Today it’s my pleasure to welcome over Susannah Sandlin, author of Wild Man’s Curse, Wilds of the Bayou Series, Book One.
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date of Publication: April 5, 2016
Number of pages: 284
Word Count: approx. 86,000
Cover Artist: Michael Rehder
The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.
While on an early morning patrol in the swamps of Whiskey Bayou, Louisiana wildlife agent Gentry Broussard spots a man leaving the home of voodoo priestess Eva Savoie—a man who bears a startling resemblance to his brother, whom Gentry thought he had killed during a drug raid three years earlier. Shaken, the agent enters Eva’s cabin and makes a bloody discovery: the old woman has been brutally murdered.
With no jurisdiction over the case, he’s forced to leave the investigation to the local sheriff, until Eva’s beautiful heir, Celestine, receives a series of gruesome threats. As Gentry’s involvement deepens and more victims turn up, can he untangle the secrets behind Eva’s murder and protect Celestine from the same fate?
Or will an old family curse finally have its way?
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Let’s Interview Susannah!
What inspired you to write this book?
The tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was coming up last summer, and I’d spent a lot of time thinking about the storm (I had been living in New Orleans for about twelve years at the time) and all the problems with the rescue efforts. Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries agents were among the first on the scene. While the state and federal politicians were arguing about who had jurisdiction, LDWF agents were in there, plucking people out of the water and doing search and rescue. I started researching all the difficult training and responsibilities these officers do—their jobs can be very dangerous. So I came up with the idea of following a team of these Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents in one of Louisiana’s most challenging terrains, Terrebonne Parish. Each book in the series will follow a particular member of the enforcement team as he or she tackles life, crime—and love—in the marshes and bayous of South Louisiana.
How did you come up with the title?
For the longest time—all the way through edits—the title was WILD MAN’S BLUFF. But we realized at the last minute that the word “bluff” could mean different things than a bluff in a poker game, which is what I had in mind. It also could mean a bluff, as in a cliff (of which there are none in flat-as-a-pancake South Louisiana), or it could mean a joke, and the bluffs in this book aren’t funny. Both of the main characters, senior Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agent Gentry Broussard and singer/songwriter Celestine Savoie, are struggling with their own forms of family curses, thus the change to WILD MAN’S CURSE was appropriate. My publishing team came up with it (wish I could take the credit), but it really fits the tone and plot of the book.
What made you choose the main setting for your book?
I lived in South Louisiana for about fifteen years, before and after Katrina, and have extended in-laws who live in the Louisiana river parishes. It’s a part of the country that I’ve always been drawn to, both for its untamed beauty, its exotic landscape, and the unique blend of cultures (Cajun French, West Indies/African/French Creole, Native American) that, for me, make it a fascinating place with a distinctive culinary, musical, and linguistic legacy.
Tell us a little bit about the conflict in your story.
Wildlife enforcement agent Gentry Broussard finds the body of an elderly woman rumored to be a voodoo practitioner, and catches a glimpse of her killer—who looks just like Gentry’s older brother, Lang. Problem is, Lang died three years earlier in a drug bust, and Gentry was the one who killed him. When the murder victim’s great-niece, Celestine Savoie, returns to Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to settle her great-aunt’s estate, she becomes the target of threats from the same killer—threats that grow increasingly dangerous. Murder investigations are not in Gentry’s jurisdiction, but the deeper he’s drawn to Celestine and the hunt for the killer (his brother’s body was never found, after all) the less he can stay away. In the end, it will take love, determination—and a throw of the voodoo bones—to save them all.
Are you currently working on another story? If so, we’d love some details.
I have just finished the second Wilds of the Bayou novel, not yet titled, which involves Gentry’s wildlife enforcement partner, Agent Jena Sinclair. Jena, who is fighting her own demons, is caught up in a puzzling web of cases involving a synthetic hallucinogenic drug epidemic in Terrebonne Parish and a rash of alligator attacks—not to mention a mysterious, antisocial—and possibly paranoid—recluse living off the grid behind an abandoned sugarcane field. I don’t have a release date yet, but I’m guessing late fall or winter.
What sort of personality does your hero have?
Gentry Broussard is, first and foremost, a law enforcement officer. The locals might call them “game wardens,” but the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents have very regimented law enforcement training, as well as special training under extreme conditions. They can arrest you for any law violation just as well as a police officer or a sheriff’s deputy. So Gentry’s reserved until you get to know him, and then he’s really funny. He hides the pain he carries about killing his brother behind a smartass attitude and a joke. But because he’s in law enforcement, that means his nature is to be calm under pressure, see through a lot of BS, and be overprotective. The latter trait doesn’t always sit well with the heroine. Oh, and he has an awesome dog named Hoss, who helps us see the funny, sweet side of him that he keeps hidden.
What sort of personality does your heroine have?
Celestine Savoie is a singer/songwriter who left her native Terrebonne Parish at eighteen to try and make it in Nashville. She’s close to hitting rock bottom when she gets the news about her great-aunt’s murder just as she’s being evicted from her apartment. She goes back to Terrebonne Parish reluctantly, only to find, to her surprise, that it feels like home in a way Nashville never could. She’s funny and stubborn and smart—and she picked up a few skills from her voodoo-practicing great-aunt that come in handy.
Are your book/books available in audio? In other languages? If so, give us more details about where we can get them and what languages they’re in.
WILD MAN’S CURSE is available unabridged on digital audio and CD as well as through Audible, from any online outlet that sells audiobooks. It’s only in English at present, although the south-central Louisiana accent is so unique, and the pronunciation of words so difficult (Gentry, for example, lives in Montegut, which is pronounced “monta-gue”), that I was able to write up a pronunciation guide and pick my narrator, actress Elizabeth Gibson. She does a really terrific job.
What genre/genres do you prefer to write? Are there other genres you’d like to write in the future?
I got started in urban fantasy and paranormal romance before I began writing romantic suspense. In fact, I came to romantic suspense after realizing the thing my paranormal books were pretty much suspense novels with non-human characters. It was a pretty natural transition to romantic suspense for me. I can see me writing a straight-up thriller or suspense novel, although I can’t seem to help putting some element of romance in whatever I’m writing.
Do you write books in series? If so, share a bit about the series you currently have published or are coming soon.
I do tend to write in series. I write the four-book (soon to be five-book) Penton Vampire Legacy series (REDEMPTION, ABSOLUTION, OMEGA, ALLEGIANCE) and a Penton spinoff, STORM FORCE—those are all paranormal romance. My Collectors duology (LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP and DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD) are romantic thrillers. And writing as Suzanne Johnson, I write the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series whose fifth novel, BELLE CHASSE, will be coming out on November 8, joining ROYAL STREET, RIVER ROAD, ELYSIAN FIELDS, and PIRATE’S ALLEY.
The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.
Eva Savoie leaned back in the rocking chair and pushed it into motion on the uneven wide-plank floor of the one-room cabin. Her grandpere Julien had built the place more than a century ago, pulling heavy cypress logs from the bayou and sawing them, one by one, into the thick planks she still walked across every day.
She had never known Julien Savoie, but she knew of him. The curse that had stalked her family for three generations had started with her grandfather and what he’d done all those years ago.
What he’d brought with him to Whiskey Bayou with blood on his hands.
What had driven her daddy to shoot her mama, and then himself, before either turned forty-five.
What had led Eva’s brother Antoine to drown in the bayou only a half-mile from this cabin, leaving a wife and infant son behind.
What stalked Eva now.
The bones said death was coming and, once Eva was gone, the curse should go with her. No one else knew the secrets of Julien Savoie and this cabin and that box full of sin he’d dug out of the bayou mud back in Isle de Jean Charles.
Might take a while, but sin catches up with you. Always had. Always would. And the curse had driven Eva to sin. Oh yes, she had sinned.
She’d known her reckoning would catch up with her, although it had taken a good long time. She’d turned seventy-eight yesterday, or was it eighty? She couldn’t remember for sure, and the bones said it didn’t matter now.
On the scarred wooden table before Eva sat three burning candles that filled the room with the soft, soothing glow of melting tallow. She’d made them herself, infusing them with the oil of the fragrant lilies that every spring spread a bright green carpet over the lazy, brown water of the bayou. The tools of her ritual sat on an ancient square of tanned hide passed down through generations of holy ones, of those blessed by the gods with the ability to throw the bones.
A small mound of delicate chicken bones, yellowed and fragile from age, lay inside the circle of light cast by the candles. Daylight would come in an hour or so, but Eva didn’t expect to last that long. Death was even now making his way toward her.
She leaned forward, wincing at the stab of pain in her lower back. Since the first throw of the bones had whispered her fate two days ago, she’d been cleaning. Scrubbed the floor, worn smooth by decades of bare feet. Washed the linens, folding them in neat piles in a drawer at the bottom of the old pie safe. Discarded most of the food in the little refrigerator that sat in the corner. Dragged the bag of trash down the long, overgrown drive past LeRoy’s old 1970 Chevy pickup that she still drove up to Houma for groceries and such once a month. Left the white bag at the side of the parish road for the weekly trash collection.
She’d spit on LeRoy’s truck as she passed it because she couldn’t spit on the man who bought it. He was long gone.
Now the cleaning had been finished. Whoever discovered her raggedy old body wouldn’t find a mess, not in Eva Savoie’s house.
A few minutes ago, with the old cabin as clean as she was capable of making it, she’d thrown the bones one last time. Part of her hoped they’d read different, hoped she’d be granted a few more days of grace.
But the bones still whispered death. Eva accepted it, and she sat, and she waited. At least the girl, Celestine, would inherit a cleaned-up house. The girl, Antoine’s granddaughter, knew nothing of the secrets, nothing of the curse. Eva had made sure of that….
Eva waited for her heart to fail—that seemed to be her most likely way to go. As she rocked she noted each steady beat, biding her time for the instant when the thump-thump-thump would falter and her breath would catch, then stop. She reckoned it would hurt a little, but what if it did? The curse had doled out worse ends to those who came before her.
She’d doled out worse herself.
The buzz of a boat’s motor sounded from outside the cabin, faint but growing louder. Wardens on patrol already, most likely.
The boat’s engine grew louder, finally coming to an abrupt stop so near, it had to be right outside her door. Silence filled the room once again, until through her bones she felt the thud of someone jumping onto the porch that wrapped around the cabin. The porch formed the platform on which the house sat, linking it to the spit of land behind it when the water was normal. When storms blew through, it provided an island on which the cabin could sit or, if need be, float.
As heavy footfalls crossed the porch, Eva struggled to her feet. Every pop and crackle of her joints knifed streaks of pain through her limbs as they protested the cleaning they’d done, followed by the sitting.
Prob’ly a game warden, checkin’ on her. Too bad he hadn’t stopped a little later, after she was gone. She didn’t like to think of her body having to bake in the hot cabin for days before anyone found her.
But the curse was what it was, and the bones said what they said.
The knock, when it came, was soft, and Eva reached the door with the help of a sturdy cane she’d carved herself. Opening the door, she squinted into the glare of a flashlight that seemed almost blinding after the soft light of the candles. She peered up at a young man with eyes that gleamed from beneath the hood of a jacket. He was not a game warden, and it was too hot for a jacket.
“Who are you?” Her voice cracked. She knew who he was. He was Death.
“The devil come to pay you a visit, Eva.” The man’s voice was smooth as silk, smooth as a lie, smooth as death itself. “And you know what the devil wants.”
She knew what he wanted, and she knew the only way to end the curse was to deny him.
She’d been granted no easy passing by the Savoie curse after all, but she would die today.
The bones never lied.
About the Author
Susannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also writers The Collectors romantic suspense series, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new series Wilds of the Bayou starts in 2016 with the April 5 release of Wild Man’s Curse. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, Susannah is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.