Despite “gay for you” being a shorthand explanation of the plot of our new novella, Midsummer, what the story really focuses on other than an unexpected summer romance, is how the characters put actions and labels together.
Our hero, John, has never been attracted to men until he meets Michael, a talented and otherworldly young man, at the theater he’s performing at over the summer. John doesn’t expend a lot of energy being stressed out about being attracted to a man for the first time; after all, his life has had a lot of surprises in it over the last few years, and this one is actually good.
But as John and Michael get more and more emotionally involved, Michael wants to understand just how he can fit into this man’s life. Does John find other men attractive? (John’s not sure.) What about gay porn once he and Michael are sleeping together? (Eventually, once he finds what works for him.) Was this a secret issue between John and his ex-wife? (Nope.)
And, most importantly, isn’t John just bisexual?
It’s an important question for us, not just as writers, but as people, since we’re both bisexual. But John isn’t sure the label applies to him. It feels specific, and clear, and more consistent about his desires. He sort of likes the word queer more. He’s not sure why. He’s still figuring this out as he learns how to tell people he has a boyfriend.
Ultimately, Midsummer is about what we do with the surprises in our lives and how we can find joy in unexpected places, especially after life’s been cruel to us in the past. But it’s also about what it means to come out late in life, buck other people’s expectations, and navigate the ever shifting and expanding world of QUILTBAG labels with the recognition that we’re all doing the best we can, even if what we do isn’t perfect.
John Lyonel, a long-time theater professional and teacher, heads to Virginia to play Oberon in the Theater in the Woods’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, intending to focus on his work. John is recovering from the tragic loss of his family and needs a break. The last thing he expects is to become captivated by Michael Hilliard, the professional actor playing Puck, especially since John has never been attracted to men, let alone one so much younger.
They rush headlong into an affair which falls apart dramatically over secrets that John and Michael are keeping from each other. A steep learning curve, the gossipy cast of the show, and the sometimes sinister magic of the woods conspire to keep them apart. But stage lights and stars might work their magic and help them define a new future.
Costume fittings and dress rehearsals means that John finally gets to see Michael costumed as Puck. The human characters are dressed contemporarily, in suits and cocktail dresses that become increasingly disheveled as the show goes on. The fairies, though, are dressed in greens and browns with crowns of strange wildness — thistles, cornsilk, and Queen Ann’s lace. Michael as Puck looks deeply inhuman, covered in leaves as if dragged in from the wooded grounds. For their first dress rehearsal, it takes all of John’s considerable experience and willpower to actually focus on the play and not Michael. As taken as Oberon is meant to be with Puck, he should actually be able to remember and deliver his lines.
“Whose idea was this?” he asks Michael afterward, catching him before he can change. Michael blinks at him with eyes done up in silver and green. John wants to devour him.
“Do you like it?” Michael asks, more distant and coy than usual, sliding his hands up John’s chest which, like his own, is bare.
All John can do is groan when Michael looks up at him from under his lashes. He stands on his tiptoes to kiss John briefly, and then vanishes. When he reappears he’s Michael again, in t-shirt and shorts, but John can’t forget the image of him transformed.
Erin McRae is a queer writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. She has a master’s degree in International Affairs from American University, and delights in applying her knowledge of international relations theory to her fiction and screen-based projects, because conflict drives narrative.
Racheline Maltese lives a big life from a small space. She flies planes, sails boats, and rides horses, but as a native New Yorker, has no idea how to drive a car. A long-time entertainment and media industry professional, she lives in Brooklyn with her partner and their two cats.
Together, they are co-authors of the gay romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry — Starling (September 10, 2014), Doves (January 21, 2015), and Phoenix (June 10, 2015) — from Torquere Press. Their gay romance novella series Love’s Labours, set in the theater world — Midsummer (May 2015), and Twelfth Night (Fall 2015), is from Dreamspinner Press. They also have a story in Best Gay Romance 2015 from Cleis Press and edited by Felice Picano. You can find them on the web at http://www.Avian30.com.
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I would like to give a big Thank You to Erin & Racheline for taking the time to stop by today and talking about their new book.