Andersonville bookstore Women & Children First welcomed queer Floridian author Kristen Arnett July 19 for a discussion about her latest book. The book, Mostly Dead Things, is about a queer woman named Jessa-Lynn who takes over her family's taxidermy shop when her father commits suicide. Fellow author Lindsay Hunter led the conversation and Q&A.
Arnett began the conversation by reading two excerpts from the book. At one point, Hunter asked Arnett if she thought that the sometimes "gross" descriptiveness of her writing was a product of being from Florida. ( Hunter, too, hails from the Sunshine State. ) Arnett replied that she simply wants to write about things as they are, and sometimes things are gross.
Mostly Dead Things began as a short story. "I'm writing this short story and I'm obsessed with it," said Arnett. "It's the first time I ever wrote a short story, where, when I got done with it, I didn't feel done. That [had] never happened before," she said. Arnett was looking at bad taxidermy online when she got the idea for the short story, which was originally about a brother and sister who try and fail at stuffing a goat for a family friend.
Arnett also discussed the importance of Florida in the book. Although she purposefully never mentions Orlando in the bookso as not to associate her book with images of Disney and retirement homesthe state plays a big part in "Things." "I wanted [the book] to be very much about the Florida I experience," said Arnett. "In writing it I wanted to make sure that it was my Florida, how I view it."
While the story is about a queer woman, Arnett said Mostly Dead Things is not a coming-out or a coming-of-age story. "I did not want it to be a coming out book," said Arnett. "As a reader, I'm desperate to read something where it's queer but [also] just daily, lived life," she said. "Jessashe's queer, but also she has a lot of other things going on, too."