5 x 5 – SUZANNE JOHNSON & the Five Books That Inspired Her

December 13, 2012 Five by Five, General, Giveaways, Guest Post 69






Suzanne Johnson is one of my favorite authors.  I discovered her work this year with the release of two new series that very quickly became two of my favorite all time series:

The sexy PNR series PENTON LEGACY (written under the name Susannah Sandlin) about a vampire enclave in Alabama, and the UF series, THE SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS, about the junior wizard, Drusilla Jaco, or DJ, as she battles to keep the supernatural from overflowing into our mundane world.   

Johnson created something special with both series but it’s especially in the Sentinels of New Orleans where she’s blown me away with her world-building.  And you know me…I love a good supernatural world.  Her concept of the historical dead is fun, original, and, with the famous pirate Jean Lafitte, very, very sexy.  

The Sentinels series encapsulates everything I love in a good UF – solid character development, a great blend of mystery, action, and romance, and a love for New Orleans that shines through more than any other paranormal read set there that I’ve encountered in recent years.  All of this makes Suzanne Johnson one of my favorite writers. 

Please welcome Suzanne to SWR as she discusses five books that inspired her!





1.     The Stand by Stephen King

This is the first book I remember reading when I was old enough to really get caught up in the emotion of adult characters. It gave me an appreciation for a big, sprawling story with multiple points of view, each character richly drawn and deeply flawed—yet still heroic. It’s arguably the first modern dystopian novel—99.4 percent of the world’s population dies quickly from a pandemic virus, and the remaining .6 percent quickly divide into good and evil. With a supernatural element, of course.



2.     All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg

I adore Rick Bragg, and from his books All Over But the Shoutin’ and Ava’s Man, I learned what it meant when people spoke of an author having a voice. Hearing Rick’s voice helped me find mine—or at least recognize that I had one. Shoutin’ and Ava are both memoirs but read like the best fiction. And he grew up in my neck of the woods, in the Appalachian foothills of north Alabama, so his people and his family customs are not so different from my own, for better or worse.


3.     Cashelmara by Susan Howatch

I spent my teens reading these huge gothic multigenerational family sagas by Susan Howatch—Penmarric, The Wheel of Fortune, Sins of the Fathers, The Rich are Different. But my favorite was always Cashelmara, which is set in Ireland during the Potato Famine and afterward. I’ve probably read that book at least twenty times. In fact, I’m eyeing it as I type this. It’s been quite a few years, and I wonder if it would still hold the magic for me. Susan Howatch was the first author whose work I obsessively collected in hardcover.


4.     1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose

If you are going to read one book about what life was like in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, this is the one. You should read it. Before Katrina, Chris Rose was an entertainment writer for the Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ newspaper. During the storm, he camped in primitive conditions and wrote about his city every day for four months, providing a heartbreaking lifeline to those of us scattered around the country, evacuated from our homes and desperate for news. He fell into a very public depression and that, too, is on these pages as he chronicles the trauma we all went through and gave us a voice. This is a collection of his daily columns, and it still makes me weep to read it. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer. He should have won it.



5.     Storm Front by Jim Butcher &  

Something from the Nightside by Simon R. Green

Okay, this is two books so I’m sort of cheating, but after years of reading literary fiction and nonfiction, I stumbled across two urban fantasy series in 2008, started reading them, and fell in love. I’d read a few Anita Blake books years ago but hadn’t kept up with the genre, so it was like discovering a new world. I devoured all the Dresden and Nightside books back-to-back. I’d been toying with the idea of trying to write a Katrina novel to exorcise my own demons from the experience, and after reading these two series, I knew I wanted to write urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance.  



DJ Jaco would claim her favorite is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but in reality (she’ll deny this), it’s the Harry Potter series. She adores the Potter books in private, but in public enjoys making fun of how easy everything is for the fictional wizards.

Alex Warin reads a good bit of military history, but when he wants to relax he pulls out a Harlan Coben thriller such as Tell No One.

Jake Warin is not a big reader, but he has taken to studying books on wolf pack behavior.



The third book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, Elysian Fields, will come out next August, and I’m working on a digital short that’s sort of a “Misadventures of Jean Lafitte” and should be out in the spring.

I just released a digital short that is a standalone paranormal, Christmas in Dogtown.

Omega, the third book in my Penton Legacy series written as Susannah Sandlin, will be out on February 5.

And I’m working on a couple of proposals for new projects!



5×5 Giveaway – Suzanne Johnson


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About the Author

Suzanne Johnson is the author of a new urban fantasy series beginning with ROYAL STREET and RIVER ROAD, both coming in 2012 from Tor Books, and ELYSIAN FIELDS, coming in 2013, also from Tor. A longtime New Orleans resident now living in Auburn, Alabama, Suzanne is a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and a native of Winfield, Alabama.

During her daytime job, Suzanne is associate editor of Auburn Magazine, the quarterly magazine of the Auburn University Alumni Association. She has also worked at Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of San Diego, Rice University in Houston, and at the University of Illinois. Awards include: the Robert S. Sibley Award for the best university magazine in the U.S. and Canada, for the Rice University Sallyport; feature writing awards in 2009 and 2010 from Writer’s Digest magazine; and more than 50 awards in writing and editing from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Suzanne is an active member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapters of RWA.  

Please visit SUZANNE at her favorite spots:


69 Responses to “5 x 5 – SUZANNE JOHNSON & the Five Books That Inspired Her”

  1. Roger Simmons

    I think I came upon this early by accident. As long as I did I can’t help but say that Suzanne was right when she said today would be fun. I always find out new things by following these posts. SWR, the first paragraph in this blog post also expresses how I feel about this year with Suzanne. The Five by Five is very interesting. Thanks.

  2. Natasha

    I would choose Something From The Nightside. Thanks for the chance to win!

  3. Doc RedBat

    Nice to see the Nightside series getting some love. For another good take on Katrina you should give The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke. If you aren’t enraged after reading that, you need to start questioning your humanity.

    • Suzanne Johnson

      I agree, Tin Roof Blowdown is a terrific read! One Dead in Attic is so powerful because it was written as it happened and is nonfiction. And Nightside is a greatly underrated series!

    • Suzanne Johnson

      Having trouble responding to comments, so trying again… I agree with you about Tin Roof Blowdown–it’s a great read. Love that whole series.

  4. Tim

    Can you believe I’ve never read the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher? The only book of his I’ve read is Furies of Calderon, book one of the Codex Alera series.

    • Suzanne Johnson

      I can’t believe you haven’t read Dresden! I haven’t read the Codex books since I’m not a big epic fantasy fan. The Dresden books are my favorite UF series, though.

  5. A.J. Larrieu

    This was fascinating to read. I’m struck by the fact that many of the books that influenced you most were the first ones to introduce you to a particular aspect of writing. I think this is true of me, too (and maybe a lot of writers.). I’ll never forget the first science fiction novel I read (Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsdawn), and how it made me realize all the possibilities in fiction. Great post. Thanks for sharing! (Oh, and I’d like Nightside if I get lucky. 🙂

    • Suzanne Johnson

      I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you’re right–I love them for different reasons and they influenced me in different ways. This was a fun post to do, although I felt bad at some of the ones I had to leave out!

  6. Readsalot81

    I have all the Dresden and Nightside books (excellent picks btw ) so I would go with 1 Dead in Attic. It sounds like a very powerful book.

  7. Dovile

    If possible, I’d really like the 3rd book in Butcher’s Dresden series. I’ve read the first to and loved them. Otherwise I’d like The Stand.

  8. Annie Slasher

    Something from the Nightside. I have never seen this one before! Dresden is certainly by favorite Beta male every though! Thanks Suzanne!!!

  9. Christina Kit.

    Christina K. in the rafflecopter

    This is an awesome post!!

    I love the idea of asking characters what their favorite books are:) I’m with DJ – LOVE Harry Potter:)

    THank you:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  10. miki

    hum at first i thought about taking storm front since you told me so often how much you love this author and series but the reading the summary of book 1 of nightside i’m also thinking this one intriguing so hard to choose beteween those 2 ( will choose if i win only ^^;;)

    • Suzanne Johnson

      The series are really similar, which is why I had trouble choosing. Ultimately, I like Dresden best–I think it has been the most consistent. The humor is more subtle; Nightside is more mind-blowingly bizarre, in a good way 🙂

  11. Cherry Mischievous

    Q: What book would you choose from Suzanne’s list?

    A: Seeing that I am an old Jim Butcher fan, I would pick Storm Front or the Dresden Files series! 🙂

  12. nrlymrtl

    Simon Greene and Jim Butcher are excellent reads. I enjoy both their works very much. I would probably pick The Stand as I have never read that book, but it’s been on my TBR mountain since highschool.

  13. jc

    Would love to read The Stand, Stephen King is such an awesome writer!

    Merry Christmas to all bookaholics!

  14. donnas

    Ive already read 3 of the 6 great choices! So either All Over But the Shoutin’ or One Dead in the Attic.

  15. Liz Semkiu

    Dresden Files and the Nightside series are great. Cold Days was awesome! Poor Harry just never catches a break!
    I loved River Road. Thanks for the contest.

  16. Brooke Banks

    I’ve read and LOVE the Stand.

    I’d pick the Dresden files. Everyone talks about it and loves it but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I really need to get with the program! lol

  17. rissatoo

    The Stand. It’s one of my favorites & I’ve read it a few times, but not lately…and I don’t own a copy…

  18. JenM

    I’d love to read either 1 dead in attic or Something From the Nightside. They both sound great, although in very different ways.

  19. oriana

    i would like to read the Stephen King one!
    I really like her seleccion because there are some books that I never hear before, so now im interested, and I like the covers of her books too.

  20. Beth T.

    I would really like to read One Dead in Attic. I am so glad to have read this list–I had heard about that book on NPR but couldn’t remember the name and have tried all kinds of ways to search for it without success. If I don’t win a copy, I’ll be “wishing” for it at Amazon. com.

  21. Karina V

    I’d pick The Stand by Stephen King, definitely, a must – have ! 🙂