It’s another character reveal! Characters from my books (in print or works-in-progress) answer questions from a standard personality assessment test. (See previous ones: Miranda, Irene, Beryl, Leslie). Today’s character reveal: Wanda Terry. Wanda is Miranda’s second mate, chief engineer, and ship’s cook in If I Should Die, book two of the My Soul to Keep series.
Wanda Terry is twenty-two in If I Should Die. When she was eighteen, she wriggled under her bed to get her shoe. That was when the Angel of Death Took her father and cousins. She ran and hid on the streets of town for months. After she was raped a second time, she collapsed in an alley and waited to die.
But a kind black man who was a member of the rebels found her. She never learned his role in the rebel group, Soldiers for the American Bill of Rights (SABR). He and his wife hid and fed her until she was strong enough to make the trek to the Missouri River.
On that first trip to the ocean, she proved her worth to Miranda by fixing the Lady Angelfish’s engine when a fuel valve malfunctioned.
1. Who is your role model?
I had no one but my daddy. He worked hard and drank hard and loved hard. He loved my mama so much it nearly killed him when she died. But he said he looked at me, just four year old and crying for her mama, and he pulled himself together and said he’d deal with his grief later. I don’t think he ever dealt with it. He spent every day after, looking after me or working so he could look after me. When he was at work, I stayed with his mama—Mama C (Clementine). She was a good woman—she loved me and cared for me, but no one did it like my daddy.
2. Who knows you the best?
Nobody. Better that way.
3. What would your friends say about you?
All my friends and family are all dead. I’m so sorry. Do you need a minute? No. People die. You get used to it.
4. What is the question people ask you most often?
If they’re white they ask, Whatcha doin’ there, girl? If they’re black, they ask. Where you goin’, Aunt Sally?
Why do they call you Aunt Sally?
Because they think I kiss up to the likes of you.
5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?
I’d never call a person Aunt Sally. You can’t know that person’s story. Some people are just friendly. Some people are struggling to survive. And some people are just bad through and through. But you can’t tell the difference by their looks.
6. What is your greatest achievement?
7. What is your greatest failure?
8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?
I learned that most of life is totally out of anyone’s control. The government will lie. Friends and family will die. And coarse men are coarse not because of their skin color or how much money they do or do not have. They are coarse because they’re men who rape.
I learned that you can’t think about the day’s losses or the wins because neither one will help you get through the next day. And that bloody and dead bodies don’t scare me. My nightmares are about the tight, dark space under my bed. I was fetching my other shoe out from under the bed when They came.
9. What is the thing you are most proud of?
Being part of this Freedom Waterway. Miranda and Beryl are good people doing good. They help anyone who needs help. They don’t care what color you are, how much money you have, or what you are running from—they—we—willl help you get somewhere safe.
10. What would you like to change about yourself?
Why would I want to change?
Isn’t there some part of you that you don’t like and would change if you could?
I got parts I don’t like, but I wouldn’t change them. The Good Lord made me this way. It’s my duty to figure out how to use what He gave me to be and do good in this world.
11. If something in your house breaks, what is the first thing you do?
I can fix almost anything thanks to my daddy. The two things he was good at was patching things together and cooking.
12. What is the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now?
As if there’s only one obstacle in my life.
I guess, if I have to say there’s one greatest obstacle it would be hate. People who hate me because of my skin color or my wild, kinky hair. People who hate because I don’t believe in the cruel, hate-filled Jesus that they believe in. And people who hate me because I want to make a difference in the world and people who—Yup. All that hate is a great big obstacle.
13. How do you like to “waste” your time?
When it takes everything you got to survive, you don’t have time to waste. But here on the Lady Angelfish—I have time to think.
What do you think about?
Miranda talks about someday when the world ain’t so messed up and I guess I caught a little of that from her. I think about going back home or finding some little town like home and starting a cafe or something. Silly stuff like that.
14. What is the ritual that helps you calm down?
Tinkering with an engine.
I would have thought it would be something related to cooking.
You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But most the time when I’m cooking I have a big old knife in my hands—chop-chop-chopping something up.
15. What is your favorite place in town?
It used to be home. I don’t know anymore.
16. What do you prefer–a book, a movie or a theater play?
I’ve never been to a theater play. Sometimes Daddy and me would sit on the hill behind the Drive-In and watch a movie. I liked that some. But book reading—well, I guess I never read a book with anyone like me in it. So I never saw the point.
17. What was the happiest period of your life?
The year I turned ten. Daddy’s garage had started making some money. He’d come home well after dark, tired, but happy. I’d have the vegetables chopped and ready. And we’d fix dinner together every night. We ate pretty good most days, but he knew I loved greens and salt pork. That was our meal every Saturday that year.
18. What is your most treasured memory from childhood?
Standing at the stove with my daddy while he cooked that big old pot of green beans and salt pork.
19. What was your favorite game when you were a child?
Knucklebones. Daddy said that’s what it was called in the olden days. The white folk had little silver stars and a little red ball and they called it Jacks. My cousins and I never minded. We had a fine time with our sticks and stones.
20. What is the greatest injustice you’ve lived through?
Being used and invisible and feared—all at the same time.
I hope you enjoyed character reveal: Wanda. You won’t “see” Wanda until If I Should Die is published. But my invitation to send me sketches or drawings of any of my characters (including Wanda), stands. I’d love to see them.