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.
Okay, so maybe I should have opened with a big Texas “Howdy” since I’m blogging about the Fortunes today, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around horses, ranches and bluebonnets when this is my temporary office view.
Since I never leave home without my laptop, I had this same view for a week while I was writing Wed By Fortune. And now that the book is finally on the shelf, I’m back at Kaanapali Beach on Maui, my favorite vacation spot. It’s a perfect place to rest and play, as well as read.
So how ‘bout them Fortunes? I love this series—not just taking part in the creation process, but by reading each of the books as they become available. But then again, who doesn’t love reading about the trials and romantic escapades of the Fortune and Mendoza families? It’s also fun to catch up on the lives of the characters we met in the past.
As a romance author, I have the best job in the world. But I must admit, it can be lonely at times, especially when I’m holed up in my office… Well, not the one with a view of the Pacific, as well as Lanai and Molokai. I’m talking about the one at home, which isn’t a bad place to work—unless I’m trying to finish a manuscript by the deadline. But there’s something special about working with five other authors and our editors to create a series of books.
While working on the 2016 Fortunes of Texas, Karen Rose Smith and I emailed back and forth to get certain details, descriptions and characterizations right. Karen’s book, Fortune’s Secret Husband, introduced rancher, Chase Parker, who runs a horse rescue organization. In my book, Wed by Fortune, Graham Fortune Robinson took some of Chase’s horses to Peter’s Place, a home for troubled teens. There, the boys learned how to work with the horses, how to gentle them and care for them. In the process, they began to change their own lives.
Following her divorce, Sasha-Marie Smith returns to her uncle’s ranch and is surprised to reconnect with Graham, who’d been an older teen she’d once known—and crushed on!
Even though that spark of attraction still exists, Sasha knows there isn’t a chance of anything romantic happening between them, especially since
Graham is cowboy sexy, single and unattached. On the other hand, Sasha has come back to Texas with a four year old daughter—and a good size baby bump! But little does Sasha know, Graham is going to struggle with all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings—and plenty of romantic thoughts.
I hope you enjoy reading Wed by Fortune as much as I enjoyed writing it. And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going back to my temporary office. 🙂 The white sand and tropical breezes are calling me!
Nancy chiming in here: Thanks for joining us today, Judy! And for offering such a generous prize! Readers, please tell us where your dream office would be located. One person who comments will win a couple of Judy’s books and a $10 Amazon gift card.
Since 2002, USA Today bestselling author Judy Duarte has written more than fifty books for Harlequin Special Edition and Kensington Publishing, earned two Rita® finals, won two Maggies and received a National Reader’s Choice Award. When she’s not cooped up in her writing cave, she enjoys traveling with her husband and spending quality time with her grandchildren. You can learn more about Judy and her books at her website: https://www.JudyDuarte.com Or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JudyDuarteNovelist
- My Dad’s birthday! He had a heart attack last summer and that made this birthday so much sweeter. He’s the best dad in the world and I love him very much.
- Paris! I just spent the weekend in Paris at a Romance Festival where I met so many enthusiastic readers and writers and I was in Paris.
- Sunshine…well, sort of. In the UK Spring heralds a change from many hours of darkness to sunshine from about five a.m. to nine p.m. I know that other places in the world have this but I grew up in Florida where our days stay pretty even. 🙂
- Two New Releases!!! First is the Scandalous Billionaires box set with four of my best friends. This box set includes five stories and is only .99. If you pre-order it, we have a gift for you of a cookbook with our favorite recipes in it.
- Celebrating a milestone with one of my best-friends. His Seduction Game Plan is my 50th Harlequin Desire. And our own Nancy Robards Thompson is celebrating her 25th book for Harlequin with Fortune’s Prince Charming. This week we are celebrating together on our Facebook pages (Kathy and/or Nancy) so stop by if you’d like to win some signed books and other goodies!
What’s your top 5 for April? Tell for a chance to win a signed copy of His Baby Agenda!
Today is release day for FORTUNE’S PRINCE CHARMING! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate here on the JQ blog than to invite my buddy Susan Gorman, of Lady Celeste Reads Romance With Friends, to stop by for a virtual cup of coffee and a chat.
Sometime you meet someone and you know you’re destined to be friends. Sue and I share a love of corgis and romance novels and we both have daughters named Jennifer who were born just a few months apart. So, it seemed only natural that she and I would become fast friends. Sue, I know it’s a busy time of year. Thanks for joining me today to talk books, corgis and college graduation.
Sue Gorman: I’m glad to be here. Can you believe that our daughters will be graduating from college next month? Where has the time gone? Are you ready for graduation? I’m not!
NRT: It only hit me a couple of days ago that Jen (College Girl) will be graduating. Sue, four years ago when we drove away, I thought my heart would shatter into tiny pieces, but it’s gone so fast. Isn’t it wonderful to see the strong, confident young women our Jennifers have become?
SG: It’s amazing! My daughter spent her second semester abroad last year. It was tough saying good bye to her at the airport knowing that I wouldn’t see her for 6 months. Jenny studied at King’s College and travelled all over England and she visited Wales, Ireland and Amsterdam. The semester abroad provided her with lots of new experiences and Jenny returned home confident and determined to pursue a career in law. She starts Suffolk Law School in September. Has Jen made plans?
NRT: Congratulations to Jenny! My Jen has a job working with an interior design firm where she interned for several summers. I’m so proud of her and happy that she’s found something she likes to do.
While we’re on the subject of things we like to do, I love your Lady Celeste Reads Romance blog. How did you start reviewing books?
SG: I “won” a book on Facebook and the author mentioned she’d appreciate a review.
I reviewed it on Goodreads and she appreciated it. I am on a few street teams and receive ARCs for honest reviews. Sometimes, if the book doesn’t resonate with me I contact the author and explain. I don’t leave negative reviews on GR or Amazon. For Lady CelesteReads Romance…we review books, movies and audios that we love. We buy a lot of our books and audios. And it’s all positive! We choose our own books.
NRT: In case the readers are wondering about Lady Celeste, she was inspired by Sue’s adorable Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Celeste. Samantha sends Celeste a corgi kiss.
SG: How is Sammy? Is she still enjoying her walks?
NRT: She lives for her walks. I’ve been on deadline and lately she hasn’t been able to spend as much time outside as she would like, but I’ll make it up to her. How about you and Celeste?
SG: It’s finally Spring and I have started to walk the dogs each morning. Celeste enjoys seeing the school bus in the morning. Children love corgis!
NRT: They sure do! I hear you and Celeste, recently accomplished something major, would you care to share?
SG: Sure! Celeste finished her Beginner Novice obedience title on April 16th! We have worked very hard to accomplish this goal. Celeste wasn’t keen on learning the “sit/stay” command so, we were at a training impasse. After completing her CGC (Canine Good Citizen test), Celeste decided she could sit and stay—so we were able to move towards our goal.
Speaking of goals, congratulations! I saw the gorgeous cover of FORTUNE’S PRINCE CHARMING on Facebook! And it’s your 25th book for Harlequin!
NRT: Thank you, Sue!
SG: I love the small town sense of community in your books and that your characters have to deal with every day issues. I remember you told me that a group of you author the Fortune series. There is a great sense of continuity in the series and characters appear in different books. What’s the secret to keeping the small town feeling in each book?
NRT: Thanks so much for the good words about FORTUNE’S PRINCE CHARMING. One of the reasons that story is so near and dear to my heart is because it’s part of the Fortunes of Texas 20th anniversary. I love writing the Fortunes stories and I also enjoy my Celebrations, Inc. series (I’m working on another Celebrations book right now). One of the things both series have in common is that small town sensibility. I love taking readers to a place they’d to return to over and over again – a place where they know everyone and feel like they’re part of the community. I guess it goes back to the old adage write what you know. The town where I grew up is a lot like Celebration, Texas. I continue to draw on the sense of belonging I felt when I was growing up.
SG: Can I have a hint about FORTUNE’S PRINCE CHARMING? Just a little hint..please?
NRT: Absolutely! The book (and the 2016 Fortunes series, for that matter) is set in Austin, Texas and it’s all about family secrets. In this series we’re introduced to the Robinson family who may or may not be related to the notorious Fortunes. Gerald Robinson, the patriarch, insists he isn’t related to them, but his own children have uncovered some pretty compelling evidence that he might not be telling the truth. If so, why the secrecy and the distancing? His daughter, Zoe, is the heroine of my book. She is the lone holdout, taking her father at his word. But soon she and hunky Joaquin Mendoza (who hails from the Miami branch of the beloved Mendoza family –long-time regulars in the Fortunes series) discover that not only are they both on a mission to uncover the truth about their respective families, they also discover they are perfect for each other.
Here’s the back cover copy:
Zoe Robinson had never known true love—until Joaquin Mendoza rode into Austin and stole her innocent heart. The new guy at work is brilliant and aloof, but Zoe’s nursing a secret of her own: her dad might be connected to the famed Fortune clan! But the determined beauty has never backed down from a challenge—not when it comes to her family, and not when it comes to love.
Joaquin believes he’s all wrong for the wealthiest gal in Texas—he’s got one too many family issues keeping him from surrendering his heart to lovely, innocent Zoe. Until shocking allegations surface about her family drama and Joaquin realizes that he might be the ideal match for his Texas princess after all!
Sue, thanks so much for stopping by and helping me celebrate the release of FORTUNE’S PRINCE CHARMING.
Readers, since release days are always a happy day, tell me something good, something positive — anything as long as it makes you smile. I’ll give away a $10 Amazon gift card to one person who comments below.
Susan Gorman is an avid reader of historical and contemporary romance and mystery novels. She reviews books on her blog Lady Celeste Reads Romance with her friends Gayle Cochrane and Lisa Hutson.
A graduate of Saint Anselm College, she works in the financial services industry and breeds, shows and trains Pembroke Welsh corgis. She lives in southeastern Massachusetts with her husband, daughter and corgis.
A while back, I saw the move Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, starting Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey. It’s about a couple who dates, breaks up, and ultimately employs a firm to erase all memories of their relationship.
It was fascinating to consider that concept and it made me think about past relationships with friends, family members and exes. And certain times in my life when I wasn’t at my most stellar.
After considering the good, the bad and the ugly, I realized I wouldn’t want to completely wipe out memories of anyone I’ve encountered in my life. Maybe I’d forget some of the getups I wore in the ‘80s or some of the what-was-I-thinking hairstyles or some of life’s embarrassing moments. Although, I seem to be good at erasing those from my memory on my own since I know they happened, but I can never seem to recall them when the subject comes up. Anyway, if you can’t remember, did it really happen?
But memories of people? Nope. I wouldn’t do away with a single memory of anyone I’ve ever met. Not even the people in my life who have been…er…challenging.
In my book Fortune’s Prince Charming, (paperback available April 19; e-book available May 1; both available for pre-order now) both my hero and heroine face family challenges that might be worthy of forgetting, but in the end, they help each other come to terms with the family skeletons and become much stronger in the process.
Just a side note — I’m particularly proud of this book for a couple of reasons: It’s the fifth book in the Fortunes of Texas’s 20th anniversary celebration and it’s my 25th book for Harlequin. Doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. 🙂
How about you? Given the opportunity, would you erase any memories of your past?
To celebrate the Fortune’s 20th anniversary and the release of my 25th Harlequin, I’ll give away a copy of Fortune’s Prince Charming to three people who comment below.