Since August, the Gabber Book Club has met on the second Wednesday of each month via Zoom. Next month’s meeting will feature something a little different – Chelsea Catherine, author of November’s book selection, joins the discussion.
Catherine’s novel, her second, titled “Summer of the Cicadas,” focuses on a former cop who is still reeling from the death of her family in a car accident two years earlier and is deputized after a brood of cicadas descends on her small West Virginia town. Catherine began writing “Cicadas” at the beginning of 2016. She was in her home state of Vermont and missing the south after living in Louisiana for a time. She began thinking of how she could develop the idea of cicadas in the summer, something she had always wanted to write about.
“I was looking for a setting that was similar yet different from Vermont. West Virginia and Vermont are similar in appearance with the rolling hills, the plants, the landscape. The politics are also similar,” says Catherine. “Vermont is very conservative as is West Virginia, and I wanted to play with that.”
Catherine describes her main character, Jessica, as a “hot mess. I didn’t like her very much when I started writing the book but I really liked her by the end. She’s headstrong with both positive and negative traits. She’s grown a lot by the end of the book.”
Catherine also explores LGBTQ relationships in the book, a major theme in her writing, as Jessica deals with feelings for her sister’s best friend, Natasha, who is in new romance with a local editor.
“Everything I write 100 percent comes from a queer perspective,” says Catherine. “Although it’s gotten better than it used to be, there is still a lack of queer voices in publishing.”
Catherine credits being true to her identity as a factor in her writing success. After graduating from the University of Tampa with an MFA in creative writing, she moved to Key West for two years, where she served as secretary of the Key West Writers Guild.
“I had just come out of the closet and just graduated from grad school when I moved to Key West,” she says. “Being a part of the community of writers of all ages, politics and sexuality in the Writers Guild was a great experience and the best writing community I’ve found yet.”
Catherine also won the Red Hen Press Quill Prose Award in 2018, an award to empower queer voices in publishing, which led to the publication of “Cicadas.”
Now living in St. Petersburg, Catherine is working on the final edits of her third novel and has become part of St. Pete’s thriving literary community, teaching writing classes for Keep St. Pete Lit. Tombolo Books, which she calls “so supportive,” held a virtual book launch when the novel was released in August.
When asked what she wants readers of her novel to take away from the book, she says, “Hard times pass. Things don’t always work out like we want them to, but things will change eventually. Just hang in there.”
The next meeting of the Gabber Book Club is Wednesday, November 11 at 7 p.m. with Amanda Hagood as facilitator. For information and to get a Zoom link, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their events page.