I’m thrilled to introduce Stephanie Lawton, author of YA novel Want – released today by Inkspell Publishing.
Most people are surprised to find out that Mobile, Alabama, has a Mardi Gras celebration since the, er, debauchery in New Orleans gets all the attention. Mobile’s celebrations are family-friendly (no flashing!) and predate the ones in New Orleans.
Much of my debut novel, Want, centers around Mobile’s Mardi Gras traditions. As a relative outsider—we moved from Ohio to Alabama in 2009—it’s been fascinating to see the different politics at play: who’s chosen as king and queen; the mutually agreed-upon segregation; women donning fur coats in tank-top weather; elaborate balls; and class warfare. It’s both wonderful and bizarre.
Here are some colorful facts about Mobile’s Mardi Gras:
- Mardi Gras was suspended during the Civil War, but restarted by a guy named Joe Cain, who dressed up like a fictional Indian chief and paraded through the streets of Mobile. Today, he is a legend and has a group of “merry widows” and mistresses who hand out black or red roses to spectators. They congregate at his grave each year to pay homage.
- Mobile’s secret Mardi Gras groups are called mystic societies; in New Orleans they’re called krewes. Some of the newer societies are less secretive and easier to get invited into, but the older groups are reserved for those with “old money” and deep roots in Mobile society. They cost thousands of dollars to join. Then there are fees for the ball; you can either pay a fee or give your time building the floats; and there’s another fee to get a spot on a parade float. Then you must pay for your throws (beads, cups, stuffed animals, Moon Pies).
- So, the Moon Pies: In case you’ve never heard of them, they’re little, round snack cakes with marshmallow in the middle. The original ones are banana-flavored (and DISGUSTING) but there are also vanilla, orange, coconut, chocolate, peanut butter- chocolate and mint-chocolate ones. The latter two are pretty good, but the others make me gag. The reasoning behind using Moon Pies as throws is because they’re soft. If you’ve ever been hit in the face with beads or a bag of peanuts, you know how badly it hurts. I speak from experience!
More of Mobile’s quirks are fleshed out in Want, and our main characters, Julianne and Isaac, see their worst fears come to fruition at a Mardi Gras ball. Secrets are spilled after the gloves— and masks—come off!
Back of book blurb: Julianne counts the days until she can pack her bags and leave her old-money, tradition-bound Southern town where appearance is everything and secrecy is a way of life. A piano virtuoso, she dreams of attending a prestigious music school in Boston. Failure is not an option, so she enlists the help of New England Conservatory graduate Isaac Laroche.
Julianne can’t understand why Isaac suddenly gave up Boston’s music scene to return to the South. He doesn’t know her life depends on escaping it before she inherits her mother’s madness. Isaac knows he must resist his attraction to a student ten years his junior, but loneliness and jealousy threaten his resolve.
Their indiscretion at a Mardi Gras ball—the pinnacle event for Mobile’s elite—forces their present wants and needs to collide with sins of the past.
Will Julianne accept the help she’s offered and get everything she ever wanted, or will she self-destruct and take Isaac down with her?