Meet Wanda B. Wonders: Jesse B. Simple’s Feisty Contemporary
(Win a copy of a Wanda B. Takes the Cake! Go HERE!)
JDP: I’d wager, Claudia, that you discovered Wanda B.’s voice in others throughout the course of your day also.
CM: You’re right. I realized my days were brimming with Wanda B.’s. In my sisters’ voices, in Glenda Pearl and Bernadette’s conversations, I heard her voice. Moreover, I heard her in the witticisms of sistah friends in church, at work, on the street, in clubs, in restaurants, in beauty parlors, in shopping malls, and in nail salons.
These women made the best of their circumstances. They found humor in tragedy and chaos, and from it, they made the finest of lemonade. Born with creative patents, they served up sweetness from strange fruits.
JDP: So Wanda B. is a social commentator?
CM: Yes. She gazes out on the world and shares her observations in black and white, her intent to bring people closer via laughter, same as Langston Hughes did.
JDP: Now if I remember correctly from my literature classes, Hughes and Jesse B. Simple frequently seated at a Harlem bar, discussing life?
CM: Awesome! That’s correct! Jesse sat drinking, discussing life as he lived it as a working-class Southerner transplanted in Harlem. He chatted with a fellow barfly, an academician, a Mr. Boyd, who always challenged Simple’s reasoning. Well, with my character, Wanda B. sits in a nail salon and chats with the owner, a Miss Lady, who questions the one-of-a-kind stories that only Wanda can narrate!
JDP: The nail salon is a hub for talk today! What does Wanda B. talk about?
CM: Wanda B.’s interests are myriad. In the first collection, for example, she takes on patriotism, Bin Laden, dog fights, September 11th, lost babies, broken promises, body-beautiful blues, baby-making drama, being cut off, thrown out, jacked, psychic senses, pretty pills, face on the cover, dog pounds and jail cells, need-more women, signs and speeches, stares, change, racism, telemarketers, cranky Christians, the art of doing nothing, martial arts, women in video games, and Fourth of July family drama, etc. Although Wanda views the world through audacious eyes, she is ever filled with hope, love and charity.
JDP: Face on the cover?
CM: (laughing) Yes. In that story, Wanda is fascinated with Oprah having her face on every issue of O Magazine, so she fantasizes about the many ways she would do things differently, if she were blessed with one of Oprah’s millions!
JDP: How did you come up with your character’s name?
CM: I love naming my characters! It’s much like the joy of naming children.
Wanda’s name comes from who she is in the world: a woman bold and brazen enough to “wonder” about life, to question people and their motives, in their faces, out loud. Therefore, her name came to me magically, as Wanda B. Wonders...because she ‘be wondering’ about everything that lifts her brows and sensibilities. And what has the capability of lifting Wanda’s brows? Life from a Black woman’s perspective in our contemporary world.
Wanda is not exclusive in her outlook. Even if readers do not share her ethnicity, they share her love of self and her love of humanity...even as she unabashedly tells you just how it is to live life in Wanda B.’s skin. A treat she is, so don’t miss her. You may recognize yourself in her words!
JDP: How did you decide which subjects Wanda would share with Miss Lady, her nail technician, in the Supreme Dream?
CM:Easy. I spotlighted those subjects that impacted Black and white people in this country, subjects like the Black President, the first Black Disney Princess and the Bailout Blues. Whatever deals with race in America is the perfect subject for Wanda!
I made a decision to embrace the world, like Langston Hughes’s work, “Not Without Laughter.” Reminiscing on individuals who can make me erupt with laughter, I know all over again the power of humor to shift the mood of a dry workshop, a draining meeting, a stale party or an angry discussion.
JDP: Do people ask if you are Wanda B. Wonders?
CM: No. They make parallels though. Some say, “You are funny, like your character.” Or “That sounds like classic Wanda B.” Others wonder aloud what Wanda would think of such and so person or event, as though she is a real person. For me, Wanda B. is any woman who can take a hard life or a difficult situation and knead it, roll it, slice it and squeeze it and come up with the sweetest lemonade. In essence, that person has mastered living.
JDP: Why did you use your image on the cover of all three books in the Wanda B. Wonders series?
CM: That was a decision that centered on Wanda B. being a work from my pen, so why not have my image represent the character? I thought of Oprah being on the cover of O Magazine for each and every issue, no matter who is between the pages. Oprah sells her magazine. And I said, “Claudia, you are the creator of this character, and your likeness will grace each cover.”
There is a creative power involved in authors being independent publishers. I welcomed that power. Visually, I portray what it means to be an outspoken Black woman who claims her boldness, her beauty, her intellect, her freedom and her willingness to love and be loved as she chooses.
(Part 3 on Wednesday, April 18)