hobart logo
on obsession, cigarettes, Chanel bar soap, C. E. Morgan and winter precipitation: an interview with Leesa Cross-Smith photo

I read Whiskey & Ribbons in a single day, sick in bed, Vicks Vapo Rub on my chest under my fleece Winnie-the-Pooh pajama top, a vaporizer three feet from the bed, a box of tissues on the bed, a mountain of used tissues on the floor, a cough drop continuously in my mouth. I felt disgusting. I hadn’t showered in three days. I felt like shit. I looked like shit. I was embarrassed for my husband to see me. I was in the perfect mood, the perfect hermit-like existence alone in my office, to read this debut novel by Leesa Cross-Smith.

Whiskey & Ribbons is full of everything I like and want and dream about. There’s a lot of snow and smoking of cigarettes on the floor in kitchen doorways and more snow and Irish coffees and pancakes, more snow and Scrabble and beer and football, more snow and kisses that taste like cinnamon and slutty, triple-layered brownie cakes. More snow, and mourning and loss, more snow and mourning and new awakenings, more snow and new kisses, that taste this time like Irish cream. More snow, and “Moon River” played on the piano. More snow, and sex to “Let’s Go Crazy.”* And did I mention it’s set in Kentucky?! (There are three main characters: Evangeline, Eamon and Dalton, but it’s not your traditional (read: clichéd) triangular love story.)

I didn’t want the book to end and when I got near the ending I texted Leesa, “I think I’m in love with Dalton (one of the characters),” and she replied, “Same exact.” And I wasn’t sure if this meant we were in love with the same fictional man or if I was in love with Leesa, since Leesa had created Dalton, put words in Dalton’s mouth, made Dalton do all those Dalton-like things that maybe were Leesa-like things that I loved. I didn’t know. I couldn’t figure it out. I had the flu. My mind was foggy. I was in love with a fictional character. Or I was in love with my friend Leesa. And I didn’t want the book to end.



*I’m not 100% certain it is snowing during all of those references, but it’s definitely snowing during 75% of them.



Q: This novel is so sensual in so many different ways. Music, smoking, sex, but let’s focus on the one that really stands out for me: food. I can’t remember the last novel I read that made me want to eat (and drink Irish coffee and smoke cigarettes, but we’ll get to the smoking a little later) so much. One of the first mentions of food, in my memory at least, is of a “small round chocolate cake dripping with shiny, slick icing.” Mmmm.      Then there’s, “[Dalton would] try to lure me inside with lemon water; with sticky, stinky cheeses or a small green bowl of almonds, the darkest chocolate chips.”

And, “[Evangeline] came back to the table with a plate of cheeses, some thinly-sliced meats, green olives. A fresh bottle of cold white wine, opened, the color of pear flesh.”

And, “We got garlic knots and the biggest pizza with absolutely everything on it – banana peppers, sausage, ham, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, onions, black olives, green olives, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms. Evi had demanded I order that one since she was ovulating and ravenous.”

And, “We ate things that didn’t have to be cooked. Sardines, crackers, apples and bananas. Peanut butter with handfuls of chocolate chips.”

And, “I bought four different casserole cookbooks. … I made Chinese chicken casserole with mushrooms. Cheesy casserole with seasoned textured vegetable protein … I made black bean enchilada casserole.”

And, “I went to the store and got good steaks to grill out, a big bag full of greens, red, yellow and orange peppers, corn, zucchini. Got some French bread, fancy cheese, a little raspberry chocolate cake from the bakery.”

And, “Fresh chicken thighs and legs, a medium-sized bag of brown rice, a small bag of yellow onions, cilantro and coconut milk, a jalapeno pepper, and four square glass bottles of Indian spices – curries and powders the glory-color of liquid sunshine, red clay earth.”

I remember in the late 80s there was an indie film, I think it was European, set in a restaurant, everyone was crazy for and the reviews mentioned all the good food in the movie. I feel like your book is similar. And I hope all the reviews mention the good food.  I desperately wish we had a bag of chocolate chips in the house right now because I also like to eat spoonfuls of peanut butter sprinkled with handfuls of chocolate chips.

Do you often read novels that feature food, the eating of, in them? I can’t really remember many. Usually reading a novel is like watching The Bachelor. There are scenes in restaurants but somehow you never seem to see anyone actually eating. Did you set out to write about food and eating in this novel or did it just sort of happen?

I just finished The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory and she lovingly writes abt food on like EVERY PAGE! Made me so hungry. I remember my elementary school teacher reading us some book aloud and I can't even remember the name of the book, but I can remember the way the writer described the bacon and biscuits and butter and country breakfasts. I love reading about food although I rarely seek it out on purpose. I love reading detailed descriptions of food/recipes the same way I love reading detailed descriptions of fashion/dresses.

I knew Evi and Dalton would be eating a lot bc they're snowed in together! And while I didn't purposely set out to talk abt it so much, whenever I revise I do think abt practical things like that...are these characters showering/eating/doing whatever domestic things that humans have and need to do? So I tried to have that come naturally...or as naturally as possible. The guys meet over beers and wings, Dalton eats @ Evi and Eamon's a lot and when he and Cassidy finally take their relationship to another level, they make dinner together bc that's a romantic, intimate thing to do. I do love writing abt food! And it's funny that you mention that abt The Bachelor bc my daughter said the same thing the other night as we were watching. She was like THEY NEVER EAT THE FOOD!


Q: Another sensual part of the novel for me is the frequency with which music is mentioned. Specific songs and bands and musicians. One of the characters, Dalton, is a pianist. So in many scenes he is playing various songs on the piano (ala Christian Gray ). “Piano Man,” “Hold Me,” “Gypsy,” “Desperado,” “Niggas in Paris,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Moonlight Sonata,” and “Clair de Lune,” to name a few but not all. In other scenes, music is a large part of the background. As in when Eamon and Evi make love to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” or when Evi drunkenly hippie dances around a room to Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” (two of my all-time favorite songs, btw!). Again, can you think of novels you’ve read in which music is such an important element? How important a role does music play in your life? And have you considered asking your publishers to put out a soundtrack along with the novel? I’d buy it! (I’m especially interested in the Diana Krall Christmas album Dalton mentions hearing played at a Christmas party he goes to with an ex.)

I really do not like holiday music! I have a p strong aversion to “Christmas” music bc so much of it is just so bad. But I do like the classics and I do like Diana Krall. Dalton would respect that album for the piano playing and bc it's classic/p timeless.

My publishers put out a little paper record w/a playlist on it when they sent out ARCs and it was so creative and cute! I love it. I have a W&R playlist I've listened to forever that is like 240 songs and abt 14 hours long. I've been keeping a list for a while. And there are so many moments in the book that sound like music to me. Otis Redding in the kitchen, Dalton @ the piano, Grateful Dead in the bike shop, Kanye & Jay-Z @ Eamon's, Bjork, Tricky, Portishead, all the Fleetwood Mac and yacht music. I listen to so much of everything. And since Dalton is a pianist and Evi is a ballerina, music is a huge part of their lives and hearts. And Eamon unabashedly loves Journey and power ballads. It was fun to make those things a part of their characters. I like reading books that talk abt a lot of music/bands.

What Dalton has in common w/Christian Grey is that I want that 50 Shades money! And I do really love Jamie Dornan's accent and nose. It's perfect and crooked. A;sdlk



Q: As I’m sitting here, at my writing desk, there are several photographs of various people smoking or with cigarettes in their hands above me: Elizabeth Taylor, Edward Albee, Camus, Kate Moss, Donna Tartt, Knausgarrd. There’s also a photo of Martin Luther King reclined on a hotel bed and I’m fairly certain there’s a cigarette smoldering in an ashtray just out of the shot (based on other photos I’ve seen that were taken the same day). A lot of the characters in my fiction smoke cigarettes. In Whiskey & Ribbons, Dalton smokes cigarettes, usually down on the floor, in the crack of a doorway held open by a slipper (though, also in bed with a Diet Coke can for an ashtray) with three women: Evangeline, Frances, and Cassidy. Were you consciously planning to have him smoke with all these women or are you, like me, kinda/sorta always fetishizing smoking since you don’t actually smoke (on any regular basis)? It’s even said early on of Dalton that he’s not a smoker! (One of the first times he smokes with Evangeline, she tells us, “Now we were different people. We were people who smoked for something to do when we ran out of words but still wanted to use our mouths,” which I can totally relate to.)

I love yr writing desk and loved looking all around @ everything you have in there! I love yr house! It's so cozy and pretty. I like how you put this. Dalton smoking w/all these women. It's sexy! The line abt Dalton not being a smoker-smoker makes me laugh bc I know that's how ppl do. Meaning, he rarely buys his own cigarettes. He'll smoke 'em if you got 'em! I can't smoke IRL so I just have my characters smoke. Sometimes I don't even realize I'm doing it until I go back and look? I write abt smoking all the time and was never a smoker-smoker (really) but if it weren't bad for me I would probably smoke sometimes for something to do. However, I haven't smoked a cigarette in abt 13+  years? It's been a long time. And even then I would only smoke w/a drink or a handful of times a year. But I do like the idea of Dalton and Evi smoking together in a WTF kinda way now that life has thrown them this wild, sad curveball. It's something they would do together as stress relief, as bonding. W/o thinking abt it, really. Just kinda like...oh I guess I smoke now? Whatever. Okay. This is my new life.


Q: This question was going to be about all the obsessions we share and text about  - Courtney Love/Hole, specifically Celebrity Skin, Marilyn Monroe, Rihanna/Fenty makeup, Miranda Lambert (!), 80s music (Prince, Whitney, Madonna?), Chanel body products (talcum powder, hair spritzer, bars of Chanel soap!), cigarettes, whiskey (duh), LA, LA hotels, road trips, baseball, baseball players, male country music singers (though we disagree on which ones are hot), The Bible, Jesus, our families and being mothers and our children, and I was going to say something about the origin of our friendship but I’m totally blanking on how/when we became friends! Do you remember? Who was the first one to email the other? Or how we started talking? Or how we came to share so many obsessions? Some of which are sprinkled throughout Whiskey & Ribbons.


Do we disagree on which male country singers are hot?!? Is it bc Kip Moore is my absolute fave and hottest and I won't hear otherwise? Maybe? I do love him. Like, a lot.

I do remember! I read yr short story “Awesome Like Us” and I emailed you abt it bc I loved it so much. It's one of my faves. And you sent me Fast Machine on or around Valentine's Day 2012. It was love @ first sight! It was only later that I realized you and Aaron were married, bc I'd found Aaron on Tumblr I think bc we liked so many of the same exact things it was weird and freaky. Then it all slowly came together for me!

I dig yr vibes. And I really love yr heart. I tell ppl this abt you!

I found the email I wrote you on 2/5/12 !

Hi there, Elizabeth! My name is Leesa Cross-Smith and I read your short story "Awesome Like Us" and I thought it was so dope that I wanted to email you and tell you so. It makes me shy to write stuff like this sometimes but also I think it's important to tell people what's up, I do. I love it I love it I love it I love it and I want to read it over and over again because I love it (so much).


Q: Something else we both obsessed over, a few years ago, is the novel All the Living by C. E. Morgan. I don’t remember who read it first, but you, me, and Aaron all read it and loved it and texted quotes from the book to each other. And then after, you and I became a little obsessed with C. E. Morgan, or with trying to find out anything about her, which is very, very hard to do, since she seems to be averse to social media and maybe a hermit (thus, encouraging our obsession!). But she lives in Kentucky, and you live in Kentucky, so I’m putting that (stalking C. E. Morgan) squarely on you, Leesa! But what was it about All the Living you loved so much and were drawn to? Aside from it being set in Kentucky. And do you think it in any way inspired or affected the writing of Whiskey & Ribbons?

I think you and Aaron reading it got me to finally read it, bc it was on my list but I hadn't picked it up yet! Did I tell you she lives down the road apparently from some other writers I know and love and when they told me I was like GASP! Another piece of the mystery. She does live in Kentucky and that book is SO Kentucky!

I love the quietness of All the Living and how flawed both (main) characters are and how sexy and real they both are too. How they're doing their best and trying. I love how hot Orren is and I love that her name is Aloma. I find country boys p irresistible, I can't help it. And I love that rooster conversation/scene so much w/Aloma in her undies. “'Woman,' he said as if it were a full sentence and not just the single-word warning, it was, 'I will kill that fucking rooster on my own fucking time.'”  I can't deal w/how sexy and country that is! It kinda makes me wanna pass out! And “her bottom shaking behind her.” If I weren't a writer, a book like All the Living would make me wanna be one. Wow, that book.

I wrote W&R way before I read All the Living but I do love that they have sexiness and Kentucky and quiet in common.


Q: In a related question, how much does being from Kentucky impact you as a writer? Whiskey & Ribbons is set in Louisville and you live in and grew up around/in Louisville? Did you ever consider setting the novel in another city or not mentioning the city/state by name? Having the location be more ambiguous? Or was “Kentucky” and “Louisville” as much a character in the book as Eamon, Dalton and Evangeline?

Kentucky is chill and for the most part, doesn't try to be something it's not. I feel that way abt myself tbh. I love writing abt the country and country ppl, and the cities here too! W&R was always going to be a Kentucky book. It's a story I believe could take place anywhere, but I wanted to set it here bc I'm here and I wanted to write abt Kentucky in a relaxed, chill way. Kentucky as both a background character but also, it's not absolutely key to what happens in the book, either. But it's there.


Q: Eamon is a police officer in Louisville and I thought it was interesting

in this time period to read a positive depiction of a police officer in fiction. Do you know any police officers in Louisville? Friends or family members? What drew you to giving Eamon this occupation, aside from the obvious, as a vehicle for his death (which isn’t a spoiler, you learn this on the back book cover description, as well as on page one: “My husband Eamon was shot and killed in the line of duty while I was sleeping.”)?

I used to write obituaries for our local newspaper and shortly after I left that job to have my daughter and stay home w/her, a local police officer was killed and I was especially attuned to the deaths in our city bc someone dying overnight meant the paperwork and phone call would be awaiting me and my coworkers @ work in the morning. Police officers don't often get killed in the line of duty in our city so it was a big deal in our town. And just, so sad. I'd already had notes re: W&R when this happened, but back then Eamon was called Charlie and he wasn't a police officer, he was in finance or something...just family-rich. It was later that I decided to make Charlie, Eamon and make Eamon a police officer, positively portrayed, yes. He's a good man.

I don't know any police officers although while I was growing up, my mom worked  @ the courthouse so I saw them often when I'd go see her and she knew a lot of them. I watched a lot of cop movies and TV shows! And maybe it's problematic for me to mention it? But I do love a man in a uniform. So cliché! But soldiers, police officers, etc. I'm old-timey abt it? I like the uniform.


Q: I think I texted you that when Aaron read Whiskey & Ribbons, he was surprised the church had a hired security man (Eamon). He said he'd never been to a church with security. Was this your experience growing up?

I grew up in a huge Baptist church, two actually. Belonging to one and attending the other. Our church had a huge activities building w/a skating rink and a racquetball court and a basketball court, bowling alley, etc bc it was a community center too. We always had a security guard/security. It's always been part of my church life! The doors of the church are open so often and there are a lot of wild ppl/hecklers/whatever in the world who can just wander in...who don't mean well...there are all sorts of reasons why churches need security. It was a normal part of my church life growing up and even now. I'm used to it and especially now...it makes me feel safe(r) tbh. It's really normal around here.


Q: I was thinking, at some point, about the book in terms of race, because race is mentioned. Eamon and Evangeline are black. Dalton is biracial. Those are the three main characters. Of the three minor characters, Cassidy is of mixed ethnicity (“Cassidy was one-quarter Nicaraguan, one-quarter black, one-quarter white, one-quarter Costa Rican”), but the races of Frances and Lisabeth are not stated (though there is mention of Frances having an “Irish father”), and for some reason I had the feeling they were both white? And maybe I had that feeling only because you didn’t say? And I wondered when you sat down to write this novel, how much race was consciously on your mind, or how much you wanted it to be a factor or not be a factor in the book? And is that a dumb, annoying question? I also thought it was interesting, if Frances and Lisabeth are white, that they, along with Dalton’s white mother, Penelope, are all three these sort of troubled, wild, restless, untamable women, sort of Frances Farmer/Courtney Love/Elizabeth Ellen characters.  How off base am I with that theory?

I didn't want race to be a factor in this book. It's not a dumb, annoying question! And I specifically don't mention what race Frances or Lisabeth are bc it doesn't matter! Evi being black matters to me bc I wanted to write a black woman as the main character bc I'm a black woman. So often readers want to read abt black trauma or “otherness” and I didn't want to do that, like @ all. Frances has an Irish father, but maybe she's adopted? It doesn't matter. Her hair is long and black, meaning anything! Y're not off base! Penelope is definitely an Elizabeth Ellen character. (I love yr characters!) A;slkdj Frances and Lisabeth can be whatever the reader wants them to be bc it's not important. That's why I left it out. And I wanted Cassidy to be a little bit of “everything” bc that's how I always pictured her. Race wasn't consciously on my mind outside of Eamon and Evi being black and Dalton being biracial, though. I'm okay w/someone reading it as a “black” story! I'm okay w/someone reading it and not thinking abt race @ all. I'm black all day every day! As;dlk My extended family is pretty mixed and I'm married to a white guy, our babies are biracial. But it's not a book abt race, no. And race has nothing to do w/the story I'm telling in this book, no. I'm not naive abt race and what it means/is...but someone going into reading my book thinking it is gonna give them a peek @ the “black experience” will probs be disappointed unless they have their hearts and minds open enough to accept that the “black experience” also (truly and absolutely) does include the Marshall Tucker Band and Grateful Dead and Fleetwood Mac and fishing and Kentucky and country boys and cowboy boots and baseball and whiskey and a little bit of everything.

Q: I remember when I got three quarters through the book, when I had that feeling you get when nearing the end of a book you’re loving, like, no, no, I have to slow down, I don’t want this to end, I remember texting you that I felt like I was falling in love with Dalton. And you replied, “Same exact.” And then I texted you, “does this mean I’m a little in love with you?” because obviously you created Dalton. Dalton, therefore, must be in you or you’re in him, or something. All the sexy/romantic things Dalton does/ says you made him say/do.  How much of you is in the three main characters: Eamon, Dalton and Evangeline? And do you feel more a part of one of them, than the others?

I do love Dalton and also, you. There is a LOT of me in all three of the characters and they're a trinity to me...the ways they are so alike, the ways they are so different. The ways I am both alike and different from them. I'm p emotionally resilient like Dalton. I am blessed w/being able to deal w/a lot emotionally. Or cursed? ;alkj Idk. I'm equal parts confident and hella anxious like Eamon and super-aware of my mortality like Eamon. And re: Evangeline it's @ times hard for me to see where I end and where she begins bc she's the character closest to how I am really am and how I handle things, I think. But honestly I'm too close to see or know! But also, like when I was dating in high school and when I was in college, I was a lot of Frances and Cassidy too. I understand Frances and Dalton's relationship a lot bc if I weren't married to Lo, I'd probs be in a relationship like theirs. I mean, I get it.


Q: My only real ‘complaint’ with the book is really a larger complaint with our culture and society in general and with popular romantic films and books also, which is that the main woman, Evangeline is a virgin (at least when she meets Eamon), and both of the two main men – Eamon and Dalton, lost their virginity on the same night (senior year prom) and have had sexual relationships with women before they are involved with Evangeline, and the women they date are sexually experienced, as well as wild and restless, and so the implication seems to be, if you want a true woman who will stay committed to you, find yourself a virgin, or at least, a woman who’s only been with one other man and only stopped being with that man because he died.

I think I noticed this because of two things, a) Annabelle Steele is a virgin in 50 Shades and Christian is obviously very sexually experienced (and the only woman he ever truly loves is Anna, the virgin, so, there’s an implication there) and that always bothered me (ha), and b) a production company asked me to write a novel similar to 50 Shades that had a four page treatment and it was the same sort of narrative, the woman is very inexperienced sexually (don’t remember if they said “virgin” but that was the implication) and younger and the man is older and sexually experienced.

So I’m curious why you decided Evangeline should be a virgin when she meets Eamon (though, at some point she says, “I dated a lot of assholes before [Eamon],” so it’s not as if she hadn’t dated), and why other women who turned out to not be good for Dalton and Eamon, respectfully, were restless and what we might call in a sort of misogynistic way (because we wouldn’t probably refer to the men as such) promiscuous? Why do men get a pass on being sexually experienced, AKA promiscuous, and still a romantic lead? And that’s less a question for your book specifically and more a general question for our culture. But I’m interviewing you, so…  

I am not Evangeline, but in a lot of ways I am? Upon reading the “Whiskey & Ribbons” short story I wrote, my dad goes “she sounds exactly like you!” He saw something in her that took me a bit longer to see, bc I'm me. Evangeline was older than I was when I got married. I was 21. And even the concept of “virgin” is a bit ridiculous and can mean almost anything and nothing. Even in the past, when I mentioned it re: myself I meant it in some ways and not in others! Frances (Dalton's on/off girlfriend) brings it up to Evi in a wow really kinda way. And I have Evi mention it to Eamon on their first date. Evi does this to not-so-subtly let Eamon know she will not be having sex w/him on the first date, also bringing up that she's “well, practically...[she's] not a nun or anything.” And Frances brings it up to tease Evi, to which Evi responds that yes she's “technically” a virgin, although later Eamon mentions that he knows what's waiting for him on their wedding night—that he has “smelled it, tasted it, worshipped it.” And Eamon doesn't care that she's a “virgin” either. He didn't expect her to be or need her to be.

So yes Evi is a “virgin” and no Evi isn't a “virgin.” The same way Lo and I were and weren't “virgins” when we got married. I dated other guys in high school (some assholes) before I met my husband but I didn't have sex w/those dudes. I was a Christian (follower of Jesus, not Christian Grey) back then like I'm a Christian now, so I thought abt that too...what that meant for me + sex. Lo was the only guy I wanted to have sex with. Before him, I really only wanted to have sex with like, Leo DiCaprio and Eddie Vedder. Dave Matthews...Jeff Buckley...celebrities, some fictional characters...Theo Huxtable...not any dudes @ school or in my actual life. So I've always looked @ it as...Evi didn't want to have sex w/any of those guys before...just Eamon. For religious reasons? For just bc reasons? For whatever reasons? All of those? She's allowed that and it wasn't complicated in my brain really! And I based a lot of her thoughts there on my own. But also when it comes to the other women in the book: Frances, Lisabeth, Cassidy...there's so much of me in them as well. (Also you brought up 50 Shades AGAIN which tbh does kinda offend me a little but I'm gonna let it go, however I should bring up “50 Shades of Crazy” by Chase Rice too bc it's a jam. I paid $5 to go to his concert.)

I liked the idea of having Dalton and Eamon lose their virginity on the same prom night bc they're so obsessed w/each other it's something they would've planned out way in advance, so they could in a way...share it. But I never looked @ Evi somehow being more true or loyal or “better” than any of the other women in the book bc she's a “virgin” bc wow I don't think like that. It's just that everyone makes their own choices and she made hers. Women being vilified for sex is ridiculous and damaging and we've talked abt how much Jesus went out of His way to protect women from this. I love that. And later, we read Evi actually being jealous of Frances bc of her sexuality and the intense sex life that Frances and Dalton have. So, Evi isn't being like, braggy about being a “virgin” @ all. It's just who she was for a bit and I try to be honest about her sexual feelings from beginning to end. The ones she has for Eamon and the ones she later has for Dalton too.

And I wouldn't really call any of the other women in the book “promiscuous” either! I never imply that or give them those labels. I get the question y're asking and the bigger picture here, but that's not what I was doing. I'll also add that right before I finished W&R I'd written another novel (you read it!) where the main character makes kinda every sexual “mistake” possible and is my hero, is clearly the romantic lead. I love her dearly. And like I am of Evangeline, I'm proud of how I've written her, explored women and sexuality from all sides of it and tried to keep it as real as possible.


Q: One of the things I like best about Dalton, and probably the reason I fell in love with him, I realized upon the second reading of the book, is that sometimes, not all the time, but occasionally, he talks like a woman, or like how we’re accustomed to thinking of females talking:

For example, “We should drink all day and sleep and watch crap and eat junk.”

And, “I called my bike shop B’s. B for bikes. B for Penelope and Dalton Berkeley. B for my heart.”

And, “The pulsing white-hot electricity of lust blazing through my veins like Joni Mitchell’s holy wine.”

And, “I got a [hotel] room, left and went and got a bottle of whiskey, some beer, a pack of cigarettes. I went to Walmart and got a new pack of boxer shorts, a par of yellow flip-flops. A pack of white T-shirts. I already had jeans. I bought a paperback with a shimmery gold bold title on the cover. I didn’t bother reading the back of it before I slapped it on the conveyer belt.”

And, “I began leaving petals around the house for Evangeline. Zuzu’s petals. She would be in the shower and come out to pink petals on the counter.”

Or maybe he talks how we want men to talk but it seems like they seldom do? Did you think of Dalton like this when writing him? Like, I’m going to have him say shit I’ve always wanted a man to say? Honestly, he just seems like the most fun ever to hang out with also!

Besides the sleep and watch crap line, the other lines here are all in his inner thoughts. And I did let both he and Eamon be however they wanted to be in their inner thoughts. The things we think vs the things we say. Those filters we all have. P much every guy I know is far more emotional than the women I know. Like, wow. Men are out of control emotional, imo. I wanted to let the men in my book be super-emotional in their inner thoughts and w/each other bc they trust one another and have a v intimate relationship. There may be a part of me that did want to have him think and act in a way that maybe a man wouldn't necessarily think or act, but I wanted to open up that world a bit too....try my hand @ it. I think he's fun too! And he carries so much of the emotional weight in the book and I think he carries it well!


Q: Who would you cast for the roles of the 3 main characters if a movie was made and you had casting rights?

Re: Evi, I watched a lot of Misty Copeland videos whenever I was writing abt specific ballet stuff in the book bc I adore Misty and she's so beautiful. While I don't have a specific actress in mind for Evi, I do love Misty. Or maybe Zazie Beetz? I adore her. Altho I woudn't specifically cast him, forever ago, I had a vision of Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) from Friday Night Lights holding a brown baby that wasn't his....and that shifted how I thought abt Dalton...I thought abt Tim Riggins a lot when I was writing him and that's the reason I decided to have him be a football player in high school and Evi mentions Dalton's "quarterback body" bc of Tim Riggins (who plays fullback) and Aaron Rodgers bc I love him. And back in the day, I thought of Eamon as a Mekhi Phifer or Anthony Mackie type..but now I've locked him down as Michael B. Jordan. Happily. I mean, swoon. Anytime I describe what Eamon looks like (which isn't v often) I looked @ pics of Michael B. Jordan for inspiration.


Q: Finally, sex! This is less a question and more a way to say I think you write exceptionally well these sorts of scenes, romantic scenes/love scenes/sexy scenes, as evidenced by this one with Eamon and Evi:

“She was wearing one of my T-shirts, so big it hung off her shoulder. She was always wearing my clothes which made her seem smaller, more fragile than she was. She never wore a bra in the house. Her smallish breasts hung heavy, her nipples hard in the October chill. I could see down her shirt, didn’t try to hide it. She swatted at me and smiled, readjusted herself against the headboard … She lifted the hem up, flashing me like she was some young drunk girl desiring Mardi Gras beads. I nodded at her, gave her breasts my full attention – the attention they deserved.”

You’re married. You’ve been married a long time. And I think you said somewhere, in a previous interview or maybe on Twitter?, that your husband reads all your work as you write it or after a first draft? And what does he make of your more romantic scenes? 

Thank you for sweetness! Lo thinks they're hot. And I show him the wild stuff I write that I wouldn't even feel entirely comfy w/publishing. The dirty sex scenes I write then...clean up later. I show everything to him. He digs it, absolutely. And honestly, I get bored if I'm not writing romantic/love/sexy/sexual tension scenes somewhere. I mean zzzzz.


Q: oh oh oh oh oh wait. SNOW!!! Another shared obsession/fetishization. Is it just me or do almost all the romantic scenes in the book take place during a blizzard, or at least a snowfall? I didn’t even know it snowed that much in Kentucky! But, yes! Irish cream, coffee, cigarettes, and snow, please! And with that in mind, what are your three favorite novels and do any of them feature snow as a side character? (Did it snow in All the Living, for instance?)

It doesn't snow that much all the time in Kentucky but we do get some really good snows sometimes, yes! I love the coziness of a snowstorm if I'm warm and where I want to be and who I want to be w/! It's so hard for me to say my three fave novels but All the Living is on there, yes! It's just hot hot hot hot and droughty in that book until the rain comes. I love so many books. I love yr books. I love you. I love being friends w/you. I love that you sent me flowers once. I love the Miranda Lambert totebag you gave me and the Miranda Lambert T-shirt. Y're truly such a generous person and I love yr heart. I said that! I say it. I mean it. That's how I will end this. Thank you for reading my book(s) and for being my friend. Elizabeth Ellen is one of my favorite novels. Like, ever. (I will probs txt you soon abt Marilyn Monroe and Chateau Marmont and Courtney Love and Chanel and our daughters. I txted you earlier abt my first puppy and how I named her Chanel. I'll probably text you abt Kip Moore, too. Promise not to bring up 50 Shades unless you wanna talk abt how hot Charlie Hunnam is?)