Five minutes with: Leone Ross

Author Leone Ross

Meet Leone Ross, author of the Women’s Prize 2022 longlisted novel This One Sky Day. The Guardian called it an ‘eccentric, capacious novel that takes the reader on a surreal ride around a fictional archipelago’.

The surreal qualities of the novel brilliantly emphasise the characters human flaws, so what was the inspiration behind it? We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…

Leone Ross:

Describe in three words how it feels to be longlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Reassuring. Exciting. Important.  

What inspired you to write This One Sky Day?

I can’t remember anymore – I wrote it over a 15-year period. But I do know I wanted to talk about addiction and second chances at love. To use magic to amplify social problems. I also wanted to have some fun – I hope the novel makes people laugh and cry and think.  

Can you describe This One Sky Day in one sentence?

To a friend? “There’s magic, specifically Black people with magic, a fascinating journey over a single day, a chef addicted to moths, a bunch of similes I really like, and a whorehouse…” 

Are there any locations that have a special connection for the book?

My novel takes place in Popisho, a fictional Caribbean-esque archipelago hiding somewhere in the expanse of the Indian Ocean. Atmospherically, it reminds me of Carriacou, one of several small Grenadine islands I visited during childhood. For spatial research, I walked around the edges of the Isles of Scilly, that wonderful archipelago off Cornwall, explaining the developing plot to a Scillian pheasant who strutted beside me for an hour, getting a bit stuck in a peat bog and barely ducking a small and furious plane. The Caribbean word ‘poppy show’ has its etymology in ‘puppet show’, meaning a foolishness, or silliness, so spending my time in isles called Scilly felt amusing and apt.  

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

I remember my father suggesting I re-write the tale of the minotaur from the point of view of the mythical beast. My minotaur had a Cockney side-kick worm called Squirmy and the whole thing came to a very satisfying conclusion. I also won first prize in a Forum magazine writing competition when I was 17; it was a fantasy about Prince and I got paid with a fuschia-pink cheque!  

Why did you become a writer?

Does one ‘become’ a writer? I think I always was one. My parents love language, and I have the same tendency to anecdote and delight in fiddling language. 

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