In this interview, Carley and I discuss Every Summer After, setting a book in Canada, choosing Barry's Bay as the book's locale and the response by residents, what surprised her the most writing this book, tackling her sophomore novel, why this book is resonating with so many people, and much more.
In this interview, Carley and I discuss Every Summer After, setting a book in Canada, choosing Barry's Bay as the book's locale and the response by residents, what surprised her the most writing this book, tackling her sophomore novel, why this book is resonating with so many people, and much more.
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[00:11] Cindy: You are listening to the Thoughts From a Page podcast, which is a member of the Evergreen Podcast Network. My name is Cindy Burnett and I'd love to talk about books with anyone and everyone. While listening to my podcast, you will hear author interview, youth, behind the scenes conversations about various aspects of the publishing world, theme discussions with other book lovers and more. For more book recommendations and a complete list of all of my interviews, check out my website, Thoughts from a Page.com, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram at Thoughts from a Page in 2022. I would love for you to join my Patreon group. I offer at least two bonus episodes a month and a monthly advanced read and pre publication author chat. For those on Facebook, I host a special Patreon Facebook group where we all chat books. Thanks so much to those who already participate, and I hope you will consider joining us. Today I am chatting with Carley Fortune about every summer after. Carley is an award winning Canadian journalist who has worked as an editor for Refinery 29, the Globe and Mail, Shadow Lane and Toronto Life. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons, and every Summer After is her first novel. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
[02:30] Cindy: Welcome, Carley. How are you today?
[02:32] Carley: I'm great. Thank you for having me.
[02:35] Cindy: I am so glad you're here. Your book is everywhere. I feel like months ago I started seeing this cover everywhere and everybody was talking about it. And then you hit the New York Times list. This is all so exciting for a debut. You must be thrilled to pieces.
[02:50] Carley: I am beyond thrilled. Yeah, I just stare out the window with my mouth hanging open a lot of the time.
[02:57] Cindy: Honestly, how did I get here? Right?
[02:59] Carley: Exactly. I feel I'm surprised I have a book. So the reception to the book is just kind of beyond my wildest imagination.
[03:08] Cindy: Well, that's very exciting and congratulations.
[03:11] Carley: Thank you so much.
[03:12] Cindy: Well, as you know, I always start out with having the author just give me a quick synopsis of the book for those that won't have read it yet. So can you do that for every Summer After?
[03:20] Carley: Yeah, of course. So I describe Every Summer after as a sweeping love story. It's about Percy and Sam, who meet as teenagers when Percy's family buys the cottage next door to Sam's house on a lake in Barry's Bay. But as adults, they haven't spoken in more than ten years until her she gets this phone call that has her racing back to Barry's Bay and to Sam. And the book is told in alternating now and then timeline. So you go through the course of six summers in the past where you see them meet and become best friends and fall in love. And one very tumultuous weekend in the present where they reunite and the whole time you're trying to figure out what it is that caused them to split apart and whether they can kind of get over the mistakes of the past to end up together.
[04:16] Cindy: How did you come up with the idea for this one?
[04:19] Carley: I always wanted to write a book. I had no idea what that book would be. But in the summer of 2020, I was actually very fortunate to spend July and August up on a lake near Berries Bay where the book is set and where I grew up. And I was feeling very nostalgic for the summers of my past. I grew up like the character Sam in the book, so I lived down a dirt road in the bush on the lake and I was like the year round resident and cottagers would come and go. My parents had a restaurant in the area and I've just always felt I live in Toronto now, but I've always felt this kind of pull to the lake. And 2020 was a difficult year and I was really longing for those summers of my youth. I actually read my childhood journals in March of 2020 in one of those early lockdown weekends. I kept journals from the age of seven throughout university and I had never read the diaries. There are 13 diaries and I kind of dug them out of my closet, plunged them on the bed and read them all. I had these voices in my head from my teenage years. There were all these notes stuck in the journals that my friends and I had passed in class. There was a letter that I had written my crush and never sent. There was a letter from my best friend breaking up with me. And I just felt so raw reading those diaries. They felt so present to me. And I think that, combined with being in the part of the world where I grew up, kind of led to every summer after and the story about people who we kind of lose in our lives and how those young relationships can really stick to our ribs.
[06:07] Cindy: So it's a really personal story. I did not realize that. I totally get that it is not your story, but it does have a fair amount of you in it.
[06:16] Carley: Yes, very much. Percy's. I like to say that Percy's high school experience had 95% more kissing than mine. The story is definitely made up, but the setting is very much from my experience. The book is a love letter to Barry Faye and it is really personal to me in that way.
[06:38] Cindy: I'm amazed that you kept a journal from the year seven through college and that you'd never read them until the summer of 2020.
[06:46] Carley: Yeah, I kept them at my parents' house and they didn't move with me as I moved through the world. And I probably had a dozen apartments in my adult life. And all of my stuff, like my teenage stuff, stayed at mom and Dad's house. But they sold that house, the house on the lake, about ten years ago. And I had brought the diaries back with me, but the idea of reading them all was kind of like cringey already and I didn't have time to read them. But it became kind of my early pandemic hobby to go through all of them.
[07:21] Cindy: 2020 was such a rough year. I can totally get being nostalgic and wanting to look back on happier times.
[07:27] Carley: Yeah, I think that a lot of us I was not experiencing anything more difficult than anybody else. In fact, I think I had a pretty privileged experience in 2020. But still, it was just difficult to be a human being in the world in 2020. And I know that I wanted to escape. And writing the book was an escape for me. I wrote it totally selfishly. Like, I wrote the book that I wanted to read and it's been so incredible to see how that it has given this kind of escape to readers as well. It's such a joy for me.
[08:05] Cindy: It's the book that everybody else is wanting to read as well.
[08:08] Carley: Yeah. And Barry’s Bay is a really small town in Toronto where I live. Most people, the vast majority of people won't have heard of it. It has 1200 people. So it's been this like, just a real delight to see the world know about Barry's Bay. The town is thrilled.
[08:27] Cindy: I was just getting ready to ask you that how they are responding to being in your book and having more attention sent their way.
[08:33] Carley: Well, I was very worried. Barry's Bay readers are my scariest readers, I would say. It has a fictionalized version of Barry's Bay, but it's pretty close to what the town is actually like. I don't know why I was worried. I guess because it's such a small town and everybody knows each other and if somebody didn't like it, I know that they would tell my mom in the grocery store and it would get back to me. But so far, the response has been wonderful. And we're going to do an event in Barry's Bay in July. I think people are pretty excited.
[09:07] Cindy: Well, I think also when you're writing about something that's so personal to you, that you have such fond memories of, you want to make sure you represent it correctly.
[09:15] Carley: For sure. And I think one of the things that Sam struggles with in the book is growing up in a small town and he really wants to escape that small town, which is something I very much relate to, and I didn't want people to be offended by that. And I think Sam kind of comes around to seeing the positive side of his community, but I was a little worried about that.
[09:39] Cindy: But I think almost every kid wants to escape wherever they grew up.
[09:43] Carley: Oh, probably so.
[09:45] Cindy: You can certainly say that to people. If they do complain to you, you can say, but I think everybody wants to go someplace different than where they originally lived when they're young. Eventually a lot of people want to be back right where they started. But I think when you're young, you're like, oh, it's so boring here.
[09:58] Carley: For sure. We all kind of long for what we don't have.
[10:01] Cindy: Exactly. The grass is always greener. Well, I love the name Persephone. I'm a huge Greek myth fan, and I just thought that was wonderful. That was her name and that she went by Percy. How did you select their names?
[10:12] Carley: I wanted a name for Percy that felt like a name her parents would give her. And her parents are academics. Her father is a Greek scholar. And Persephone just seemed just the right amount of pretentious and pretty two things Percy does not identify as when she's younger. And I wanted a name that she could play with that would show how she changes throughout her life. So in the present day, she goes by Persephone, but in the past, when she's a teenager, she's Percy. And Sam's older brother Charlie only refers to her as Purse, and her best friend in the present day calls her Pee. I wanted a name that could do lots of things to show kind of the different sides of her because she very much separates her life between city and the lake. And I wanted her name to kind of be reflective of that. And for Sam, I just choose boys names. I call them boys and girls. Like, I'm naming babies, but I tend to give male characters names that my husband has vetoed when we've been naming our old children. And Sam is one of my favorite boys names, and I knew that Marco was going to veto that. I became pregnant with our second child when I was writing the book, and I was like, Well, I'm going to use the name Sam because I'm never going to be able to use it in real life.
[11:37] Cindy: You're like, I really like this name. And while I can't name my son Sam, I can certainly name my main character Sam.
[11:43] Carley: Exactly.
[11:44] Cindy: Well, what do you think it is about the book that is resonating with everyone?
[11:48] Carley: I think that it's something that I spoke about earlier, which is an escape. I was really worried when I was querying agents and when we were out on submission with the book to editors that a larger audience and larger North American audience, particularly readers in the States, wouldn't be interested in a book set in Canada because this is something Canadian writers are told. We're told not to set our books in Canada. And I have been so pleased to see that. Part of the reason why the book isn't escape for people is because it's transporting them to this place that they haven't heard about that sounds quite idyllic and special. And so I think that escape element is a really big reason. I mean, there's a lot of tough stuff going on right now in the world, and just this past week I heard from a lot of readers based in the States that they really needed a book to kind of escape into and that every summer after was a great place to spend a few hours. It's a fast read, too. I was shocked at the beginning how quickly people were reading the book. Some people read it in one sitting just blows my mind. But I think that really is like, when you're looking for that escape, having something that really is like propulsive and transformative is helpful when you want to be taken out of your everyday life. And I think the other thing is what I've seen is people are a little bit surprised to relate to this second chance romance storyline. I've had a lot of people say, one, that they're surprised that they like it because it's a romance and they don't typically read romances, and two, that they don't generally like romances about people from the past. But I think there's something validating about reading a book that basically says all these wild and really heavy feelings you had as a teenager, these people who meant so much to you in your past actually do matter in the long run. I think that's kind of, like, really struck a chord with people, particularly younger readers. There have been a lot of young readers of the book. It's kind of blown up on Tik Tok, and I think it's because we think of teenagers as a little bit silly. And this book, I hope, is very empathetic towards the teenage experience.
[14:20] Cindy: I think that's right. I'm so curious. Back to what you said earlier about publishers telling you not to set books in Canada. I've never heard that, and that seems so bizarre to me.
[14:30] Carley: Yeah, it's so great because a lot of Americans I talked to about this are like, what? That doesn't make any sense to me. But it is a real thing here. And you will see, if you follow writers, Canadian writers on Twitter, or people who are starting to write their first manuscript on Twitter, there's often writers kind of throwing questions to the crowd about whether it's okay to set a book here. And you will see a lot of people respond saying, no, don't set your book in Canada. It will be harder to sell. Audiences won't pick it up as much. And I think there's probably some historical evidence to show that there have been books that in Canada that have not sold as well as books that in the US. And I did have an agent tell me, a Canadian agent tell me she thought I should base the book in the US. After she had read the manuscript, which I was not comfortable with. I was comfortable with making it Barry Fay nowhere. But I wasn't comfortable changing the location to I don't know where the Adirondacks or I forget where she suggested Michigan.
[15:39] Cindy: Or New York or wherever.
[15:40] Carley: Exactly. I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that since I haven't spent any time there. But it really is a very pervasive.
[15:50] Cindy: Thought here that is so strange to me because one of my favorite things about reading is reading about other places. I love learning about different locales and places I haven't been. Add to my list of places I'd like to go, but also just learn a little bit about someplace else. Plus, with the craziness we've had here in the States lately, I'm sure you're going to have tons and tons of people heading your way soon. If it keeps up, everybody's going to be moving to Canada. So I'm like, oh gosh, it's been bad.
[16:19] Carley: Yes, it's not been a great time, has it? But I really think that Canada has had a bit of a brand. Like as the world has become more globalized, I think audiences in general are more interested in stories from beyond their borders. But I also suspect Canada's image has kind of become slightly cooler in the last decade. I'm not going to say cool, but I would say slightly cooler in the last decade.
[16:48] Cindy: Well, in Your Prime Minister helps exactly what surprised you the most when you were writing every summer after I think.
[16:55] Carley: The thing that surprised me the most was how much I loved writing. I've been an editor for 16 years. I've worked in Canadian media, and I loved fiction writing as a child, but I really turned away from it. I had not done any creative writing as an adult, and writing this book was such a joy for me. It felt like what I was meant to be doing with my life. And I'm in my late thirty s, so having that revelation was mind blowing. And I had reached this point in my career where I felt like I was done with it and I didn't know what to do next. And it was something I spoke to my therapist about a lot because it was quite upsetting for me. I just was kind of at loose ends. And this book was kind of like discovering myself. It was such an amazing experience. And I remember going for a walk in the bush while I was writing, thinking, if I could do this as my job, in like, ten years from now, I would be the happiest person in the world. And so it's just been the most incredible thing that I found an agent and an editor who wanted to publish the book and that it's come out in such a spectacular way. I really do feel like it's been this kind of life changing moment. And I would say the other thing just in terms of writing, was being a journalist, I came to this part in the book where I was a little bit stuck, and then this is going to sound simple, but I was like, wait a second, I can just make this up.
[18:33] Cindy: I don't have to stick to the facts.
[18:36] Carley: I'm just making this up. And it was like, I would say, a good third of the way into the book, where I was like, I'm making this up. This is not a real story. This is all make believe. And that was so liberating.
[18:48] Cindy: I can see where that would be. If you've been used to having to hug close to the truth or to the truth, to be able to then be like, I can go whatever direction I want with this.
[18:57] Carley: Exactly. And there is something in, like, I think if there are any other editors out there listening who work in journalism, sometimes you fantasy edit. Like, this story would be very interesting, or we would publish this story if this happened and this happened and this happened and this happened, but that's not the case, so it doesn't work. And so you would have this version of the story in your mind that, unfortunately, the truth just doesn't adhere to. But with writing a book, you're like, wow, if it is honest to the book, then it works.
[19:29] Cindy: Does that mean you're going to keep writing books?
[19:32] Carley: Yes, I'm working on my second book now. I'm working on the third draft, which is extremely exciting. I was very fortunate to get a two book deal. It's not a sequel to every summer after. It's a totally new story set in a different world, and it will be out next year.
[19:50] Cindy: Is it set in Canada too?
[19:52] Carley: I'm not going to say yet. I'm going to be secretive.
[19:56] Cindy: You are totally entitled to be secretive. That's exciting, though. Congratulations. I didn't realize you had a two book deal. That's got to be a nice feeling.
[20:03] Carley: It's a really good feeling. It was a little shocking because we sold the book in March of 2021 and I was giving birth in April of 2021.
[20:18] Cindy: Oh, my gosh, yes.
[20:19] Carley: And we were moving houses, I think, about a week after the book sold. So our lives were very wild, and we got every summer after, we did all the edits on every summer after and got the book into copy editing within three weeks. And then I gave birth, and I would say a month later was talking with my editor and agent about, okay, so what's the second book? Let's figure this out. So it's been a very wild, fast ride, which I don't think publishing is typically known for being a fast moving beast, but in this journey, it has been. But I'm so happy that I had a second book to start working on. It's been a lot harder than the first book. I've been grappling with so much more self doubt, and I think if you write one book, you're like, okay, I can write one book. Can I write a second one? Or was that just a fluke, something I've been kind of battling with the entire time? But now that it's in its third draft and is resembling a book book, I'm feeling a lot better.
[21:32] Cindy: I was going to ask you that how it was drafting the second book versus drafting the first book.
[21:37] Carley: Oh, just so much more anxiety. When I wrote the first book, I barely told anybody I was doing it. I really didn't have any expectation of publishing it at all. I just wanted to show myself that I could do it. It had been a bucket list item, and I didn't think I'd ever get around to it, and I kind of wanted to prove to myself that I could, and then I just loved doing it so much. But with the second book, for me anyway, I have a contract, I have a deadline, I have editors who I feel very afraid of letting down. And there are expectations, whether real or imagined, that are kind of sitting in the back of your head. I think the one great piece of advice both my agent and my editor gave me was to get a draft, a first draft of the second book in before every Summer After was published, because that way, whatever the response was to the first book, I wouldn't have to have that in my head while I was drafting the second book. And that has been just a wonderful piece of advice. I'm so glad I had passed that hurdle by the time every summer after it came out.
[22:52] Cindy: I do think that's the one downside to having a debut that is so popular and is everywhere is that everybody is going to be looking for your next book. And so that will put a little bit of pressure on you. But because you've got it turned in and as you said, you're already on your third draft, and you have wonderful editors, and Berkley is such a great publishing house. They're not going to let you down. So, you know it's going to be good. But getting it all done before you're having to worry about that was a great idea, I think.
[23:16] Carley: Yeah, absolutely. My agent and my editor both work with Emily Henry, and they had offered her the same advice when she was writing Beach Read, and I think they've just seen in that journey that having that second book kind of in really good shape by the time the first is out, one of the best ways, I think, to set yourself up for success. And I think a second book is already hard enough. I think it's a very common experience to struggle with a second book. So not having all of the public response sitting with you is just I would advise any other writers to do the same.
[23:58] Cindy: I do agree with you. I worked at a bookstore for a while, and that second book is the hardest one to get out because you've done the first. You've usually had longer to write it. It's kind of been this whole process. Like you said, a lot of times, people don't really have any expectations about that first book. You're thinking? Oh, I wrote it. I'm so glad I could do that. Let's move on. And then you get to that second book and you've got shorter time and just a lot of other factors that are coming into play.
[24:23] Carley: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely.
[24:25] Cindy: Let's talk about the title and the cover. Those are two of my favorite things to talk about. Was the title. Always. Every summer after. And then let's talk about your beautiful watercolor cover.
[24:34] Carley: For sure. I love both the title and the cover, and the title is absolutely not my title. I was calling the book Swear On It when I was drafting, and when I sent it to agent, and it was my agent, Taylor her name is Taylor Hagerty, at Root Literary. She suggested just before we went out on submission with the book, that we look at a title that combined what she thought were kind of the most marketable and kind of alluring elements of the book, which were the summer setting and the alternating timeline. And so she came up with every summer after, and I thought it was just brilliant. So that's where the title comes from. And the cover. We met about the cover, I think it was shortly after the book was sold, so probably back in March of 2021. I met with editors at Berkeley and my agent, and we kind of talked about ideas that we had. I prepared a little Nerdy PowerPoint presentation with different inspirations for the cover, so I had a few different ideas of directions that we could go in with the cover. And one of the slides had photos of a lake, the lake where I stay in the summer, photos of that lake at sunset, and also paintings from the group of seven, which are a famous painting collective, Canadian painters who painted a lot of lakes and landscapes and trees. And Amanda, my editor, Amanda Bergeron at Berkley, she really liked the idea of an oil painting as a cover, and I think very smartly, wanted to stay away from the classic, or now classic, I should say, cartoon covers that we see on a lot of rom-com books. And I thought I loved those covers, but the book is not a rom-com, and we didn't want to signal something that the book isn't. And so the oil painting was a little bit different from what was out there. I just loved that idea. So the art department then went and did research to find painters whose art we could look at. And the painter they found, her name is Elizabeth Lenny, and she's actually based here in Toronto. And so the painting that's on the cover of the book is a scene from Ontario. I love that it has a Canadian kind of, I guess, Easter egg on the cover.
[27:22] Cindy: Well, now that you say that about an oil painting, it really looked more like a watercolor painting to me. But as I look, I see the brush strokes, and I can tell it actually is an oil painting instead of a watercolor, just with the muted colors. Sometimes it makes me think watercolor, you know?
[27:37] Carley: Oh, yeah, totally. And actually, we had different versions of this cover, different color ways. So one of the covers was the same image, but in pinks. It was more of a sunset cover. And we did a vote on which one we liked best and the pink one, but I voted for the blue. But it kind of went through a bit of the process as a pink cover, and I think it was the sales department who felt that the pink wasn't summery enough. It wasn't suggesting those sunny, glittering days at the lake. And they liked the blue, which I was very happy about. I agreed on the blue.
[28:16] Cindy: I agree on the blue, too. And then back to those rom-com covers. I am not a fan. I just don't really like all the cartoon character look or whatever you want to call it, illustrated, whatever it is. So I love your cover. I really think it looks a lot better to me. Those always look like YA books.
[28:32] Carley: Oh, interesting. Yeah. I like them because I guess I have the old harlequin my grandma used to read. They probably weren't Harlequins because my grandma lived in Australia. But those kind of, like, bodice ripper cover. Exactly. And she read those voraciously. And so I think those cartoon covers have probably done a lot to draw readers who would never pick up a kind of like, I think they're called clinch covers. They would never pick one of those up, but they would pick that up.
[29:11] Cindy: But everybody's drawn to different things, too. It's always interesting for me to have cover. Conversations with people because things that I'm drawn to aren't necessarily the same things that other people are and vice versa. That's why I guess there's an entire department or several departments between the cover department and the sales department and everybody else that's weighing in on covers.
[29:29] Carley: Yeah, and it's funny that you say that about YA, because one of the things I love this covers so much, but before the book came out, when I was just anxious about everything, I was like, I hope people don't think the book is YA.
[29:43] Cindy: That's funny.
[29:44] Carley: They're young on the cover.
[29:46] Cindy: I don't think it looks YA at all. And I do think that this type of look, there are several other books that are coming out with somewhat similar covers. So, I mean, it's a trend that I think people are picking up on and they're not YA books.
[29:58] Carley: Yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right.
[30:00] Cindy: Yeah. So I think it's beautiful and definitely eye catching.
[30:04] Carley: I agree.
[30:05] Cindy: Well, before we wrap up, I would love to hear what you've read recently that you really liked.
[30:09] Carley: Sure. So the first book that I read recently and just Beth O'Leary’s, The No-Show, she writes love stories and she is so innovative with how she structures her book. So this book is about three women who get ghosted by the same man on Valentine's Day. And I was so curious to see, knowing that it was a love story, knowing there was going to be some kind of resolution, how she was going to walk that line and make a character who ghosted three women on Valentine's Day at all, like, give him some kind of redemptive arc and how this book was strung together. And when I started figuring she's a beautiful writer also. She's just a stunning writer, and when I figured out what she was doing, I had to put the book down and walk away for a few days. But I thought it was masterful. And I really loved her. Book the road trip. And the other book is one that I'm into now and have been so excited to read. And it's out august 9. It's called A Hundred Other Girls and it's by Iman Hariri-Kia. And it is about a young woman who goes to work as the assistant to a very high, strong editor in chief of a magazine in New York. And this woman is, I would say, hired to be the editor in chief's, kind of woke whisperer to help her be like, cool. And I think what ends up happening, from what I understand, is that she is kind of cast in the middle of the brand's print and digital wars, being somebody who works in media or has worked in media, and I know the author also worked in media, it is just such a clear eyed critique of so much that goes on in media and it's really sharply observed. It's like from the first page, I was like this is a really sharp writer and I'm so excited about that one.
[32:26] Cindy: It's sitting on my bedside table and it's up soon for me, so I'm glad to hear you're liking it. Well, Carley, thank you so much for joining me today on the Thoughts From a Page podcast. I love learning more behind the scenes about every summer after and just chatting with you. Thank you again for joining me.
[32:42] Carley: Thank you so much for having me.
[32:46] Cindy: Thank you so much for tuning in today. I really appreciate your taking the time to listen to my podcast. I want to quickly share about this wonderful company I am now partnering with. I am always looking for entities that promote and highlight books and recently came across Bookclubs, a company who provides all sorts of resources for established and new book clubs as well as individual readers. My own personal book club recently signed up on Bookclubs and the group has been impressed with all of the great tools the site and app provide. The Bookclubs’ website is linked in my show notes and I hope you will check them out soon. Also, if you like my show, I would be so grateful if you would tell everyone you know about it and rate it on whichever platform you listen on. It truly makes a huge difference and really helps the show grow. The book discussed in this episode can be purchased at my bookshop storefront and that link is also in the show notes. I hope you will check out some other Thoughts From a Page episodes and have a great day.
EVERY SUMMER AFTER
Carley Fortune is an award-winning Canadian journalist who’s worked as an editor for Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, and Toronto Life. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. Every Summer After is her first novel.