Title: In The Present Tense
Author Name & Publisher: Carrie Pack (Interlude Press)
Publication Date & Length: May 19, 2016 – 336 pgs
Miles Lawson goes to sleep dreaming of a future with his boyfriend Adam, but wakes to find he is married to Ana, an acquaintance from high school. When he learns he has been time traveling, Miles is consumed with finding a cure for his rare condition—and finding his first love. But will he be able to convince Adam he is telling the truth before it’s too late?
Miles sat there and tried to make out shapes and colors in the dark room as he searched his brain for a memory of anything.
Nothing looked familiar. His desk, his drum set, the sheets—all gone. Not one thing looked the way it had when he’d fallen asleep, and Ana certainly hadn’t been in his bed.
He tried to replay the previous day’s events, but everything seemed fuzzy, like a fogged bathroom mirror that he couldn’t wipe clean.
Why was everything so fuzzy?
Last night… What happened last night?
Adam had come over and they were watching TV together, and Adam had given him a small stuffed giraffe because Miles was scared about having surgery. He reached for his left arm, expecting to find the cast that had been there for the last two months, but it wasn’t there. His heart began to beat so loudly he glanced over at Ana to make sure she was still asleep.
Unable to determine what had happened to his cast, Miles resumed his tally of the previous evening’s chain of events. At around ten-thirty, his mom said Adam had to leave because they had to get up early to go to the hospital. He had taken his pain meds and gone to sleep with the phantom of Adam’s goodnight kiss on his cheek. He’d been happy.
He’d gotten a text from Ana earlier in the evening, but she was only wishing him luck with the surgery. She hadn’t come over. In fact, as far as Miles knew, Ana had been several hours away in her dorm room.
So how had she gotten into his bedroom? And who had changed his sheets?
He threw off the covers and stood up, noticing he was only wearing a tight-fitting pair of boxer briefs instead of his usual basketball shorts.
He looked around the room for anything familiar, but it was still dark out, and all he could see were shadows and vague shapes. On the dresser opposite the bed, he found a few framed photos.
Squinting to see without turning on a light, Miles studied the images carefully.
As his eyes focused, he recognized a couple of the photos. One was from last year’s prom: Adam wearing that ridiculous corsage Miles had bought him, Ana being dipped by her date, David, as all four of them smiled widely in front of a cheesy faux tropical scene. One of the frames held a collage of photos of his and Ana’s friends. He recognized Adam, Lucky, Antonio, Dahlia and Brienne. But the last one, the largest of all the photos, was of him and Ana—her in a flowing white dress and him in a black suit, both wearing broad smiles and flanked by Miles’s parents and a woman Miles had only seen once: Julia Espinosa, Ana’s mother.
A loud clatter echoed through the bedroom as the frame hit the edge of the dresser and fell to the hardwood floor. This wasn’t his room, and he didn’t remember that photo being taken.
“Go back to sleep,” Ana mumbled, her voice muffled by the pillow.
“Ana,” he whispered, risking her full anger, but unable to stop himself, “we’re married.”
“Thanks for the update. Now go back to sleep before I divorce your dumb ass.”
He dropped to the floor on his knees, barely even noticing the sharp pain of bare skin hitting the hard surface.
Married. To Ana?
What the hell had happened?
- Can you describe in detail what your writing environment is like?
I have a really great office where I could write, but to be honest, I often end up writing on my couch. I try to get in a few words whenever I can and I keep my laptop next to me. I usually have a cat or two trying to get my attention or lounging across my keyboard. That makes for some interesting typos.
- Is there one of your characters that you relate to (from any of your works)? Why?
I relate to Ana in In the Present Tense because she’s protective of her family but also pretty independent. She tries her best in every area of her life, to the point of being a bit of a perfectionist, but, because she’s human, falls short sometimes. I also understand her need to help her husband get better when his mental illness worsens. I would do anything for my loved ones. And that’s Ana at her core.
- If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do instead?
Well, because I’m not yet a full-time author, I get to follow my other passion, which is teaching. I’m a part-time instructor at a local liberal arts college, where I teach media and advertising courses. It’s fun to see students harness their own creativity and grow as adults. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, but I still hate grading.
- Is there anything that you learned during the writing process that you wish you had known before hand?
That it’s okay to be a pantser instead of a plotter. I think George R. R. Martin said something once in an interview about how some writers are gardeners; they plant their seeds and let the story grow, while others are architects and plan everything down to the last doorknob. I think it’s a better description than the pantser vs. plotter thing because as Martin says, gardeners still know if they planted flowers or cabbage. They still have an idea of what is going to grow, even if they don’t know the exact shape the plant will take. I may fly by the seat of my pants, but I’ve flown before.
- Is there anything that you wish you could change about your book now that it is out?
Of course. I think that’s natural for all writers. But in this particular case, that’s what sequels are for. I can’t tell you what I wish I could change because I’m going to use it when I revisit these characters in the future.
- How do you come up with new ideas for your story?
I wish I knew because then I could bottle it and keep it around for when my idea well is dry. Usually, though, I get ideas from my own life and my personal interests. My first novel, Designs On You, was about my former career in graphic design. In the Present Tense was inspired by my love of time travel stories and the stigma of mental illness. And my next book is inspired by early ’90s feminism.
- What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m already deep into my next novel, a YA story that takes place during the early ’90s feminist movement known as Riot Grrrl. I love the music from that era, and because I sort of missed the boat on the full impact of Riot Grrrl —I was just a couple years too young to have been a Riot Grrrl—I wanted to write a love story about that time.
- Where do you live? Do you think this influences how or what you write?
I live in Florida, which I often call America’s Wang because it’s such a ridiculous place and also disgustingly hot and humid. It’s also home so it definitely influences what I write. In fact, In the Present Tense takes place in Central Florida.
- What is your favorite genre outside of the one you write in? Why?
I am a huge fan of high fantasy. I admire the world building that goes into the genre and the commitment to inventing worlds that are completely different from our own. I write things that I know and sprinkle fiction on it. I know the world I’m writing in because I live in it, even if I’m adding fantastical elements. It’s a lot like making a cake from a box mix. It’s still baking, but the ingredients are already blended together and ready to go. You just have to add to it. But high fantasy requires a deft hand and the right ingredients or you don’t have cake at all. Of course, that’s fine too because you might be making brownies.
- Do you have any vices? Shoes, coffee, shopping…etc?
Pizza. Iced coffee. Red lipstick. Lifetime movies. Can’t say no to any of those.
Carrie Pack is the author of Designs On You and a part-time college professor who recently left her job in marketing to actively pursue her writing career. Carrie lives in Florida, which she fondly calls America’s Wang, with her husband and four cats.