Creativity as an answer to violence: Todd Smith's Murder, Romance, and Two Shootings
Todd Smith will be in the Kansas City area for two book signings for "Murder, Romance and Two Shootings". The first is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, at Henry's Coffee Shop, 11 E. 8th St., Lawrence, KS 66044. The signing is part of Final Friday’s in Lawrence.
From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, Todd will be at Prospero's Books at 1800 W. 39th St., Kansas City, MO, 64111.
NOTE: This blog post was originally published on June 18, 2018.
Today on the blog, I am joined by author Todd Smith. His novel Murder, Romance, and Two Shootings will be released June 18 by NineStar Press.
Todd's book is a fictionalized memoir based upon his own experiences. He lost a close friend, whose violent death was the result of a still-unsolved gay bashing crime. He was a shooting victim twice--during a robbery in 1997, and just over ten years later during a mass shooting in Kirkwood, Missouri, where a disgruntled citizen opened fire on a city council meeting Todd was covering for a local paper. Six persons were killed. Todd was the only victim who survived.
Thank you for stopping by the blog today, Todd.
My questions are usually on the light side, but this is not a light subject. You were shot during a robbery in 1997, and then again during a mass shooting in 2008. Trauma leaves an indelible mark on the psyche. Was this book written as a cathartic method of dealing with the aftermath of these crimes?
When I sat down to write the book, I wasn’t seeking a catharsis, but I do feel that overall it has been a cathartic experience. I’m not the same person after 1997 or especially 2008, both physically and mentally. It has changed the way I view the world. Before adopting our son, I worked for a few years at a non-profit, which helped impoverished fathers find employment and improve their relationships with their children. I was robbed by young men in the first shooting and in the second shooting the individual was dealing with financial problems. I felt the need to give back to society through being a force for change.
You have a master’s degree in journalism. How did you draw on this while transferring your story from reality to a lightly fictionalized account, and was anything changed in the process from fact to fiction?
I think that if I had written a true crime book then my journalism degree would have been helpful, but a news article and a book are two very different things. While I did quote people all the time as a journalist, that is not the same as writing dialogue. Also, my natural writing style was to report what was happening, I had to teach myself to be more descriptive and let the reader feel what the characters were experiencing.
As far as changes from fact to fiction, I have changed names of the people in the book and modified details of them. I occasionally omitted people and events, but only when that omission had no impact on the substance of the story.
Gun control is a hotly debated subject—especially in the Midwest, where we both live. The Pulse Nightclub shooting will be an unhealed, raw nerve in the LGBTQ community for some time to come, and it seems every week there is yet another gun-related incident. Having survived a mass shooting, and as a gay man who has lost a close friend to hate crime, do you find it difficult to speak up when the debate rises? Does your journalism background offer you an outlet where you feel comfortable broaching the subject?
No, my experiences give me an authority and power when discussing gun control. I have spoken many times on these issues including for news outlets, gun control groups and in public debates. Unfortunately, my voice was often requested in response to another shooting. That being said, when a mass shooting does happen, which is quite regularly anymore, I am leery of following the news for a few days, it just brings me back to painful memories of seeing people die in front of me.
Murder, Romance, and Two Shootings is not just a story about the trauma of these crimes, but a story about an enduring love. Please tell us about that.
Surviving being shot puts a lot of things in perspective. It also tests relationships. When I had a moment alone in the hospital room with my boyfriend I knew that he would always be there for me, and that is just where I wanted him. I think I surprised him while standing there in my hospital gown I proposed. We were also fortunate that he is a college professor and could to arrange his schedule to help me through all the doctor visits. He was also there when I came out to my Southern Baptist parents, which is another powerful scene in the book. Although it will have to wait for a future book, we also knew that we always wanted to be dads. While that process may not have been life threatening, it continued to test our relationship but nothing can replace how it feels to see our son grow up.
Do you plan on writing more books? Do you anticipate writing in any other genres?
I definitely see myself writing more books. Besides my journey into fatherhood, I also see continuing the story of Jade Sinclair. Jade incidentally is the only name in the book that hasn’t been changed. Jade is the name that Kevin (not his real name) performs under. Jade continues to be among the most popular drag performers in Saint Louis, not to mention being a holder of numerous pageant titles.
But I am also interested in developing a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy. So far I have a draft of the first book. It focuses on several gay characters, and at my son’s request, features dragons.
Thank you so much for joining me on the blog. Where can readers interact with you on the Internet?
My website is toddallensmith.com. There I also include links for gun violence prevention and where to go for links to where to buy my books. Also, you can contact me, find my author Facebook page, and Twitter page there.