Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Suzanne Johnson, author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels. She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’s birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of college football and fried gator on a stick. She lives in Auburn, Alabama with two eccentric rescue dogs named after professional wrestlers. The third book in her Sentinels of New Orleans series, Elysian Fields, comes out on August 13.
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from Stephen King to reality TV, and more!
If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
“It Ain’t Easy Being Me,” by Chris Knight, as proven by a sample lyric:
There oughta be a bridge somewhere they could dedicate to me.
I’d probably come to the ceremony with a can of gasoline.
I’d walk on over to the other side, and there I’d light a match.
Then I’d sit and stare through the smoke and flames, wondering how I’m gonna get back.
Yep, that pretty well sums it up.
Do you have a favorite underrated/unknown/under-read author?
Totally out of genre and well-known in certain circles, but it’s Southern memoirist Rick Bragg. Reading All Over But the Shouting made me decide I wanted to write a book. Pick up Ava’s Man and dig in. You’ll forget you’re reading nonfiction, and I swear to God we are related to the same people, right down to his great-grandma who chased her husband into the woods with an iron skillet, intending to do murder. ’Cause that’s how we roll here in the South.
Randall Flagg, the walking dude from Stephen King’s The Stand. He’s the epitome of a charming devil (literally). I’d be that pathetic, damned-fool woman who follows him into the desert for romance, only to end up carrying demon seed and gibbering in a corner—just before splattering myself on the pavement in Vegas with glass sticking out of my jugular (while singing “It Ain’t Easy Being Me”).
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your (new/last/latest) book, who would it be?
No question on this one. It’s Cajun singer-songwriter Zachary Richard, whose music provided the soundtrack for this entire series, but especially Elysian Fields.
His song “La Ballade de Jean Batailleur” inspired the storyline I decided to develop for my character Jake Warin. When I first heard the lyrics to that song, I got chills and knew it was going to be Jake’s song.
In the second book, River Road, the artist himself makes a guest appearance (wouldn’t he be surprised?) by playing a set at a bar owned by one of my characters. The date went badly, but it wasn’t Zack’s fault.
He has a song called “Cote Blanche Bay” about the early 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte, although I didn’t discover it until well after Jean became a main character in the series.
His song “Big River” is heroine DJ’s cell phone ringtone in the new book (she finally decided to abandon Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans,” deciding it was bringing her bad luck. Hate to tell the woman but her luck’s about to get a lot worse, so I don’t know how long “Big River” will be there.).
And Zachary Richard’s awesome version of the “Cajun national anthem,” aka “Jolie Blon,” inspired Jean Lafitte’s nickname for DJ.
Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle Earth (or some other fictional realm)…
Actually, I’d like to hang out in Diagon Alley. I’m awfully fond of things like electricity and snacks, and fizzies and butterbeer sound like a great thing to enjoy while lazing away an afternoon. Of course, the stipulation would be that I took a visit to the countryside in the days before Hogwarts opened for the fall since I seem to lack any maternal instincts and would find all those magical children underfoot extremely annoying.
Middle Earth would make me feel tall and lumbering, what with all the wee fur-footed folk, and I have no doubt I’d eventually be forced to commit murder if exposed too often to Tom Bombadil-o. Although if Faramir really looked like David Wenham or Boromir like Sean Bean….hm…are there any guarantees I wouldn’t be eaten by Orcs? If so, I might have to rethink this.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Actually it was horror, with Stephen King. I devoured everything I could get my hands on, sandwiched between these big, sprawling, multigenerational gothic novels by Susan Howatch. That explains a lot.
The first SF/F I remember reading was Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, which I disliked as a middle-schooler and never revisited. Yeah, yeah, heresy, I know. I tried Dune and quickly got bored. There was an early, failed attempt at Lord of the Rings (which as an adult I came to love, but was sent to snoozeville on the first couple of tries).
The first books I read and actually liked were Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat (somehow I skipped past Interview with the Vampire) and Laurell K Hamilton’s first few Anita Blake books. I thought Lestat and Jean-Claude were some hot stuff. Actually, I still do. That explains a lot, too.
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to?
I love reality TV, and at any one time, will have up to thirty or forty shows queued up in my DVR. In my own defense, I have never, ever watched a single episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo.” But I have never missed a single episode of “Ice Road Truckers,” “Swamp People,” “Gator Boys,” “Survivor” or “Amazing Race,” and I have actually DVR’d entire marathons of “Billy the Exterminator.” Purely for research, of course, all of it. (Apparently, I’m proof that you can’t breed out redneck in one generation.)