I’m pleased to share my interview with author Leesa Cross-Smith, whose debut story collection, Every Kiss A War, was just published by Mojave River Press.
Please tell us about the origin of your book’s title! It’s a wonderful name.
Thank you so much! It comes from a story in the collection called “Sometimes We Both Fight in Wars” that was originally published in SmokeLong Quarterly. “The overgrown garden of what we don’t say, fecund in our hothouse mouths. Every kiss a war.”
How do the stories in your collection relate to each other? By theme? Setting? Life circumstance?
Most of them are about relationships between men and women and most of them are set in Kentucky. Even the ones that aren’t set in Kentucky…the characters are from Kentucky or making their way back to Kentucky. And most of the relationships have gone to a crooked place…certain things need to get straightened out so they can move on. I love Maeve Binchy and she was once described as an Irish Romance Writer and ever since then, I’ve considered myself a Kentucky Romance Writer. I love writing complicated relationships and cozy things.
You edit the online literary magazine, WhiskeyPaper. What’s it like to sit on the other side of the desk – to be a reader, and not a submitter?
I love reading the stories people send us and it’s nice to take a break from submitting my own stuff! I’ve read for/guest-edited some other literary magazines before and it is nice to get on the other side of things/underneath the hood.
Did you submit your story collection to a lot of publishers, or only just a few? How do you like working with your publisher? And would you ever consider self-publishing your next book?
I sent my collection to a lot of different publishers…I think I lost count! It was a long, at times frustrating process not unlike what I’m sure a lot of short story writers go through. I love working with my publisher because he was my friend first. That makes a huge difference. His name is Michael Dwayne Smith and he started Mojave River Press. He’s super-great at what he does and my favorite. I’m a lucky girl.
I don’t know very much about self-publishing and who knows what’ll happen down the road, but I am glad that there are so many different options out there for writers now! That’s awesome. Getting a book published is hard. It really is! It’s worth the work, but it’s not easy. And there are a lot of different paths a writer can take. I think there’s room for those different paths.
What do you love about living in Louisville, Kentucky? What are some of its drawbacks as a city?
I love this city. I was born and raised here, went to college here. It’s big enough but feels like a small town. Everyone prettymuch knows everyone/went to high school with someone someone else knows. The best of all of that. Honestly? The biggest drawback to this city is that it is #1 on the the list of worst cities for allergies. I’m serious. The allergies are horrible here and there ain’t nothing we can do about it except suffer through it or move away.
Besides WhiskeyPaper, what other writerly activities are you involved in?
I write book reviews for some other magazines like Sundog Lit and Female Gaze Review. I love writing book reviews and reading new stuff. I try to be as active as I can in the literary community without exhausting myself too much. There’s so much out there!
Did you always want to be a writer, or did some other pursuit occupy you for a time?
Right out of college, I wrote obituaries for the local newspaper. I liked doing it. I felt like I was putting my English degree to good use! I was always writing stories but the newspaper job paid the bills. After I had my first baby, I stayed home and although I didn’t have the time to write very much…I would when I got the chance and same for reading. I always wanted to be a writer/reader. I believe in a loving, sovereign God who has blessed me with being able to write and be a homemaker because those were my life dreams. If I could have another job down the line, I’d like to write television shows/movies and do wardrobe/soundtracks for television shows/movies. Because I love those things too. A LOT.
What causes you to despair about your work? What causes delight?
Not much causes me despair about my work. I can’t think of anything! I love to write. And even when I’m frustrated about the process…I still love it because it’s writing and I love to write. Being able to dream something up and get it down on the page is such a treat! Such a delight! I’m easily amused.
Tell us what you’re working on now. When do you hope to launch it into the world?
I am working on a novel and another short story collection. I don’t know when they’ll be ready to launch into the world, but I’m enjoying the season I’m in right now. The dreamy inbetween where I can write and write and not worry about anyone else reading it right now. It feels very much like the Wood Between the Worlds from the Narnia books. The sleepy woodlands/the dreamy forest. No pressure or stress. I have to get quiet like this so I can write the good stuff.
You can find Leesa lot’s of places: