I was blessed to grow up in a lower-middle class New Jersey suburb that somehow had one of the best arts programs in the state. I started taking violin lessons when they were offered to all fourth-grade students. I actually wanted to play clarinet, but the school didn’t have any loaner clarinets available. They did have violins. I figured I’d play for a year and then switch. But then a funny thing happened: I was good enough at the violin that my teacher talked me out of switching to clarinet. And so a young violinist was born.
Over the years, I’ve taken lessons, I’ve given recitals, I’ve played in orchestras. I played a couple of shows in Quebec, and I played in the pit orchestra for a musical in college. I’ve given great and terrible auditions. I took a hiatus after college and then picked it up again a few years later—apparently I cannot resist the siren call of music. Most recently, I took lessons at a music school in Brooklyn, one not as elite as the one in the Stars books, but one with a solid program just the same. I adored my teacher, even when she made me play Bach and Vivaldi alone on a stage in front of strangers.
The photo, incidentally, is scanned from my senior yearbook, so there I am in my high school orchestra during a concert rehearsal in all my mid-90s grungy finery. I was 17 or so when this was taken. I have terrible posture here, and I think that’s a scrunchy on my wrist? I hope you appreciate that I’m sharing this with you all.
I’ve been wanting to write a violinist character for a long time. The Silence of the Stars is not as immersed in music as The Stars that Tremble, but my hero, Everett, uses his music as an outlet. It helps him relieve stress and helps him think. Everett is a teacher, but he performs as well. There’s a scene in which he helps one of his students learn a new piece, and he behaves largely the way many of my teachers have—he gets out the metronome, he yells the fingerings over her playing, he explains the key signature. Later, when he plays in a concert, his love interest Sandy comments that he’s more jerky than graceful—if you’ve ever seen a great violinist in person, you see that he puts his whole body into it, and sometimes it’s not so pretty. I wrote about music I love—Everett and I are both partial to Baroque composers—and put books I own on Everett’s bookshelves and generally got to be kind of nerdy about it.
I like detail, what can I say?
It is a little strange to write about something I know pretty well. On the other hand, Everett is a little outside of my wheelhouse. I grew up in with a single mom, and we didn’t have much money, so private lessons were mostly out of the question until I got older. We had a rent-to-own arrangement with a local music store for my violin, which is the one I still play; it’s a nice model and produces great sound, but it’s not high-end by any means. Everett grew up in an upper-class family that could afford to pay for lessons starting at a young age, and he owns an antique violin he plays in concerts. (Everett is based in part on a friend of mine who is one of those music prodigies who can just pick up an instrument and figure out how to play it as if he’s been practicing for years. He’s particularly skilled at string instruments and, like Everett, owns three violins.)
So in some ways, Everett is wish fulfillment; he got the musical experience I wished I’d had as a kid. I like to treat writing as an escape, not fantasy per se but as a way to dive into someone else’s life for a little while. That’s why I don’t usually write much about my own life but prefer to make stuff up. Still, a story can certainly benefit from an author’s intimate knowledge of the subject, and as a reader who likes a lot of gritty detail in the books I pick up, I appreciate that I can lend some expertise to a book I’m writing.
All this is just a small part of the book, though. I haven’t even gotten into Everett’s love interest Sandy, maybe one of my favorite characters I’ve created, who will sarcastic your pants off. But you’ll have to check out the book to find out more about him.
The Silence of the Stars: Sandy Sullivan has gotten so good at covering up his emotions, he’s waiting for someone to hand him an Oscar. On the outside, he’s a cheerful, funny guy, but his good humor is the only thing keeping awful memories from his army tours in Afghanistan at bay. Worse, Sandy is now adrift after breaking up with the only man who ever understood him, but who also wanted to fix him the way Sandy’s been fixing up his new house in Brooklyn.
Everett Blake seems to have everything: good looks, money, and talent to spare. He parlayed a successful career as a violinist into a teaching job at Manhattan’s elite Olcott School and until four months ago, he even had the perfect boyfriend. Now he’s on his own, trying to give his new apartment some personality, even if it is unkempt compared to the perfect home he shared with his ex. When hiring a contractor to renovate his kitchen sends Sandy barreling into his life, Everett is only too happy to accept the chaos… until he realizes he’s in over his head.Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Visit her at http://www.katemcmurray.com
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