Author’s debut novel set in Canadian cottage country cracks bestsellers’ lists

A former magazine editor’s summer spent in her hometown lakeside community has spawned a bestselling novel.

In the summer of 2020, Carley Fortune returned to her hometown of Barry’s Bay, a community in Ontario’s Madawaska Valley.

“I was feeling very nostalgic for the summers of the past and at the same time, kind of thinking about how I wanted to be spending my time,” Fortune recalled in an interview on CTV Morning Live Winnipeg on Wednesday.

“I had just gotten off a very stressful work call, and decided I was going to write a book. It felt really important to me to take my creativity back.”

Though it is Fortune’s debut novel, she is not a novice writer. She worked for 16 years in media, formerly as the editor in chief of Refinery29 Canada and a deputy editor of Chatelaine.

However, Fortune credits creative writing as her first love – one she did not initially pursue.

“I grew up in a really a working class community. My parents owned their own business. They owned a restaurant. I was very aware of how difficult it is to financially succeed, and I didn’t think you could do that as a writer,” she said.

Set in Barry’s Bay, Fortune describes her debut novel “Every Summer After” as a love letter to the place she grew up. The book tells the story of Percy and Sam who met when they were teenagers when Percy’s family bought the cottage next door to Sam’s house. After losing touch for a decade, the best friends reunite in present day and fall in love, as the reader begins to piece together what caused their relationship to fissure all those summers before.

Fortune finished a first draft and sent it around to some friends. Four months later, she had a book deal.

“It’s been so wild and wonderful,” she said.

It hit the shelves last month and instantly cracked the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and USA Today’s bestsellers’ lists.

The novel’s success caused Fortune to make a pandemic pivot. She is now a full-time author and is currently working on her sophomore novel.

Above all, Fortune said she feels lucky to be doing what she loves.

“When I was writing this book, it felt like what I was meant to be doing. It was such a joy for me. It was such a revelation,” she said. “Now, I feel so fortunate I get to get to do this.”

– With files from CTV’s Nicole Dubé

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