Kevin Sessums’ way with words has taken him places.
As the current Editor-in-Chief of FourTwoNine, his track record of carrying “glamorous cargo” includes notable stops at Interview and Vanity Fair, along with contributions to Elle, Marie Claire, Playboy, and many more.
But writing also saved his life.
Sessums’ second memoir, “I Left It On The Mountain,” is a story of battling a drug addiction after hitting rock bottom—a battle that was literally happening as he wrote it. It’s a story of hope, one that Sessums believes anyone going through hard times can relate to.
Sessums will be in Birmingham tonight for a book signing at WorkPlay (presented by our friends at Books-a-Million), and we were able to chat with him for a few minutes about his perspective on media, the ever-evolving digital landscape, and the difference between writing and journalism.
What has the transition been like from working with magazines, working in print media, to becoming an author?
I look at my day job as if I’m a truck driver. I just haul glamorous cargo. That’s all. I put the glamorous cargo in the back, I haul it to deadline, I get behind the wheel again when I get more cargo, and I drive it. I’m just a long-haul trucker. I have a very blue-collar, working-class attitude about all that. I don’t think of myself as a journalist even—I think of myself as a writer. Someone who’s not intimidated by fame who can structure a narrative. I’m too lazy to be a journalist. [Being an author], that’s a whole other aspect of my talent, I think. Another way to utilize it. I really look on that as the truest version of myself, especially in this last book. I had to save my own life. And the only way that I could save my own life was to be the truest version of myself, which is to be a writer. I had to write myself into being sober. When I began this book, I was an active [crystal meth] addict, and I began to write the sober narrative, and I began to live it. That’s another aspect of this book—if people can read it within the trope of addiction maybe, or alcoholism, if they can figure out who the truest version of themselves can be, maybe they can find a way out of their own darkness by being that truest self.
I look at my day job as if I’m a truck driver. I just haul glamorous cargo. I don’t think of myself as a journalist even. I’m too lazy to be a journalist.
FourTwoNine started literally from the ground up, with a Kickstarter campaign. How did you get involved with them?
I was looking for jobs, because I needed one. At that point I was a homeless recovering drug addict. It’s all in my new book, “I Left It On The Mountain.” I needed a job. Because I had nothing left. I just kept looking for jobs, and I sent in my résumé, they called me, we went and had lunch in Boston. I had so little money, I was so broke—I was living in 100 square feet, no closet, no kitchen, nothing. I had just spent money to get on a bus from Provincetown to Boston to meet the publisher. I arrived on the bus like Holly Golightly. And he offered me a job, and my life changed. I’ve done four issues now. The first issue was Sarah Jessica Parker and Andy Cohen. They’re a couple friends of mine—I had nothing to show them, so they sort of took a leap of faith with me. I call that the friendship issue because I called in a lot of friendships. The next issue I had Jared Leto on the cover with his brother Shannon from their band 30 Seconds to Mars. That was the family issue. The next issue, I had Alan Cumming on the cover. And then I realized, once I had those first three covers, I had an Emmy winner, a Golden Globe winner, an Oscar winner, and a Tony winner on the first three covers, if that means anything.
Not too bad.
This next issue is coming out this week. James Franco is on the cover. This is the conceptual issue. We’re gonna put two different covers on the newsstands with him. The concept I came up with is the straight James Franco talks to the gay James Franco, and he loved the concept. He wrote it himself, as if it was a transcription of a recorded conversation. So I think that will get a little traction, maybe.
The only [interview subject] I’ve ever wanted to kiss was Johnny Depp. I once told John Waters that, and he said, “Well, you should have. He would have let you.”
You’ve spoken with just about everyone in show business. What was your most memorable interview?
Oh, lordy. I have a patent answer for that, which is always “the next one.” Because you’re sort of like a shark in this business, you’re just always moving forward. I don’t like to talk about my favorites, but the one I sort of adored was Emma Thompson. I think that was one of the best stories I ever wrote. Because she spent a lot of time with me. We spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, I flew to London, I spent several days with her in London. But that was the old days. Now you’re lucky to get an hour between a botox injection and a bowel movement. The only person I’ve ever wanted to kiss was Johnny Depp.
The only one?
I’ve wanted to [sleep with] a few of them, but I only wanted to kiss one of them, and that was Johnny Depp. I once told John Waters that, the director, because they’re friends. And he said, “Well, you should have. He would have let you. The straight ones always let you kiss them. It’s the gay ones who won’t.”