I’m thrilled to welcome Harlequin editor Susan Litman as my special guest today. I’ve been fortunate to work with Susan on several Special Edition continuities and today we’re going to talk about The Fortunes of Texas series.
Nancy Robards Thompson: Welcome to the Jaunty Quills, Susan! Before we start dishing about The Fortunes, please tell us a little bit about you.
Susan Litman: Thanks for having me today, Nancy. I’ve been at Harlequin for 14 years now—hard to believe! I started as an Assistant Editor for Intimate Moments, and eventually became an Associate Editor, then Editor for Special Edition. While I mostly acquire for Special Edition, I still work with several Romantic Suspense authors, and in fact I just acquired a brand-new author for HRS a couple of weeks ago!
NRT: I will never forget the day I got The Call. It’s such an exciting time. Congratulations to your new author! In addition to other continuities, you’re in charge of the Fortunes of Texas. What’s it like to work with such a longstanding series? What’s your favorite thing about the Fortunes?
SL: It’s a pleasure to work on The Fortunes of Texas, primarily because I get a thrill knowing that we’re constantly adding new elements to a franchise that our readers have loved for twenty years now—and hopefully we can continue to bring in new fans with new characters as well as cameos from some favorite classic Fortunes stars. I also love that we can take some fun risks with the continuity—adding the British Fortunes, for instance, was so much fun, and I loved seeing our authors bring those voices to life in a Texas setting.
NRT: One question I’m sure many readers are wondering is how in the world do you keep all the characters and storylines straight?
SL: It’s not easy—but to be honest, I have a memory for the most minute details for anything related to pop culture. If it is in Entertainment Weekly, I’ll remember it forever. J So if it is in a continuity bible or book, I’m not likely to forget it—though I might need to refer back to a book once in a while to double check a detail. That’s probably the biggest concern I have when working on a new continuity—making sure that we’re not contradicting any plot elements, or characterization, that was previously established. And that’s very difficult to do from year-to-year, but I’m happy to say that I think we’ve managed to accomplish this.
NRT: What’s it like to work with so many authors on one project?
SL: It’s wonderful. We always put together a wonderful mix of a couple of new voices, plus those I like to call the “returning continuity champions,” who have often written for a previous iteration of the Fortunes. The authors always work well together—everyone tends to start brainstorming once they’ve read the bible, coming up with creative ways to augment the existing elements and bring “their” voice to their specific story. The authors are, without question, a huge part of what makes the continuity so special.
NRT: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Fortunes of Texas. How has the storyline changed over the years?
SL: I don’t think it has changed so much as grown! Naturally, we’ve expanded the family. There are new branches in Red Rock, and Atlanta; newly discovered relatives as close as Horseback Hollow, Texas and as far as London, England. And now, in 2016, THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN will explore the story of tech giant Gerald Robinson and his family of Austin, Texas. Could he truly be a long-lost member of the fabled Fortune family? To celebrate the 20th anniversary, we had the pleasure of bringing back the matriarch Kate Fortune, and even doing an online prequel to set the stage for this continuity (FORTUNE’S FEAST by Marie Ferrarella.)
Knowing how much the readers love this family and this continuity has enabled us to branch out, and really expand the world of the Fortunes—but always, always maintaining the focus on the elements that make this continuity so special: the concept of bringing family back together. Which, of course, is also what Special Edition is all about—characters who place importance on love and family.
NRT: What’s next for the Fortunes? For Special Edition?
SL: For 2017, we’ve got some fun stories coming your way as we get even deeper into the mystery of Gerald Robinson’s past—and the tangled love lives of his legitimate and illegitimate children! And Special Edition has a number of wonderful authors and titles coming in the next few months—the new Montana Mavericks continuity, THE BABY BONANZA, kicks off in July with MARRIAGE, MAVERICK STYLE! by Christine Rimmer, and we’ve got books coming from bestselling authors including Merline Lovelace, Rachel Lee, Stella Bagwell, Brenda Harlen, plus RITA-winner Caro Carson and new voices including Joanna Sims and Katie Meyers. And in December, we will have THE HOLIDAY GIFT, a brand-new Cowboys of Cold Creek title from RaeAnne Thayne.
NRT: Now, for the most important question– who is your all-time Fortunes crush?
SL: Unfair question (how can you possibly choose just one?!) But after lots of deep thought about my favorite hero—and heroine!—I have to choose Galen Fortune Jones and Aurora McElroy from FORTUNE’S JUNE BRIDE by Allison Leigh (THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: COWBOY COUNTRY). I was a theater geek in high school and college, so I really “got” this story—and the idea of a curmudgeonly—yet sexy—cowboy getting suckered into playing an old-timey cowboy in an amusement park stage show was both endearing and adorable . . . and sexy! I also loved the very Hugh Grant-esque Charles Fortune Chesterfield of FORTUNE’S SPECIAL DELIVERY by Michelle Major. What can I say? I’m a sucker for good manners and a sexy accent. 🙂
NRT: What’s been the Favorite Fortunes installment/season/storyline?
SL: Augh. Another unfair question. Truthfully, to date, I love each one as I’m working on it, because I get completely immersed in details, plots, characters, and so on. And I think we really did outdo ourselves for ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN to create a 20th anniversary to remember! But we’ve got some great plans up our sleeves for 2017 . . . 🙂 Plenty of family secrets, cowboys both rich and poor, and the women who love them for all. Readers will not want to miss a word!
If you’re a Fortunes fan what’s your favorite story or who is your favorite character? If you haven’t yet read the Fortunes series, what’s your favorite storyline or hero archetype? Nancy will give a $5 Amazon gift card to one person who comments.
Yes, that is a chocolate dragon’s egg, er, Easter egg, and it was filled with CHOCOLATE COVERED POPCORN!!!
I think we can agree that’s pretty good. And it’s also bad, because eating so much Easter candy (along with not one but TWO chocolate cakes), especially when combined with champagne, can lead to some very bad things. Like an EPIC sugar hangover.
Some of my family was visiting for Easter this last weekend. Which was mostly very good, except for the few times we wandered into the political arena. Fortunately, we all managed to pull back before too much damage was inflicted on the combatants.
We were a fairly small group this year: my 92-old dad, my stepmother (who takes excellent care of Dad), my brother and his wife, and two of my nieces. It was actually the perfect size because my dad does tend to get a bit overwhelmed with the noise and commotion. Because in addition to celebrating this joyous religious holiday, we were also celebrating my sister-in-law’s 60th birthday. As you can imagine, that is both good and bad depending on how you feel about turning 60. But as my esteemed father says: it’s hell getting old but the alternative is worse.
This is a picture of my father and my sister-in-law cutting the rug to some Frank Sinatra. That is indeed good.
And here’s a picture of Dad with his two beautiful granddaughters. Trust me when I tell you that they are beautiful both inside and out, and super smart. And that’s where the fun–and the funny–came in. Those two gals pretty much had us in stitches all weekend. Of course, I also shared some pretty funny stories about their father and uncles that they hadn’t yet heard, which is always LOTS of fun. Nothing like getting back at your dopey brothers for all that childhood teasing!
Another good thing? My one niece taught me how to do GIFS on my cellphone and also on Twitter. I am now constantly texting Adele and Kim Kardashian GIFS to my husband. I think that’s VERY funny. Hubby, however, does not. Killjoy.
Here I am with my truly stunning niece:
We had four wonderful days of hanging out, telling stories, sharing the occasional heartache or worry, cherishing every moment we had with my dad, and basically eating and drinking non-stop, except for the occasional sleep breaks. All very good…except I did mention the too much chocolate, cake, champagne, sangria, cocktails….well, you get the picture. By Monday morning, we were all feeling pretty…bad.
In fact, this magazine I spotted in the supermarket seemed printed just for us:
I swear I’m getting right on that–as soon as I can get off the couch!!
Do you have family events that are, perhaps, a bit too much fun? Do you ever regret them in the morning? Tell me all about it for a chance to win a copy of my latest VK Sykes contemporary romance, SEE YOU AT SUNSET.
When I first started writing I was 23 years old. Not a sophisticated 23, but a rather shy bookwormish 23 who had brought her parents, husband and new born baby to her first writing conference. I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, had talked on the phone with Ann Bair aka Ann Evans, a fabulous writer and one of the nicest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet and then I showed up at the Morrisons Cafe where the group met.
It was 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning and I had arranged for the day off from work and my mom to watch my nine-month-old daughter. I sat in my car for about 15 minutes trying to get up the courage to go in. I saw other older women going inside and then this hipster in a convertible drove up, hopped out of her car and walked inside. She looked to be closer to my age, had curly hair like me and when I finally gathered my courage to go inside I met Mimi Wells for the first time.
The group was large it seemed at the time like there were at least 50 people I know now that there was closer to 30. I didn’t get to sit next to Mimi but she sought me out after the meeting and we chatted. Honestly, at first, I’m sure it was because we were the only ones in our 20s in that room…Nancy Robards Thompson would join a few years later. But for a while we were the young ones.
My friendship with Mimi was started that day and over the years as we both served the chapter our friendship grew. We were both pregnant to our sons at the same time and honestly when I think of my writing journey there are a handful of women that I’ve known from the beginning. Mimi is one of them.
She’s a fabulous writer who also has a very strong calling to be an educator. She’s been Florida Teacher of the Year and has a bond with her students that endures long after they’ve graduated. For years I’ve read everything she’s written and encouraged, nagged and pushed her to submit it. And so I was thrilled when her first novella was released, followed by her second and now her first novel length book…The Devil You Know.
Since Mimi is one third of my devilish triad I think that the title is perfect. Here’s a little blurb about her latest release. I know she’s going to be guest blogging here later in the month so I won’t tell you too much except to say you really don’t want to miss this one.
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
Domnhall Cameron, the Devil of the Pitch, has come a long way from the gritty streets of Glasgow. Now an international football star, he has a new team to launch, but only one thing stands in his way: Calla Stewart. They shared one explosive night years ago that ended with him in handcuffs and her out the door…
Now that Domnhall is the bad boy darling of European football, he and his millions are stirring up trouble from Scotland to South Beach. But Calla’s divorced, down to her last few hundred bucks, and desperate to unload her house before it drags her down for good. So when Dom makes her an offer that is her ticket to a new life, she can’t refuse. Even if it means ten days at his command…
Tell me about one of your best-friends to be entered to win a Cheryl’s Cookie Card and a copy of THE DEVIL YOU KNOW.
Not long ago, when my sister and I were reminiscing about our childhood, she laughed and said, “You always remember how things smelled. That must be really important to you.”
Her comment surprised me. Of course, I knew that the sense of smell was said to be powerful in memory generally, but I definitely don’t have any special talents in the nose department.
I’m hopeless when it comes to sniffing wines or analyzing the lower notes of an expensive perfume. I’m never the first to say, “Oh, you put some clove in the cranberry sauce this year, you clever thing!”
But apparently my olfactory sensory neurons work better in hindsight than they do in the present. I definitely remember the scents of my memories far, far better than the visual, or even the factual details.
For instance, there’s a men’s cologne I remember intensely from my teenage years. Royall Lyme. The scent of it fills me with feelings of such happiness…and, oddly, it’s a happiness that feels very peaceful and secure, not at all the kind of thrill I ordinarily associate with my teens, or the boyfriends of my youth.
I have no idea who I ever knew who wore Royall Lyme. I can’t put a face to the scent, or a place. I just know that the memories it invokes are so powerful and so pleasant that I actually bought a tiny bottle of the stuff a few years ago, hoping to convince myself I was imagining things. I wasn’t. The sight of that little silver crown that tops the bottle brought it all back to me, and when I opened the stuff I nearly swooned. Whoever this boy was, he must have been an amazingly nice guy. Weird, because, like most melodramatic teenage girls, nice wasn’t my usual type.
Other scent memories that are super powerful for me include…
1) The sticky, green, pungent scent of the Australian pines that used to line the beachfront at Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, where we spent more happy summer days than I could count. My father’s mother owned a big wooden house there, right on the beach, and when we were children it was our own personal sandcastle. The Australian pines are mostly gone now, as is the wonderful old house, but IRB is still one of my favorite places in the world. Even today, the ghost smell of those tall, shaggy pines carries on the warm sea breezes and makes me four years old again, waiting for my father to take my hand and lead me to the water’s edge.
2) The smell of incense at six a.m. Sunday Mass. My father and I were earlier risers than my mom and sister, so often we’d stumble through the cool morning fog to early Mass. We loved having our obligation behind us and the day stretching free in front of us, but we also loved the quiet, almost eerie feeling of the beautiful, half-empty church in the early morning. I am not sure every Mass actually included incense, but the interior of Sacred Heart was permeated with it, and the scent takes me back in an instant.
3) The sickly sweet smell of the paper mills that seeped into our car on family trips and told us we had crossed the border from Florida to Georgia. My mother’s family was from Georgia, and we have, even now, many relatives there, so we often made the trek from Tampa to Atlanta. Because Florida is such a long state, and because children are so impatient, it seemed to take forever to reach the Georgia line. Plus, I was a terrible traveler and always got motion sickness within a few hours, probably coinciding with the arrival of the paper mills. Even the remembered scent of that thick, gluey air is enough to make my stomach tighten unpleasantly, but it is mixed with primitive feelings of relief and anticipation because it marked the beginning of the end of a long, uncomfortable trip.
What about you? Does the sense of smell bring back powerful memories for you? What scent can you remember clearly—even though you might have forgotten other details about the moment? I’d love to hear what lives on in your olfactory files! I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen poster today.
Also, I must apologize for not having posted the winners from my last blog about traveling with fictional characters. My wonderful big sister, mentioned here, is very sick, and I haven’t really been on top of my professional life for weeks now. But I did read all your comments and thought they were brilliant! The randomly chosen winner is bn100, and the suggestion I chose as my personal favorite came from Michelle Fidler, who nominated Nancy Drew. I adore Nancy Drew and think she’d be a fabulous companion for a road trip! 🙂
I’ll be posting the winners as always this Sunday, in case my winners don’t see this today, but if bn100 and Michelle do see this, please send KOBrien@aol.com your email addresses so I can get the gift certificates out asap! And thanks to everyone for playing along.
When I stop and count my blessings amazing things happen. If I’m feeling blue, stressed or otherwise out of sorts, I take a moment and write down the things for which I am grateful and I feel much better. It’s an instant attitude makeover.
Here are some things that make my heart happy :
1. I’m grateful for my family and for the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make each of us individuals. My husband, my daughter, my father, my brothers. I am grateful that they love me unconditionally despite my flaws and foibles. They are my heart.
2. I’m grateful for good friends who are steadfast and true. I believe in quality over quantity. Anymore, I’m not so eager to prove myself to others who make me feel bad or make things right with difficult people. I’ve grown to detest drama. I saw a meme recently that said, “I’d rather have four quarters than one hundred pennies.“ I am blessed with such good friends who I call “the family I choose.” I would go to the mat for them. They are priceless.
3. I’m grateful that I’m a writer. It’s not always easy, especially when I’m working toward a deadline and I have to say no to a lot of things I’d like to do… but that’s okay…there’s nothing like typing THE END at the conclusion of a writing marathon and seeing a new book on the shelves. This is my joy.
4. I’m grateful for my animals – my old cat and my sweet corgi. They torment each other sometimes. The dog charges at the cat. The cat hisses at the dog. Several times a day I feel like a parent reprimanding fighting children… but they make me smile. They are balm for my soul.
5. I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience each new day. Lately, I keep running across quotes that reinforce this thought: “Just breathe.” “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Each new day is a gift. I’m trying my hardest to live in the moment and not let unimportant things steal my joy or waste my time. This is my perfectly imperfect attempt at Zen.
6. I am grateful for you. That you choose to be part of our JQ community. That you take the time to read our posts and spend time with us. You make me smile. Thank you for that.
For what are you grateful? I hope you’ll take a moment to share it with us here. I will choose one person who comments to receive a $5 Amazon gift card.