Kristen Arnett lives in Orlando, which means we’re kindred spirits. Her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, is an examination of family life mixed with Central Florida’s weirdness. It’s great and you should read it. I’m very excited to present this week’s Write Now interview with Kristen Arnett. Enjoy!
Who are you?
My name is Kristen Arnett, and I’m a full-time writer and librarian living in Orlando, Florida. I have three dogs, a cat, and a hamster named Aunt Karen. I am a queer fiction and essay writer who just published her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, an NYT bestseller out from Tin House Books. (Visit Kristen’s website.)
What do you write?
I write short fiction, essays, and novels. I am mostly interested in writing about Florida as a setting (place-writing, regional writing), specifically writing in which place is given just as much significance in the text as character or plot.
I also write about queer female relationships, something I’ve dubbed “the lesbian domestic.” I write about family dynamics and queer roles there.
I have always written — small stories as a child, essays since I was a teenager — but generally just wrote for myself. It wasn’t until much later on in life that I decided to start sharing that work with others or even considered it as something that might be published.
Themes that I’d avoid in my writing would be anything that would trivialize Florida or use it to talk about home in a way that markets to “Weird Florida” or the idea of “Florida Man.”
I do love writing, but I would also say I hate writing. It is a thing that I do because when I don’t work, I do not feel my best. Writing is the thing that I feel in my guts all the time, and when I’m not doing it, I know that I should be.
I would say I am my own harshest critic. I wanna sit inside my writing and poke at it for a while. I wanna make sure that I am digging to the heart of what is really important; looking for the question beneath the question.
Where do you write?
I would say I write almost anywhere.
My first novel got written before work and on lunch breaks at the library. I also have a writing nook at home that looks out on my Florida backyard. Love to see all the animals scampering around and the green plants, all juicy and lush, creeping up the windows.
I’ll also write in coffee shops and on airplanes, in bars, wherever I can find a minute. I’ll write with the TV on in the background. I definitely don’t mind noise. Since I am just finishing up with a book tour, I found myself writing a lot in hotels and in restaurants, just traveling and working.
I write just on my laptop. I am not picky about the environment or what I use, but I will say that I always write everything in Times New Roman and single space in a Word document.
When do you write?
I don’t have a typical writing session. I write whenever I can find a pocket of time. I don’t give myself a word count or a page limit or anything, generally. I just try to work when I can get a minute to do it. If I have something that’s due — an essay or something like that — I’ll put a note in my Google Calendar just to make sure that it gets completed by the deadline, but otherwise, I just write whatever and whenever.
I would say that I prefer to work in the morning (though I am absolutely not a morning person) just because my head feels a little fresher and less has been going on. Less internet absorption, I guess! But I can really write any time or anywhere.
Why do you write?
I would say that I write because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s the thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and it’s the last thing I think about when I am heading off to bed. When I don’t write, I feel terrible. To be fair, writing often makes me feel bad, too, but that’s for different reasons.
I like sitting and thinking about the questions, working them over in my head, putting the sentences together and constructing something. It can occasionally feel like working puzzle pieces.
Like anyone, I would say that reading other people’s work inspires me very much. I love reading a good collection of poetry, a memoir, a short fiction collection, or a novel. I am always reading four or five books at once. I usually work that way, too. Multiple projects at the same time so I can sit inside of whatever feels best to me in that moment.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I don’t think that I have experienced writer’s block, per se, but when I feel like my work needs a jump start, I will oftentimes pick up something to read. I also love to go outside and walk around, try to clear my head a little bit. I try to get outside as much as possible and just be in the natural environment. Feel very small in such a big, important world.
Bonus: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
When I’m not writing, I love traveling, watching television, playing with my many pets, reading, drinking beer, and visiting friends. I love crafting and embroidery. I love messing around on Twitter and making dumb jokes. I love to sit on my patio with a beer and listen to all the animals and the bugs and watch the sky turn purple in the twilight.
My thanks to Kristen Arnett for today’s Write Now interview.