Amber Schulman stepped into a lush English garden in 2007, only to arrive in breathtaking Sorrento, Italy--in 1958. The only person who understands her confusion is fellow time traveler Mark Lacey, a New Yorker who comes from the land of cassette tapes and Reaganomics. His dark, world-weary eyes beckon her with secrets and sensuality. But why does he seem so familiar?
Trapped in the past since he was a teen, Mark wants nothing to do with another whining newcomer. But the blue-eyed Aussie might be able to answer the one question that haunts him: Do I ever get back to 1987? From soccer to samba to sex, Amber tempts him with a zeal for life and love, pulling him free of his lonely isolation.
But getting home could prove easier than they imagined. How will their love endure if Amber returns to her time--and Mark to his?
Carrie stopped by Unusual Historicals to answer questions and officially launch her first published work.
What's the story behind the setting for this short story--1950s Italy? Was it because of the contest or an existing idea?
I first saw the information about the contest, and the Vintage category piqued my interest right away. I would love to read more romances set in the 20th century, particularly very glamorous and fast-moving times such as the '20s and the '50s. I had wanted to set a novel in 1950s Italy, something post-war along the lines of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but I didn't think there would be much of a market for it. When this opportunity came along, I jumped on it.
Have you written a time travel story before? How did this one take shape in your mind?
I'd never considered writing one before. I disliked the concept that time travel would be easy or glamorous or some sort of wish fulfilment. Instead I looked at the idea as a nightmare, with time itself a fierce antagonist. One of my favorite movies is Terminator, where the hero, Kyle Reese, goes back in time to save Sarah Connor--but he had to give up everything to do so. In that story, no one ever got home. The choice to time travel and the mechanism of it meant leaving everything behind permanently. I tried to imagine the terror of such a situation and how people would function.
The other element is that Mark is from 1987 and Amber is from 2007. That's unusual as far as I know, to have the hero and heroine come from different years to a third locale/time that is unfamiliar to them both. Part of the challenge of their love affair was to have them negotiate both their differing worldview and their new surroundings.
What was your favorite part about writing this story, and what part proved the most challenging?
The most challenging was negotiating the parameters of the time travel scenario I'd created--making sure that (most) of it made sense! I wanted to hold fast to the rules I created. The second was just plain time lines. I made a graph to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, time wise, and that their emotional development would correspond to their ages and experiences.
The most fun aspect was delving into the '80s. I grew up in the '80s, so reliving the slang and the movies to create Mark's character was a hoot.
"So," he said, clearing his throat. "Am I famous in 2007? As big as Schwarzenegger?"
Amber's self-consciousness spilled into laughter. "No, I've never heard of you."
Yet her denial hid a deeper truth, the pesky feeling of familiarity--something about him she couldn't identify. The question burrowed into the base of her skull, like trying to remember an actor's name without using the Internet.
"And anyway," she said. "Schwarzenegger is the governor of California now."
"Way." She grinned, feeling very Wayne's World--her roommate's favorite film. That Mark used '80s slang without irony amused her.
What is your favorite scene in this story?
The finale. *sigh* It really took my breath away when I wrote it. Everything else underwent revisions, but the final scene stayed almost entirely untouched. I'm such a dork that I get weepy every time.
How does this story differ from your upcoming Kensington Zebra Debut release, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS?
The setting and time, for one. WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS is set in the pseudo-mythic time of Robin Hood in early 13th century England, so the change of scenery did me for a loop. The heroines are also vastly different, in the Amber is very well-adjusted, adventurous and adaptable, whereas Meg is blind, lonely, and has to struggle out of her isolation. The heroes are both tasty and were fun to write, but Mark's youth meant that he dealt with issues and looked at the world with an immature eye.
The process of writing the two was like night and day. SCOUNDREL was a big, long, tedious struggle, especially with revisions. Single titles are simply ponderous! But "Sundial" was like a dream. It came to me almost fully formed in just a few weeks. I'd give up on the idea of fame and fortune for the opportunity to have a writing experience like that again.
What response have you received about the unusual setting and time period, or to the story itself?
Most people are intrigued, even if it's not on their top list. It's unusual and stands out. I like being one of a kind! As for the reviews, I've already had some pretty heady praise.
Do you plan to write additional short stories for The Wild Rose Press?
I do. My editor, Anna D'Arclon, and I got along very well throughout the quick process of editing "Sundial" (we had six weeks). She's invited me to return throughout the year with other Vintage stories, so I'm excited about that opportunity.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm about ten days away from finishing the rough draft of the untitled sequel to WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. It follows the heroine's sister to Castile where she meets a former assassin who's gone into hiding as a templar. It will be released one year after SCOUNDREL, so roughly December of 2009.
Many thanks for dropping by! "Sundial" can be purchased through TWRP's website or via Fictionwise.
Carrie is giving away a copy of "Sundial." All you need to do is post a comment--maybe about what unusual time period or location you would like to read about. The winner will be chosen at random. Be sure to check back next week to find out who has won.