MQ: Hello Fantastic Readers out there ‘cross the other side of the screen! Whee, I’m so excited! I’m gettin’ fan mail now! ‘Course I know I may never get the snicker-doodles amount that my hero, I.B. Nosey, the ‘official unofficial’ cyberspace reporter of Gum Drop Island fame gets, but shucks, I’m plum tickled to pieces! Who knows? Maybe I will become famous an’ stupendous an’ wondrous an’…an’ ever’thin’ else that’s ous. Even my producer, Billy Bob, remarked, “Huh. Who woulda thought it?” (presses finger to cheek in pondering gesture) Now, wonder why he said that? Anyway (flicks hair with airy hand) I’ve got another doozy interroga…uh, I mean, interview all lined up today. So, welcome, y’all. This is my column and it’s called…
Ms. Quote's WORDS with...
Troy D. Smith
MQ: Yoo hoo, Mr. Troy D. Smith? You home?
TS: (calls from direction of patio) Back here, ma’am. I’m merely reclining in the shade with a glass of iced tea. Care to join me?
MQ: Oh, thank you, kindly. (heels tap across brick-lain walk as she sashays over to his table) But I’m a workin’ gal an’ I really shouldn’t drink while on the job.
TS: Ah. (peers at MQ through a haze of cigar smoke) I see you’re blond.
MQ: An’ I come by it naturally too! Oh, my! (gasps) What’s that standin’ over yonder next to the concrete fountain?
TS: The wooden Indian? I call him Old Blockhead. Just the sight of him inspires me while I type out my many western books.
MQ: (squeals) Yes! That’s what I want to interroga -- um, ask you questions about! Your book, Red Trail, for starters. Like, well, what makes it red?
TS: Because the road of revenge is a bloody, bloody trail. Or, for those Tolkien fans out there- “A Sword-Day, a Red Day, ere the sun rises!”
MQ: (blinks) Huh?
TS: Hm, yes. (puffs thoughtfully on cigar) Perhaps a reading of the blurb might be helpful. (pulls copy of book off top of table) Shall I?
TS: RED TRAIL gets its name from the title story about a mountain man who embarks on a trail of vengeance against the Indians who killed his wife... and finds himself in danger of being consumed by his hatred. That volume also includes the two stories that were finalists for this year's Peacemaker Award, "Blackwell's Run" (about a cavalry sergeant captured by Indians and his bid for escape) and "The Sin of Eli" (the Peacemaker winner- about a godly farmer who is trying to reach his outlaw son, scheduled to be hanged.)
TS: And lest we forget the first book (holds it to face MQ). CHEROKEE WINTER: TALES OF THE WEST PART ONE...and in fact, the second part is RED TRAIL: TALES OF THE WEST PART TWO. Actually, it had been one big collection, but my publisher recommended dividing it into two books because smaller books sell better. Ahem, now the blurb: The title story of CHEROKEE WINTER is a story about real-life Tennessee frontiersman Thomas Sharpe Spencer, aka Big-Foot Spencer, an extremely colorful character and pal of Daniel Boone. The story is actually about his death... he was killed (in winter) in the very last Cherokee war in Tennessee, in 1793 (he had fought the Cherokees for decades.) So there are Cherokees... it is literally winter... it is the winter of Spencer's life... it is the winter of the Cherokees as a military power.
MQ: Ooh, Big Foot Spencer! Is he kin to that Big Foot fella who stomps through the swamps that everyone is so scared of?
TS: You mean my cousin Boudreau? I don’t think so. Boudreau’s last name is Bigg La Foot. He is best known by the sobriquet Bayou Boudreau Bigg La Foot.
MQ: (gives blank look) So--sobri--? Oh, bother. (waves hand in dismissive gesture) Anyhoo, how was Spencer a pal to Daniel Boone?
TS: They were “Long Hunters” together… long hunters were, well, hunters who went on months-long expeditions into the “frontier” of the 1760s and 1770s, present day Tennessee and Kentucky. Spencer and Boone went on such hunts together, with a handful of comrades, and were among the first Englishmen in Tennessee (the French and Spanish had already been through.)
MQ: Gosh. You seem to know a right smart ‘bout history!
TS: (purses mouth) Perhaps a bit. I’m currently teaching American history at Tennessee Tech, and serving as president of Western Fictioneers -the first national writing organization devoted exclusively to fiction about the Old West.
MQ: (giggles) Does Old West get upset if you write about Youn’ East?
TS: It’s kind of complicated, since the Old West is younger than the Young East, and since parts of the Young East were the Young West when the East was Young, so that makes the Western Young East the Old Young West. But East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, until at last we all shall rest at God’s great judgment seat. This is because Twain, who was from the Midwest and became famous in the Old West before he moved to the Old Young East, long ago met his demise, despite rumors to the contrary… after rumors of his demise were initially mistaken.
MQ: (nibbles on end of fingernail) Uh huh.
TS: (sips iced tea) What other information can I provide for your listening audience?
MQ: Oh. (clears throat) How ‘bout somethin’ ease --uh, I mean, simpl-- well, that is, an’thin’ before you became a writer?
TS: A bio? Good idea. Going back to the beginning, I was born in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee in 1968. I’ve waxed floors, moved furniture, been a lay preacher, and taught high school and college.
MQ: (gives bright smile) If you’ve waxed floors an’ moved furniture an’ stuff, I bet you wash windows too! The studio that Billy Bob operates can really use a cleanin’, let me tell you, mister. How much might you charge?
TS: Absolutely zero. See, briefly, during my misguided teenage years, I worked for a window cleaning company, and hated it. Ever after, in my cleaning guy career, I refused to do windows. Strictly a floor guy.
MQ: Oh, pooh. Well, what else have you done?
TS: Rather than to have you sign me on for any kind of work with Billy Bob (flashes grin), I’m going to fall back on relating my writing career. I write in a variety of genres, achieving my earliest successes with westerns -my first published short story appeared in 1995 in Louis L'Amour Western Magazine, and I won the Spur Award in 2001 for the novel Bound for the Promise-Land (being a finalist on two other occasions.)
MQ: (eyes widen) Did that hurt? When you won the Spur Award?
TS: It kind of smarted a little- I can only imagine how those poor souls who’ve won five or six must feel. I’ve been hoping to win a second one, though, because with only one spur I keep going around and around in circles.
MQ: Maybe you should be nominated for a Pukelitzer Award! My hero, I.B. Nosey of Gum Drop Island fame, won one, you know. (pouts) I wasn’t even invited to his trophy ceremony. Did you attend?
TS: Oh, no. I’m holding out for the prestigious No-Bells prize… or at least the No-Whistles prize.
MQ: That sounds like fun! And, oops, before I forget Billy Bob had a special question. (flips pages of notepad) Here it is. Okay. (brow wrinkles in concentration) You write westerns, but in your photos you wear no coonskin hats, like a regular western dude would do. So…you chaw tabacca?
TS: (chuckles) Well now, I might write about the west, but I’ve never claimed to be a Western Dude. In fact I am a Southern Dude (and a sneaky one, as many of my westerns are either actually set in the South or have Southern protagonists.) And in the South, nobody chaws tabacca… they chaw ‘bakker (which makes me think that perhaps Wookiees are Southern.) Actually, as a writer of westerns and of mysteries, and as a professor/professional historian, I wear many hats. Shall I try on a few? (reaches into bag propped next to chair and withdraws object).
This is my rodeo hat.
My private-eye hat.
Add a wee bit of Scotland to this one.
And, of course, my white hat. (plops it atop head)
MQ: Oh, that’s cutesy-wootsy! It just sets off your blue shirt and red neck hanky!
TS: Hm, yes, well…(coughs) Forgive me, ma’am, but I must bid you adios. There’s a new plot I need to write up and I’m off to find it. (gives sharp whistle. Rustling is heard in nearby bushes and a muscular stallion trots over. TS leaps into saddle)
MQ: (points to horse) But that’s not a muscular stallion.
TS: (spreads palms) My interview, my words.
MQ: But I haven’t finished! Can’t you swoop me up and take me with you like those daring western heroes of old?
TS: Sorry, ma’am, but this southern dude doesn’t ride sidesaddle. Hi ho, Cowlick! (kicks horse and the pair gallop away in a cloud of dust)
MQ: Well! (stomps foot and then shrieks) Troy D. Smith! (glares after him as he and Cowlick ride off into the sunset) You teach that mangy horsey of yours some manners!
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