The short story collection Murder in the Nudist Colony has been a great success, and the next volume, Romance in the Nudist Colony, is well under way. We are fast approaching the deadline for submissions on December 1. On a Twitter thread started by volume organizer Ted Bun, several writers – writers who meet their deadlines much more quickly than I – have commented on whether their story for Romance is related to the one they submitted for Murder. Ana J. tweeted “My story (“Romance”) picks up where the previous story (“Murder”) ended,” and I responded that mine does too, or at least, not too long after the story for Murder ended. When we were writing and submitting for Murder, none of us knew that there would be another volume forthcoming with a romance theme, and yet I suspect several of us found a romance to be a natural development for characters from stories we submitted for the first volume.
Why does this happen, and why might it be important? I know in my case, it has to do with the desire to expand the psychological complexity of the characters. Depth of personality can be more thoroughly developed over a set of stories than in just one. The story for Murder sprang from my desire to revisit characters I originally conceived for a serialized story I published online in 2016, “Bugs and Bares.” Dr. A is a retired entomologist who lives at a naturist resort she founded with her late husband on the fictional Caribbean isle of St. Ethel. She seems addlepated but is actually quite lucid, and with the help of her young friend Nate she solves the mystery of an invasion of moths that are chewing through the clothing of the island’s non-nudist majority. When I brought these characters back for “Pest Control,” my story for Murder, I enjoyed exploring more about their backgrounds, and developing the budding romance of Nate with Beverly, a character who had unwittingly helped the villain of “Bugs and Bares.” I had another intention that I was able to develop in “Pest Control,” which was to link the setting to certain plot developments in my work-in-progress, a naturist historical novel set in the 17th-century Caribbean.
So it was an easy step to develop the relationship between Nate and Beverly for Romance… and yet as I began to write, what came forward was Dr. A’s history: her relationship with her husband, what led them to establish the naturist park, and what happened in their relationship afterwards. So I find myself close to finishing a story that, in the end, explores several romantic relationships. And, as writers do, I write “from life”: there are elements of my own life, my own relationships, as well as aspects of the lives of friends of mine who were among the original founders of Oaklake Trails, a wonderful and very large naturist park near where I live. I’ve always been fascinated by the story of those forward-thinking naturists who bought the land as a collective and developed it as a clothing-optional zone right in the middle of a formidably conservative area here in the central USA. Setting the story in the Caribbean disguises it a bit, and gives me the opportunity to relive tropical memories from Santo Domingo and Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Romance in the Nudist Colony has a publication date right around Valentine’s Day, 2021 – stay on the look-out for more great naturist fiction!