Hi guys, we have Kate McMurray popping in today with her upcoming release What’s the Use of Wondering?, we have a brilliant guest post about writing new settings and a great excerpt, so guys, check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
What’s The Use of Wondering
Violinist Logan has spent most of his life training for a career in music. But as the pressure mounts during his junior year, he questions whether playing in an orchestra is the future he wants, or one chosen by his parents. His new roommate—that annoying jerk Peter from last year’s production of Guys and Dolls—complicates matters. Crammed into a dorm room with the overconfident but undeniably hot accounting major, Logan can’t stop snarling.
Then Peter sprains his ankle building sets, and Logan grudgingly agrees to play chauffeur. But instead of putting further strain on their relationship, spending time together reveals some common ground—and mutual frustration. Logan discovers he isn’t the only one who doesn’t know what he wants from life, and the animosity between him and Peter changes keys. But just as the possibility of a happier future appears, Logan gets a dream offer that will take him away from Western Massachusetts University—and Peter. Now he has to decide: will he live the solitary life laid out for him, or hold on to Peter and forge his own path?
Release date: 3rd July 2017
Pre-order: Dreamspinner Press ebook | Dreamspinner Press paperback
Stepping into a New Setting!
by Kate McMurray
I set a lot of my books in New York City, but I took a bit of a mental field trip to set the WMU series in rural New England.
There Has to Be a Reason and What’s the Use of Wondering? are both set at a fictional university that is a thinly veiled representation of my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts. (Go Minutemen!) Of course, the characters in the books are in school almost 20 years after I was (yikes!) but I did draw from my own experiences quite a bit when thinking about how these characters might experience college.
I think the key differences between my college years and now are mostly technological. Some things are universal. Things can get awkward with roommates. Finals are stressful. You really make your own family.
UMass is nestled into the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts, about a two hour drive from Boston (or an hour and a half if you’re my lead-footed sophomore roommate from the Boston suburbs who went home for a job every weekend). The campus is sprawling. It’s isolated from the small town of Amherst, but it’s also huge, a couple of miles across if you include all the farms and parking lots and dorms and everything. Yes, farms; this part of the state is pretty rural. (Too rural for me. I lived off campus senior year, and the bus ride to school went by a dairy farm. All those cows casually grazing convinced me I belonged in a city.)
The WMU campus of the books is basically like UMass as I remember. I know from the alumni magazine that a lot of my old hangouts have been renovated. WMU has a café called the Mac where everyone congregates. UMass had the Blue Wall. (I was, in fact, sitting in the Blue Wall on a sunny morning in September of 2001 when the whole world changed.) I named a bunch of WMU buildings after writers from Massachusetts; most of the UMass dorms are named after Massachusetts scholars and statesmen. The geography of the real and fictional campuses are pretty similar, at least in my head, with most of the academic buildings in the middle and the dorms surrounding them. (I lived in a dorm at the top of a fairly steep hill, so I threw in some references to Logan and Peter needing to walk or drive up the hill to their dorm room.)
My goal most of all was to make the WMU campus seem like a real place, so I borrowed a lot from what I remembered and then changed it to suit the story. In some ways, it was fun to revisit it all. A lot has changed, too. (Not all for good; some of my favorite off-campus hangout spots are long-since closed.) And college for me was every bit as challenging and fun and angsty as it is for the characters in the series, so hopefully they come off as genuine and realistic!
THE FIRST time I saw him was on the stage.
This blond Adonis strode out from the wings in a black T-shirt and jeans, with a clipboard in his hand. He was well-muscled perfection, not a hair out of place, and walked with the confidence of a man who commanded the stage. There was a brief moment of serenity when he looked around and smiled, but then he started ordering people around. Or that’s how it looked; I couldn’t really hear him from where I sat in the orchestra pit, where everyone was tuning.
“Who is that?” I asked my best friend and stand partner, Ellie.
She looked up. “That’s Peter Bennett. King of the tech crew.”
I filed that away for later because our conductor walked over and tapped his baton on a music stand. He held his head high as if he were about to conduct the New York Philharmonic and not the ragtag pit orchestra at a rehearsal for the Western Massachusetts University Theater Club’s production of Guys and Dolls.
One might have wondered why I, Logan Miller, concertmaster of the WMU orchestra, was sitting in said pit. Apparently this was how I spent my free time. I was a violin major, I was the first sophomore to be named concertmaster in decades, and I chose to play in pit orchestras as an extracurricular activity. In other words, I lived, ate, drank, and breathed violin.
And boys. Whenever I wasn’t thinking about bow tension and minor chords, I was thinking about boys.
Hence Peter Bennett, with his perfectly chiseled jaw and his neatly trimmed blond hair and his big shoulders and his thighs—Lord, he had powerful thighs—snared my attention and continued to distract me throughout rehearsal, even when he was offstage.
He was onstage a lot, though, or at least in the wings. This was the first rehearsal with the orchestra, and he had an unfortunate habit of sticking his head out and making suggestions to tweak what was on the stage.
At first he stuck to telling the tech crew where to put stuff. Most of the sets were painted on wood and set up on wheels so the audience could be quickly transported from the streets of Times Square to the inside of the Save-a-Soul Mission to the underground craps tables where Nathan and the gang gambled. Peter had strong opinions about where exactly things should be onstage, and he’d run out to nudge sets to the left or right, or he’d push props around onstage with his feet until they were positioned within a millimeter of where he thought they should be. His need for control was not limited to tech crew, however; he had a lot to say to the actors as well.
“Hey, Jenny, take three steps forward so your face is more in the light,” he yelled at the girl playing Adelaide when she got up to sing a big number. She flinched and did what he said.
As the crew set up the next scene, Peter moved on to another actress. “Kat, you gotta sing louder, honey. No one will be able to hear you from the dead zone in the middle of the theater!”
She rolled her eyes at him.
He seemed particularly obsessed with people not blocking important parts of his sets. When the kid playing Benny Southstreet strolled out with a couple of other cast members to practice the opening number, Peter stuck his head out again. “Chip! Two feet to the right!”
Chuck, the show’s actual director, became visibly more annoyed every time Peter did this. He twitched whenever Peter spoke, and spent the entire second half of rehearsal scowling in Peter’s direction.
By the time rehearsal wrapped and I was having a postperformance cigarette break at the curb outside the auditorium, I’d pretty much written Peter Bennett off as hot but supremely annoying. I would even have gone as far as to say that his inherent meddling nature made him less hot; I had him pegged as one of those type A control freaks who had to have everything just so, but that’s not how theater was, or not how it should be. The beauty of theater was that it was a little rough around the edges, a bit imperfect.
My first cigarette wound down, and I was thinking about having a second before hopping in my car and driving back up the hill to my dorm, when Peter walked out lugging two giant black duffel bags. He dropped the bags near my feet and said, “Hey.”
He glanced at the violin case strapped to my back. “String instrument?”
Was he really this dumb? I was willing to buy he hadn’t seen me in the pit; he’d been too obsessive about the show’s details to have seen beyond the proscenium. And true, it was a rectangular case, not one shaped like a violin, but there weren’t many musical instruments that could fit in a case that shape. “Violin,” I said.
“Cool. You waiting for a ride?”
That seemed to surprise him; his head bobbed back a little. “So you just hang out on curbs?”
“Maggie’s bringing the car around.” He gestured at the giant bags.
I had no idea who Maggie was, but I pulled out that second cigarette and nodded as I lit it.
“Those will kill you,” said Peter.
“I sat through the same health class in high school as you did.” I paused to suck on that cancer stick. “Unlike you, I don’t spend my Friday nights partying it up in Frat Row and I don’t really drink. Let me have my vices.”
“He speaks.” Peter rolled his eyes. “Okay, first of all, I’ve never been to a Frat Row party. Well, once, freshman year, but just to see what it was like. Not my scene.”
“Point still stands,” I said.
“Second of all, I didn’t mean anything by my comment. You want to turn your lungs black, be my guest.”
I took another pull from my cigarette. “You self-righteous prick. You are, of course, completely without flaws, so you’ve taken it upon yourself to fix everyone else.”
He narrowed his eyes and pointed at me. “You’ve got it all figured out, don’t you?”
“You don’t know jack about me, so maybe cool it with the judgment.”
“Who’s judging? You’re the one who started the antismoking lecture.”
“Hardly a lecture. I just pointed out that smoking will kill you. You want to die, that’s on you. I don’t care what you do.” A car pulled up to the curb, and he shouldered one of the bags. “That’s Maggie.”
I blew a smoke ring at him. He coughed and rolled his eyes again before picking up the other giant duffel.
Perhaps not my finest moment.
“I’m Peter, by the way. Probably we’ll be seeing quite a bit of each other over the next few weeks.”
Unfortunately. “I’m Logan.”
“I’d say it’s nice to meet you, but, well, you were here too.” He stepped toward the car. A girl I didn’t know hopped out and helped him with one of the bags.
“Touché,” I said.
I finished off my cigarette as he loaded the trunk and then folded his long body into the passenger seat before the car pulled away. Asshole. I put out the butt of my cigarette with the toe of my sneaker. I vowed right there that I’d spend the run of the show avoiding the hell out of Peter Bennett.
Kate McMurray is an award-winning romance author and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers and is currently the president of the New York City chapter of RWA. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.