Venting for the voiceless

Author Justin Curtis’s Troy-inspired novel

By Katie Fender

Photo: “Plight of the Downtrodden,” by Justin Curtis

Troy native and author Justin Curtis always knew he was different. Growing up, Curtis enjoyed a skateboarding and punk rock culture that quickly separated him from the conservative lifestyle of most Troy citizens. These differences became the inspiration for his self-published and recently-released first novel, “Plight of the Downtrodden.”

The novel is set in Troy, Ohio and the protagonist, according to Curtis, is loosely based off of the author.

“I picked Troy because I wanted to write what I was familiar with, with what I know,” Curtis says. “Because this is my first novel, the easiest thing to write about is what you know. For a while, this stuff has been floating around in my head. I have ADD and when I got treatment for that is basically when I was able to sit down and write.”

Prior to this novel, Curtis admits writing was just a hobby for him.  He wrote songs and lyrics while he was part of a band, but after he received treatment for his adult ADD, Curtis used the novel as a way to vent his political views. Curtis openly admits to his liberal views and that the novel—although a fictional tale—is unapologetically political.

“It’s so hard to talk about politics with anyone these days, it’s basically just becomes a fight or an argument,” Curtis says. “I wanted a way to vent everything, to tell things the way I see it, without having to argue or fight with anybody. I can just get everything out.”

The novel follows the character of JT Blackburn, a Troy native that has always been on the opposing side of the conservative society surrounding him. After the death of his son, Blackburn becomes outraged, blaming society and those around him for his son’s death. As a response, he kills those he deems responsible out of revenge.

“He thinks he’s doing the right thing, but he is really losing himself,” Curtis says, referencing Blackburn. “He loses some of his principles as he does some of the same things he is complaining about. He feels wronged by society, yet he is killing people that also have families—so he’s kind of doing the same thing.”

Although Blackburn turns to a life of violence and revenge, the reader is often torn between viewing Blackburn as a vigilante and as a murderer. But Curtis insists, Blackburn is still relatable.

“I think we all have a little bit of JT in us,” Curtis says. “We’re all a little bit hypocrites, but we’re all a little bit nice. I just wanted to show his human side. He can do nice things even though he’s doing all these cruel things. I just wanted to show people why he is doing this.”

Curtis, who has a son of his own, said he used some of his own life experiences in writing Blackburn’s character, admitting many of the events Blackburn went through were experiences similar to his own life.

“There are things that have actually happened to me that I based the character off of,” Curtis says. “Like thinking about having a son, and what would motivate someone to go off and do some of the things [Blackburn] did. The only thing I could think of was the loss of someone that close that you love. His character is based on my love for my son and what would motivate me to totally take off on revenge on society.”

Although this novel will be relatable to locals of the Dayton area and the liberal-minded, Curtis admits he has had conservative friends who have appreciated it despite their opposing views.

“It’s definitely more for the liberal side and the people that aren’t happy with the status quo,” Curtis says. “But, I have actually had conservative friends read it and it’s nice when they appreciate the story, even though they don’t necessarily agree with it. They really like the story and they like the character.”

For Curtis, who once claimed he felt voiceless, this was an opportunity to finally speak up.

“This book is for the people that get ignored,” he says. “For the people that don’t have health care or the homeless guy that gets dumped on the street because he doesn’t have any insurance. We never hear from those people. All we hear from are the people that can afford to be heard from.”

 

For more information, or to order a copy of “Plight of the Downtrodden,” please visit justincurtisauthor.blogspot.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Fender at KatieFender@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Fender at KatieFender@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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