Human trafficking is often considered an international phenomenon and women from third world
countries are the first images that come to mind. However, “familial human trafficking” is a
more intimate crime due to the dynamics of the underlying relationships.
Behind Closed Doors 2 is a riveting tale of one little girl’s struggle to overcome circumstances
beyond her control. Born and raised on the ruthless streets of East St Louis, Dana Toussaint was
accustomed to a life of privilege; thanks to her father, a Haitian-born immigrant and notorious
drug lord. Dana’s mother; a materialistic southern belle from South Louisiana, is consumed by
the good life, as memories of her upbringing in an East New Orleans housing project become a
In spite of the similarities between the Haitian and Louisiana Creole cultures, the marriage
unravels and the unthinkable occurs when Dana’s father abruptly abandons the family. At the age
of 12, Dana becomes the ultimate sacrifice and her mother brokers the deal.
Fear is a defense mechanism that produces a vital response to emotional and physical
Walking five blocks to and from school through the dangerous ghetto would have
intimidated any twelve year old, but survival was a way of life and fear was my protection. There
were no immediate signs of danger during my daily journey, but I was instinctively aware of
everything around me and always prepared to act accordingly. As my classmates sped by me on
their colorful bicycles, I grew excited about the prospect that I might finally get one of my own
for Christmas. My father gave my mom the money to purchase the bike the previous year, but
she used the money to pay the electric bill—at least, that’s the story she told me. When I
mistakenly allowed her to see my disappointment, I received a whipping and an hour-long
speech about my ungratefulness.
“I feed you, and this is the thanks I get? I don’t hear anyone else around here complaining
and poor-mouthing,” she said.
She looked at my younger sisters and my little brother for affirmation. I wanted to remind
her of the fact that they had little to complain about since she gave them everything. My point
was valid, but I was smart enough to know that a comment from me on the topic would result in
My sisters didn’t respond to the latest outburst from my mother because they were
accustomed to it. However, I could see the paralyzing fear on their little faces. At times, the
verbal and physical abuse that I received from my mother had a greater impact on them than it
had on me. As a coping mechanism, I learned to channel everything to a place that was beyond
the realm of feeling. I no longer responded to the physical pain that my mother inflicted and it
drove her crazy. The verbal abuse escalated a few notches when she realized it had a greater
effect on me than her physical punishments.
This was my life for as long as I could remember, but the intensity of the abuse
dramatically increased when my parents separated. I was around eight years old at the time.
When I got home from school that evening, I met my father at the front door. When I noticed the
suitcases and plastic bags, my heart sank. I asked him if he was leaving for good and he said yes.
My mother came out of the house in a violent rage, which worsened at the sight of my tears. Her
eyes narrowed and she spoke to me through clenched teeth .
“Why don’t you get your shit and go with your daddy! That’s one less mouth for me to
feed. I mean it, Bernard. Take that little hussy with you!”
She spoke as if her words were meant for a perfect stranger instead of her own daughter.
My father dropped his bags and knelt in front of me, without so much as even a glance
toward my mother. He gave me a hug and cradled my face between his hands.
“I love you, Dana. Don’t ever forget that,” he said softly.
He gave me a hug and a kiss on the forehead, then turned to look at my mother for the
last time. He spoke in Haitian Creole or “patois” to my mother, who was from South Louisiana.
It was something my father often did to conceal his anger from me or whenever he wanted to
discuss sensitive information with my mother. By now, I not only understood the language, but I
spoke it fluently. Neither of my parents were aware of this. In his thick Haitian accent, he
addressed my mother very calmly, but his anger was apparent.
“You’re going to burn in hell for your evil ways, Diana,” he said.
“I’ll be waiting for you when you get there,” she replied.
An evil smile crossed her face before she turned and walked back into the house.
My father left that day and my entire world crumbled.
Dr. A.L. Smith read her first full-length novel (The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude
Chandler Warner) in the third grade and it spawned her passion for reading. According to Dr.
Smith, the hallmark of a great story is the resounding presence of a character that transcends the
final pages of the book.
Dr. Smith is a native of Frierson, Louisiana, a small town in the Northeast region of the
state. Standing five feet zero inches, her childhood dream was to become the first female to play
in the NBA. She attended Grambling State University on a basketball scholarship, but eventually
set her sights on a career in nursing. She went on to become the first ROTC cadet from
Grambling to receive a commission in the Army Nurse Corps. She earned a Masters and a
Doctorate degree in Nurse Anesthesia from Texas Wesleyan University and is currently a
practicing Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
In 2010, Dr. Smith traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and
provided anesthesia care to a countless number of victims, many of whom were children. That
experience would have a major impact on her views concerning the socioeconomic disparities in
America and countries abroad.
Get to know the author:
What was the inspiration for your second novel and is there a third installment?
After publishing my first novel, I actually crossed paths with a survivor of human
trafficking. Shortly after that, a human trafficking case was reported near my hometown–in rural
Northeast Louisiana. Those two incidents, coupled with the increasing news coverage
surrounding the horrible crime lead to my decision to tackle the issue.
Initially, the series included 3-4 installments. However, after listening to the readers and
paying attention to some of the critical commentary concerning lengthy book series, I decided to
combine books two and three. Behind Closed Doors 2 is a full length novel–no cliff hangers, no
book three. (Smile)
What process did you use for character selection/development?
My two trips to Haiti in 2010 following the devastating earthquake and my fascination
with African American history led to the creation of the Toussaint family. As a native Louisianan,
I was completely blown away by the cultural similarities between Haiti and South Louisiana. The
main characters were created in the spirit of both cultures.
Describe your favorite character in the Behind Closed Doors series?
Attorney Alexandra Phillips is the heroine of the story and she’s my favorite character
because of her strength and determination. Her character allowed me to demonstrate the ability
to overcome dire circumstances, emotional scars, and various flaws to eventually find
professional success and true love. She has an intrinsic desire to save the world, so to speak,
particularly those who have suffered abuse similar to her own. In true “Law and Order” fashion,
she does just that.
In addition, I’m a huge fan of Donald Goines and the Kenyatta series. As Alex’s character
evolved throughout the Behind Closed Doors series, I began to think of her as the female version
of Kenyatta, with less violence of course. Unlike Kenyatta, Alex was able to work within the
confines of the law to address issues such as drug trafficking, sex exploitation (human
trafficking/prostitution), police brutality, racial profiling and Black on Black crime. Whereas the
Kenyatta series symbolized revenge, Alex and the Behind Closed Doors series is more consistent
with justice or redemption.
What is the setting for Behind Closed Doors 2 and how did you choose it?
The setting for Behind Closed Doors 2 is East St Louis, Illinois, aka “East Boogie”.
Human trafficking is often considered a third world or international problem. When I decided to
address the issue of domestic human trafficking, I wanted to choose an American city that was
consistent with this perception. In my quest to find the perfect city, my research led me to East
St Louis, Illinois. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, East St Louis was a city on the verge of
economic collapse. Often referred to as the heart of America’s bottom because of its location
downstream from the Mississippi River, it was also one of the most impoverished small cities in
the country. Ultimately, my findings concerning the city’s infrastructure was the determining
factor for my selection of this city. Case in point, a properly functioning waste management/
sewerage system is one of the things that separate third word countries from first world
countries. In the mid-80’s and into the 90’s, public schools were forced to close on multiple
occasions due to raw sewerage in the school cafeterias. After discovering these findings, I was
convinced that East St Louis was the perfect setting for the story.
What is your primary goal as an urban fiction author and what challenges do you
The Behind Closed Doors series is my attempt to address some of the issues that we
currently face in the urban community. Like most urban a fiction novels, the perils of urban
living (drugs, prostitution, child abuse/neglect crime, police brutality, Black on Black crime) are
discussed at length; however, my ultimate goal is to explore the potential causes and
effects…here are my personal thoughts on the subject:
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have drug dealers and drug addicts wouldn’t exist.
Women wouldn’t sell their bodies and every child would have both parents. Kids would
find value in education as opposed to tennis shoes, the neighborhood kingpin would NOT
be role a model and ghettos would become obsolete in the absence of poverty…
The love of money is the root to all evil, but poverty and wealth are its greatest
The main question for me is, how did we get here? How did we allow the propaganda of
superficial wealth and self hatred to consume an entire generation???
My current challenges…where do I begin? First of all, it took me over ten years to
complete the first novel. After completing the first novel, my mind sort of went into overdrive.
I’m currently outlining two stand-alone novels, while gearing up for the release of my second
novel. As a single mother of a three year old, with a stressful 9-5 and military duties as an Army
Reservist, there aren’t enough hours in the day–or so it seems. However, I can’t complain and
hopefully it will all pay off.
What are the keys t success for urban fiction authors?
Capturing and maintaining your audience is most important. I’m still new to the author
side of the industry and still trying to build my brand. However, I listen to the readers. Some of
the recurring commentary include the issue of repetitive story lines and a perceived lapse in the
overall quality of finished products. In essence, there is nothing new under the sun. Since the
subject matter for urban fiction is consistent with urban life, many of the topics will be repeated
time and time again. In light of this reality, an author’s ability to recreate these stories in a unique
fashion with attention to detail and quality will ultimately determine individual progression and
long term success within the industry…and above all else, pray.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Writing a compelling story, learning the business side of publishing and understanding
industry standards are important steps to becoming a published author. However the road to
success doesn’t end there. Publishing is an extremely competitive industry. Be it self-publishing,
small press/independent publishing or traditional publishing, success is ultimately determined by
the author’s ability to implement effective marketing strategies for the target audience. The
evolving impact of information technology on the publication industry has resulted in a wave of
success for a number of self-published authors and tremendous growth in the small press/
independent market. Online marketing and social media has propelled these publishing entities
into a new phase of maturity. As a result, authors are constantly searching for new ways to
compete. My personal approach for reaching my target audience is the use of the “cinematic
book trailer”. Traditional book trailers have been an effective marketing tool for many years.
However, the “movie-like” presentation of a character adds dramatic appeal for the reader.
Partnering with Dallas based cinematographer/director, Huey Rawls, has allowed me to tap into
this particular marketing arena. The cinematic trailer for Behind Closed Doors 2 provides an
intriguing glimpse into the world of familial human trafficking.
Find the book and the author: