Exclusive Interview: Best-Selling Author Carley Fortune on Writing Romance, Changing Careers, and More


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Source: @carleyfortune
Source: @carleyfortune

It’s officially summer, and that means it’s time for one thing: beach reads. Lucky for us, Carley Fortune has written two of the best: the New York Times Bestselling Every Summer After and Meet Me at the Lake. Set in dreamy summer destinations, both books are second-chance romances that are sure to tug at your heart and have you quickly turning pages.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Carley Fortune about her path to becoming an author, how she balances writing with her other responsibilities, what drew her to writing in multiple timelines, and more. Plus, if you’ve already read and loved Every Summer After and Meet Me at the Lake, Carley recommends a few books she thinks you’ll love, too.


Carley’s Books

Carley Fortune
Meet Me at the Lake

Ten years ago, a chance encounter sent Fern Brookbanks and Will Baxter on a 24-hour adventure that ended in a promise: they would meet again exactly one year later. When the time came, Fern showed up and Will didn't. Years later, Fern's life looks nothing like she thought it would. She needs a lifeline, and it comes to her in the form of Will Baxter, arriving at their meeting place nine years late.

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Carley Fortune
Every Summer After

Persephone Fraser fell in love with Sam Florek over six breathtakingly magical summers. She never thought she'd have to live without him, and then everything fell apart. Now, Percy lives in the city and carefully guards her heart until she's forced to return to Barry's Bay and confront the biggest mistake she ever made.

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Our exclusive interview with Carley Fortune


Everyone who dreams of publishing a novel starts as a reader. So when did you first become a reader?

I was a pretty voracious reader as a kid. I loved VC Andrews and The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden. And I read throughout high school. I was such an A student and very anxious about going to university and doing well that I assigned myself all of the books I felt like our English teachers should have assigned us. Then, I studied journalism in university. The program was quite intensive, and I had to work part-time to cover expenses. I found it hard to keep up with the reading for my English courses, and I didn’t like having to write essays on what I was reading. My love of reading really slipped in university. It felt like a job.

I went to work as an editor, and reading became my job. Outside of a few stints where I’d find an author like Margaret Atwood or Ian McEwan or Curtis Sittenfeld and read all of their books, I read very little for a long time. Then, I launched Refinery29 Canada, which was a big job and a ton of work. I had a toddler who had just started daycare, so my family was sick all of the time because that’s what happens when your kids start daycare. I felt like I really needed an escape. The team had been extensively covering the Netflix adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, so I decided to watch it. And I loved it! Obviously, it’s glorious. I decided to read the book, and then I read the rest of the series. It kicked me into this reading extravaganza where I read YA and romance and women’s fiction. I ended up reading more than 60 books that year and around 90 the following year. I discovered these romances that were about complicated women and complicated relationships and people who are going through challenges in multiple areas of their lives, and it was such a revelation to me that books like that existed. I got my love of reading back.


You worked as a journalist for sixteen years before becoming an author. Can you talk about your path to that career?

When I was a kid, I loved creative writing deeply. But when I was in sixth grade, I remember very clearly thinking to myself, “You can’t be a writer.” I was pretty concerned about money from a young age, and I felt like writing was closed off to me. I had no idea what I wanted to do.

But in addition to loving books, I also loved magazines. And when I went to a university fair day in high school, one of my friends said, “You love magazines. What about journalism?” And I do love magazines. And that is a job. So, that’s how I ended up studying journalism.


And you are a very accomplished journalist! What made you decide to change careers and write a novel?

I was deeply, deeply stressed and frustrated at work. In the summer of 2020, I got off a very disappointing phone call, and all of a sudden, from out of nowhere, I said to myself, “That’s it. I’m writing a book. And I’m going to finish it by the end of the year.”


So you wrote Every Summer After while working full-time. How did you balance your time between writing, working, family, and everything else?

The first thing I did was math. I learned that a manuscript should be about 80,000 words, and I calculated how many more days were left in the year. And I figured out that in order to get to 80,000 words by the end of the year, I would have to write 388 words a day. As someone who worked in journalism, that didn’t seem like very much to me. I could do that.

So I got up early in the morning, before my family was awake, and I wrote my 388 words. Sometimes I wrote more. Sometimes I closed my computer after I got to 400 words. Sometimes I wrote in the evening, right after my son went to bed. Sometimes I wrote on the weekends, when my husband took our son to the park.

And that’s how I did it. I set an achievable goal. And I did it every single day.



Correct us if we’re wrong, but we believe you then wrote your second novel, Meet Me at the Lake, after you had left journalism. How did that change how you managed your time?

So I actually started writing Meet Me at the Lake when I was on maternity leave. I was about two months postpartum. I was writing during nap time and when my husband had the kids, but it was very challenging. Over that summer, I decided not to return to Refinery29, and my husband took parental leave from his job. So, I was able to work on Meet Me at the Lake full-time starting that September.


What’s the best advice you have for someone who needs to keep their current full-time job for the time being but dreams of changing industries or starting a side hustle or writing a novel?

I think you have to figure out what your time commitment looks like. You can’t do everything, so something has to give. I’m not sure if I can give more advice than that, but I can give encouragement. Writing Every Summer After in these little windows of time between working full-time and raising a child and being pregnant with a second was a lot easier than working on Meet Me at the Lake full-time. When you have this other job and this other life, there is something really magical about also having something like a book that you’re working on. It becomes this special place for you to go to. And if you can commit to going there regularly, that’s kind of the trick of it.


It’s great to hear that you had such different writing experiences. Both of your books have been on multiple best-seller lists for weeks, so we’re sure your success story will be inspiring for our readers. Thank you for sharing that with us!

Now, we’d love to get more into your books because they are some of our absolute favorite romance novels. Can you give us a quick pitch for both Every Summer After and Meet Me at the Lake?

Every Summer After is a sweeping love story about Percy and Sam, who meet at 13 when Percy’s family buys a cottage next to Sam’s house on a lake in Barry’s Bay. They become best friends and then eventually more until something happens that causes them to cut ties. More than 10 years pass, and then Percy gets a phone call that has her rushing back to Barry’s Bay and seeing Sam again. The book is told in alternating timelines, so you get to see their relationship build and try to figure out what caused it to fracture.

Then, in some ways, I see Meet Me at the Lake as the mirror to Every Summer After. Whereas Percy and Sam have many years to get to know each other, Fern and Will have a chance encounter that leads to them spending 24 hours together when they have both just graduated from college. They have this incredible connection, and they make a pact to meet a year later. But Fern shows up and Will does not. Years later, Fern is trying to manage her mother’s lakeside resort after her passing, and Will arrives with an offer to help, but he’s a very different person from the one Fern met years ago. Meet Me at the Lake is also told in alternating timelines, so you spend a day in Toronto and a summer in Muskoka.



The reversal of the lengths of the timelines is actually what we found so interesting about going from Every Summer After to Meet Me at the Lake. Can you talk about how you came to those structural decisions?

With Meet Me at the Lake, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself to show a different kind of relationship than I had in Every Summer After. I also loved the idea of writing something that took place in just one day. Readers may disagree with me, but in my opinion, Fern and Will don’t fall in love in a day. I think of them as people who stick to each other’s ribs. People who had this really great connection in the past and sit in each other’s minds even after they’re drifted out of each other’s lives. I wanted to see if I could make that kind of connection happen over the course of just one day. And because the initial moment was so short, I knew the present would have to be much longer to give the characters time to actually get to know each other.


So you ended up playing with the second chance romance trope in both of your books. What drew you to that trope?

I love tropes so much, but they’re not where I start from when I’m brainstorming. I love when characters have a history, and I think there’s so much tension that you can create when characters have a past. I also love seeing how people and the relationships they have change over time. With second chance romance, you really get to see people at various stages in their lives, which helps show depth of character. Also, I wouldn’t have ever said this about myself before I started writing the books, but I am a deeply nostalgic person. And second chance romance really plays into it.


Another thing that makes your books so enjoyable is their settings. How did you come up with the settings for both of your books?

With Every Summer After, I knew I wanted to write about how I grew up, which was on Kamaniskeg Lake, where the book is set. I lived on this little dirt road with only three-year round residences, one of which was ours. And because my family had moved from Australia, I didn’t really have friends at school, which was difficult. But in the summer, all of the cottagers would come and there were all these other kids around and it was such an escape. A lot of what’s in the book is pulled directly from my childhood. It’s deeply personal to me.

Then with Meet Me at the Lake, I had insomnia after my second son was born. One night, I was lying there trying to figure out what my second book was going to be about. And I asked myself, “Where do you want to be?” I saw the resort immediately after that. I knew it was somewhere that would soothe me.


And thanks to your books, now all of us get to escape to these places, too.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and books with us, Carley! We have one final question for you. For The Everygirl readers who have already read and loved your books, can you recommend a few other books that you think they might enjoy?

Oh, yes.

Annabel Monaghan
Same Time Next Summer

If you liked Every Summer After, you will definitely like this second chance romance set on Long Island.

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Robinne Lee
The Idea of You

I am currently obsessed with Harry Styles. And if you’re okay with being ruined and going down a Harry Styles vortex, then you need to read this love story.

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Gabrielle Zevin
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

This isn’t a romance, but it’s one of my all-time favorite books. It’s about this complicated friendship, and it’s just perfect.

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Please note that this interview has been edited for length and clarity.