The May/December trope is one that Racheline and I keep coming back to. Sometimes, it happens almost accidentally; as cowriters, we are sixteen years apart in age, and having characters with a large age gap between them lets there be a character we each relate to. Sometimes, we do it more deliberately: We’re interested in how people navigate power dynamics within relationships, and how a couple navigates disparities in age, experience, and expectations.
In Midsummer, the May/December relationship between John and Michael is a little different than other age-difference stories we’ve written, because it is also a gay-for-you romance. Michael — who is twenty-five — has been out and proud since he was in high school. Forty-two-year-old John, on the other hand, has never found himself attracted to men until he falls in love and lust with Michael. He insists that his attraction for Michael isn’t some sort of mid-life crisis; although he totally gets why his friends accuse them of that.
As much as we enjoy writing May/December for the fun of watching a character teach another something awesome in bed, we also enjoy the negotiation and conflict that arise when two characters are so far apart in age. And in Midsummer, the gay-for-you dynamic interacts with the May/December dynamic in ways we really enjoy. On the one hand, John is seventeen years older than Michael, and has a great deal of experience with life, the world, and relationships. On the other hand, John is very new to being a part of the gay community, and has to learn how to navigate questions of his own outness.
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.
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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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.