Interview with Stephen M Todd, Author of Goin’ back to Californ-I-A

19 Apr 2023

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write “Goin’ back to Californ-I-A”?

Writing a memoir about my church mission has always been a dream for me since I was in the third grade. In 1988, I finally had an opportunity to serve a full-time, two-year mission to San Bernardino, California. I returned home in the early 90’s and since then I have stared at the three mission journals that collect dust on my bookshelf in the home office. Currently, I have two teenagers in the house and its difficult teaching them about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ sometimes because of the age gap. They look at me as if I’m a dinosaur that grew up in the stone age. I struggle as a father to try and bridge the gap.

About two-years ago, I decided to write my memoir for the sole purpose to share with my children that when I was their age (19-years old) I had a testimony of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is part of my living legacy to share with my family that I have a strong and enduring personal witness that Jesus lives, and he loves each one of us. The reason why this is important is because life gets hard sometimes and it’s important to put into perspective that we all are children of our Heavenly Father. He loves us and will protect us through the good times and the bad.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of “Goin’ back to Californ-I-A”, what would they be?

A great theme song for Elder Mark Hancey, one of my mission companions while serving in Fontana, CA is “Bad Company,” performed by Bad Company.

A second theme song for Elder Mark Kellar, one of my mission companions while serving in Palmdale, CA is “Sweet Dreams (Are made of this),” by Eurythmics. The reason why I choose this theme song is because of an incident that happened between Elder Kellar and I when I punched a hole in our apartment door after an argument.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

I love reading about singer songwriter type memoirs. My hobbies are music and songwriting, so I’m always intrigued by what makes other artists tick. What’s the story behind the music.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

(1.) Don’t Stop Believin’ by Jonathan Cain

(2.) Fortunate Son by John Fogerty (3.)

I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson

(4.) Thunder in the Mountains by Daniel J. Sharfstein

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

I enjoyed writing about getting attacked by the killer Collie in Fontana, CA and the spiritual experience about Jesus Christ’s crucifixion in Temecula, CA.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

My quirky writing habit is to get organized. My home office was such a disaster with makeshift plastic bookshelves and wooden bookcases that didn’t match. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to write my memoir because of all the clutter. So, six months later I custom designed my very own bookshelf that fits my writing and creative needs perfectly. Organization is key for me. It enables me to better communicate my thoughts more effectively.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I like the old Nike motto, “Just Do It.” I’m a doer and I like to get things done. It’s no different when writing a book…just sit down and do it!

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

I would like my readers to remember the courage it takes to serve a full-time, two-year church mission with a lot of trials. I may not experience the type of persecution that occurred on my mission again, but I will always remember the joy of serving other people through small acts of kindness. This is what I want readers to remember the most—showing courage and kindness to our fellow man.


Stephen M Todd is the author of the new book “Goin’ back to Californ-I-A”

Connect with Stephen M Todd

Author Site



Buy The Book

B0BZT6X931 cover image

Buy The Book

Sign up for our email and we’ll send you the best new books in your favorite genres weekly.