Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Cheyenne Autry

by Tay Marie Lorenzo Read the Story September 18, 2017

“Sexting” throws us into a snippet of conversation between two friends having an intimate and sexy conversation about sending nudes. At the same time, there’s a focus on the interaction between the two conversers and tangible objects in the room, like the metal chair digging into the narrator’s leg and Kassandra’s saliva clinging to the mouthpiece of the bowl. Can you share about your use of this interplay?

When I began writing this piece, I knew it would be very short and a bulk of the story would be conversation between two girls, but since people never say what they really mean or what they’re really thinking, the physicality of this scene was going to be important in telling what is actually going on between them. The narrator is extremely attentive, especially when it comes to being around Kassandra, but while she is hyperaware of everything in this moment, she doesn’t want to look it. Kassandra is at ease in this conversation, so our narrator wants to appear at ease, too.

The narrator finds Kassandra alluring as she talks about her sext life, and I got a bit of an eerie feeling as the narrator began to mimic Kassandra’s movements. Can you tell us a little about the way this mimicry shifts the tone of your story?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? When I was little, I drove my older sister crazy copying her—not just stealing her clothes and dressing like her, but talking like her, moving like her, wanting my eyes to squint the way hers do when she laughs. I knew I was being annoying, but I looked up to her, idolized her in the way a lot of little sisters do with their big sisters. But it’s not just little sisters and big sisters; it happened with my friends and me in high school and on into college, whether it was the clothes we wore or the way we talked or the way we acted. For a long time, females have been conditioned to weigh themselves against other females, and while it’s natural, I think, to unconsciously pick up habits of people we’re close to, there’s also a point where the self is lost, where imitation can easily grow to obsession. I wanted to explore that teetering moment between admiration and a real desire to become someone else. Kassandra’s sexting is bold and daring, things the narrator isn’t but admires and wants to be. The more she mimics Kassandra, the closer she gets to that obsessive line.

In 300 words, you created a fascinating story out of a very small moment in time. How/where do you find inspiration for your stories?

I eavesdrop a lot—walking around campus, buying groceries, standing at a crosswalk, waiting in line for a coffee. People talk about extraordinary things in public when they think no one is listening, so I’ll jot down pieces of conversation I find interesting or surprising. Sometimes it’s an actual line of dialogue, other times it’s an object or situation that’s being discussed, and a story builds from there.

This particular story came from a lot of sexting conversations and all the media coverage on the pitfalls of sending naked pictures. I began to wonder about extreme sexting. Surely there were people sending photos not taken in the bathroom mirror, in more risqué locations or positions, and that idea collided with an interest in the complexities of female friendships.

Do you paddleboard? And what are some things you do when you aren’t writing?

I have been paddleboarding once, and the board popped up on a wave and smacked me in the face, giving me a bloody nose. I’ve had greater success at other water sports.

I have two dogs, Harvey and Luna, that keep me busy when I’m not writing (and when I am writing). I really love being outdoors—camping, hiking, etc. I currently live in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the Ozarks are just a gorgeous part of the country, so I explore when I can. I’m also an avid thrifter and DIYer; I love finding old things to repurpose or update or paint and make new. Most of my clothes and the things in my house have come from a thrift store or garage sale. And, like any good writer, I read a lot.

If you had to craft your own Cheyenne Autry jukebox, what are five audio recordings you’d put in it?

Awesome question.

  • The finale track to Dragonheart by Randy Edelman, one of my favorite movies and composers.
  • “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
  • “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald
  • “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys
  • “Never Let Me Go” by Florence + The Machine

About the Author:

Cheyenne Autry is a fourth-year fiction student in the MFA program at the University of Arkansas, and Director of Development for The Arkansas International. Her work has been published in Eckleburg Review and Forge Journal.

About the Interviewer:

Tay Marie Lorenzo is a graduate student at Missouri State University and a poetry editor for fields, as well as an assistant fiction editor for Moon City Review. Her work has appeared in Cleaver, The Cossack ReviewWu-Wei Fashion Mag, and Metatron’s online journal.

About the Artist:

Alex Hockett's work can be found at Unsplash.