It’s not enough to describe an autopsy, you need some dialog too
Mary Manhein, author of Floating Souls, will sign copies of her book at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at Barnes & Noble Perkins Rowe, 7707 Bluebonnet Blvd.
LSU forensic anthropologist Mary Manhein is used to describing lab procedures, but when it came to constructing a fictional autopsy, she needed a little help with one thing: the patter.
“That was the hardest transition, to begin to do conversation in a book where I typically do only technical writing or something like that. I’ll explain the procedure,” Manhein said. “So Mary helped me with that. (Mary Gehman, Manhein’s publisher at Margaret Media).
“She said all the description of the autopsy is great, but you’ve got to throw some conversation in there,” Manhein said. She also called on George Roupe, a former editor at LSU Press which published The Bone Lady, Manhein’s popular nonfiction book about her work at the LSU FACES lab. Like Manhein, her protagonist, Maggie Andrepont, is a forensic anthropologist. That seemed a given to Manhein. So did the New Orleans setting.
“I just love New Orleans, for one thing,” north Louisiana native Manhein said. “I wanted the canals (for a setting). I worked down there. I am intrigued by the idea that some of the Irishmen (the immigrants who dug the canals) may be buried in those canals. It just sends chills over me to think that in the walls of those canals there is perhaps some of my ancestors.”
Gehman and Roupe’s tinkering helped Manhein get her dialog in top form for Floating Souls as did input from David Madden, writer and former LSU professor who acted as Manhein’s literary agent before he retired. “He always believed in the book,” she said. “He said. ‘It will get published, I know it will.’ He was right.”
With one Maggie Andrepont book finished, Manhein is already at work on the next one which is set, where else?, in New Orleans.
“The next one which I’m already into is called Murder in the Cities of the Dead, which is (set in) the cemeteries in New Orleans,” Manhein said. “I’m so familiar with them because my work is focused so much on those cemeteries.”
Manhein is referring to a project she is involved in to map cemeteries that are endangered by coastal erosion. “It’s all along the coast and some in New Orleans,” Manhein said. The project maps the cemeteries and establishes the GPS coordinates for them. “I’ve always loved those cemeteries and I have worked in so many of them.” She’s also got another nonfiction title coming out from LSU Press next year, Bone Remains. Then there’s teaching at LSU and the FACES Lab. Maybe that is part of the reason Manhein writes short novels, but it’s not the only one. “I can say all that I want to say in short books,” she said.
With all her projects, Manhein is busy but she always has time for Maggie Andrepont. She hopes readers and publishers will feel the same way after her book hits the shelves.