First loves gone wrong. Southern belles. Black anglophiles. And mice that nibble at the face. These are just some of the characters, and the tales, in author A. Yamina Collins vibrant new short story collection, The Blueberry Miller Files.Q & A WITH AUTHOR A. YAMINA COLLINSSO WHAT ARE THE STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION ABOUT?There is no one theme that runs through the book, except to say that it’s a look at the human condition in all of its humor, awkwardness and tragedy.But, I had a blast writing these stories, and these multi-ethnic characters, in all their humor, tragedy in awkwardness.
I think I’m fascinated by humanities fallen condition. I’m fascinated by our sin, and how it affects us and those around us.For example, I have a story set in the pre-civil war south with a belle called “Safe”, about a southern belle who assumes that as long as she is in charge of her personal slave, that slave will always be safe.
In my mind, no one who is ever someone else’s slave is truly safe. That’s the irony. I’m a fan of Gone with Wind, a HUGE fan. I keep re-reading the book over and over again. And, of course, I’m in love with Rhett Butler’s character. But I’ve always had issues, for example, with how kind the slave holders were presented. It’s always irked me that it was this great romance, and people fawned over it, even while this horrible thing called slavery was actually being defended in the book by the main characters!It also irked me to note that the slaves had the worst dialect in the world, yet the slave holders had the most perfect English.
I realized, whoever is telling the story gets to decide how good one group looks over another. So I decided to do just a little twist on that theme. It wasn’t about revenge. It was about playing with a tried and true subject and shaking it up just slightly. It’s the last slave story I will ever write though. I want to move onto other subjects with black characters. But again, my book has black, white and hispanic characters in it.
I don’t like to stick to just one group of people.ARE ALL OF THE STORIES TRAGIC?No! Some of the stories are funny, too. Well, one of the stories is very, very funny. The others are tragic, with these awkward, funny moments thrown in.YOU HAVE ALL THESE FALLEN CHARACTERS IN THESE UGLY SITUATIONS, YET NONE OF THEM CURSE! WHY NOT?I don’t curse in my books, or in real life. As a Christian, I don’t think you stop being a Christian just while you’re writing your book. Honestly, I don’t think God gives us commands without a way for us to follow them.
So I have to find ways for people to say nasty things without crossing that line. Or if there’s a sex scene, somehow I have to let the audience know it’s happening with describing it or titillating people. It’s kind of an exercise in creativity. It can be a tough call to make, but I think it’s doable. And it’s challenging, too! But, hey, life was meant for challenges!
God stretches us when we’re challenged.ANY FAVORITE CHARACTERS IN THE COLLECTION?I love this character named Madam Adams. She is a loony little doll- an African-American Anglophile with a Shakespeare complex. Her parents raised her in Harlem, but she tells people she was raised in England by a group of thespians.
She is a loveable nutcase with a fondness for bad writing, wine, and crumpets.WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE SHORT STORY WRITERS?Edgar Allan Poe, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Henry James and Washington Irving. Not that all these people wrote only short stories.