JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
T.R. Heinan, author of L’immortalite: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen
“L’immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen” is based on the true story of the wealthy and powerful New Orleans socialite Delphine Lalaurie and the horrific treatment of her slaves. Set in the French Quarter’s early 19th century Creole community, “L’immortalité” begins when Philippe Bertrand, the sacristan at St. Louis Cathedra is drawn against his will to the Lalaurie Mansion. There he meets Delphine’s physician husband, Louis, and a young slave named Elise.
When a child slave dies under horrific circumstances, Elise escapes and runs to Philippe, who hides her at the bayou cabin of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and teaches her to read. Things get complicated when Philippe tries to discover what really goes on at the mansion. During a gala Easter Week ball, the Lalaurie cook sets herself, and the mansion, on fire and Philippe discovers that the Lalauries have been conducting macabre medical experiments in the attic.
As Delphine, Louis Elise and Philippe each seek immortality in very different ways, their paths converge at the haunted mansion on Royal Street. Marie Laveau helps Philippe break the chains of his own grief and conflicted spirituality so that he can break the chains of the Lalaurie’s slaves. “L’immortalité” ends as the Voodoo Queen grants Madame Lalaurie’s wish a way she never expected.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write “L’immortalite: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen”?
T.R. Heinan: I was inspired to write “L’immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen” when I took a walking “haunted tour” in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The legend of the Lalaurie Mansion has been told and retold for nearly two centuries, but I discovered that very little had been done to novelize the story.
Accounts of the Lalaurie horrors show up as brief chapters in some books or on a myriad of short internet sites and there are recent non-fiction documented textbooks demythologizing the urban legends. It seemed like the time had come to write something entertaining for the hundreds of people who show up week after week to visit the Lalaurie Mansion and the tomb of Marie Laveau.
JP: What sets “L’immortalite: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen” apart from other books in the same genre?
TRH: “L’immortalité” is a blend of two genres, historical fiction and horror. It is even a bit comedic at times. As historical fiction, I tried to share the realities of 1830s life in New Orleans as accurately as I could.
As horror, I let go of the need stay with what can be documented and recognized that the title characters, Madame Lalaurie and Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, were two powerful women who each have a cult following and fans who want the legend, not just historical records
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to “L’immortalite: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen” getting out to the public?
TRH: I believe the key to getting any book out to the public today is to develop a strong writer’s platform on the internet and producing quality work.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish L’immortalite: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen?
TRH: My writing process is probably more like that of a screenwriter than that of most novelists. I outline and follow the classic Hero’s Journey and have the character introduction, inciting incident and various plot points at rather predictable positions in the book. It took almost two and a half years to write “L’immortalité”, with nearly half that time spent in research.
JP: What’s next for T.R. Heinan?
TRH: I founded an orphanage in Mexico and will probably spend most of my time working to keep it going. If I do another book, it will most likely be a biography of Nuno Pereira, a medieval Portuguese knight.