One of the things I loved about writing FLORIDA WOMAN was the ability to play around with the #FloridaMan and #FloridaWoman tropes.
Everyone thinks they know all about Florida. To be fair, we are very distinctive, so anyone who has visited Florida—which is over 100 million people every year—holds a version of our landscape, tourist culture and balmy climate in their memories. Our beaches, our palm trees, our birds, snakes and gators make Florida stand out. If you add to that the way Florida likes to stay in the news for everything from politics to Disney, and then also add our very open Sunshine Laws which means that reporters have access to dirty laundry other states keep private (like embarrassing mugshots), it makes sense that people think they understand what Florida is all about.
To be fair, some of our reputation is earned. Many people end up in Florida looking for a second chance, or for a third one, because they haven’t fit in elsewhere in the country. Jobs outside of the tourist industry are hard to come by, and people can get creative. Corruption, conspiracy theories, and cults are rampant. The gorgeous climate can also be rough to live in. Hurricanes, sinkholes, the humidity—all of it can get to you, and people can act up. Often in public. Maybe not wearing as many clothes as we would wish.
In all, Florida can be weird, but if truth be told, it’s even weirder than you know. Maybe even more interesting, there are very human stories behind those viral mugshots and wacky crimes, and I’m fascinated by that part of my state. I’m interested in how messy people try to survive in this sinking paradise, how their desperation and desires fuel their actions, and how despite all odds, they believe it will all work out. Those are the threads that led me to writing FLORIDA WOMAN, and it’s been a blast to hear what readers think after reading it. I’m learning that among other reactions, most readers are happy to discover that they have a secret Florida Woman hidden inside them who is ready to break out and thrive—even if the rest of the world doesn’t fully know what to do about her!
A gleefully dark and entertaining debut about the mysteries a volunteer uncovers one sensational summer at a Floridian wildlife center for exotic monkeys.
Jamie is a Florida Woman. She grew up on the beach, thrives in humidity, has weathered more hurricanes than she can count, and now, after going viral for an outrageous crime she never meant to commit in the first place, she has the requisite headline to her name. But when the chance comes for her to escape viral infamy and imminent jail time by taking a community service placement at Atlas, a shelter for rescued monkeys, it seems like just the fresh start Jamie needs to finally get her life back on track — until it’s not.
Something sinister stirs in the palmetto woods surrounding her cabin, and secrets lurk among the three beguiling women who run the shelter and affectionately take Jamie under their wing for the summer. She hears the distant screams of monkeys each night; the staff perform cryptic, lakeside sacrifices to honor Atlas; and the land, which has long been abandoned by citrus farmers and theme park developers alike, now proves to be dangerously, relentlessly untamed.
As Jamie ventures deeper into the offbeat world and rituals of Atlas, her summer is soon set to inspire an even stranger Florida headline than she ever could’ve imagined.
Deb Rogers is the author of FLORIDA WOMAN and has been widely published online on sites including The Belladonna, The Toast, and BlogHer.com. Previously a teacher at a wilderness school, a victim advocate, a non-profit policymaker in Tallahassee, Deb now writes, edits and serves as a consultant in St. Augustine, Florida. Learn more at debrogersauthor.com.