Today I am really excited to welcome author Kate McMuray back to Joyfully Jay! Kate is here to talk us about angst and her new book, Four Corners.  She has also brought a copy to give away to one lucky commenter! So please join me in giving her a big welcome! Hi Kate!

Angst has kind of a bad rap.

Lately, it seems to have come to mean torturing characters. Guy #1 is recovering from the death of his partner and his parents disowned him for being gay and his car broke down. Guy #2 is prostituting himself to pay his bills and was recently diagnosed with a debilitating disease and his goldfish all just went belly up. Sounds like a country song, actually. Not gonna lie, there’s something really appealing about the trope of two people with heavy baggage finding each other and falling in love as they help each other through it. But I think it’s also possible to have a really juicy, dramatic conflict without pushing it too far. And it’s definitely possible to take it too far.

We’re talking about romance novels, though, so of course there’s a certain propensity to take things over the top. That’s kind of what draws me to the genre. My writers group makes fun of me for this all the time, but I love those little moments that you only see in romance novels: when two people spot each other across the room and their hearts flutter; when the characters meet for the first time and feel that spark of attraction; when the two characters cautiously declare their love for each other. It’s cheesy, but I love that stuff. The trick, I think, is to make it seem realistic and organic to the story.

Every novel has external and internal conflict between the main couple. External conflict is easy. A character is running from a bad guy, say, or there’s a high-stakes mystery that the character has to solve before some really awful things go down. Internal conflict is harder. There has to be enough tension between the characters that you believe there’s a chance things might not work out (even though you know they will because, again, it’s a romance novel). That tension is what pulls the reader in, what keeps the novel moving forward.

And sometimes, my friends, that tension can cause angst. And I like really good angst in a story.

Let’s take the heroes of my latest novel Four Corners. Not a lot of external conflict here. No death or disease, no one in trouble with the law, no explosions or broken bones or dead goldfish. On its face, it’s a really simple story: two guys, Jake and Adam, grew up together, were the best of friends. Jake developed a crush on Adam but never acted on it. Then one day, Adam took off for parts unknown and was out of touch for five years. Now he’s back. So we have conflict: Jake feels like Adam betrayed him and is hurt that Adam didn’t trust him enough to explain why he had to leave town. Adam had Reasons (which I won’t tell you because I don’t want to spoil anything) but now he wants Jake to forgive him. And that’s it. A lot of internal conflict between the characters. That’s the whole novel.

Well, not the whole novel. Stuff happens, obviously. But Four Corners is a character-driven rather than a plot-driven novel, and as such, almost the entirety of the conflict is between the two characters while they try to fix what went wrong between them. Jake, as the story’s narrator, spends a fair amount of time working through his own feelings for Adam. He wants to give his heart to Adam, but he doesn’t know if he can or he should. Adam has his own things going on as well, and they’re divided by time and distance, and there are things that must be resolved.

To me, that’s angst. That longing and turmoil you feel when you can’t be with the person you love, even if the only thing keeping you from getting what you want is yourself. That longing has to be there, and there has to be enough conflict and tension to justify the ending, to make the Happily Ever After sweet and satisfying.

And that delicious conflict can totally work (as far as I’m concerned anyway) without physically torturing the characters. Jake and Adam are put through their paces emotionally, but the external conflict is not too dramatic. Jake’s a pretty regular guy; he’s got an office job and a graduate degree and he rents an apartment in Chicago and he’s close to his family. But I like to think that an ordinary guy can totally fall into an extraordinary romance, angst and all.

Four Corners is available August 8 from Dreamspinner Press.


In addition to writing romance, Kate is a nonfiction editor. Also, she is crafty (mostly knitting and sewing, but she also wields power tools), she plays the violin, and she dabbles in various other pursuits. She’s maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her website: 


Since childhood, Jake, Adam, Kyle, and Brendan have been teammates, best friends, brothers. Then one day, when they were twenty-five, Adam disappeared without a word, devastating his friends—none more so than Jake, who had secretly loved Adam since they were teenagers.

Now, five years later, Adam is back, and he has his mind set on Jake. But those years of anger, hurt, and confusion are a lot to overcome, and Jake doesn’t find it easy to forgive. He isn’t sure they’ll ever fit together the way they did. Jake, Kyle, and Brendan have moved on with their lives, but Adam’s high-profile career keeps him in the closet—the same place he’s been for years. Still, his apologies seem sincere, and the attraction is still there. Jake desperately wants to give him a chance. But first he has to find out why Adam left and if he’s really back for good.


Kate has brought a copy of Four Corners to give away today to one lucky commenter.  The contest will close on Monday, August 13th at 11:59 pm EST.  So be sure to leave a comment to enter to win!

  • By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay and leave your email address if it is not in your profile.
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