This is a guest post by Suzanne Johnson, my critique partner, friend, and author of the incredible Sentinel of New Orleans series.
Royal Street – the first in the series and Suzanne’s debut novel – came out last week to well-deserved rave reviews. She’s giving away a copy to a very lucky person who leaves a comment here.
I’d never read an urban fantasy novel before meeting Suzanne, but her books are so creative, funny and clever that she’s converted me! (Plus, the men in this series are smokin’ hot! Hands off, ladies – Alex Warin is mine.)
Take it away, Suzanne!
I was in a Houston bookstore for a signing last week, and the store owner had a confession: “I wasn’t sure where to shelve your book,” she told me. “The romance in it is light for paranormal romance, but it has too much romance to be pure urban fantasy.” Finally, she shelved half her copies in romance, and the other half in UF.
It didn’t come as a surprise. The slow-simmering romance you’d expect to be a staple of a series? Usually, it isn’t slow at all. I knew paranormal romance fans might read my recent release and cry foul for undeveloped relationships. I knew urban fantasy fans would grumble about it having too much romance. It’s hard to find a UF series these days where sex isn’t a given in book one, even if true love trails behind.
In Royal Street, the first book of my Sentinel of New Orleans series, my heroine DJ meets some potential suitors. (I should add here that Dj is a wizard.) First is Alex Warin, a big, macho, black-clad kind of monosyllabic guy who’s not nearly as tough as he pretends. There’s a strong attraction between DJ and Alex, but neither quite trusts the other, plus they have to work together, which raises ethical issues that the plot wouldn’t accommodate logically.
And there’s the undead early 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte. What girl can resist a handsome, rakish pirate, alive or undead?
Then, there’s Jake Warin, Alex’s cousin. DJ likes him immediately—he seems sweet, he seems uncomplicated, he seems easy. Note I say “seems.”
But I felt strongly that the romance in this series needed to simmer, and simmer slowly. The book is set in New Orleans during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. As a Katrina survivor myself, I knew that romance was off people’s radar during that period. I sure didn’t have the stomach for it. Just getting through each day was enough of a challenge. Had DJ jumped into the sack—or even into a serious relationship—with any of these guys, it would have made the story un-credible for me, and I was determined that the Katrina element of the story be credible, above all.
Did the romance take a back seat? Sure. But the Katrina stuff had to be right. Do these relationships get refined in River Road, the second book in the series (which comes out in November)? Sure—and even more so in the third book. But even then, it simmers, not boils.
To me, that’s the great thing about a series. As an author, I have the space to spread out and let my characters grow and change. If they get a Happily Ever After in the first book, what happens in the second book, or the third, or the fourth? There’s one popular urban fantasy series where the protagonist hops from man to man to keep the romance fresh. For me, that’s not a trait I admire.
Relationships are messy. They take time to work out. The beauty of a series is that the relationships have the chance to progress at a pace that maximizes the characters’ personalities, quirks, and growth arcs.
Even if it means a slow simmer.
When you’re reading a series that revolves around one heroine, do you want the romance resolved in book one, or do you prefer it to simmer and burn throughout the series?
Suzanne is giving away a copy of Royal Street to one very lucky commenter. Take it from me – you’ll be hooked! I’ll choose a random winner on Tuesday April 24th. Good luck!
When Hurricane Katrina destroys the barriers between modern New Orleans and the Beyond, an apprentice wizard braves the chaos of her struggling city to find her missing mentor, fend off the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, and control her annoying new partner–not to mention find a serial killer before he finds her.