The Man with Eight Lives
RED! interviews DeRon Smith

by Shannon Alten
June 2008


Despite a life-threatening drug habit, incarceration, seven relapses, gang banging, a financial paradise, and all the self-loathing one person can inhale, when De’Ron Smith hit rock bottom, he hit hard. Shannon Alten’s interview with RED!’s columnist and the author of Innocence of a Child explores even deeper issues De’Ron battled, before God intervened once and for all, and a few miracles surfaced.

Shannon: The first question I have is why you chose to write Innocence of a Child?

De’Ron: Healing. I needed healing. I had gone through my life so tumultuously that there was one up and down after another and as I was getting older I couldn’t find a remedy to a solution or a reason why I kept going through this emotional roller coaster ride.

The prison situation…they sent me away for a long time. Prison forced me to say, “There are deeper issues that I'm dealing with besides what’s on the surface. I need to get to the root of what I’m doing, why I’m doing it.” While I was incarcerated I sat there and I said, “Wow, my life was messed up; hindsight is 2020 always.”

I looked back over it as I sat at the penitentiary table in the dorm, and I said, “I never had a childhood; I’ve never loved my father.” I had this type of anger, that type of neglect, and I realized they were never resolved. I literally said I could write a book about my life, never taking it to heart, but as I saw these things were still causing me to go up and down and my life to spiral up and down, I began to write.

I was always a writer. I’ve always been a writer as far as expressing myself. That’s the way; because in my home, there was no form of communication. So, the only thing I could do was to create a poem to express how I felt. It was a kindergartener’s poem. You know, when you say something with rhymes in it. But it was real. It was real pain, because that was my only way of venting. That was my way of expression. So, for me to be in a place where I was about to do seven years, I knew I needed something to help me start healing.

Shannon: You state you wrote poems as a form of expression. Do you remember any of them?

De’Ron: I have them all. They’re at home. I have poems that I wrote while I was incarcerated and just some of the little poems that I just made up. They were about a mother’s love; and I know that one was specifically geared towards the pain of feeling neglect, and I know a quote. It was regarding my mother going to church and serving everyone else, and then it says, “while in the arena of their own home lays a troubled child inside.” And I can’t remember the top of it, but I know the poem was geared towards how I saw it: here you are, doing everything for everyone else, but in the arena of your own home laid a troubled child inside.

Shannon: Have you thought about publishing your poems?

De’Ron: I did at one point during my first penitentiary number. I did. I even made a contact and they were accepted, even on a greeting card level. I didn’t pursue it. I’m kind of immature in my thinking about going through the process that really led up to all of this. I wasn’t ready, wasn’t mature. I just wouldn’t have known, really known, how to handle it if it had come. So, I think I allowed my spiritual faith in God to be the judge of my destiny. I think that the timing just wasn’t there, at that time.

Shannon: You seem to have healed, but you state in your book that there was neglect on the part of your parents. Do you resent your parents?

De’Ron: There was a level of neglect, and there was a huge level of resentment. Like anything, there is a process that must take place. The reason that I teach a lot of the seminars that I teach is that you have to go through a healing process. I went through that healing process; it’s the reason why I can sit here today. However, back then, as a child coming up, you’re really not…you really don’t have the capability of rationalizing. You know, not really growing up nurtured, or taught, it just wasn’t coming.

Whereas, this household may have structure – mom walking in her role of nurturing while dad is either the provider, the protector or what have you. That home may be set up and structured like that. In mine, because there was such neglect, I felt strong resentment, very strong resentment and yet I was blessed with material things because that was the way my parents expressed themselves, especially my mom, as she demonstrated her love. She didn’t know any other way. She, too, had grown up in terrible situations, and so we became a product, so to speak.

Unfortunately, unless that cycle is broken, it continues. The resentment was bitter; the resentment grew not only out of neglect, but out of a lack of the father male bonding. I resented my father. I felt that he just really didn’t provide in that area.

Then, the physical abuse that took place inside my home, the atmosphere, the home that was supposed to be the incubator that molds and nurtures and so forth like that was anything except happy. Happiness is something that has to come from within. The atmosphere was contentious at all times. I was number seven of eight children. I watched each one of them suffer in their own way. So, as a child, things were being deposited inside of me, such as words that my father said, and the violence that took place and the behavior patterns and never resolving anything but shouts and arguments and fights and so forth like that. It shaped me.

The world outside had become my sanctuary, my safety net. That was my place of serenity where this child, literally as it states in the book, could let his innocence just have rule with no restrictions. Unfortunately, when an individual gets to that point, and there are no boundaries, or no restrictions set in place, no parental boundaries, then that child has nothing to stop them. So, they run recklessly.

What happens is it builds, the momentum builds. Now you’re learning and being shaped by this group of people, and there’s a completely different set of rules that apply out there. It pushes out all of the innocence that should have been nurtured inside the home.

God has put parents in this position: “I blessed you with this gift [of a child]. I’m trusting you to temporarily take care of it. What are you going to do with this child?” And when we as parents don’t fulfill that obligation, there is loss. There are no perfect parents; I understand that. I didn’t write the book to badger. It’s an expression of the innocence of one individual who felt that innocence pushed, and here are the results and by-product of that pushing.

So, I resented my parents, my mother for never nurturing in a motherly way. I resented my father for what he did to my mother, abusively, and what he did to the other members, abusively, and that he never took me into his arms, or molded or nurtured me, or showed any type of an interest in this male child. There was a lot of bitterness among everyone on a lot of levels.

Shannon: I am sorry you went through all of that.

De'Ron: It gets better (smiles).

Shannon: I can see that.

Shannon: How long did it take you to write this book?

De’Ron: Wow! A while. When I started writing this, I had a lot of interruptions, because of being in a penitentiary. I was doing seven years. I started writing it, and the interruptions were because things started happening.

Inside, I went from one camp to another, so I had to stop writing and I had to hide it and tuck it away because they would think you were writing about the institutions, about the prisons and they would confiscate your material. The prisons would look at it to see if there was anything problematic in there. Take it out, they might say. “You can’t write that; rip it up; shred it up.” And so a lot of situations happened while I was incarcerated.

One, I just flat out got burnt out. I needed a break, and the reason I needed a break was that writing my life was hard. It sparked all new memories again, things that I had buried. I couldn’t deal with the pain for at least two months. I stopped writing. Then I had to stop writing because I was transported from one camp to another for a medical condition. I developed a lung disease. Mentally, I was just out of it, and I wrote but I didn’t write intensely.

It took me all of seven years plus two more when I came home. I studied writing. I studied other writers, authors from Stephen King, Dean Koontz to Alex Haley and self-published authors. I wanted to learn their writing style. I had a story to tell, but how could I build it to where it could attract and then catch a reader? I needed diversity, from romance novels to the goriest.

It took a while. And my creativity really said, okay, well here, here, here – and I started building a puzzle around my writing. The original page count of the book was over 600 pages, all legal tablets – 600! That’s a lot of writing. Years. But, you have to write that amount, because by the time you edit, you see a finished product. So, I started looking at it once I came home and I thought, “That doesn’t go. Let’s combine this one; get rid of that; ah, you’re dragging the reader out. Now you’re boring them right here.” But it was healing, and there were a lot of wounds that needed to be healed.

Shannon: Did you leave anything pertinent out of the book over what an editor suggested you should include?

De’Ron: No, actually I had the lead way. The first two issues of my book were an incomplete edit. It wasn’t 600 pages, but an incomplete edit meant that there was a period where there should have been a comma, sentence fragments and so forth. However, the content was so powerful that it still carried me, and I did that for strategical reasons.

This copy – this edition, my 3rd and complete edition – is completely edited. My editor on this one really just made some simple suggestions, as far as restructuring sentences. But then I said, “No, I want it to sound just like that.” I don’t want this to be a perfect book. I wanted to have an intellect within it, yet I wanted you to hear the writer’s voice. There were certain suggestions that I didn’t allow, but then there were some where I said, “Okay, we can nip it there. We need the cliff there. The cosmetic stuff.” I had 100% control over the book, and I chose that. That’s the reason why I did not allow a publishing company to buy it. I own the publishing company and the rights and I can choose what I add, when I add it, how I add it, and what I want to dismiss.

Shannon: Did you write the book in short chapter form because of the breaks you had to take, or is it just how you naturally write?

De’Ron: I wrote the book in short chapters because I wanted to just highlight that particular part and then carry over to a new one. I can’t really say or remember if it was because of the breaks or due to the breaks. After writing and deciding where I was going to make a chapter or where I was going to break versus just letting me go into another sector, the short chapters basically stopped there because I think that the short chapters created intensity. The shorter chapters were intentional and intended to move the story.

Shannon: Where did the name ‘Dinspirational Publishing’ come from?

De’Ron: Actually, it’s “D-inspirational”. People say “Dinspirational” so they can put the D and I together. But actually, that’s a capital ‘D’ for DeRon. So, it’s actually ‘DeRon Inspirational Publishing’. The book has it in one, together. But we kept it in caps, for kind of just, DeRon Inspirational. We didn’t have to put the dash or the space for that, we just went on and said DeRon Inspirational. In everything I do, I’m speaking for Inspirational, LLC Company and Intervention Consultant Group – two combined companies. The lead company is Inspirational Speaking, LLC; that’s my company. The intervention piece is an umbrella, a connector to the intervention work we do.

Shannon: You stated that you studied other writers by reading their work. Did you also take classes or receive some type of schooling while you were incarcerated?

De’Ron: I went to college prior to incarceration. I was always a decent, academically sound individual. I just had a lot of issues, and didn’t know how to deal with them. While incarcerated, I studied not only reading, but grammar. I studied what I needed to become an author. I went back to a college focusing on English and Business. I had gone to college at Cincinnati State and Southwestern College of Business. I was a parent counselor for Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing, 24-years old. All of that history worked its way up. It played a role somewhere down the line. I didn’t know it was going to be for this. But, it worked out.

I went back for certification after certification, because you couldn’t get a degree in prison. For instance, certifications were offered through the Ohio Central school system. I studied writers basically to see in their voices. Autobiographies or biographies. Primarily autobiographies. You’re hearing the writer’s voice in a huge way, feeling his emotions, his pain, his thoughts. That’s a writer to me. And so I needed to know, how do I make my writing interesting? How do I get it to flow? I studied these writers while still trying to keep my own voice. Then, I looked at African American writers. Caucasian-American writers – I looked at them. Were writing styles in autobiographies different? I looked at the spiritual publications, the Christian published books, and I worked in a library. I had access in the Chapel library to kind of compare different writing structures and writing styles. That’s how I came up with what was best for my voice.