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NAUGHTY GIRLS (NEED LOVE TOO): Elizabeth Ellen interviews LEESA CROSS-SMITH photo

I don’t know. Does Leesa Cross-Smith even need an introduction? She’s written two previous uhhhh-may-zing books (Every Kiss a War and Whiskey and Ribbons), she is beloved on the internet and in real life, and Roxane Gay has referred to her as a “consummate storyteller.”

            Maybe the person who needs indroducing in 2020 is Samantha Fox.


(Post-quarantine hair style? Maybe!) (Quarantine dance vibes? Hell yeah!)

All you need to know at this point is that I love Leesa Cross-Smith and all her writings so much and you should too!




I want to talk about the stories in your new collection – So We Can Glow – of course! They’re delicious and sexy and insightful and wonderful.  But first I want to talk about the four pages of ‘inspirations’ at the end of the book where normally acknowledgments would be, because you and I have basically formed a friendship based on such inspirations – naming ours, comparing and sharing ours, obsessing over ours and sharing our obsessions like teen girls at an ongoing sleepover in our minds; like many you mention in here: The Chateau Marmont, “Bitch Better Have My Money” (Rihanna), Britney (do we need to say her last name?), armpit hair, Courtney Love, “Diamonds” (Rihanna – I’m obsessed with how many Rihanna songs are listed – yes!), hotels, Hole, Ella Fitzgerald, “Just Like Heaven” (the Cure), “Leather and Lace” (Stevie Nicks/Don Henley – maybe my all time favorite duet!), Liz Phair (yes, yes, yes!), “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)” (Samantha Fox – I was so surprised and like, hell yeah, to see this song listed in here!), (fucking) SADE, (fucking) ZELDA FITZGERALD, (fucking) “Work” (Rihanna!), (fucking) menstrual cycles, (fucking) “I’m Every Woman,” (fucking) Amy Winehouse, …

I could go on. But that’s probably a good place to stop. With fucking Amy Winehouse. I love you. So much. For making this list of inspirations. And, of course, for including me in it (honored!). (ohmygod, I just noticed “Black” by Pearl Jam is included, also, and now I’m fighting the desire to go listen to fucking Pearl Jam, fucking “Jeremy” and fucking “Alive” and fucking “Black”. Fuck. Fuck you, Leesa Cross-Smith for getting so far into my head!) (I actually just started singing “Black” from memory and I think I’m fucking up the words but I also think you and I should karaoke the hell out of this song some day!) (“Tattooed everything!”) (Why was Eddie Vedder so hot then?)

            “And all I taught her was everything” damn, what do you think Eddie taught her, Leesa? I mean, “everything,” of course, but what is everything?

EVERYTHING. I talk about Eddie again in “Teenage Dream Time Machine.” I’ll probs always talk about Eddie, tbqh. And when it comes to the Samantha Fox, I mean absolutely I’d put that song on there. Baby don't let me be misunderstood, temporary love's so bad, but if feels so good. Then along came you, now I know it’s true…naughty girls need love too, does a lot of the work for me when it comes to this collection.


Now let’s talk for a second about what’s not on the list (of inspirations).

PRINCE. “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Prince and Rosie Gaines version (not Sinead version), The Lion and the Cobra (Sinead O’Connor), “Crash Into Me” (Dave Matthews) cover by Stevie Nicks, Girl, Interrupted (movie and book both), “Pretty Hurts” (Beyonce), “Drunk in Love” (Beyonce, ft. Jay Z), the Beverly Hilton, Fiona Apple, More, Now, Again (Elizabeth Wurtzel), Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston, (fucking) Whitney Houston, Edie Sedgwick, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (both Nirvana’s cover and the original by Leadbelly). Westwood Village Memorial Cemetery (Marilyn Monroe’s crypt), “What’s My Name?” Rihanna (!) ft. Drake (!).

This is just a short list of songs/people/books I thought of that you left off. Do you agree/disagree with any of those or have any comments on any of them? DRAKE? What do we think of Drake? (watching this video now and Rihanna is wearing the most badass outfit as she walks through the drug store and Drake is such a hot nerd. Imo. Lol. “The square root of 69 is 8 somethin’, right? ‘Cause I’ve been tryna work it out, oh”!)

I mention Every Fiona Apple in “Girlheart Cake with Glitter Frosting” so that’s why I didn’t repeat her again in the inspo list, fersure! And Lemonade in its entirety and Beyoncé a couple more times, just in gen. Too many Beyoncés for me to list separately! A;dlkj I also mention Whitney in “Teenage Dream Time Machine.” This list kept me up at night and there was no way I could include everylittlething I love so I did eventually have to put a cap on it. I obsessed over it for SO LONG and at one point was talking to my editor about how I wish I’d never even started it…bc how could I ever be done, really? It was v stressful!! I like yr additions! I’d read yr list! Write it for me please and thank you. And of course you’re on my list. Of course you are.

I do have v strong opinions about Rihanna: I LOVE HER V MUCH. RIHANNA, I LOVE YOU.


Okay, now let’s get to the rest of the book. SO WE CAN GLOW.

What does “For your (girl) eyes only, from Eve until the end” mean?

Is it an inside note to a specific person? or is addressing the women reading the book? Or women and men reading with girl eyes? I wasn’t sure what to make of it. it sounds terribly romantic, though, which is how I think of you, which is what I love maybe most about you. is it terribly romantic, Leesa?

It just means the book is for girls! Women! Ladies! It’s just basically my version of HEY LADIES…but also yes, men can read and enjoy it too…they can read it with girl eyes if they want. Or boy/men eyes. It’s theirs now, so do whatever really! It’s v v terribly romantic for you to call me terribly romantic and I feel v romantic about you calling me that. I cherish it!


We prefer our men to remain onscreen where they cannot hurt us.” oh my god, this line, from your opening story, “We, Moons,” Leesa. Yes! Yes. Yes. Yes.

            “We are complete without them but we want them anyway.”

            “We drink champagne and wine and whiskies and stay up too late smoking.”

            “We know they desire us, they are cursed with wanting to be inside us.”

            “We are better at this than they are.”

            “And when we die, our souls pour our like water.”

Did you write this story from inside my mind, Leesa?

You’ve been (happily!) married for so long, Leesa. How do you write these utterly relatable single girl lines?

I vividly remember being a single girl! It was a bit ago, but totally, yes! Also, I’ve never loved a man that way I love my husband so when I want to get there in my brain…I just imagine how I feel about other men…who aren’t my celebrity crushes…and it makes me feel single…if that makes sense. If I weren’t married to Lo, I’d be v happily single!


Also, related, Leesa, in that same story, you write, “We take the curse of Genesis 3:16 to heart.” I had to look up Genesis 3:16.

            “To the woman he said,

                        ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;

                                    with painful labor you will give birth to children.

                        Your desire will be for your husband,

                                    And he will rule over you.’”

How do you relate to this/what does it mean to you and how do you explain this to your daughter (and son) and what do you mean by ‘curse’?

It means a lot of things to me, all of which I can’t quite capture in words…but…the way I’m using it in this particular story = maybe it’s a curse to desire a man. Maybe it’s a curse to have to feel these feelings? To have urges and desires out of your/my/our complete control. I’ll let my kids decide how it makes them feel for themselves, but “your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you” is really heavy…super-heavy. And I find myself thinking about it a lot. Feels like a curse…partnered with the preceding lines in Genesis. Desire and rule, rule and desire…those things tangled tight. It interests/infuriates/scares…but mostly interests me.


Your understanding of male/female interactions/desires/flirtations/frustrations, amazes me. You articulate all of it so perfectly in your writing/stories.

From your story, “Some Are Dark, Some Are Light, Summer Melts”:

“….but Nick isn’t a bad boy he’s a bad guy and those are totally different things to you.”

Do you want to explain the difference? And are there two equivalents in girls/women? Bad girl vs…? bad woman? Examples?

Thank you for this sweetness! In this case, I’m thinking “bad boy” as positive….a boy who’s a bit wild/reckless but in the end, is all right or good, even. I do love a “bad boy,” a rule breaker. But “bad guy” is more like “bad person”…as in…not good…like, at all. Not fun or sexy or interesting like the “bad boy.” I don’t really feel v strongly about the equivalents re: girls/women. I’m much more protective of girls/women anyway, so I’m gonna go with no!


Ohmygod, Leesa, every story I read in your book is more and more relatable and I’m wanting to quote every fucking line and be like, “Look at this, another perfect line Leesa wrote to perfectly express my female heart, everyone!” Going to try to pick just a couple lines from the most perfect “Tim Riggins Would’ve Smoked”:

“If the rest of the world disappeared in some melty, apocalyptic flash. If we had to live in that bar with those taxidermic timber wolves and red foxes watching us drink and move through candlelight. After making hot ham and cheese sandwiches over fire in the kitchen and me, standing on the table singing Patsy Cline, would you call me woman and promise not to leave?”


But also, I had to google Tim Riggins. Hot. “No way would he not smoke. He’d put that unlit cigarette between his teeth, his hair hanging down in his face; his plaid-flanneled arm would reach out for his brown bottle of Texas-brewed beer and he’d talk about touching God.”

Why is smoking so hot and how do you agree when you don’t smoke and your husband doesn’t smoke (to my knowledge)? And can we agree vaping is stupid or looks stupid, comparatively? Like, think of your above sentence with “he’d put that vape between his teeth…” or whatever they call it. lol. It’s just not the same. It’s just not romantic. It’s just not that crisp paper burning orange between slightly (Texas) wind-chapped lips.

Also, why is it so hot when a man refers to you as woman? Why is this so dang hot? (also girl in a country song or mami in a hip hop one.) (I think I just figured it out, but you tell me, it’s claiming. The words are claiming you. being claimed – by the right person – is hot)

No clue why/how smoking can be hot, but it can…depending. I just ignore vaping as if it doesn’t exist! Asd;lkj A LOT of my characters smoke. I don’t really think about it…it just happens. Yeah, Tim Riggins would never vape. That’s another story, completely. Absolutely not romantic, no.

I agree with the man calling a woman, woman hotness. Another thing I can’t fully explain and if a guy tried it in real life, I’m guessing it wouldn’t work, but I really love it in stories/books/songs/movies. I like your idea of “claiming.” I think that can be sweet, depending. It wouldn’t bother me at all if someone asked my husband if I was his woman. I mean…I am…among other things. I don’t mind it. I also wouldn’t mind Tim Riggins calling me woman after he lit his cigarette.


At the end of your story, “Knock Out the Heart Lights So We Can Glow,” you write, “Her husband was a good man and she loves him, but he didn’t know how to be special, how to glow. She said it was pretty simple and she’d teach him. There was no big secret. You just had to let the things in your heart get real dark first.”

Damn. That last line. That is not where I thought you were going to go and I love that you went there. Can you tell me more about that, about letting your heart get real dark so you can glow? What that means to you? both things.

I write about dark things a lot but not without at least some hope…or hope for hope. Re: this story, I have her trying to help a man…trying to get him to wake up a bit. So it gets dark in your heart sometimes? Ok. So what? Deal with it and learn how to glow. Try to see a way out..so we can glow. Look for the light…so we can glow. Don’t give up…so we can glow. Evolve…so we can glow. Let it get real dark in your heart and see what happens. I bet you’ll glow. Admittedly a lot of this stuff is hard for me to put exactlyyy into words what I’m thinking…even though I’m a writer…I just talk a lot less and explain things/myself a lot less the older I get!


The last story in So We Can Glow is “A Girl Has Her Secrets,” and I love it so much because it’s everything we always talk about: living in hotels and Marilyn and classy perfume (lol), and white bathrobes and Beyonce and Sylvia And Rihanna and Stevie Nicks’ songs/duets and being a girl and feeling feminine and …

But I want to ask you about is this statement (do you really believe it? is what I want to ask:)

Men are most powerless when a woman pretends to be vulnerable because she is pretending and they are not.”

My short answer: absolutely.


Actually, this reminds me of something I read Sharon Stone said in an interview in Playboy in 1990. (I was doing research!) Which is, “A director once said to me, ‘The reason men want you to wear makeup is that when you don’t, they feel they have to be honest with you because you’re being honest with them.’” Do you think that’s true? Or anything near true? (Sharon wasn’t wearing makeup in her Playboy pics, apparently.) (Also, how do you feel about adding Sharon’s Basic Instinct character Catherine Tramell to our list of inspirations?)

Oh wow…Idk if I think this is true! It’s interesting to hear/think about tho! I don’t think I think men want women to wear makeup tho! I don’t think they care! And the Basic Instinct white dress/legs crossed/uncrossed scene could def make the list, right? The leg cross/uncross seen ‘round the world?


Final final question, really more an observation, appreciation, celebration: Megan Thee Stallion – “Savage Remix” (ft. Beyonce); Beyonce: “Talkin’ to myself in the mirror like ‘Bitch, you my boo’, I’m the shit, ooh (Ayy).” Is there really any more to say, Leesa?

No. Not really.


And now I guess I have to go smoke a cigarette while listening to frickin’ “Black” (Pearl Jam) like it’s nineteen fucking ninety-one. Thank you, Leesa Cross-Smith. My love. My soul mate. Thank you for writing such a beautiful book and thank you for being you, always, and thank you for being my friend.

Thank you, ee! I really do love and adore YOU. And not only bc you send flowers to my doorstep. And not only bc we love so many of the same things. And not only bc of your lovely, surprising, v human mix of wild + demure. But I love and adore you bc you’re you. And it just feels like no matter how we’d met or when…we would’ve found one another…somehow. I’ve always felt that way about you. Our hearts. Thank you and meet me in California...@ the karaoke bar. xx