Jordan LaHaye is pictured above as she sits in a rocking chair on the front porch of the home on Heritage Road belonging to her parents Marcellus and Chantel LaHaye. She is holding copies of the two magazines for which she writes. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Writers, like Agatha Christie in her Hercule Poirot Mysteries Series, engage readers in murder mystery novels that keep them guessing “whodunnit.” These stories are primarily fictional, but one upcoming book will be steeped in the real events surrounding the mysterious kidnapping and murder of a former president of Guaranty Bank.
Jordan LaHaye is the great-granddaughter of Aubrey LaHaye and is graduating Saturday from Louisiana State University with a major in English and a minor in mass communication. While working on her thesis in the honors college at LSU, she began writing about her great-grandfather who was kidnapped from his home and found murdered. Even though a suspect remains in prison for these crimes, questions still remain to this day.
LaHaye hopes to turn her thesis work into a book. “It was a crazy thing,” she said about the event. “I’ve spent the past year interviewing everyone in my family who knows anything about it. There’s a lot of weird questions about it, and I looked into his history too. I interviewed a lot of people he knew, and the research is really unending on this thing.”
“The project is not done, but I’ve had a lot of support from professors at LSU who have shown me how to market it,” she continued. “I’m trying to get a book deal in the next few months where I can send it to the publisher unfinished, and then they would help me financially to finish it over the next couple of years.”
Writing is nothing new for LaHaye because, as she explained, she always knew she wanted to be an author ever since she was a child. “When I was in kindergarten, I wrote a book, but the only thing I knew how to write in kindergarten was my prayers,” she stated. “It was literally the Our Father, so I stapled it and drew on it.”
She added, “I always wanted to do that, and I always liked English. I didn’t really know what to do about that, so I decided to be an English major and ended up minoring in mass communication because journalism is a good way to find a way to be able to write.”
Once entering the English department, LaHaye wrote about things ranging from folklore and women’s and gender studies to academic writing. Connections with a professor allowed her to then start writing creative non-fiction, and other connections with professors led her to begin magazine writing for Country Roads and doing an internship with In Register.
As LaHaye pointed out, Country Roads is based in Baton Rouge and does a lot of cultural stories on food, travel, and history. It covers South Louisiana and parts of Mississippi along the Gulf Coast.
“I started for Country Roads coming out of an immersion journalism class with the honors college which showed me that magazine writing was a thing I could do and that I would really be interested in. The professor was really good and gave us a bunch of really cool examples of great writing.”
“The project for that class was to spend the whole semester working on a story,” she continued. “Mine was actually about Floyd Soileau and comparing his history at the record shop to a local record shop in Baton Rouge. I pitched it to Country Roads at the end of the semester, and they loved it and wanted to do it. That’s how I started that relationship.”
The magazine writing has opened LaHaye’s eyes to discover a new appreciation of how unique her home parish is. “I just took for granted things like Mardi Gras, Fred’s Lounge, and Cajun music,” she expressed. “I think part of it is because one of my professors I work with is from New Mexico. I’ll tell him things about these places, and he thinks that’s crazy and so weird. So, I get really excited to write about it because I know a lot about it. It’s interesting to other people, and it’s just fun.”
Her recent work was a travel piece on Natchez, which was the first time she got to do such a story. “It was so much fun,” LaHaye said. “They sent me over there and paid for my room and everything. It was a really cool chance to check out another place and then to bring it back and write about it. I would love to do more stuff like that.”
While she enjoyed working on the Natchez story, LaHaye’s favorite story that she did for Country Roads was about something from her childhood growing up at the home of Dr. Scott and Dr. Lori Parks. “I’m best friends with Ardhyn Parks,” said LaHaye. “I grew up at their house, and it’s a castle. I have so many great memories of that place. That was another weird thing that I totally took for granted. I wrote this story on this huge part of my life that’s so interesting. Writing about home is personal, but that was so personal and was so cool to write about and share it.”
This personal style of writing has also led to LaHaye writing the book about her great-grandfather’s murder. “I think I had struggled going into college as far as figuring out what I wanted to write about as an English major because I thought I had to write about big ideas,” she said. “Then, I realized people are interested in hearing about personal experiences. Some of the best writings are memoir types of things. That’s the most fulfilling thing, I think, to write because it’s things that made a difference in your life.”
Now that LaHaye is graduating from LSU, she is currently on the job hunt. “I would love to work for a magazine,” she said. “I’m looking everywhere, and the world’s wide open.”
While a career in magazine work is a possibility, she also would like to write a second book once her current book project is completed. “I would definitely want to do another book on a different place,” LaHaye said. “It’s fun to write about here, but I’m also interested in challenging myself to learn more about things that I don’t know about.”
One of these things is the African-American community in Ville Platte. As she explained, “I know nothing about it from just the way that our town is set up and from going to Sacred Heart. They grew up in a different world but in the same place as me. I just want to learn more about it, and I think that would enrich my writing.”
LaHaye concluded with advice for any future writers considering a similar career path. “I think it’s important as a writer to expose readers to all these different perspectives because that’s a huge way to learn about people in the world.”