Thursday, September 20, 2012

Author Interview: T.R. Heinan

Hi all,

Today I'm talking with T.R. Heinan, author of the novel L'Immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen which will be published in October 2012. This interesting fiction novel is based on true events and is Mr. Heinan's debut novel. Mr. Heinan is also a fellow Minnesotan who has traveled extensively and has given of himself and his time for many worthwhile causes. I hope you enjoy this interview with T.R. Heinan and the excerpt from his upcoming novel.


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T.R. Heinan, Author

Please tell us a little about yourself

I was born and raised in the picturesque, frostbitten town on Duluth, Minnesota before moving to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University.  From there I moved to the Boston area where I worked for a few years as a journalist before beginning a long career in investment banking.  I specialized in financing the distribution of Hollywood motion pictures and discovered that I had some talent when it came to selecting scripts.  Since retiring from finance, I work full-time supporting an orphanage that I helped to found in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. My love for writing keeps me busy crafting manuscripts late at night and on weekends.  I am an avid traveler and have been honored with two European knighthoods.  I now reside in sunny Tucson, Arizona with my wife and two cats.

You have a debut novel coming out in October 2012. Please share a brief description of it.
By turns comedic and macabre, L'Immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen is an irreverent horror story drenched in the excess of its nineteenth century southern Louisiana landscape. It is based on the real life events of New Orleans' Lalaurie Mansion, involving an elite society woman, and the barbaric treatment of her slaves. This novelization begins in the city's St. Louis Cathedral where lay sacristan Philippe Bertrand has become a recluse after the loss of his mother and wife. When a mysterious force upends his life and leads him to the shadowy mansion of Delphine Lalaurie, he meets Elise, a slave girl who has been brutalized by Delphine.

After the mansion matriarch demands that the Voodoo Queen Maris Laveau giver her eternal fame, everything goes haywire.  A child slave dies under questionable circumstances, spurring Elise to escape the mansion. Philippe and his extended family head to the gator-filled bayou where they hide Elise at Maris Laveau's cabin and secretly teach her to read and write.

When Marie reveals a new spin on the meaning of zombies, the once reluctant sacristan is determined to find out what really goes on at the Lalaurie Mansion. To his horror, he will discover that Delphine and her physician husband carry out repugnant medical experiments on their slaves, even as they put on a refined social façade during their well-attended society balls.  Their monstrous private world may be exposed when a slave cook sets herself on fire, along with the mansion. Philippe must break the chains of his own conflicted spirituality as well as those that bind the slaves in the attic if he is to rescue the Lalauries' victims.

As the novel reaches its stunning climax, Philippe will come to understand the different paths people take in search of immortality.  A comedic meditation on what humans do to persist beyond their mortal lives, L'Immortalité is an inventive horror story that vividly brings to life the torrid landscape of New Orleans.

Your novel is based on a true story.  What inspired you to write about this story?

I discovered the Lalaurie Mansion on a walking "ghost tour" while visiting New Orleans.  What caught my attention was that one could see four or five tour groups at a time competing for sidewalk space just to view the exterior of  the Lalaurie Mansion, "New Orleans' most haunted house".  People from all over the planet visit the place night after night.  Actor Nicholas Cage owned the house for a while.  I was surprised that Hollywood hadn't been all over this story, but as far as I can tell, Delphine Lalaurie is only referenced briefly at the beginning of one film, The St. Francisville Experiment. As for my supporting character, Marie Laveau, it is reported that her grave is the second most visited gravesite in America.  I was, therefore, amazed to discover how little of the legend of Madame Lalaurie has appeared in novels or motion pictures.  Since I began writing my book, two non-fiction history texts have been published about Delphine Lalaurie and twelve years ago, Barbara Hambly involved some parts of the legend in her wonderful novel, Fever Season. Apart from that, the Lalaurie legend is all but absent in literature after the 19th Century, except for a chapter in an out-of-print book from 1946 and a ten pages in Troy Taylor's Haunted New Orleans. Still, a myriad of web-sites, a popular exhibit at New Orleans' Conti Historical Wax Museum and the success of several tour companies indicate a continued interest in the story of Madame Lalaurie, so I decided to write a piece of historical fiction devoted entirely to the tale of her haunted house on Royal Street.

Have you always been fascinated with hauntings and the paranormal?
I do believe in life after death.  That is the theme I explore in my book from the very first sentence and I try to examine the many ways people pursue the goal of immortality.  I am not actively involved in ghost hunting, but have experienced some difficult to explain phenomena while accompany some friends who are paranormal investigators.

How long did it take you to write this novel?
It took two years and two months to write, with at least half of that spent in historical research.  While trying to keep the best parts of the "legend" alive, I wanted to remain as faithful as I could to the history of the period and discover the physical changes that have occurred to the locations mentioned in the book.

Have you always wanted to write a novel?
Yes, although I always thought my first book would be about something else.  I am fascinated with the history of medieval Portugal and still want to pursue a book in that setting.

Are you self-publishing your novel or going through a publisher?
I grew up when at a time when three networks monopolized everything that was available on television.  Now we have an almost endless number of choices on cable and on-line.  I believe book publishing is undergoing the same sort of sea change and started my own Indie publishing company, Nonius, LLC.  I am a strong supporter of Indie writers (and Indie bookstores).

Would you share with us a little about your work with orphaned and homeless children in the Mexican orphanage you helped establish?

I have been very blessed throughout my life with family, faith, freedom, friends, health and fortune. Like the protagonist in my book, I have come to believe that we are all called, not merely to "do no harm", but to take some risks and make some sacrifices to positively do some good.  Part of my effort to that end was to establish a non-profit organization to support orphaned and abandoned children.  This effort led to building and operating a modern orphanage in Sonora, Mexico, which, hopefully, will benefit from the sale of my book.

Now available in Paperback format on Amazon for $14.99

Where can readers find out more about you and your book?
I am especially proud of my trailer
Book Trailer for L'Immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen  





Excerpt from L'Immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen

Here's a little scene in which Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau encounters my protagonist, Philippe Bertrand, in New Orleans' Congo Square and explains her blending of Voodoo with Catholicism:

Philippe watched as a heavyset man approached Marie.

          “Madame Laveau,” the man pleaded, “I need your help.”

            Marie cupped the man’s hands in her own. “It’s about your wife, isn’t it?” she asked.

            “Why, yes. Yes, it is,” said the man, who now appeared to be convinced that everything he had heard about the voodoo queen must be true.

            “I’m afraid your suspicions are correct. She is being unfaithful. It’s that Spanish cobbler who lives down the street.”

            “I’ll kill him!” the man shouted before noticing Sheriff Dubois was standing less than thirty meters from him.

            “No,” Marie advised in a calming tone. “Take no revenge. Instead, I want you to do this…” She whispered something in the man’s ear.

            He blushed and grinned. “Oh, Madame Laveau!”

            “Of course, it works better if you place this under your mattress,” said Marie as she held out a red gris-gris bag. “Powerful gris-gris,” she said, “and hard to come by.”

            The man handed Marie five silver dollars, took the little red bag, and walked away smiling.

            Philippe walked over to Marie wagging his finger at her. “Is that your voodoo?” he asked. “Just a cheap Gypsy trick I used to see in France.”

            “M’sieu Bertrand!” said Marie with sudden indignation.

            “I’m sure a hairdresser hears more confessions than the priests at the cathedral. Plus, half these slaves tell you whatever they overhear in their masters’ homes. Nothing supernatural about that.”

            “The power of the spirits is very real,” insisted Marie. “Perhaps I help them along, but it’s real.”

            Philippe knew that voodoo was an ancient religion, sacred to those from the islands and from Africa who practiced it. He also knew that Marie was beginning to modify the cult by introducing new elements, such as veneration of the Virgin Mary. What bothered him was her use of a network of spies to convince others that she had supernatural powers.

            “Do you claim you are contacting some loa?” asked Philippe.

            “Does it matter if a person prays to Saint Patrick as patron of the enslaved or kneels before the same statue and calls him by another name?”

            “Is that what you do?” asked Philippe.

            “No, I believe that only a priest reaches to the Good Maker, but the loas hear every invocation. Dr. Lalaurie doesn’t believe it, but even the rituals at his lodge are heard by certain spirits and can affect the things around us.”

Thank you to T.R. Heinan for sharing his new novel with us. I will be sure to add links where you can buy his book when it is available for sale.


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