The Paranormal Perceptions series was created to gather some of the most interesting authors that are using paranormal elements in their stories. Every author has their own perceptions and provides their own insight on all things paranormal, ranging from urban legends and paranormal research, to myths and inspirations. This week on the guest series is author of Sentinels of New Orleans, author Suzanne Johnson(@Suzanne_Johnson).
One of the things that most appeals to me about urban fantasy, with or without the romantic elements, is the reality behind the paranormal. For the Sentinels of New Orleans series, I wanted to not only infuse as much of the real sense of the setting as I could, but also twist the paranormal tropes to reflect that setting.
So my characters go to real restaurants that you, too, could visit when in New Orleans. You could drive the same streets, find the exact corner where the characters live (although if you find the characters, let me know!), hear the odd Brooklyn-Meets-the-South accent of the locals, feel the swelter of the dense, moist heat of summer, hear the clang of the streetcars on St. Charles Avenue, or the ships’ horns wafting off the river, or the raucous accordion of a zydeco band.
New Orleans wasn’t a coincidental setting for me. The series kicks off with the approach of Hurricane Katrina, and at the time of Katrina, I had already lived in New Orleans for twelve years and considered it (and still do) my hometown. I went back for three years of rebuilding after the hurricane. So I know the city intimately, and much of the “research” comes from my own experiences. Although as the series progresses, I’m wandering farther afield, which requires trips back to NOLA for research that might take me into the swamps of bordering Plaquemines Parish, to the city’s archival museum to see the papers of the real pirate Jean Lafitte, or into a voodoo shop in the French Quarter. (Yeah, it’s a tough job, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice.)
Because New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana are such a crucial part of the series, I also wanted to make sure my paranormal characters reflect where they live—which before the hurricane was an alternative version of New Orleans and a vast metaphysical world known as the Beyond. When the hurricane destroys the borders between worlds, who should stroll into modern New Orleans but shifters, vampires, weres…all our favorite species—with a few twists. It’s up to the heroine, a wizard named DJ, to act as Sentinel (think “border guard”) and keep the other species in line and the humans unaware.
--Were-creatures and shapeshifters are different in this world. Shifters are born, not made, while weres are made much as in traditional werewolf and vampire lore. Among these are loup-garou, weregators, and merfolk.
--Loup-Garou is a particular type of werewolf that carries a demon’s curse. The Garou are thought to have come to Louisiana with the original Acadian settlers driven out of Canada by the British, who took refuge in the French colony of Louisiana. Loup-garou are bigger than your average werewolf, are rogue loners with poor self-control and anger issues, don’t respect or participate in the pack structure. They are Bad News.
--Merpeople live in clans and mainstream very well with humans. They are aquatic shapeshifters who can shift fully into big fish form or partially into classic mer form. My merpeople (mermen and mer-women, because they don’t like being called “maids” anymore) also are descended from the Acadians—now called “Cajuns”—and work in the Louisiana fishing industry, for the most part.
--The Historical Undead are corporeal ghosts—humans who lived or worked in New Orleans who are granted immortality in the Beyond by the magic of human memory. The more they’re remembered, the stronger they are and the longer they can hang out in the modern world looking (and feeling) as warm-blooded and solid as you or I. Series characters so far include the early 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte, who has become a major player in the series; jazz great Louis Armstrong; the serial killer from the early 20th century known as the Axeman of New Orleans; and voodoo queen Marie Laveau.
--My Elves and Vampires and Fae rely more on the traditional lore. The vampires, who come from the Realm of Vampyre, are ruled by the Regents. The Regent of the New Orleans vamps is Etienne Boulard, who owned a sugar plantation west of New Orleans in the early 1800s when he was turned vampire. The vampires have thus far remained politically neutral and content to run their French Quarter bar, L’Amour Sauvage. The Elves have, until recently, stayed in their own portion of the Beyond known as Elfheim; they are beginning to notice things taking place in New Orleans, however. And one does not want to bring oneself to the attention of the Elves. They make powerful, if unreliable, allies and deadly enemies. The Fae have not thus far entered the picture, being off doing faerielike things, but you can bet they’ll show up soon.
*Finally, we have the largest population group, the Wizards, who are ruled by a Council of Elders and are divided into four congresses depending on the type of magic they can do. Our heroine DJ is a Green Congress wizard, kind of the geeks of the wizarding world who specialize in ritual magic. Effective but slow, especially when one is being pursued by an angry undead pirate or voodoo god. Until the borders fell during Katrina, the Wizards had iron control of who and what came into the human world.
Now? All bets are off.
About the Author:
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.
Publisher Page: http://us.macmillan.com/author/suzannejohnson