Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Carrie Pack – Carrie is the author of two novels—Designs On You and In the Present Tense—and a part-time college professor. She recently left her job in marketing to actively pursue her writing career. Her early career focused on advertising, journalism, and public relations while she also did freelance writing for businesses in the nonprofit sector. Carrie lives in Florida, which she fondly calls America’s Wang, with her husband and four cats.
Thanks so much, Carrie, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Carrie Pack: I’ve always loved writing creatively, but I didn’t think it was something I was good at for a long time. Maybe it was because I read so much, but I was constantly comparing myself to others and thought I’d never measure up. It wasn’t until I started writing fanfiction that I realized there is room for everyone to be a writer. You have to learn what works for you; you can’t be someone else. So I started writing, and I kept writing. Over time I started writing my own characters and became more confident. I still have to tell myself it’s okay to have a bad first draft. No one will ever see it.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
CP: I tend to genre hop a bit, so I don’t have an exclusive genre that I specialize in. My first novel was contemporary romance, In the Present Tense is time travel and my next novel will be young adult. But thematically, I’m always writing characters who learn to be true to themselves—to live authentically. I think that’s something that I struggled with, so I tend to explore that when I write.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
CP: My first published novel was Designs On You and it’s inspired by my early career as a graphic designer. It’s also a nod to classic rom-coms like When Harry Met Sally. I love a good enemies-to-friends-to-lovers trope and I wanted to do my take.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
CP: I start with a scene in mind and go from there. I’m much more of a pantser than a plotter, which was tough when writing a time travel novel. I have a rough outline that I work from, but when I say rough, I mean I have notes like “and then they kiss” or “make sure that guy tells the cute barista he likes his shoes.” I write as it comes to me, which makes for some interesting unplanned plot twists.
JSC: Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
CP: I don’t know how quirky it is, but I twirl my hair when I’m thinking or driving. According to my mom I’ve always been obsessed with hair and used to twirl other people’s before I even had any.
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
CP: Oscar Wilde. I’d love to ask what he thinks of modern fiction. What would he think of modern queer culture? And, of course, I’d love to see how his personal style would translate to 21st century fashion!
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
CP: Well, my last name already is a verb, (and so is my first name when spelled differently). You can both carry and pack things, although, I hate doing both.
JSC: If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
CP: I think I’d pick the year after I graduated from college. I spent too much time working and studying in college and not nearly enough time learning who I was, so I’d love a do-over to travel the world.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
CP: I am just wrapping up a manuscript for a YA novel that takes place during the Riot Grrrl movement of the early ‘90s. Punk girls who love girls. Need I say more? It should be out some time in mid-2017.
And now for Carrie’s new book: In the Present Tense:
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?
Carrie is the author of two novels—Designs On You and In the Present Tense—and a part-time college professor. She recently left her job in marketing to actively pursue her writing career. Her early career focused on advertising, journalism, and public relations while she also did freelance writing for businesses in the nonprofit sector. Carrie lives in Florida, which she fondly calls America’s Wang, with her husband and four cats.