Behind the Scenes: Deleted Passages from River Road

Novels take a lot of twists and turns on the way to publication, especially early novels by newbie authors. Royal Street was the first novel, I’d written, back in 2009, followed almost immediately by River Road. I was learning as I wrote. (And still am.)

Not surprisingly, both novels underwent epic changes between sale and publication. (Have I ever mentioned my brilliant editor at Tor? She comes up with these gentle suggestions that have me going “Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?”)

For example, in the published version of River Road, the story picks up three years after the events of Royal Street. It was a calculated move, even knowing readers might be a bit disoriented at first. (And it’s why River Road works very well as a standalone.) Originally, however, I had River Road picking up six weeks after Royal Street.

     Six weeks ago, I’d been a hotshot Green Congress wizard with a cushy deputy sentinel’s job, chasing the occasional preternatural interloper back into the Beyond and running my little New Orleans bookstore on the side. I had conquered my skills as an empath and was able to read the emotions of those I encountered without being consumed by them.
     I was blond, aqua-eyed, twenty-five, and had life by the horns. Maybe my love life had been a tad slow. Okay, maybe it had been nonexistent. Still, I liked my life.
     Then came Katrina, and I began drowning in the sorrow and fear and anger of a damaged city. Plus I had a rampaging voodoo god on my tail, a shapeshifter sleeping in my guest room, a sexy undead pirate who couldn’t decide whether to kiss me or kill me, and a sort-of-maybe boyfriend who might turn furry and howl at the next full moon. Not to mention I developed daddy issues.
     It had been a rough six weeks. 

     Now, my job description has changed. Before: preternatural border guard. After: combination baby-sitter, cop, and bounty hunter for the Dead and the Restless.

The reason for the time change? I didn’t want my characters still dealing with the heavy aftermath of Katrina. Since I went through it myself and had been adamant in Royal Street that the Katrina experience be real, I didn’t want to have the city suddenly rebounding six weeks later. It took three years before things began even feeling vaguely normal. Well, normal for New Orleans.

(Read to the end for weekly winners…)

In the original version of River Road, there was not a merman feud, but a problem with a group of nixes who’d moved to an area in lower Plaquemines Parish called Burrwood. I still might trot my nixes out in a story at some point; they were pretty funny, and quite prone to bigamy. Anyway, DJ was trying to assemble a team to go into Plaquemines and investigate the nixes’ claims that the water of the river had been contaminated. She got the Delachaise twins, Rene and Robert, to navigate, with the help of Jean Lafitte…

     Until twenty-four hours ago, I hadn’t heard of Burrwood either. Not until a creepy dude named Chilton, the leader of a pod of preternatural river nixes who’d set up a post-Katrina settlement there, came knocking at my office door. He spun a far-fetched tale involving a dead wife and contaminated river water, a far-fetched tale I now had to investigate.
     “Burrwood is a ghost town,” I told Jean, “but in the 1930s Army engineers lived there while they maintained the levees,” I said. “Now, I think it’s mostly underwater. A pod of nixes settled there after the storm, and the head of the pod is having domestic problems.”
     Jean nodded. “This does not surprise me. Nixes always have trouble with their women. Any man with more than one wife asks for such problems.” This from the playboy of the undead world.
     I was trying to assemble an interspecies team to go into Burrwood. Jean would make the perfect navigator even though it meant me racking up one more debt to a guy who’d spent half his human life plundering and pillaging. God knows what he’d done since his human life ended.

So that’s a little glimpse into the River Road that wasn’t. Interestingly, a big chunk of the original River Road plot was removed and turned into the crux of Elysian Fields…but that’s a story for another time!

And now for the weekly winners! If you see your name, please email me at suzannej3523 at gmail dot com with your mailing info.

MEL won her choice of book in Amanda Bonilla’s Shaede Assassin series. (And thanks again to Melliane for the terrific review!)

ERIN won her choice of book from the ChiZine catalog for commenting on the Karen Heuler interview.

BECKY won a $10 gift card from Amazon or B-and-N for commenting on this week’s Shop Talk discussion. (Great comments, everyone!)

EREADER89 won this week’s Reader’s Choice contest, and chose Darynda Jones’ Death, Doom and Detention.

Congrats to the winners, and come back tomorrow for a new Reader’s Choice contest!

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban and paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense, currently living in Auburn, Alabama. Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, and Belle Chasse (Nov 2016). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the upcoming Wilds of the Bayou series (Book 1, Wild Man's Curse) releases April 2016).

9 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: Deleted Passages from River Road

  1. Congrats to the winners!

    i must admit that i prefer the mermen for river road and that the fact it happens 3 year after royal street is really a good move for me.

    now i still enjoy this idea of nixes so i’m happy to learn that i will see perhaps more of them in august^^

  2. I think the three year difference between books was good. Gave some space after Katrina. Fun to read how things changed in the books. I forgot that DJ had a bookstore. Thanks.

  3. Thanks, guys–yes, DJ’s bookstore became unsusstainable because she couldn’t have humans coming in and out all the time!

    Miki, the nixes won’t be in Elysian Fields. It was actually the beginning of the subplot involving the mysterious neighbor Rand that I originally had in River Road and the bulk of it got removed to put in Elysian Fields. So Rand’s only a little mystery in the background in River Road. In EF, he’ll become a major series character. And I’m really, really curious to see what people think of him.

    • Rand is one of the most interesting characters I’ve written, I think, just from a moral standpoint. I’ll talk a lot more about Rand after EF is out; can’t say much now without spoilers, except that I think I’ve referred to him in a couple of places as “DJ’s six-foot albatross.”

  4. Wow – that seems like quite a big change in what DJ’s thoughts and the atmosphere of New Orleans would be like. As you said to bounce back from that in 6 weeks would be difficult.

    Oh – and thanks for the win! Made my day! 🙂

    • Yes, a huge change! And at the time we started working on revisions (my editor and I), the big BP Oil Spill happened in the Gulf and we had a big discussion about whether or not to try and incorporate it. In the end, we didn’t. Partly because of the timeline, but mostly because we didn’t want it to become a Lousiana disaster series!

  5. Thanks for the giveaway!

    I think it’s fascinating to find out the changes between what is written and what is published. Definitely makes me appreciate the final story more 😉

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