Mardi Gras History

Mardi Gras. I’ve always had a love or hate relationship with it. As a child growing up in California one of the highlights of the year was a box of beads, throws, and Moon Pies my mother’s cousin would send us. The magic of the sparkling beads, fun toys, and the wonders of sugar coated marshmallow pies. What wasn’t to love?

As I grew older, my understanding changed. Carnival is a time of excess and indulgent behavior and people use it as an excuse to sin. Behind the beauty in the pageantry, filthy behaviors happen within some circles. Tens of thousands—and more—dollars are spent only to pelt parade watchers with plastic, guzzle booze, and litter the streets. Think of all the good that money could be used for instead—a waste!

Then I discovered the historical origins and my understanding evolved further. Bachelors in Mobile began the first society as an impromptu parade through town to disturb the peace. The wildness was celebrating the New Year and the timing eventually expanded to be enjoyed before revelers humbled themselves for Lent. After the Civil War, people in the Port City needed something to lift their spirits and carnival was brought back. Today many of the societies donate to non-profits and do volunteer work throughout the year within the community.

While parades and extravagant balls aren’t my personal style, I’ve developed an appreciation for the colorful history it gives Mobile, Alabama. Before I began writing what is now the first book of The Possession Chronicles, Perilous Confessions, I researched the history of Mardi Gras in Mobile through books as well as newspaper articles from the 1905 season I wrote about. I knew I didn’t want to use real society names, so I asked the opinion of a writer friend who had tackled high society and Mardi Gras in a contemporary setting for her YA/NA novel Want. Stephanie gave me permission to use the society she created for her modern take on carnival in my series. I had a lot of fun creating the roots of Mystics of Dardenne and I’d like to think Isaac Laroche would find the Dardennes’ antics entertaining—at the very least.

Writing is all about stirring emotions. Things the author and the reader are passionate about are the best things to use, but passion isn’t always positive. The feelings I’ve had about Mardi Gras throughout my life (from wonder to disgust) can be found within Perilous Confessions. Just as with any topic, whatever your take on carnival season is I hope you’ll continue to find new information and insight to further your understanding of this unique event.

It’s release day for Perilous Confessions! You can read the first five chapters with the “Look Inside” option. (The digital sale price of $0.99 won’t last forever.) To check out Stephanie and her books, find her on Goodreads. Happy reading!

Gothic Lit with Stephanie Lawton

Today I welcome good friend and fellow indie author, Stephanie Lawton. If I had to pick a favorite of her novels, it would be Shrapnel–an eerie blend of gritty contemporary YA, paranormal, Southern Gothic, and historical.

Thanks for letting me guest blog today, Carrie! We have a lot of things in common, but a few in particular that I think your readers will find interesting.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the concept of six degrees of separation or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Because even if you’re removed from Carrie by five or six degrees, you’ve undoubtedly heard of her Southern historical gothic series, The Possession Chronicles, to be published by Bienvenue Press. What captured her imagination and kept her writing for eight books? The same things that prompted me to write Shrapnel. The same things that have kept readers furiously flipping the pages of scary novels since Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker, to Stephen King and Anne Rice.

First, history.

Let’s be honest—old stuff is creepy. It’s dusty, it makes weird noises and we don’t understand it. We don’t know what people were thinking back then and why they did the odd things they did…like lobotomies that scrambled your brains, or whale-bone corsets that rearranged your internal organs. And yet, human nature implores us to stick our fingers in the wound to see if it’s as bad as we think. (It’s usually worse.)

Stephen King dabbled in early American history in Jerusalem’s Lot. Anne Rice has written in nearly every historical era. Carrie’s new series spans the turn of the last century along the Gulf Coast. My novel, Shrapnel, bounces from modern-day to the Civil War in the Deep South. We commonly use phrases like, “tar and feather” and to “run someone out on a rail.” But do you know what those actually entailed? The historically accurate answers are terrifying.

Second, the unknown.

Fear of the unknown is a basic human fear in every era in every corner of the planet. It just is. Exploiting that fear through literature is the job of the writer so readers can experience those fears vicariously. Afraid of getting your first period? Read some Judy Blume. Afraid of your darker desires? Read Carrie’s upcoming series. Afraid of adult responsibilities and the power that comes with it? Read Shrapnel.

Any situation or thing you fear has been written about in some form, whether an actual thing—like clowns or spiders—or feelings and events. Sometimes the writing is allegorical and sometimes it’s more forthright and literal. Regardless of how it’s presented, plumbing the depths of our fears and the unknown through fiction is infinitely safer than facing them in real life.

Third, good old-fashioned, tension-filled lust. 

Until recently, I would have said that this is where Carrie and I have major differences. My books unabashedly capitalize on lust, while Carrie has always leaned toward very subtle hints of tension between characters. Both approaches have their places and their fans.

While not all horror/gothic/Southern gothic/historical fiction novels include overt sexual tension, I’d bet my Mulder and Scully figurines that readers find the idea pretty irresistible, even if the situation can be construed as “wrong” by conventional standards. Sexy vampires? Horrible! Seductive ghosts? Disgusting. Ever seen the previously banned X-Files episode called, “Home” or the first season of True Detective? Or, even better, Mads Mikkelsen as the latest (incredibly sexy yet skin-crawingly creepy) incarnation of Hannibal Lector. All feature completely repulsive monsters, yet we can’t look away, even if we have to watch/read through our fingers.

I’ve shared some of my favorite nail-biters above, let’s hear yours. What creeps you out, but keeps you coming back for more? What is it about them that you love?

 

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StephanieLawtonWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@Steph_Lawton/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/Steph_Lawton/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5601445.Stephanie_Lawton

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/steph_lawton/

Shrapnel can be found at any of these retailers: https://books2read.com/u/bP1vjJ

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Always a misfit, Stephanie Lawton writes twisted romance that tugs the heart strings then punches you in the gut.

She has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles. She has a fascination with teacher-student relationships, bullies, psychics, doomsday preppers and larger-than-life characters.

Making readers squirm is her greatest pleasure.

Proceed with caution.