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.
As you’ve probably noticed, the five of us who wrote the novellas in SCANDALOUS BILLIONAIRES are pretty excited about the upcoming release of the boxed set. It’s mostly because the heroes are thrilling, and the location–the glamorous Amalfi Coast–is to die for.
But, for me, it’s also because, like most writers, I love participating in a good series. I like hanging out in the story world long after my own plot winds up. I enjoy seeing the setting through the eyes of new heroes and heroines. I love peeking in on characters I’ve come to care about, getting a glimpse of how their happily ever after is really playing out.
It’s true for me as a reader, too. Always has been, I think. Someone asked me the other day what the first “series” fiction I remember reading is. My answer was, I thought, quite simple. Nancy Drew. When I was in elementary school, I devoured those books. It didn’t matter how many times I was introduced to her charming town, her orderly house, or her wonderful, indulgent, elegant father. I was enchanted, and I couldn’t get enough of her. It was like coming home every time.
But today, when I was mulling over the unique thrill of connected stories, I remembered other, earlier, equally beloved series. I remembered being taken to the tiny library near my house and running my fingers over the spines of the Bobbsey Twins books. I can still see the pictures on the covers. A whole shelf of them…maybe two!
The books were old-fashioned even then, but for some reason they made me so happy. The two sets of twins went to the seashore, and the country, and the county fair. They rode airplanes and ferries and houseboats. They visited places with wonderful names, like Meadow Brook, Lakeport, Cedar Camp, Blueberry Island, and Big Bear Pond.
I can’t remember many of the details, and I have a sneaking suspicion the kids were gaggingly wholesome and sweet. Probably lots of gender indoctrination, too. But I was seven, and I was in love with the whole Bobbsey family. Knowing there were so many books in the series made me feel oddly safe, as if I had made true friends, friends who would stay for life.
But then..wait…! I suddenly realized that even the hundred-year-old Bobbsey Twins weren’t the first “series” stories I loved. For the first time years, I recalled that my very proper grandmother was a marvelous storyteller, too. Whenever my older sister and I spent the night at her house (a big, sometimes scary place), she tucked us into bed with another installment of the winding saga of Foxy Loxy and his wife (whose name I can’t remember) and their animal friends.
It was like coming on a strain of gold in the caves of my memory, recalling this long lost treasure. Sadly, so many of the textured, fabulous details are lost with the years. I know Foxy Loxy had an arch-enemy in the form of some diabolical animal, and I know FL adored his beautiful wife, but I have forgotten the names of their friends, or the twisting, adventure-filled plots.
But the feeling of excitement, of scrunching down under the covers and looking up at my grandmother, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, almost holding my breath as I waited for the story to begin…that I remember as if it were yesterday. She would, with her words, open the door to a magical world where these characters waited for me to come and play with them. I knew Foxy Loxy as intimately, as comfortably, as I knew my own kitten, or the stuffed toy I slept beside.
What about you? What was the first “series” you ever loved? Which characters did you know as well as you knew your own siblings? What fictional towns were like second homes to you?
I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of SCANDALOUS BILLIONAIRES, which will arrive in your inbox on release day, to one randomly chosen poster today, so please do share! It might take a while to dredge up the first, but the memories you revisit will be worth it! 🙂
So here’s where we are: we’re doing a Beauty and the Beast story, but we’re flipping it and having the Hottie (hero) and the Ugly Duckling (heroine) and we’re putting these two in a compromising situation/scandal which forces them into a marriage of convenience.
Then last week I asked y’all to decide on that external situation – that impetus of scandal that propels them into that marriage of convenience.
Here was the breakdown:
(a) she’s somewhere she’s not supposed to be and interrupts the hero’s romantic tryst (the other woman runs away) — 4 votes
(b) she hires the hero to “ruin” her so she doesn’t have to marry someone else — 4 votes
(c) someone (a 3rd party) traps them together — 6 votes
(d) he intentionally gets her alone b/c he thinks she has something/knows something — 5 votes
(e) he has a crush on her prettier, younger sister and tries to get alone, but heroine “rescues” sister — 1 vote
Since I will be the one writing this novella, I’m going to make the final decision here, but within the choices that y’all voted on. I am predisposed to like plot lines that send my characters on a quest or adventure or working together to solve a case – that’s the most fun for me. So I like the idea of him getting her intentionally alone because of some antiquity that he’s trying to find and he thinks she either has it or knows something about it. I don’t, however, think he’d schedule said meeting with the ulterior motive of getting her alone publicly in order to marry her – he’s a confirmed bachelor, after all. So for him, it’s all business. But I do like y’all’s favorite choice of having a third party intentionally getting them together and then found thus forcing that marriage of convenience. (what if it was one of their mom’s?!)
Let’s come up with some names for them. If you remember from last week, I cast the characters and you can see the pictures here.
Now, you should have a general idea of what this novella “feels” like to you. Can you see some scenes? Share your ideas. Don’t forget that at the end of the three blogs, I’ll pick three winners (at random) to win some goodies. So be sure to participate and often!
So if you remember from last week’s blog, y’all are helping me brainstorm a novella.
I asked y’all to come up with the trope and here’s how the breakdown fell:
Beauty & the Beast -or- the hottie & the ugly duckling
Marriage of convenience tied with Friends to lovers
So I’m going to say we have a Beauty and the Beast story – though I’m gonna swap it and have a Hottie and the Ugly Duckling (this doesn’t have to mean she’s physically unattractive, just hasn’t come into her own yet or maybe she’s awkward or chubby or whatever). Those two characters end up in a compromising situation/scandal which forces them into a marriage of convenience. So that’s our basic storyline.
Next step is to figure out the external stuff that’s going on. So we know that our hero (the hottie) and our heroine (the ugly duckling) somehow manage to get themselves embroiled in a scandal. (I love this, btw!) I’m going to go a step further and say that though these two might know each other, they’re not romantically involved. Instead our bookish heroine somehow stumbles into a situation which puts her right in the hero’s path. So what forces our hero and heroine’s unlikely paths to cross?
(a) she’s somewhere she’s not supposed to be and interrupts the hero’s romantic tryst (the other woman runs away)
(b) she hires the hero to “ruin” her so she doesn’t have to marry someone else
(c) someone (a 3rd party) traps them together
(d) he intentionally gets her alone b/c he thinks she has something/knows something
(e) he has a crush on her prettier, younger sister and tries to get alone, but heroine “rescues” sister
Again, you can vote for as many as you like, or suggest your own.
Okay so now I need you to make some suggestions for the following:
Fears (I’m not talking spiders, heights or tornadoes here, these are emotional fears)
What is she afraid of?
What is he afraid of?
What is about each other that makes them fall in love?
I took the liberty to “cast” our hero and heroine so I hope you like the pictures I chose.
As it so happens I’m on the schedule to blog the next three Wednesdays in a row. Lucky y’all! The lovely and talented, Shana Galen suggested I do a three-week connected blog. So I got an idea, wouldn’t it be fun if we brainstorm a story together? So for the next three weeks, I’ll give you some choices to make (and you can suggest stuff on your own) and then when we’re done I’ll have a plotted idea for a novella that I’ll write.
Stuff I already know about the story: it’ll be an historical because that’s what I do best. Y’all can vote if you want Regency or Victorian though. For the most part I like novellas where the hero and heroine have a bit of a past – doesn’t mean it has to have been a romantic past, they just need to be acquainted with one another since the format is shorter than a full-length book.
First step, let’s pick a trope, AKA a beloved plot line. Here are some you can choose from (or suggest your own!), you can choose up to three
(a) Marriage of convenience
(b) Compromising situation/scandal
(c) Unrequited love
(d) Friends to lovers
(e) Enemies to lovers
(f) Mistaken identity
(g) Beauty & the Beast -or- the hottie & the ugly duckling
Here’s something to get you in the mood for an historical, in case you need inspiration for your brainstorming.
Also, at the end of the three blogs, I’ll pick three winners (at random) to win some goodies. So be sure to participate and often!