A mood in mind – Leesa Cross-Smith

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By Leesa-Cross Smith

Whenever I write, I always have a mood in mind. Some vibes or themes that propel the work and keep me writing. They can vary in intensity or importance, but they’re always there helping to guide me and they often rescue me when I get lost. While brainstorming and writing my debut novel Whiskey & Ribbons I was inspired by snow, kissing/sexual tension and music.


Whiskey & Ribbons is told from three characters’ points of view. Eamon is a police officer killed in the line of duty, Evangeline is his wife who is nine months pregnant when Eamon is killed, and Dalton is Eamon’s adopted brother who moves in with Evangeline afterwards, to help take care of Baby Noah. Evangeline and Dalton are snowed in together during the course of the book. It snows and snows and snows. And it snowed the night Eamon and Evangeline went on their first date too. The snow, being snowed in, forces Evangeline and Dalton to confront their intense, complicated feelings for one another. It also provides coziness and comfort. The fireplace, the hot chocolates and Irish whiskies. Evangeline putters around the house in Eamon’s too-big sweater, Dalton plays piano in his pajama pants, slips his hoodie over his head to light his cigarette by the kitchen door. The snow provides stillness and reflection and is in stark contrast to the sultry summer morning when Eamon is killed. Time has passed and everything has changed. Shockingly and breathtakingly so.

Kissing/Sexual Tension

I love writing about kissing and sexual tension. I get bored if I can’t do it. I write about Evangeline kissing Dalton for the first time during the blizzard. I write about Dalton kissing and not-kissing her back. I write about Evangeline’s jealousy over Dalton kissing someone else. I write about Dalton kissing the other two women in his life. I write about Eamon and Evangeline kissing for the first time. I write about Dalton fantasizing about kissing Evangeline and I write about Evangeline obsessing over kissing Dalton again. And again. There is a lot of kissing. That intimacy and desire and those fantasies. I write about the waiting in between kisses, the confusion of kisses, what kisses do and don’t mean, the tenderness and casualness. How kissing sometimes leads to other things and how kissing sometimes leads to nothing. I write about Evangeline watching Dalton’s body move as he does things around the house, about her missing her husband’s body, how she wants to feel anything other than the intense grief crushing her. People usually spend a lot of time kissing in my books and stories and Whiskey & Ribbons is no exception. My first short story collection is called Every Kiss A War because I love writing about kissing.


My character Eamon loves yacht rock and power ballads. “Sweet Freedom” by Michael McDonald. “Foolish Heart” by Steve Perry. “One More Night” by Phil Collins. Also, Sade, Otis Redding. “Rocketman” by Elton John. Evangeline is a ballerina who loves Fleetwood Mac. “Gypsy” is her favorite. She dances to Marshall Tucker Band in the kitchen. Dalton was a piano prodigy and plays often for Evangeline. Mozart, Chopin, Debussy. I never mention it in the novel but Dalton’s middle name is Claude, after Debussy because Dalton’s mom was a pianist and piano teacher and Debussy was her favorite. Dalton plays “Clair de Lune” for Evangeline and “Moon River” and Van Morrison and anything he can think of from time to time as distraction. They are grieving together, sharing space. They are a new trinity — Evangeline, Dalton and Baby Noah — replacing the previous trinity of Eamon, Evangeline and Dalton. I wrote Whiskey & Ribbons as an elegy, as a fugue, as a piece of music with three intertwining melodies/voices.

Leesa Cross-Smith is the author of Whiskey & Ribbons and Every Kiss A War. Her work has appeared in Oxford American and Best Small Fictions, among many others. She lives and writes in Kentucky.


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