Today I am so pleased to welcome Carrie Pack to Joyfully Jay. Carrie has come as part of the GRL Blog Tour to talk to us about her release, In the Present Tense. She has also brought along two copies to give away. Please join me in giving Carrie a big welcome!
Time travel is a subject that has fascinated me since I first saw Back to the Future when I was five years old. It was inevitable that I write a book about it. But when I set out to write In the Present Tense, I knew I wanted to include an unusual means of time travel. I didn’t want a vehicle or machine to aid my characters; I wanted them to travel of their own accord. However, I also wanted an explanation as to how these people could time travel. In fact, I wanted the reader to question whether the main character, Miles, could really time travel at all.
During the brainstorming stage, a friend suggested using a dissociative disorder as a way to incorporate both the time travel aspect and the question of the character’s sanity. Perfect.
When I finally got back to writing, my idea for the story had changed. In a story about time travel, mental illness began to take center stage. Miles’s dissociative disorder was still there but so were characters dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, and even schizophrenia. For me, romance and mental illness were inextricably intertwined. I’m a happily married woman with a mental illness, but how? How do you maintain romantic relationships when you’re at your limit? How does your illness affect the ones you love?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 18.1% of all U.S. adults had some form of mental illness in 2014. That’s a lot of people— 43.6 million, in fact—living with mental health issues. And certainly, many of those people are also in relationships. I wanted to write about those people—people like me—and I wanted to do it respectfully. That’s was a pretty tall order when you’re asking the audience to question your main character’s sanity. So I did a lot of research. I read books on dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia and the DSM-V (the go-to resource for mental health professionals). I wanted to get it right.
Still, mental illness is stigmatized and romanticized in media to the point that some people don’t even believe it’s a real disease. Or, worse still, they make jokes about it. So my characters (and readers) had to take Miles’s dissociation seriously. His wife, Ana, supports him and tries to get him treatment. His ex-boyfriend, Adam, tells Ana she might need a therapist as well. Later, Miles meets multiple characters who are managing their symptoms through medication and therapy.
But that’s not all. I also made Miles’s disease a super power. That way, the very thing throwing his life into turmoil is also a strength, but only if he learns to control it. That is the reality for anyone with mental illness. It doesn’t define who you are, but you should, seek treatment. Even with a supernatural ability, Miles’s journey is very much rooted in the reality of mental health. He comes out the other side a changed person, as many of us do. But he’s still capable of love and being loved. He’s still Miles. And I’m still me.
Mental illness is a fickle mistress. She will lie to you and convince you that your affair with her is healthy. She’ll make those around you think are a bad person. She’ll ruin relationships or she’ll lie in wait and appear only when it’s least convenient. But, if you can come out the other side, if you can face the mistakes you made and get the help you need, you may find something better than you had before. That is at the heart of Miles’s journey. And mine.
My depression flies in the face of the stereotype that troubled people make better artists. It flat out prevented me from writing a word for nearly a year. But when I emerged from the fog, I was able to give voice to myself and the millions of other Americans battling mental illness. Through Miles, I was able to travel back in time and fix broken relationships and heal old wounds. In the end, writing In the Present Tense gave me the strength to talk openly about my mental illness. It was catharsis.
Plus, I finally got to write about time travel. You gotta admit, that’s pretty freaking cool.
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.
Traveling more frequently, Miles assembles the puzzle pieces of his life and, in doing so, alienates his wife. As he loses control, Miles must realize that sometimes fixing your past mistakes means changing your future. But will he be able to convince Adam he is telling the truth before it’s too late?
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.
Carrie has brought two copies of In the Present Tense to give away to two lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, August 9th at 11:59 pm EST.
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