Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Laura Lane McNeal grew up in New Orleans, where she lives today with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Southern Methodist University. She also has an MBA from Tulane and ran her own marketing consulting firm in New Orleans.

McNeal applied the Page 69 Test to Dollbaby, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 is the start of Chapter Eleven in Dollbaby, and I find it to be quite representative of the book on several levels.

After having arrived at her grandmother’s house the previous day, Ibby comes down the next morning, still unsettled in her new environment, to find Dollbaby in the kitchen, staring out onto the back porch where a dozen women dressed in maids’ uniforms are milling around as Queenie waves her arms about like a referee. Ibby is puzzled.

Here is a an excerpt from that page:
“Who are all those people,” Ibby asked.

Doll twisted her mouth to one side. “You know that newspaper Miss Fannie was looking at this morning? Sometimes she spends all day with her nose stuck in that paper, figuring the odds, working the numbers. This afternoon she’ll be in her favorite chair in the front room, glued to the TV, just to make sure her team won.”

“I don’t understand.”

“See all those women out there shoving their way toward the picnic table?

Their employers wouldn’t be caught dead coming down here themselves. The women who live in these big old houses on Prytania Street send their maids down here a couple of times a week just to place their bets with Mr. Henry.” Doll pointed to the only man on the porch, who was busy scribbling on a notepad. “Mr. Henry works for Mr. Salvatore, who owns the little grocery over there on Garfield Street.

Besides delivering the groceries, Mr. Henry brings line sheets with him every day so all the women in the neighborhood can place their bets. He’s kind a like a bookie.”

“Is that bad,” Ibby asked.

“No, baby. That’s a good thing, especially where Miss Fannie is concerned.

You see, Miss Fannie, she’s got a good track record, she do her homework, knows what to bet on. She made a lot a money that way. People found out. Started coming around, asking Miss Fannie for advice.”

“What do they bet on?”

“Lawd, child, all sorts of things. Horses. Dogs. Football. Who’s gone win the next election. When the first hurricane’s gone hit. Right now, they betting on horses, baseball, Wimbledon, the Olympic trials, and a few golf tournaments. Your grandmother, she can recite the odds right off the top of her head. So almost every morning, the second Mr. Henry shows up on his red bicycle, it’s like a stampede to the back door. That’s why Miss Fannie jumped up and got so quick-like. She knew what was coming.”

Ibby pointed at the mob of women. “She’s out there?”

“Sure is. Smack dab in the middle, settin’ at the picnic table yelling out her picks to Mr. Henry. It’s a little game she like to play.”
I love this scene, where all the women are shoving their way toward the picnic table and Ibby discovers that Fannie, her grandmother, is out there in the middle of them. It’s Ibby’s first glimpse as to how different Fannie, Fannie’s household, and all of New Orleans are, a world apart from where she came from. And she begins to ponder, with a certain amount of trepidation, what may lie ahead. It’s a pivotal chapter that sets that stage for the rest of the novel.
Visit Laura Lane McNeal's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dollbaby.

Writers Read: Laura Lane McNeal.

--Marshal Zeringue