot for a jacket.
“Who are you?” Her voice cracked. She knew who he was. He was Death.
“The devil come to pay you a visit, Eva.” The man’s voice was smooth as silk, smooth as a lie, smooth as death itself. “And you know what the devil wants.”
She knew what he wanted, and she knew the only way to end the curse was to deny him.
She’d been granted no easy passing by the Savoie curse after all, but she would die today.
The bones never lied.
About the Author:
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 writers The Collectors romantic suspense series, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new series Wilds of the Bayou starts in 2016 with the April 5 release of Wild Man’s Curse. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, Susannah 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.