A woman who spent years escaping her rural past learns that Dogtown, Louisiana, hides more family secrets than just the recipe for boudin blanc.
Resa Madere’s on the verge of losing it all. The boyfriend’s gone. The job’s history. Her beloved house is on the brink of foreclosure. She’ll do anything to save it--even spend a long Christmas holiday working in St. James Parish, Louisiana, helping her uncle run the family meat business. But the community of Dogtown, which has been home for seven generations of the Madere and Caillou families, has deep roots and deeper secrets. For Resa, going home is one thing. Getting out might not be so easy.
Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance (under the name Susannah Sandlin) from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis' birthplace, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick. She’s the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy
series and, as Susannah Sandlin, the Penton Legacy paranormal romance series.
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1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I love the traditions of the Christmas bonfires in Louisiana’s river parishes—this story takes
place in St. James Parish, about 40 miles west of New Orleans. This is Cajun country, and
the legend is that Santa arrives by pirogue (boat), so the residents build tepee-shaped
wooden structures along the Mississippi River levees before Christmas and then set them on
fire on Christmas Eve to light Santa’s way. It’s really beautiful!
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
This is a novelette, so it has a smaller cast of characters than a full-length novel. But I love
Chandler Caillou (pronounced KYE-you); he’s comfortable in his own skin and with his place
in life, unlike the heroine Resa, who has to figure out who she is and what she really wants.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
The story itself. I knew I wanted it set during the holidays and in a very small, secretive
crossroads community along the river. But I hadn’t decided on the Dogtown name for the
community until I was well into writing the story.
4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I think my favorite scene is when Resa and Chan first meet up again after a long absence,
and he’s got a tub full of alligator gar that need to be butchered. It’s a kind of strange bonding
moment for them, plus alligator gar are big and ugly!
5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer
then to now?
I like to think I’m still learning more about the craft and always will. But the most important
thing I’ve learned so far was to give myself permission to write a really crappy first draft.
There’s always the temptation to go back and polish and polish and polish what you’ve
already written…which is why so many writers have half-finished books sitting around. So
the lesson was: write the crappy first draft until the book is finished and then go back and
6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I thought it did a good job of showing some of the elements of the story without being
too literal. There’s a dock so we know it’s set along the water, and the white dog is
significant…and that’s about all I can say about him!
7. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2014?
It’s a tossup. There’s the penultimate book in Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan/Hollows
series. I can’t wait to see what she does to set up that final book. The description for the
new Midnight Crossroads series by Charlaine Harris also sounds really interesting, and I’m
curious to see what she does in her post-Sookie world.
8. What was your favorite book in 2013?
Alex Bledsoe’s Wisp of a Thing, the second of his Tufa novels. It was a brilliant urban fantasy
(well, actually rural fantasy).
9. What’s up next for you?
A busy year, I think! The fourth book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, Pirate’s Alley,
will be out sometime in 2014, but I don’t have a release date yet. Allegiance, the fourth book
in my Penton Legacy series (written as Susannah Sandlin) will be out in late spring. On
December 24, I have a Kindle serial called Lovely, Dark and Deep (a romantic thriller also
written as Susannah Sandlin) that will release in episodes over eight weeks, and then will
come out as a regular novel. It’s the first in a new series called The Collectors; a second
book in that series will come out in April. So, as I said, it’s looking like a busy year!
Thanks for having me here today!