One of the ways I try to get to “know” my characters is to try to type up an “organic” question/answer session. I’ll try to let each question spark the following one–really working to get into the character’s head. I did that with Avelino, but for this release party, I thought it might be fun to do it with Amelia. So, let’s interview the young woman who stole my heart while I wrote the book.
Chautona: Hello, Amelia. Why don’t you tell us just a little about yourself–not too much. Let’s not give away the whole book, but just enough so we get a feel for where you’re coming from.
Amelia: It’s nice to have a chance to tell “my side” of the story. Thank you. Um… well, I am from Oklahoma. My whole family is from that area. In ’39, Granddad, Grandmom, and I left western Oklahoma for California and eventually settled in Napa after a few years in Fresno. That’s where Granddad learned about grapes.
Chautona: Now why do you think I made such a big deal of your hair?
Amelia: Well there is the historical element, of course. It was special to the Carrillo family for quickly obvious reasons. And then there is the fact that I also think you were being a little ornery about the book that inspired this story. Instead of the constant references to beauty and innocence, you indulged in just a little of the redhead repetition as your rebellion against that novel.
As for why it would even matter that I had red hair even without that history, my story takes place in the forties when people still teased redheads. I think children are always a little cruel to the different child–whether she has different colored skin, red hair, an accent, or perhaps a physical disability. Since you learned that redheads only make up 1-2% of the world’s population, it makes sense that it would be considered an oddity. And, after learning that during the time of the Spanish Inquisition all redheads in Spain and Italy were presumed to be Jews (an undesirable thing at that time), I think those stereotypes and prejudices continued.
Chautona: True. And, that brings me to another question. Why do you think that Avelino encountered prejudice upon his return that he didn’t feel before he went off to war?
Amelia: Well, I think that there are many reasons. Life isn’t as simple as we’d like to think or as complex as we tend to make it. But several things come to mind. First, he was so young when he left–so inexperienced. He grew up in a loving family, supportive community, and really had no experiences that showed him the more racist and bigoted side of life. Add to that, his experience in the army, and when he came home, I think he saw rejection where there was none. Pain tends to do that to us. It festers so that it clouds our judgment.
Chautona: There were times that I wanted you to slap him, scream at him, do something to make him stand up and take notice of what he was doing to you. Why didn’t you?
Amelia: I think that I made a bigger impact on him because I didn’t. He would have found it easier to justify his attitudes if I had wounded his pride that way. But because I dealt with my emotions myself, he had to see his own responses without justifying them as a reaction to mine.
Chautona: Some might say you stuffed down your emotions. How do you respond to that?
Amelia: Because it was stuffing down my emotions when I–oh. Right. You told me no spoilers. I suddenly feel like River Song. Suffice it to say, I make my emotions very clear. I may not scream when I am angry or slobber over him when I share my feelings, but I do not stuff them down.
Chautona: You go girl! Did you read the epilogue? What did you think of what Avelino said about your father in that?
Amelia: I wish I would have known. But, like Avelino with Ray and his cronies, I doubt I would have seen it at the time. I think learning of it afterward is the only way it really hit home. And that is okay. Knowing at all is what matters, right?
Chautona: That is true. And sometimes learning after the fact makes a stronger impact. Sometimes we are too blind to really grasp it–like when we hear how proud a parent is of you after that parent is gone. Part of us screams, “Why didn’t you ever tell me!” But you know, sometimes they did–or if they had, we wouldn’t have “heard” them.
Amelia: I think that was definitely how it was.
Chautona: Do you think Avelino did the right thing regarding the vineyard and marriage?
Amelia: Well, I don’t think I ever managed to make him see it, but as much as I didn’t like it, I was so proud of him for sticking to his convictions. Lyman was a weasel, and in our family, we shoot weasels. Avelino was honorable even when the law didn’t require it. That says something about him.
Chautona: If you could say one thing to the readers, what would it be?
Amelia: When it seems like nothing is going how you think it should, trust Jesus. Because either it is and you just can’t see it yet, or it shouldn’t be going that way in the first place. If God knew all before the foundation of the world, I think we can trust Him to build the foundations of our lives as well.
There you have it. A few minutes with Amelia and her take on themes and events in Deepest Roots of the Heart.