Leesa Cross-Smith [image: a woman with dreadlocks wearing red glasses and laughing]

Q&A with Leesa Cross-Smith, author of “Little Doves”

Leesa Cross-Smith’s “Little Doves” was published in The Offing’s Fiction department on March 5, 2018. Q&A conducted by Bix Gabriel, Editor, Fiction.

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Bix Gabriel: First of all, I love that you wrote about sex and desire, and need in the domestic space and natural world-scape. How did this piece and the choices you made come about?

Leesa Cross-Smith: When I started this piece, I was thinking about willful submission and the giving over of self…physically, spiritually…the different ways that can look. I was thinking about both the dangers and pleasures of those things, tied together. That choice, those choices we can make or not make, over and over again. I wanted the piece to read almost like a fever dream, a dreamy, almost indefinable space of no judgement or expectations.

BG: Related to the question above, sex for women, can be a threat and it can also seem inevitable, i.e. not as much of a choice. Can you talk about your decision to portray women desiring and enjoying sex, without the raunchiness that often accompanies women taking control over their sex lives/bodies.

LCS: [Most] women (absolutely) desire and enjoy sex and it’s easy for me to talk about that, to write about that. All the women I write about enjoy sex with men who are good in bed. I shy away from raunchiness because I’m a pretty reserved person in general. I can write about these things, but also, I blush easily! I start the piece with “We want him to” because I want to make sure the reader knows from the v beginning that consent is taken care of. They want him to. That’s the sexiest start.

BG: First-person plural is so hard to pull off! But it works so well here. How did you arrive at this POV?

LCS: Thank you! I only thought of it in first-person plural. I don’t think I could’ve written it any other way. It always felt like a group to me. A collective. Eve, every woman, all of us. Everything is happening to all of them at the same time. There’s no singling out, but then again, they’re allspecial, all singled out…together. And I love the first-person plural here because I think/hope it lends itself to mystery. Who are they? Who is he? Who is/are we?

BG: Reading Little Doves is like falling under a spell, the language is so hypnotic. What influences your writing — music? poetry? other writers?

LCS: I was hoping for that so thank you! I wanted to repeat things, to reassure the reader in such a small space that these are recurring things/days/nights. Rituals. I’m influenced by so many things! For sexy-summer-California-dreaminess like this, it’s Lana Del Rey or The Doors, that kind of stuff. Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite writers when it comes to just, true lush beauty on a sentence level. I like how Frank Ocean songs make me feel. I love the art Donald Glover creates, how he has no limits. Sufjan Stevens. Father John Misty. So many! The lists of plants in “Find the River” by R.E.M. “Serious moonlight” in this piece is because of David Bowie. “Holy hyssop” refers to a desire to be clean…both physically and spiritually. I’m a Christian and the Bible/my faith infuses my work a lot. And some other secrets/specifics I won’t tell.

BG: Your book Whiskey and Ribbons is out tomorrow! How exciting! Congratulations! Where can people buy it? And how did you approach writing a novel versus shorter pieces like this, or other stories?

LCS: Thank you! Whiskey & Ribbons is available directly from my publishers and everywhere books are sold! And if a local indie bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, please do request it! It’s important and helpful for them to hear that readers want them to carry it.

I’ve always written both longer works and short fiction and I approach them the same way now. I get more instant gratification from flash fiction, although I don’t always write it quickly. But I can see the finish line more clearly than I can with a novel, yes! With a novel, I definitely do a bit more planning but in general, when I write, I don’t plan too much ahead. I just sit down and write. And I sit there and sit there and write and write and write until I get it done or take a break and try again later.

BG: What do you find most difficult in writing — could be discipline, craft, whatever? How do you deal with it?

LCS: Finding the time to do everything I want to do, probably. I’m a workaholic, something I’m trying to chill out about. I don’t have issues with discipline. And in the past, I had issues with feeling like a phony or like everyone else knew something I didn’t but I don’t feel that way any more. I can’t say exactly what happened to fix that or exactly when it occurred but wow is that a blessing. I’m focusing on the blessings from here on out!

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and the author of Whiskey & Ribbons and Every Kiss A War. http://www.leesacrosssmith.com/