Welcome back to Inside an Anthology, the feature where authors of queer anthology contributions come to share a little more on their stories! Today we’re checking out Longsummer Nights ed. by Dayna K. Smith, a queer paranormal romance anthology with 15 contributions that just released in May! Come check it out!
Have you ever dreamed that the dark eyes staring at you across the bar might belong to a vampire? When you watch horror movies, do you find yourself doodling the monstrous antagonist’s name in hearts the next day? If we’ve got you nodding your head, stick around!
If you’re looking for love in all the wrong places (like under the bed, or in creepy old crypts), we welcome you to pack your bags and visit the historical and haunted city of Longsummer. In the new paranormal (and very queer) romance anthology Longsummer Nights, edited by Dayna K. Smith, readers will experience a variety of thrilling original stories of love among monsters. The fifteen authors who contributed to this project are members of the VOW Collective, a group of game writers who went on the first ever strike in the history of the North American Games Industry in 2020. Our monster-loving authors include: Cyrus Adams, Cherry, Alix Comeau, A.K. Fedeau, Eve Golden-Woods, Rien Gray, A. Hendricks, T.K. Hirst, Arson Kidder, Abigail Laughlin, Amanda Louise, Margot Madison, Frances Maple, Devan Soyka, and Fisher Strunc.
In this edition of LGBTQ Reads’ “Inside An Anthology,” ten of the authors who wrote Longsummer Nights have shared a bit about which monsters they chose to write about, and what made them so chillingly irresistible.
“What Happened At Wisteria House” by Margot Madison
My contribution to the anthology started with a random yet spicy thought: how would one have sex with a ghost? As soon as the question popped into my head, I found myself compelled by the challenge of writing a story around it. My solution was to play with consensual possession. That would require a lot of trust between the parties involved…which led to a very tasty enemies-to-lovers opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. But who would be the lucky possess-ee? At first I thought it would be a regular human mortal, but as a witch myself, I couldn’t resist the urge to include one in the story. And thus, two unlikely roommates were born: Asha, a witch who moves back to her family’s old house in Longsummer for a fresh start, and Ruth, the ghost who’s been haunting the house in Asha’s absence. The two women are used to feeling alone and adrift in the world. Can they overcome their individual insecurities and traumas to make Wisteria House – and one another – their home?
“A Simply Miraculous Invention” by Frances Maples
The “monster” in my story is a life-size dancing doll that gains sentience. As soon as our group decided on the theme of monster romance, I knew I wanted my story to riff on the trope of “teaching a robot to love.” I’ve always been fascinated with the way robots are used in fiction, and even wrote a term paper on it in college, so the choice was an easy one. The dancing doll portion of my idea came later, as I started thinking more about the way human-like inanimate objects are used to express sexuality and gender. We have sex dolls, mannequins at department stores that have historically been used to model how people “should” dress along gendered lines, and we have children’s dolls that have historically also been bifurcated along strict gendered lines: Barbie for girls and G.I. Joe for boys. What caught my attention most in my research was the ballet titled Coppélia. It’s about a man who invents a dancing doll, falls in love with it, and tries (unsuccessfully) to bring it to life. I was fascinated with this idea of a doll being an expression of a cishet man’s ideal woman: beautiful and inanimate. There’s something scary about a dancing doll as well, an inanimate object that moves despite having no free will. That, too, echoes the way so many cishet men have an innate fear of women and femininity. The idea of this doll, designed to be an object of cishet male desire, coming to life and having a mind of their own, felt a lot to me like being assigned female at birth. In robot fiction there is constantly a thematic struggle between what a robot is created to do and what the robot wants to do once they have gained sentience. The idea of assigned gender vs gender identity felt like a natural progression of that theme to me. My story is heavily inspired by the ballet Coppélia, but is also a love letter to all the disaster enbies out there.
“labrys” by Cherry
I think I’ve always been fascinated by mythology, so when the theme of “monster romances” came up, my first thought was, “so Theseus and the minotaur fall in love instead”. And that was kind of where it started — at first, I had this grand vision about how the entire story would be one of self discovery (and in the end, I think I kind of, sort of, got there), but as the story grew, I knew it would become more of an exploration of what constitutes “monster”. More than anything, I chose this “type” of monster because we can find them littered throughout the most iconic stories, across every single culture — monsters that are monsters because we’ve decided they are. But they never get to speak for themselves; and then what if we turn that inwards, to look at ourselves and ask — aren’t we just as monstrous, if not more so, by choosing actively to segregate and separate ourselves from something or someone just because they are different, just because we’ve never tried to understand them? One of my favorite quotes from a book goes something like: “There’s not a monster dreamt that did not first walk within the soul of man.”
“Toothpick” by Arson Kidder
While we were all spitballing our prompts for the anthology, I suggested writing about a mermaid, and another writer shouted back “ALLIGATOR mermaid!” and I knew immediately I had to do it. The idea of selkies with their sealskin jackets wouldn’t leave me alone either. What if it was an alligator leather jacket and she needed it to transform from human to gator form? Then I worked around what kind of person could comfortably rock that as their casual everyday look, and Reina with her cowboy boots and her braggadocious energy was born. I’m grateful the other writers encouraged me to make her as uber-powerful and important as I wanted, to the point that she became a demigod of the city. Go big or go home, right? Then I started playing around with the idea of alligators being a metaphor for death itself, and the story just unfolded on its own after that…
“Corylus and Stone” by Amanda Louise
I chose to write a love story about lesbian faeries because I already had too many ideas about fae lore. For example, in some circles, the fair folk have a reputation for being tricksters. Wouldn’t that reputation lead to different treatment from those non-fae who might be wary of being tricked? Or what about from those who have already been tricked, like parents who raise changeling children?
Thus came the idea for Stone, a fairy raised among humans who was made to use her glamour magic to hide her true nature. She resents both being good at glamour and how faeries are treated. Her love interest, Corylus, is a human who was raised in Faerie and has missed magic every second since she left. Her drive to get magic back into her life leads to a tragic accident that makes her view herself as a monster.
I wanted these two lovers who grew up in different worlds with different morals to help each other get past their negative views of self (by finding the other one super sexy) and come to terms with their issues surrounding magic (by using it in a love scene).
“Indelible and Nocturnal” by T.K. Hirst
I had this idea to combine my two loves—Formula 1 and writing—into this thing. I knew I wanted to write something that was a little different; something a little meaner, and I wanted to incorporate vampires, because they’re sick, for lack of a better term. Also, creating an elusive vampiric character being absolutely destroyed by his younger, naive human counterpart was just fun to write! I chose this type of monster because I believed that vampires deserve some sort of retribution in the form of a young hot-shot driver willing to ruin your life. Life’s fun that way!
“The Antidote to Memory” by Eve Golden-Woods
I started with visuals. I knew I wanted a monster that wasn’t remotely human, something that would seem truly unnerving and alien. I had certain elements in mind immediately – a big height difference, altered facial features (the Curator has no nose, only slit nostrils, a classic choice for a creature meant to be scary rather than sexy). I was definitely influenced by things like The Shape of Water, along with other stories I’d recently read/seen, and I wanted to play with similar ideas but in a wlw space. I think other writer’s answers will probably delve into the queer/monstrous connection that a lot of us resonate with, but I should also add that I find stories of women who are not and cannot be traditionally beautiful very important, so that was something I wanted to explore for myself. There isn’t really a classical folkloric creature who fits what the Curator is, although lots of contemporary reimaginings of water monsters get close. She calls herself a troll in the story, which is a fairly flexible fantasy term, but I wish I’d been able to find an actual Irish folktale to link her to. Unfortunately, for all the bog we have, Ireland has a real dearth of bog monsters. But although the specifics are all my own invention, the idea of a big, dangerous creature who lives just enough off the beaten track that she might catch you if you get lost is something that a lot of cultures share.
“Seeds of Solace” by Rien Gray
The first image I had for this story was of an overgrown Southern manor, years of artifice being pulled back into the earth. As that expanded to a garden–with statues–the image of a gorgon sitting among the ruins came to mind. Yet I wanted her to be out of place, a hard and cold beacon in the midst of summer, so she became the love interest, intruding on my protagonist River and their ancestral home. River is, for all intents and purposes, a sentient plant, although they’re not aware they were grown by their mother inside the house until returning home in the wake of her death. Since I wanted a natural connection to the house and to explore the transformation that comes from grief, having them literally bloom over the course of the story made perfect sense.
“Virgin Cocktail” by Fisher Strunch
It would be easy to say I pursued a vampiric romance simply because I like vampires and think they’re sexy—honestly, even I thought that was the most accurate reading of my inspiration at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had really been seeking something entirely different: intimacy. There’s an intimacy beyond the traditionally romantic or sexual in vampiric fiction, and most specifically in the concept of consensual blood drinking. Beyond simply (though of course it’s not simple at all) baring your heart to another, of trusting a partner to see you wholly and accept you all the same, you’re putting your life in a vampire’s hands. And, in turn, a non-vampiric participant is literally giving a part of themselves so their vampiric lover may live. Obviously, it’s a bit intense for real life, but that’s the appeal of fantasy, isn’t it? And after living for two years and counting in almost complete isolation, some fantastical, bigger-than-life intimacy is exactly what I was craving.
“Mending Ribbons” by Cyrus Adams
I was really into second chance romances when I started brainstorming this story. In a magic-focused story, I knew that whatever broke my love interests apart, it would have to be related to the magical abilities of one person or, more specifically, how the magical love interest resented that side of himself. I don’t remember how I came around to the choice of making Tristan a witch specifically, but I know the first thing I thought of was having a character who made a career out of his magic, and perhaps he found that was all it was good for. One of his greatest challenges would be facing someone who was fascinated with his magic, and saw it as a gift, rather than the curse Tristan saw it as. Which was also how I made the decision to give Tristan a literal curse. And that’s how the foundation of the story was laid down! A freelancing witch gets hired by a man who needs his magical powers; they fall in love. Kai loves how careful Tristan is with his magic, Tristan loves that Kai can see beauty everywhere he looks…and a curse tears them apart. So this is a story about Tristan learning that there are beautiful sides to his magic and himself, but it’s also about Kai being faced with the ugly truths, and deciding if he wants to stick around to see them.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This e-book anthology can be purchased for $15 USD on Kobo (https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/longsummer-nights) or itch.io (https://vowtogether.itch.io/longsummer-nights)