A big welcome to Suzanne Johnson who is here to telling us about Jean Lafitte: Hero and Villain in a Sexy Package and celebrating the release of ELYSIAN FIELDS , Sentinels of New Orleans, #3 (published on August 13, 2013 by Tor Books). Want to win a copy? Enter via the widget below.
Jean Lafitte: Hero and Villain in a Sexy Package
I never intended for the undead Jean Lafitte—an immortal version of the early 19th-century pirate kept alive by the magic of human memory—to be a major, ongoing character in my Sentinels of New Orleans series. After all, in the opening scene of the first book, my heroine tricks him and sends him back into the otherworld known as the Beyond. A few scenes later, he attacks her quite viciously, seeking revenge. Originally, that was to be his only appearance in the series. Then he returned for another scene, and another, and slowly transformed from sexy and dangerous to sexy and dangerous—and someone extremely interesting to write and read about.
Now, as we reach book three in the series, Elysian Fields, Jean Lafitte is firmly entrenched as a major character who practically steals every scene in which he appears and who makes the full circle from villain to hero. Much like the real Lafitte, my fictional version is mercurial and unpredictable. Sure, he’s devious—but he’s also practical and has his own moral code. It might or might not jibe with ours, but he’s consistent.
Le Capitaine, as his legion of a thousand pirates in early 1800s Louisiana called him, was in real life a morally ambiguous kind of guy—and it has been fun to write him that way and stick as close to the real Lafitte as possible, both in terms of looks and behavior.
My version of Jean Lafitte is funny and holds little regard for the officious preternatural politicians, unless he can benefit from working with them. The real Lafitte once laughingly responded to the Louisiana governor’s offer of a reward for his capture and arrest by posting a much larger reward for anyone who would capture the governor and bring him to the Lafitte compound south of New Orleans.
Yet at Jean’s direction, his brothers and followers joined forces with that same governor to assist Andrew Jackson in successfully fending off the British in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, despite an attractive offer from the British. Even when the Lafittes were double-crossed and the Americans came to seize his holdings, Jean maintained strict orders for his men to never fire on American ships or officers.
The privateer Lafitte was a fierce believer in the U.S. Constitution and yet wouldn’t hesitate to hang one of his men who challenged his authority. He was capable of great violence, and also of great generosity. He worked in harsh conditions on an almost-uninhabitable coastline filled with snakes and alligators and disease-carrying mosquitoes, yet he was called the “gentleman pirate” because of his fluency in multiple languages and the polished manners and way of dress that allowed him to mingle in New Orleans’ social circles.
I think morally ambiguous characters like Jean Lafitte appeal to us as readers because they tend to be unapologetic heroes and villains inhabiting the same body. They don’t think like the rest of us, and that makes them fascinating and unpredictable—and fun.
And if my fictional Lafitte behaves in a consistent manner with his thirty-year-old human, circa 1810 self, how does he stack up physically? Because in the Sentinels series, our favorite pirate is a flirtatious, sexy beast of a guy who doesn’t look anything like Yul Brenner, the actor who portrayed him in the 1958 movie “The Buccaneer,” or like the bandanna-headed, earringed, rotten-toothed pirates we know from cartoons and old films.
There are no surviving images of Lafitte drawn during his lifetime, although there are many imagined depictions in art throughout the years since he disappeared when in his early forties. But written descriptions of him are quite consistent: he was about six-foot-two, at a time when the average man was five-seven, with dark hair. He was “well-formed,” which I choose to interpret as “hot.” He was fair of complexion, and clean-shaven—no twirling handlebar mustache! He was intense, serious, and did not care for large social gatherings—but when he attended them, he was described as charming and gentlemanly. He enjoyed gambling, had a taste for brandy, and was a stickler for bookkeeping and paying his men their full due.
I think my Jean is much more playful than his human counterpart, although since he’s immortal and no longer has to worry about being hanged, I figure he can relax a little. He’s a shameless flirt. In fact, he’s shameless, period. And that’s why we love him. There’s something appealing about a man who accepts himself for what he is and makes no apologies for it.
Especially when he’s a bit of a sexy beast with a French accent, oui?
Suzanne Johnson is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series from Tor Books. Royal Street, book one, came out in April 2012; River Road in November 2012. Book three, Elysian Fields, will be released on August 13, 2013.
A longtime New Orleans resident, Suzanne is a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction for higher education, including the Robert S. Sibley Award for the best university magazine in the U.S. and Canada, for the Rice University Sallyport.
Suzanne is an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapters of RWA.
1 Copy of ELYSIAN FIELDS
Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson
Available on August 13, 2013 by Tor Books
An undead serial killer comes for DJ in this thrilling third installment of Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series.
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.
Combatting 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 could be DJ’s best option.
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