Summer of the Cicadas: Local author Chelsea Catherine on the importance of queer literature

Summer of the Cicadas

There’s nothing quite like witness the emergence of cicadas from their 17-year slumber. Of course it’s rather the noise you won’t soon forget. My senior year of high school cicadas emerged in CT and their cacophonous buzzing felt like a fitting farewell ahead of my move to Florida. A new novel from St. Petersburg resident Chelsea Catherine will bring the elusive insects to shelves in the Sunshine City, and across the country.

Summer of the Cicadas is about a West Virginian town where a brood of Magicicadas emerges for the first time in seventeen years. The cicadas damage crops and trees and swarm locals. Jessica, a former cop whose entire family was killed in a car crash two years earlier, is deputized during the crisis.

Throughout the book, Jessica must deal with her feelings for her sister’s best friend, Natasha, who is a town council member. After Fish and Wildlife removes the swarm, Jessica must also confront the two-year anniversary of her family’s death, Natasha’s budding romance with a local editor, as well as a sudden but devastating loss that changes everything.

I wrote Summer of the Cicadas to have a voice

No matter where you grew up, there are deep pangs of familiarity and empathy permeating the pages of this book.

“I wrote Summer of the Cicadas to have a voice,” Catherine said in a video as part of kickstarter campaign for the novel. “I’m committed to writing queer fiction now because of what I experienced as a kid. While I write for myself in a lot of ways, I also write to make sure queer stories are available to queer readers.”

I am captivated by this novel. I am enamored with the West Virginian setting, a place wholly strange and absolutely like home. It’s the kind of propulsive prose that’ll make your bones ache and your heart race. Erica Dawson, exquisite poet (When Rap Spoke Straight to God) and Director of the MFA Program at the University of Tampa, put the praise for the novel in the profoundly gorgeous manner that only a writer of her caliber could:

“Many authors are good at writing about the body. Few authors excel at writing the body of the world, the way it moves through everyone: cicadas owning us, making us restless, flirtatious, fearful even; shadows hiding our shadows; the defeating pines; the teasing sun. Chelsea Catherine creates a natural world as real as her characters. But it’s not about her deft ability at description or setting; it’s about her deep understanding of how everything moves as one—people, moods, moments, manifestations—and the modern Romance (with a capital R) of it all.”

The importance of queer literature 

This book’s publication further underscores the importance of queer literature and representation in the publishing industry. Now more than ever, your conscious support matters.

LGBTQ+ authors are put into a genre that barely fits them, excluded from mainstream funding, and alienated by submission questionnaires and prying questions about identity and the underlying, “What are you?” according to Red Hen Press.

“There weren’t characters that I could pick up and read their stories and see myself in them,” said Catherine. “It was really isolating and it took me a very long time to come out of the closet, because I didn’t have that representation. I had no role models to show me basically how to exist in the world and even that it was okay for me to exist in the world the way I was.”

Support the Quill Prose Award 

By pledging your support for the production of the book and the longevity of the Quill Prose Award, you are helping emerging queer writers solidify their legacy in the literary community. Your contribution will help the Quill Series thrive, and assist with the production costs of bringing Chelsea’s book and future Quill books to the world.

Quill is a publishing series that exclusively publishes prose by queer writers; established in 2015 by Tobi Harper.

Funds raised in this campaign will contribute to:

  • Production costs (galleys and final copies)
  • Publicity efforts
  • Shipping and handling costs
  • Transactional fees

You can pre-order the book online.

About the author: 

Chelsea Catherine is a native Vermonter who moved to St. Petersburg in late 2018. This is the author’s second book. Catherine recently signed with literary agent Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates to work on their third book, Blessed Be, about a coven of queer witches in the south.

Catherine is a PEN Short Story Prize Nominee, a winner of the Raymond Carver Fiction Contest in 2016, a Sterling Watson fellow, and an Ann McKee Grant recipient. Catherine’s novella Blindsided won the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize and was published in October of 2018. The author’s nonfiction recently won the Mary C. Mohr Award through the Southern Indiana Review. A native Vermonter, Catherine lived in Key West for two years and was secretary of the Key West Writers Guild. Catherine identifies as queer, non-binary.

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Written by Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan

Andrew Harlan is the Editor of ilovetheburg.com. Follow him on Twitter @harlanyoungII and Instagram @harlanyoung. Send tips and potential stories to info@ilovetheburg.com.