How Romance Author Carley Fortune's Real-Life Love Story Inspires Her Novels

Her latest book, This Summer Will Be Different, hits shelves on May 7.
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Apr 26, 2024
We have included third party products to help you navigate and enjoy life’s biggest moments. Purchases made through links on this page may earn us a commission.

Carley Fortune has a meet-cute that reads like a plot from one of her books. The #1 New York Times bestselling romance author, who's penned some of the internet's favorite novels (like Every Summer After and Meet Me at the Lake), met her husband, Marco, in a college magazine feature writing class.

The aspiring journalists were in their third year at Toronto Metropolitan University when their schedules aligned. Fortune was initially attracted to him because he was a "beautiful" writer, she tells The Knot in an interview. But it was during a group lunch with their classmates—notably when Marco began talking about his Italian nonna's homemade lasagna—that Fortune felt a tug of something stronger than friendship.

Although she grew up a voracious reader, Fortune wasn't drawn to the enchanting, sweep-you-off-your-feet-type books she would one day write herself. Instead, she explains, some of her very best inspiration comes from her real-life love story.

Ahead of the release of her third book, This Summer Will Be Different, on May 7, 2024, we sat down with Carley Fortune to talk about her husband, memories from their wedding day, and how pieces of her own marriage are woven into the stories that are so beloved by readers.

In this article:

How Carley Fortune's Marriage Inspires Her Books

After that fateful lunch outing, it wasn't long before Fortune and her friends went to see a concert Marco, also a drummer, was playing in. "I just had a big crush on him. I ended up hanging out with him that night," Fortune remembers. "And then, not long after that, we went on our first date. And we've just been together ever since."

The couple dated for eight years before getting married. The Canadians exchanged vows on October 27, 2012, at Berkeley Fieldhouse, an open-air venue in downtown Toronto. "I loved this venue, because what was important to me was having a really fun dance party," Fortune explains. Of all their cherished wedding memories, one of Fortune's favorites was when her go-to karaoke song, "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, came on during the reception. "My mom came racing in from where she was putting on her pink running shoes," she laughs. "Everyone was singing on the dance floor. It was wonderful."

It wasn't until eight years after her wedding that Carley Fortune toyed with the idea of writing a novel. With an established career in the editorial industry, she spent over a decade running Refinery29 Canada. Although she grew up consuming books like Anne of Green Gables and horror titles by V.C. Andrews, she ultimately stopped reading because of her demanding journalism career.

As her job became increasingly taxing, Fortune rediscovered her love of books—this time, in the romance genre. "I started reading romance as a way to escape life's stress," she recalls, "and I had always wanted to write a novel. But it was something that I didn't think I'd ever do."

The turning point came in 2020 after Fortune experienced one of "the most stressful" calls of her career. "I slammed down the phone and I suddenly said to myself, 'I'm going to write a book, and I'm going to finish it by the end of the year.'" Thus, Every Summer After was born.

At the time, Fortune and her husband were new parents to baby Max with their second on the way. Since she was still working as an editor, Fortune embarked on a journey of early mornings and late nights to bring the touching story of Percy and Sam to life. "I was writing in the early hours of the morning before Marco and Max were awake," she recalls. "On the weekends, Marco would take Max to the park for a couple of hours so I would write then."

Every Summer After became an instant hit upon its 2022 release. Not only was it named a New York Times bestseller, the novel was touted as one of the "hottest" summer romances of the year. Fans were clamoring for Fortune to produce another romance that was rich in scenery and steeped with emotion like her first.

But things got more complicated with Meet Me at the Lake. With two young children, Fortune admits that balancing parenthood with their careers was becoming "unmanageable." So, Marco—who had since left journalism to become a teacher—took a leave of absence from work so his wife could pursue her dreams. "He's full dad mode," she smiles. "He packs the lunches and makes dinner, he does pick-up and drop-off. He's supporting me and the family."

Looking back on their twenty-year romance, Fortune says that her relationship with her husband has provided a foundation to support the multitude of phases they've lived through together. "There are so many marriages within a marriage, we continue to love each other and work at it," she explains.

That, she says, helps to inspire the vivid tales that appear on the pages of her work. "In my stories, I'm looking at a woman who's trying to figure out her own life, including what that looks like in terms of her career and her relationship with herself. But that also includes finding the right partner for her. Who's going to be that person who's with her on her journey?"

She doesn't need to look far for inspiration. "Marco and I have been on this journey together for half our lives," she muses. "That long history together really influences what I think a good partnership looks like, and what I want for my characters."

While Fortune says that none of her "book boyfriends" (as they're called on #BookTok) have been directly inspired by her husband, his traits do appear in the characters that have stolen readers' hearts. "There are pieces of him in my books, for sure," she says. "The ideal partner, to me, is somebody who sees you, listens to you, and understands you deeply, which I feel is the case with Marco."

That said, she confirms that Marco does have his own favorite book boyfriend: "He thinks Will from Meet Me at the Lake is the most like him, which tickles me."

Spend a few moments on the literature side of TikTok, and you'll see it's clear that fans of Fortune's work have strong feelings about all of her characters, including their favorite male leads. But with her latest novel, This Summer Will Be Different—which she promises is her steamiest yet—she hopes readers will enjoy a different love trope too. "I see this as having two love stories, because it's very much about best friends and how their relationship evolves over time. This is certainly the deepest kind of friendship storyline I've written, and I think a lot of people will relate to it."

Of course, she's also expecting readers to swoon over the latest male lead. "I think Felix is going to be the fan favorite," she says coyly. "He's a bookish book boyfriend who's also a champion oyster shucker. He's going to do a number on people."

For those who find themselves dreaming of finding a real-life love story like those in her novels, Fortune shares an inspiring nugget of advice that she's picked up through her own experiences. "You can't control anybody else. It sounds really simple, but it's taken me a long time to realize this," she shares. "A lot of friction in a relationship can come from how you want your partner to be. But the fact is that you marry a person, and you can't make them anybody but themselves. When something is upsetting you or isn't going the way you want, the only thing you control is how you respond. It's a game-changer."

Shop Carley Fortune's Books

With a distinct focus on immersive settings, Carley Fortune's books blend vivid scenery and emotional tales of love that will touch your soul. Her novels have sold over one million copies worldwide, and one has already been picked up by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's production company for Netflix. (Yes, seriously!) Shop all of Carley Fortune's books right here.

This Summer Will Be Different

Carley Fortune's book This Summer Will Be Different

Carley Fortune's new book, This Summer Will Be Different, hits stores on May 7. Set on Prince Edward Island, this highly-anticipated read follows Lucy, a tourist who falls into an annual tryst with local oyster shucker Felix every summer. The problem? She doesn't know Felix is her best friend Bridget's brother. When Bridget shockingly skips town a week before her wedding, Lucy flees to the island to support her friend—all while trying to resist her growing feelings for Felix.

Reflecting on her first two novels, Fortune tells us that This Summer Will Be Different "combines the pace and thrill" of Every Summer After with the "emotional core" of Meet Me at the Lake. "I want to give people an escape," she says of her third book. "I want people to feel the wind on their faces, and feel their toes in the sand, and taste the oysters. I think it will be a very immersive reading experience."

Every Summer After

Cover of Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

If you're new to Carley Fortune books, there's no better place to start than her debut novel, Every Summer After. Inspired by her own childhood memories of summering at Barry's Bay in Ontario, this nostalgic story centers around childhood sweethearts Sam and Percy. Taking place in dual timelines, it follows the six summers they spent falling in love as neighbors on the lake, including one fateful weekend that tore their relationship apart. When a present-day tragedy brings Percy back to the lake, she must confront the fact that her feelings for Sam never truly went away.

Meet Me at the Lake

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune book cover

Although Meet Me at the Lake is Fortune's second novel, it's her first to be picked up by a production company (which means you'll want to read this before it hits Netflix). While Fern Brookbanks was working in a coffee shop, she had a chance encounter with Will Baxter. Their unlikely connection sparked a whirlwind 24-hour rendezvous, which ended with a promise to meet up at a lake exactly one year later. Fern showed up, and Will didn't.

Years later, grappling with the outcome of her life (and the crushing effects of her falling out with Will), Fern moves back home to take care of her mother's failing lakeside inn, in need of a lifeline to save the business. What she never expects, though, is that her desperate plea for help arrives…in the form of Will.

We'd also be remiss not to mention a swoon-worthy Easter egg found in the dedication of this book, which Fortune wrote for her husband Marco: "For that first mix CD and all the ones that followed, but especially for turning the volume down."

Up Next
  • Sarah J. Maas
    Who is Romantasy Author Sarah J. Maas' Husband?