Monday, 30 January 2012

Character Spotlight ~ Julie Cantrell's Millie, River & Bump


Debut novelist Julie Cantrell's Into the Free is available now from David C Cook.

Synopsis

Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.
 
In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a "nothing mama," she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.
 
For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key which unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.
 
Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free? 

Enjoy meeting Millie, River & Bump!

Credit: Julie Cantrell
MILLIE

Brief physical description

Millie Reynolds is a beautiful, dark-skinned southern girl with Choctaw and Scots-Irish roots. Her hair is curly and unruly. She bites her nails and prefers to run through the woods with bare feet. She often wears her hair in braids, and she owns only hand-me-down dresses. She lives in the servants’ quarters (in one of three old slave cabins) on Mr. Sutton’s plantation in Iti Taloa, Mississippi and is considered a “dirt-poor halfbreed” by many of the Depression-era community members.

Actor/famous person

I can’t think of a current actress who looks like Millie, but I wrote her character with an image of my own daughter in mind. My daughter, Emily, also portrays Millie in the book trailer.

Strengths and weaknesses

An old soul, Millie is spunky and smart, patient and practical. Above all else, Millie is a survivor who carefully examines her options in this coming-of-age tale. She thoughtfully observes the people around her, noting how their choices affect their lives. It takes her a while to recognize her own strength and to come to terms with her faith, but with the guidance of several compassionate community members she finds her way.

Quirk (if any)

Millie loves to read, and she dreams of working with horses. Her best friend is a sweet gum tree she names, Sweetie. She spends a lot of time with the trees and with her neighbor, Sloth (think Morgan Freeman). From Sloth, Millie has learned to hunt, fish, and cook. She also has an ability to “listen to the wind,” which means she’s very comfortable in nature and feels deeply connected to her natural environment. She tends to gravitate toward adults and has little in common with children her age.
Credit: Julie Cantrell

Your inspiration for the character

Millie is a combination of every spunky female character I loved as a child, from Pippi Longstocking to Ramona the Pest, but mostly Millie reminds me of my daughter, Emily, who aged with Millie as I edited the book and who is every bit as strong-spirited and probably a lot more feisty.

RIVER

Brief physical description

River is a gorgeous dark-skinned Romani American (“Gypsy”). He has long dark hair and flint black eyes. He wears a chain of coins around his waist and a loose white shirt. He plays the harmonica and quotes literature. He caravans through Iti Taloa with a group of travelers who return every spring to pay homage to their fallen king and queen. Although he is with the group, his mother is dead and his father abandoned him before he was born. He is a loner.

Actor/famous person

Think a young Johnny Depp mixed with a young Steven Strait. Think…temptation.

Strengths and weaknesses

River defies the stereotype of the illiterate “Gypsy” by being a well-read lover of literature. He can charm anyone and has a carefree attitude that makes Millie happy. Everything about him excites her, and he offers her an escape from the painful life she has at home. Despite his many strengths, he has no real education, no plans for a stable career, and no immediate family to offer support.

Quirk (if any)

River can quote verses from literature, which impresses Millie and others. He plays the harmonica and has a sense of humor that brings smiles. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Your inspiration for the character

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River was inspired by the guys we’ve all met who make us swoon. Some just emit an energy that draws everyone to them - men, women, young, old…everyone wants to know these guys. When I wrote scenes with River, I thought about Johnny Depp’s character in Chocolat and my son, Adam, who has a wonderful way with words and music and always makes me laugh. Both are charmers in a sweet way. They aren’t aiming to hurt anyone.

BUMP

Brief physical description

Bump is a skinny rodeo veterinarian who is quickly becoming known as a superb horse trainer. He earned his nickname due to his protruding Adam’s apple. He is kind, thoughtful, and patient. His eyes are blue, the color of hydrangeas, which reminds Millie of safety and sweetness. He wears a cowboy hat and boots and has a crooked smile. He is quiet and calm, and he is a good judge of character. Bump comes from a poor family of sharecroppers / tenant farmers in the Mississippi Delta, but they exhibit a true Christian faith and are a strong family unit.

Actor/famous person

Most of the cowboys I’ve met fit this description. One in particular is Tuf Cooper, the youngest participant ever to compete in the National Finals Rodeo.

Strengths and weaknesses

Bump is honest, humble, and hard-working. He’s the kind of guy who cares enough to remove the thorns before he gives Millie a bundle of roses. He’s loyal and protective, and he loves Millie exactly as she is.

Quirk (if any)

Bump is a ‘horse whisperer’ who can break even the toughest horse. He has worked his way through the veterinarian program and is dedicated to his rodeo boss, Mr. Cauy Tucker. He has a thick southern accent and doesn’t always give the first impression that he’s an intelligent, well-educated veterinarian.

Your inspiration for the character

Bump was inspired by all the guys I’ve met who move through the world with a quiet state of grace and goodness. This includes my cousin, David Carter, a fabulous horse whisperer whose faith is unshakable.

Background to the story

Wikipedia Commons
When our family moved to Mississippi, I researched places to take the kids for weekend trips. I came across an old newspaper article from 1915 describing an elaborate funeral for the “Gypsy Queen” Kelly Mitchell. We visited Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi and saw the graves of Kelly and her husband “King Emil Mitchell” along with other Mitchell descendants. I was fascinated and wanted to know more about the Romani American Travelers who caravanned through the southeastern US during that time period. This single spark of curiosity led to an entire novel in which the travelers are a small thread within the fictional coming-of-age tale about Millie Reynolds. 

Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Julie's website and blog
Buy Julie's book at Amazon or Koorong


2 comments:

Kate {The Parchment Girl} said...

This sounds like a great book! And of course the picture of Johnny Depp is a definite selling point. ;)

Amy said...

Enjoyed this post! I've added this book to my TBR list.

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