I first became acquainted with Suzanne Johnson through the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of RWA, but I also follow her excellent speculative fiction blog, Preternatura, where she hosts great authors, talks shop about the biz of writing and publishing, and shares all sorts of hints and behind-the-scenes extras about her books. She’s here to discuss one of the settings for her recently released urban fantasy, ELYSIAN FIELDS — the flooded and now abandoned Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans. She’s doing this post as part of a blog tour with Bewitching Book Tours and she’s giving away some awesome prizes as part of that tour, including an iPad 2. Welcome, Suzanne!Elysian Fields Cover

A Ride with the Krewe of Kreeps

Usually, authors develop settings for particular scenes in their novels and adapt the setting to fit the scene. Every once in a while, that perfect setting comes along that completely dictates the scene.

Welcome to Six Flags New Orleans.

Here’s how Six Flags looked on August 29, 2005, after storm surge from Hurricane Katrina sank the amusement park under anywhere from six to twelve feet of water. With nowhere to drain in this below-sea-level land, the water just sat. And sat.

David J. Phillips/Corbis
David J. Phillips/Corbis

Want to know what Six Flags looks like today? Take the same photo and dry up the water. Don’t repair anything. Don’t clean it up. Add some rust and graffiti. And there you have it, a monument to eternal litigation—and the creepiest place possible in which to set an urban fantasy novel.

I remember when Jazzland, as it was originally known, was being built, wondering why in the world anyone would build a theme park in a city that never exactly catered to the carnival crowd—at least not this kind of carnival. And it was a good thirty- or forty-minute drive outside the French Quarter where most visitors would be staying. Not exactly convenient. Plus, why would you want to visit cute, kitschy, Cajun- and Creole-themed buildings and rides when you could just drive down any street in town and see the real thing?

Anyway, it was no surprise to me that Six Flags New Orleans was never a financial success. But when I began seeing photos of it in 2010, still sitting out there like an amusement park for ghosts and ghouls, I knew I had to use it.

I ended up setting four scenes in Elysian Fields in the abandoned Six Flags, including much of the key climactic scene.

My heroine DJ, a wizard who doesn’t have very good aim with her ancestral elven staff (oh, and the nasty old elves want it back, by the way), has to take lessons in elven magic conducted at Six Flags. Perfect place, right? Plenty of targets to aim at. No people.

During the lessons, she manages to set quite a few things on fire with the staff, including blowing out a chunk of this massive clown head, which looks to be about the size of a VW Beetle. She also burned down several buildings, might have sunk the Jean Lafitte Pirate Ship ride, and collapsed the Krewe of Kreeps haunted tunnel ride—although the last one was intentional.

You know, blame Stephen King but I’ve always found clowns creepy. Mr. Happy here has done nothing to improve that.

Julie Dermansky/Corbis
Julie Dermansky/Corbis

Another couple of key scenes in Six Flags involve the Flying Chairs Carousel, which comes to life in the middle of a driving rainstorm, twirling madly in the downpour, its lights flashing and music fighting to drown out the thunder.

Julie Dermansky/Corbis
Julie Dermansky/Corbis

Doesn’t it just make you feel all warm and fuzzy? No?

Me either. But it was a great place to set some scenes. Now, as I begin working on the next book in the series, I keep looking for an equally graphic and memorable place to use as a key setting, and everything has paled in comparison.

What are some of the most memorable settings in books you’ve read? Share your reads, and enter to win the iPad2 or other tour prizes!

Check out Suzanne’s Sentinels of New Orleans book trailer, which has a True Blood vibe to it. (Perfect since RT Book Reviews suggested this series “for readers missing Sookie Stackhouse.”) The books can be purchased here:

More About Elysian Fields

The mer feud has been settled, but life in South Louisiana still has more twists and turns than the muddy Mississippi. New Orleanians are under attack from a copycat killer mimicking the crimes of a 1918 serial murderer known as the Axeman of New Orleans.

Thanks to a tip from the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, DJ Jaco knows the attacks aren’t random–an unknown necromancer has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans, and his ultimate target is a certain blonde wizard.

Namely, DJ. Fighting off an undead serial killer as troubles pile up around her isn’t easy. Jake Warin’s loup-garou nature is spiraling downward, enigmatic neighbor Quince Randolph is acting weirder than ever, the Elders are insisting on lessons in elven magic from the world’s most annoying wizard, and former partner Alex Warin just turned up on DJ’s to-do list. Not to mention big maneuvers are afoot in the halls of preternatural power.

Suddenly, moving to the Beyond as Jean Lafitte’s pirate wench? It could be DJ’s best option.

Elysian Fields Excerpt

By midafternoon, I was out of ideas and full of nervous energy that finally sent me out of doors, catching up on yard work I’d neglected all season, raking the small, crunchy leaves from the live oaks into piles a kid would love to play in.

“Need help?”

I ignored the voice and counted to ten, hoping it would go away. Instead, Quince Randolph knelt next to a tall pyramid of leaves I’d erected and took the lid off the big green trash can he’d brought with him. He began scooping up armfuls and piling them in the can. “You should compost this down. It would make a good mulch for flowerbeds. Plus you need more color in your landscaping.”

“Whatever.” I didn’t know what mulch was, didn’t care enough to ask, and had such a brown thumb that flowers never survived my gardening efforts.

Rand wore a chocolate-brown sweater almost the same color as mine, with jeans in a similar wash. With our comparable shades of long blond hair, we resembled grown-up Bobbsey Twins, except he was prettier. Freddie and Flossie do New Orleans.

“Are you here for any particular reason?”

He squinted up at me against the soft afternoon sunlight. “I just want to get to know you better.”

Uh- huh. “Tell me what you are, and then we’ll know each other better. I’m betting elf or faery.” I was kind of betting elf— it might explain his interest in me although, thankfully, he’d never shown any inclination to plunder my brain.

He grinned. “Go to dinner with me and I might tell you.”

I noted the return of his peridot earrings. Big liar. Super-big cheater. “Where’s Eugenie? You know, your girlfriend?”

A flash of irritation spoiled his perfect features a half second before he answered. “Working. Can we—”

What ever he planned to ask, my answer would be no, but he didn’t get a chance because a clomping noise reached us from the direction of Prytania Street. Rand and I both were stricken speechless at the sight of Jean Lafitte sitting like royalty in the back of a gold and white French Quarter tourist carriage. It was being pulled by a light- gray mule wearing a hat festooned with fake flowers and driven by a smiling guy who had no idea how many daggers his undead pirate passenger had hidden on him.

The ornate carriage rolled to a stop, and the mule flicked an ear at the passing traffic. Those animals pulled tourists around the French Quarter all day, and it would take more than an impatient Toyota driver to rattle one of them. The carriages were also ridiculously expensive if one commissioned a ride outside the Quarter.

Then again, Jean Lafitte was loaded. The driver probably had a reason to smile.

Jean exited the carriage with extraordinary grace for such a large man. He was tall, powerfully built, black-haired, cobalt-eyed, a shameless flirt, and talked with a raspy French accent that made me swoon even though he was technically dead. In other words, I had a bit of a problem with Jean Lafitte and my own common sense being present at the same time.

Jean said a few words to the carriage driver, then turned to prop his hands on his hips in a broad pirate-like stance, giving Rand a disapproving visual once-over. The mule backed up a few awkward steps before pulling the carriage into my driveway.

God help me, I hoped Alex didn’t get home in time to see this. I’d never hear the end of it.

“Do you wish me to rid you of this intruder, Jolie?”

More About Suzanne

Suzanne Johnson
Suzanne Johnson

On Aug. 28, 2005, Suzanne Johnson loaded two dogs, a cat, a friend, and her mom into a car and fled New Orleans in the hours before Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

Four years later, she began weaving her experiences and love for her city into the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, beginning with Royal Street (2012), continuing with River Road (2012), and now with Elysian Fields (August 2013).

She grew up in rural Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace, and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years—which means she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

She can be found online at her website or her daily blog, Preternatura. As Susannah Sandlin, she writes the best-selling Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series and the recent standalone, Storm Force.

Suzanne is giving away the following tour-wide prizes:

  • 1 iPad 2 open internationally
  • 5 -$20 gift cards to winners’ online retailer of choice open internationally

Click here for the Rafflecopter link. Thanks for guest blogging today, Suzanne!

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