Friday, October 19, 2012

Our interview with Thomas Smith and James Darrell Williams


Their book can be found at the link below!
It was with great pleasure that I received an email from Thomas asking if I would write a blog about his and Darrell’s story. I was thrilled to be asked and it is with great pleasure that I get to share their story here. I was intrigued by their story of self-discovery and how they had started their journey and what they discovered along the way. So without further delay, please give a very warm welcome to Thomas and Darrell!
After spending more than 20 years as a journalist, publicist and educator, something told me it was time for a change. Though I searched for something to keep me busy in my middle years, it seemed like doors in the professional world were closed to me. In 2008, when I met Darrell in a Long Beach bar, I immediately knew this kind and thoughtful man would have an effect on my personal life. There was no way of knowing that he would change my professional life as well. He wanted someone to tell his life story. Of course, I knew from dating him that he had multiple personalities. That didn’t faze me, having become used to people changing personalities immediately after they left the stage. As we came to better know each other, I knew what he had experienced growing up with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was a story the rest of the world needed to hear.

1. What prompted you to write Darrell’s story?
As a journalist, I’m always looking to find out why something happened. Most if not all of the DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) literature tells what happened, but never why. I thought for sure there would be an interest in a memoir that went a step further than most. Of course, doing so also made it what some call a difficult read, though I prefer to think of it as interesting.
Darrell had his own reason. He wants parents to be aware that when their child is acting out, there is a reason behind these actions. The parent needs to investigate. His never did.
Over all we just wanted Darrell to get his story out. So did all the kids inside him. Obviously this turned into a bigger exploration than either of us planned for the minute we learned that the man he had always believed was his father was probably not.

2. Has the telling of this story changed you and Darrell? If so in what way?
Not much has changed in the telling of it, though I did learn quite a few things from Darrell and the people inside him that I hadn’t known before and suspect there’s even more the kids inside are keeping hidden away.
Though we were warned when we started that this journey might have an impact on our personal lives, that effect has been positive. We have always been a close couple, but we are even closer now that we have had this experience.
The biggest change has probably been with Darrell. All his life he was searching for his family and for answers about why he was treated so differently and why he felt so unloved. He now knows that those who love him are the family he has today.

3. Your search for answers took you from California to Covington, TN. Do you feel it helped you and Darrell or not?
Traveling to Tennessee really did help us quite a bit. Remember that this entire journey was a search for family. We did meet the Jacksons, his Aunt Bertha’s family, though they weren’t as welcoming as they might have been. You might say they weren’t the family we were expecting, but neither were we the people they expected to disembark from the plane at Memphis International.
The biggest plus for us was getting to meet his Aunt Betty Roland. She recognized Darrell immediately even though she had never seen him. Among other things, she gave us James Darrell (Monkey) Jackson’s original birth and death certificates as well as the photo take of him when he won the money to buy his beloved pickup truck. That photo of Monkey, reproduced in the book, certainly looks a whole lot like Darrell.
Being abandoned by Bertha Merriman in Memphis, nine or so days short of our return trip to California, also proved a blessing in disguise. We had no money, lodging, food or transportation. Desperate, I phoned Mary Barnick, who I had only spoken to once before. She and her husband Bo Kirgis drove three hours down to Memphis, giving us a place to stay, feeding us and generally acting like the family we had expected to find in the Jacksons.

4. You mentioned you prefer a book to the new e-books, what are Darrell and your favorite books to read?
Darrell tends to like romantic adventures set during the time of King Arthur. Since he was illiterate until his 20s, I think that it’s really good that he finds pleasure in whatever genre appeals to him.
I’m more of a history and sociology buff. I will tend to re-read my Joan Didion collection when I’m not going through the bookstores. I find any book that has received some sort of writing award is a good choice. Anything that has made the New York Times Bestseller list is best avoided. In order to be popular, a book has to be simple especially since most Americans only read an at 8th grade level.

5. Was there any part of the writing of this story that you didn’t like?
The parts about the functioning of the human brain were a challenge because science simply isn’t among my strengths. I had to do a lot of research comparing and contrasting the various findings before I finally realized that there was simply no research about what I was trying to explain.

6. Since the writing of this book, do you feel it has it changed your lives?
Not yet but we’re aiming at just that. Darrell has gotten lots better at the whole marketing aspect, something he’d never done before. On my side, everything remains the same. My family is still after me to find “something to fall back on” and a job where I can “work my way up.” Not bloody likely at age 55 but I just let them talk.

7. Was it hard to write the story about yourself or did you find it therapeutic and liberating?
Writing about me was among the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Because the book had required Darrell to dig so deeply into his own psyche, I felt I had to do the same. Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me there in the Arkansas studio with Bo Kirgis and Mary Barnick that I hadn’t been myself any more than Darrell had ever been himself. It wasn’t about how I was feeling or what I was seeing but rather who I was being. As a result after more than 30 years of portraying the Tom Kidd character who recorded albums, wrote for magazines and taught writing classes, I decided it was time to put him away. That’s not because I dislike him but because I no longer have either the energy or initiative to be him. Therefore “Which One Am I?” is written under my given name.

8. Your books have been published with Amazon, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?
The publishing world is absolutely headed to the Internet. There are fewer and fewer book stores out there and, even if they stock a writer’s work, the writer and his company have to deal with returns charged against profits. It’s a silly game but one that was set up long ago and which the powers-that-be will not change.

9. Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?
We are on a rather extensive blog tour and there will be bits and pieces of the book up at various sites. Right now, the first part of the first chapter is up at Readers can also get a taste of the book at our site

10. Do you have any plans for any more personal biographies or any other books?

“Which One Am I?” is about Darrell. The next book will be about me. I’ve found that while there are plenty of research publications available about gifted students, there are virtually no resources for gifted adults. My next book, tentatively titled “Whatever Happened to the Gifted Kids?” will use my own class as a starting point to find out how those with higher intellectual levels coped with life in the ordinary world. This one is in the very early stages of research so it will be awhile before I really get into writing it. Besides, promoting “Which One Am I?” has to come first.

11. If your book were to be turned into a movie, who would you like to play your part?
We have been talking with documentary film makers even before the book was written. As for a fictionalized account, neither one of us has really given much thought to who would play us. I can say that I think Leonardo DiCaprio is a natural choice to play Darrell. DiCaprio was supposed to play Billy Milligan in a big budget film based on the book about his case. I know the actor was already in training for the part so he’d likely have little problem tweaking that training to play Darrell.

12. If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?
To Jesus: “How do you feel towards all these people who call themselves Christians spreading so much hatred in your name?”

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