Writing the Melancholy Summer (Cat Scully)

Most of my books are set during the fall, not because I dislike spring or summer, but because I feel more alive in the fall than at any other time of year. Maybe it's because I like things that are a bit melancholy, or maybe it's because of the cool relief from the Georgia humidity and the death of all those mosquitoes and poison ivy, but summer is always the most bittersweet time of year. I liked school, so most of the books I write take place during the school year with friends and tests to worry about. For the first time, I'm writing a premise set specifically during the summer and about that feeling I used to have of being cut off from my friends, a kind of horror in itself. The long days felt longer without schoolwork and friends. I liked keeping busy. Summer was always this long dream I wanted to wake up from, even with my love of hot dogs and fireworks and lazy afternoons swimming until the blue waters turned purple after twilight.

Writing in the summer became a daunting task to me. I knew fall. I knew Halloween, the taste of honeycrisp apples and pumpkin muffins. I knew how to write back to school. I knew how to talk about that feeling of fresh beginnings and that long anticipated moment you walk to school in your new outfit with a carefully chosen binder and fresh pens. But I didn't know Summer. To me, growing up, it was the end of the annual cycle. School ended and the long three months of being apart from others my own age began. I used to sit in the trees of my front yard and write about the inner lives of the people I saw as they passed, carefully hidden in my perch. It was the lonely extrovert that felt this way and still does every time summer rolls around again. As I work on this book, it comes more readily every day. I've found it's easier to write the season you're in. Inspiration is around everywhere, though I look at it with a sense that a season is ending once again. But most people may not picture their summer as sad but rather as relief and freedom. Even in college, all I wanted to do was return to school for the work and my friends and the love of community.

Writing now is also my most difficult time of year to write because all I want to do is go outside. This year, it has been particularly difficult. I think when I finish this book, Summer will become a season of beginnings as I'm hard at work at starting a new career at the same time as trying a new venture in my written work that I've never dared try before. I hope your Summer is as fruitful.


  1. Love this post. Summer always seems to have a higher speed than other seasons. I'm so busy working on my garden and fruit trees to do much else save read. Like you, I love fall the best. In Maine, you can scrape frost off your windshield at breakfast time, but be in shorts and sweating by early afternoon.

  2. I'm with Berek. This is a lovely post.

    Summer is a tricky time for me. I prefer heat to cold, so I tend to favor summer for that reason. I also struggle with seasonal affective disorder, and I become particularly aware of the shortening days in late July and August—which makes summer bittersweet for me. I often spend September through February holding my breath. (The winter solstice is a celebration for me mostly because I know the days start getting longer again that day, though it's not until February that I really can tell the difference.)

    Still, part of the appreciates the crispness of autumn, even as I stress about the loss of daylight. If money was no object, I'd live in the southern hemisphere September-March, and return to the northern hemisphere March-September. :)


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