A Life of Books: Deb Rogers, author of Florida Woman

Deb Rogers does it all. She’s a diversity consultant, was previously a pop culture editor of SheKnows, a producer of the storytelling series Listen to Your Mother, and an LGBT community leader who helped host Queerosphere. She’s also damn funny. Her debut novel Florida Woman will make you laugh so hard that your socks will fall off.

Debutiful asked the author to answer our recurring A Life of Books questionnaire so readers can get to know her better.

Is there a book or series that, when you think back, helped define your childhood?

My fabulous elementary school librarian tucked a book into my hand and changed my life. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh was everything I needed to read in third grade. A misfit, curious kid who fills journals with incendiary material as she tries to make sense of life? What an icon. Reading Harriet taught me how amazing it feels to be seen by a book and by an educator. I devoured it and the sequels many times, and I’ve trusted librarians ever since.  

Would you want any children in your life (yours or relatives’) to read those too? Or what’s your philosophy on what children read? 

The most glorious thing you can do is take a kid to a library or bookstore and let them discover their interests. I’m all about encouraging children to be greedy and voracious readers without limits!

Moving to your school years: what book did you read in high school and hated (or skipped reading at all) that you learned you loved later in life? I admit it, I hated Shakespeare and did not enjoy studying it. My teacher was a pompous goof and I wasn’t his favorite, so that might have had something to do with it. I preferred stoking a crush on Gertrude Stein and the other authors of the Lost Generation, and at night I read stacks of Ellery Queen magazines and Stephen King novels.

What about the opposite way? One you loved in your teens, but realized you didn’t love it so much later on? 

One summer I was obsessed with Hunter S. Thompson. I was editor of the yearbook and was preparing to make a grand pivot into gonzo journalism, I guess. And then suddenly, halfway through one of the Gonzo Papers books, I couldn’t read another word. 

Are there any books that you read while writing your debut that helped shape the direction you took your own book?

I don’t think so. Mostly I was motivated to write the kind of characters and stories I don’t often see. I have always read a lot of suspense and horror, and I love the carnival ride feeling of big twists and reveals, so I’m sure those preferences guided my drafts in general.

What is a book you’ve read that you thought, Damn, I wish that was mine?

Too many to list! I recently reread Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, but my reverence is too big to indulge thoughts of possession. I can’t imagine having the mind to construct and write a novel as beautiful and flawless as that. 

What have you been reading / do you plan to read during your debut book tour?

I’ve recently read two other books featuring animal helpers: Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett and Remarkably Bright Creatures Shelby Van Pelt. Is there a universe where a fox, an octopus and a macaque could hang out and compare notes about the humans they’ve had to rescue? I’d love that! I’ve been reading a number of 2022 debuts, too. I’m excited about They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe, The Net Beneath Us by Carol Dunbar, and Other People’s Secrets by Meredith Hambrock. I’m that greedy kid claiming stacks in the bookstore, for sure! 

And, finally, I have to ask… I’m sorry. What’s next? But wait! Only use three words.
Only three? Dang, you’re tough. Okay: Fountain. Of. Youth. 

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