We are excited to announce that Leesa Cross-Smith’s new book Half-Blown Rose, published by Grand Central Publishing, is out today!
Travel to Paris with Vincent as she deals with the complications of the past and decides on a future filled with romance, friendship, art, and long, starry walks along the Seine. Watch her blossom as she grows into the woman she decides to become in this heartfelt book about self-discovery and love.
We are also thrilled to share some of Leesa’s inspirations, writing process, and thoughts about the complexities of relationships. The interview was conducted by our Blog Editor, Taylor Dilger via email.
Taylor Dilger: This book is about “a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.” What inspired this?
Leesa Cross-Smith: I was inspired during and after my trip to Paris in 2019! Right after lockdown, I (like everyone) wanted to escape and dreaming of spending a year in Paris sounded like heaven. I love writing strong, independent women who are fully present in their lives after major life changes…who are figuring out how to move on without losing themselves completely. I put my character, Vincent, in Paris because I love Paris and wanted to see what adventures awaited her there!
TD: A review from Deesha Philyaw says, “Reading her stunning prose is a full-blown experience. Within the deeply intimate worlds she conjures, she captures love, lust, and longing with such emotional intricacy and verve.” What was your writing process for this book like?
LCS: Thank you so much to Deesha! I wrote the majority of this book during lockdown, but the process wasn’t so different from how I write all of my books. I really do just get to work in the morning and write and write and write until I get to my stopping point for the day. I write the first draft to tell the story to myself…to get to know my characters fully…then I rewrite and rewrite. I actually wrote more during quarantine lockdown than I usually do because I didn’t even have to do the ordinary, everyday things like carpool since school was cancelled, etc. I had more time to write. Looking back now, it’s a wonder I was able to focus enough to write books, but I’m glad it worked out! (And that I was blessed to be healthy during that time!) 🙂
TD: This book is filled with “playlists, travel journal entries, and excerpts from Cillian’s novel.” Could you tell me more about the choice to use different formats?
LCS: As much as I can, I always like to try something new with every book. I loved the idea of including some of Cillian’s novel (also called Half-Blown Rose) in the book so the reader could see exactly what he had written and why Vincent reacted so strongly to it. I often thought of metafiction while I was writing and although I wouldn’t say Half-Blown Rose is exactly metafiction…it is very aware of itself and I occasionally use screenplay snippets to sort of “direct” the reader…reminding them that this is a deliberate work of art/fiction and also, sometimes that Vincent is imagining herself/her new life as if it is a film. I added the playlists because I love the ones I made and wanted to share them and I love when there are playlists in books! And the journal entries since Vincent teaches journaling classes at the modern art museum in Paris…it gave me a chance to put that to practice and for the reader to hear from her in first person since the rest of the book is written in third. It was just a device I used to bring the reader and Vincent even closer to each other.
TD: Vincent is learning to find herself again after a betrayal from her husband. Why is it important to highlight the messy complexities of relationships with ourselves and others?
LCS: This is a great question! I think it’s important because relationships are messy and complex. It’s so true! Whether we’re talking about ourselves or our relationships with others, I know how important honesty is, and faking it can only get us so far. I love writing a messy, complicated relationships because I love writing about intimacy and sometimes it’s our most intimate relationships that are the most complex. I love these things because they interest me and they interest me because I love them….relationships and human nature, in general…how we get through this life, and the big (existential, unspoken) questions without neat answers to wrap everything up in a bow. Those unspoken questions keep me writing.
TD: What does your writing space look like?
LCS: Sometimes I write at my kitchen table, sometimes my couch, sometimes my bed! I can write anywhere in my house but I have to be here at home. I can’t write out in the world because I’m too easily startled and it’s usually too noisy. When I was in college, I could write anywhere. But now, I have to be at home in the quiet with my cat and my tea and my warm, cozy things.
Superstition Review has another interview with Leesa in Issue 15 about her book Whiskey & Ribbons. Be sure to check that out along with Leesa’s website and Twitter for more updates and information on her work.