IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

How Carley Fortune built a beach read empire

Her third book in three years, "This Summer Will Be Different", sweeps readers away to a new Canadian vacation spot.
Carley Fortune In Conversation At Indigo Bay Bloor
Carley Fortune speaking about her second book.?Jeremy chan photography / Getty Images

Open the page to any one of Carley Fortune’s best-selling novels and you’ll be immediately transported. Maybe it's to a tranquil cottage on Barry’s Bay. Maybe it's to a seagrass-swept shores of Prince Edward Island. Either way: You'll forget the world.

Fortune, a Toronto-based journalist turned author, writes romance novels that take her characters and readers on a whirl through some of Canada's vacation spots.

Devotees say they're more than page-turners you read once and tuck away on a dusty shelf. They're emotional and beautifully written. They might make you cry while holding a cocktail (yes, it happened to me).

“I think that my storytelling style really lends itself to summer reading, whether you’re on vacation or not, when you want to curl up with a book and escape. That’s really what I want my books to be— an escape for the reader,” Fortune tells TODAY.com in an exclusive interview.?

Although she was a fervent reader as a child, Fortune says she strayed from books in her 20s and 30s. Eventually, she found her way back, first with young adult novels and then romance.

“I found romance so refreshing. I just did not know that there were books that examined the way women live, our relationship with men and women in our lives in romantic ways, our friendships, our relationship with our parents, with our work, with our mental health,” Fortune says.

In a way, authorship is a permanent vacation from her prior career as a journalist.

“I’m someone who is very ambitious and as I climbed in my career, I found myself getting further away from what I truly enjoyed,” says Fortune, who previously oversaw the editorial team of Refinery29.

Fortune was stuck. She was no longer getting the creative fulfillment from journalism that she once did but she didn’t see a way out.

One particularly frustrating work call, taken from a cottage in Ontario, inspired Fortune to do something she had always wanted to do — write a book of her own.

“I remember it very clearly because I can’t get cell phone reception very well at the cottage I was on the landline and I had the black receiver in my hand and I slammed down the phone and I said to myself, ‘I am going to write a book,’” Fortune says.?

For some, this might have been an impulsive declaration, said in the heat of the moment and then forgotten. But for Fortune, it was a beginning.

“It was just a project for myself to prove to myself that I could do it,” she says of her first book.

She started writing in the summer of 2020 and told herself she’d finish a draft by the end of the year. All she knew was that she wanted her first book to take place on the lake where she grew up and that it had to be a romance.?

“All I could tolerate in 2020 was a happy ending," she says.

Not only did she finish it in four months, but that draft became her first book, “Every Summer After.” She signed with agent Taylor Haggerty of Root Literary and soon after went on submission to publishers. It went on to spend 14 weeks on the NYT bestsellers paperback trade fiction list and nine weeks on the combined list, a rare feat for a debut novel.

She calls the process of writing that book “light and joyful,” despite the fact that she had to squeeze in writing in the wee morning hours while balancing parenting her young son, a full-time job, and her second pregnancy. “It really flowed out of me in a way that felt like magic,” she says.

Though Fortune’s second book, “Meet Me at the Lake” was also a bestseller, she admits that the writing process was not nearly as easy.

A trio of postpartum anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion grabbed Fortune by the hand and led her down a path of crippling tension and fear.

“When it came time to write “Meet Me at the Lake,” I was just overcome by self-doubt and a lot of my own personal struggles that I was dealing with,” she says.?

While the drafting and revision process for her sophomore year may not have exactly been aspirational, Fortune still managed to find herself on the New York Times bestseller list once again. “Meet Me at the Lake” spent 10 weeks on the NYT bestsellers paperback trade fiction list, and six weeks on the combined list.

A third book deal gave Fortune an opportunity to change her mentality. After struggling upwards with “Meet Me at the Lake,” she knew exactly what she wanted her writing process to look like moving forward — an all-day dance party of sorts.

Fortune says she was inspired by the pace and energy of “Carrie Soto Is Back,” a fiction novel about a legendary tennis player’s last act. A conversation with author Taylor Jenkins Reid cemented the fact that writing could be enjoyable.

“Taylor had said that it was the most fun she had writing a book and I was like, ‘I can tell and I want that so badly for myself.’ I want the reader to be able to feel that. I kept that in mind?— ‘have fun, have fun,’” Fortune says, repeating the mantra out loud as if she still needs to reminder herself to do so.?

Some authors may want their writing process to look like a retreat or a quiet respite from daily life. Not Fortune.

“I played music, I tried to dance, and I started painting,” she says.

The result of Fortune’s fun is “This Summer Will Be Different,” which takes place on Prince Edward Island in Canada. “I have to say, from beginning to end, it was such a pleasure to work on," she says.

It’s evident in the pages of Fortune’s highly anticipated third novel, which throws readers into the middle of a steamy, clandestine romance between Lucy and her best friend’s brother, Felix. Without purchasing a plane ticket or taking a ferry ride, you’ll find yourself cheering for Felix as he competes in the island’s annual oyster shucking competition. And you’ll be crossing your fingers that Felix’s sister, Bridget, doesn’t get mad when she finds out about Lucy and Felix’s secret summer fling.

It’s easy to get invested in Fortune’s lovable, flawed characters. It's equally easy to get lost in the landscape, thanks to Fortune's descriptive language that captures the crackle of a bonfire, the crystallized caps of lapping waves, the exhaust from an old-fashioned ice cream truck driving over pebbled roads.

“I wanted you to smell and taste and feel the wind in your face and feel your toes in the sand and really feel like you were on the shores of Prince Edward Island,” Fortune says.

And like any good vacation, Fortune’s readers are craving more.

She is currently working on her fourth novel and while the specific setting is still under lock and key, there's a high chance it will be another sunny summer romance.

“There very well could be a time where I’m sick of what I’m doing or my readers are sick of what I’m doing. I’m still quite new at this. But I’m really happy doing what I’m doing.”

news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news