Interview: Leesa Cross-Smith

Roxane Gay has called her “a consummate storyteller.” Her first book, Every Kiss a War (Mojave River Press, 2014) was a finalist for both the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction (2012) and the Iowa Short Fiction Award (2012). Her second book, soon-to-arrive Whiskey & Ribbons, made both Entertainment Weekly‘s 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2018 and Electric Literature‘s 46 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2018 lists.


If you don’t know by now, we’re talkin’ ‘bout



A true Kentuckian, homemaker, Jesus-lover, and music enthusiast with impeccable taste, Leesa is somehow both a true “writer’s writer” and someone who knows how to be completely down-to-earth. Some of this interviewer’s faves are her Moon Poems at Hobart, and her short story Crepuscular at Wyvern LitI had the opportunity to email my girl-crush to get the scoop on her new book, among other things. Below are her responses.


You’ve mentioned a few times that it took several years to get this book off the ground and find it the right home. Do you feel like a completely different Leesa wrote Whiskey & Ribbons?


LCS: I try to keep it as real as possible on social media re: the ups and downs of writing/the publishing biz. It took me a long time to write Whiskey & Ribbons…not so long for it to find the right home…but it was the second novel of mine that my agent was shopping around so the whole process felt long. I had the first idea for this book back in abt 2000, so from 2000-2018 with so much life in between…being here now feels wild! I started W&R and then wrote three or four books in between. I feel like a completely different Leesa bc I started this book when I was in college, only married for about a year or so…before I had kids. I finished it after college, I’ve been married for almost twenty years, I have two kids now. But also, I’m still the same Leesa in a lot of ways too. It feels v both for me.


Did you have a particular audience in mind for this book?


LCS: I don’t. Although I do hope that black women young and old who are looking for domestic fiction about middle-class black families, grief, romance, coziness, sweetness, etc, find something for them here. Bc we’re still fighting super-hard to get those stories told the way we want to tell them. But truly, I feel like it’s the kind of book anyone, anywhere could pick up and enjoy bc it deals w/issues that affect everyone, everywhere bc none of us are immune to grief, hope, love, regret, forgiveness, etc.


How badly do you miss the baseball season now that it’s mid-winter and what do you do to self-soothe until spring?


LCS: RUHEALLY bad. This is a difficult question for me to answer right now bc it’s just so dark and cold! A part of my self-soothing is remembering the light and warmth…remembering it will return. I remind myself of that often. I am so grateful for it when it returns.


And we are so grateful for this woman’s light and warmth, not to mention her brilliance, whimsical nature, and true Southern charm. *Swoon*




image1Claire Hopple, Rabble Fiction Co-editor, is a Pittsburgh native. Her fiction has been published in HobartMonkeybicycleBluestemThird Point Press, and elsewhere.




Header Image: Photo by Mickie Winters.





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