Fern Michaels is women’s fiction royalty and a publishing legend. The author of the wildly popular Sisterhood series, Michaels has written more than 150 books, more than half of which have been New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. She has 75 million books in print, and her work has been translated into 20 languages.
On December 31, Kensington will publish Cut and Run, the 30th book in the Sisterhood series—about a group of female friends equipped with resources, expertise, and global allies and on a quest for vigilante justice—which kicked off in 2003 with the now-classic Weekend Warriors. At the heart of the Sisterhood is its founder, Myra Rutledge, a woman of seemingly infinite financial and intellectual resources. In Weekend Warriors, following the death of her daughter to a hit-and-run driver with diplomatic immunity, Myra forms a group of like-minded women to right wrongs the legal system can’t—or won’t— address. Among the Sisterhood are: Anna Ryland de Silva, a countess and Myra’s oldest friend; Nikki Quinn, Myra’s adopted daughter; and Lizzie Fox Cricket, a lawyer willing to bend the rules.
Thirty years later, Cut and Run finds the Sisterhood’s founders older but still committed to their friendships and their quest for justice. So when Anna departs suddenly and without a word, Myra knows something is wrong and deploys the Sisterhood, leading them on an adventure to the far corners of Spain to find their old friend. It’s a classic Fern Michaels story: the Sisterhood’s unflagging devotion to one another and to justice enables them to surmount even the most difficult challenge.
In part, it’s this quality—strong women coming together to make things right—that makes the series so appealing, although a happy ending isn’t guaranteed. “The woman hasn’t been born yet,” Michaels says, “who doesn’t have someone or something they want to get even with or make right.”
Michaels’s editor at Kensington, Esi Sogah, puts it another way: “The series has everything a reader could want— strong friendships, riveting stories, and, of course, romance,” Sogah says. “Over the years, the world of the Sisterhood has expanded to include husbands and new friends, which means more characters for readers to identify with. In addition, Fern has never shied away from taking on tough, real-world issues, and it gives readers hope to know that someone out there sees the injustices of the world and is willing to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t right.’”
Looking back on her storied career and the Sisterhood series, Michaels is quick to point out the contributions of her “knights in shining armor”: Kensington founder Walter Zacharius and Kensington CEO Steven Zacharius. “They made it happen,” she says. “Without them and Kensington Publishing, there would be no Sisterhood. Once they published the first book, the fans hopped on board and none of us have looked back since. Here we are today at number 30.”
Above all, Sisterhood books are about inspiring, powerful female characters. These qualities stem from Michaels herself, who took control of her life to become the successful writer she is today. “Back when I first started to write,” she says, “I was a wife and a mother of five kids, with no time to do anything for myself. When my youngest went off to kindergarten, I was literally lost. Suddenly I had time to read, and boy did I read!”
Michaels spent a lot of time at the library and recalls reading three pages of a book and immediately figuring out the entire plot. “I told myself I could have written it better,” she says. In the end, that’s just what she did. While her first novels weren’t published, she kept at it. “My mantra was: if you persevere you will prevail,” she says. And in 1995, she joined the Kensington roster with Dear Emily, beginning the long and fruitful relationship that, a few years later, would lead to the Sisterhood.
Of course, no Fern Michaels book would be complete without a heroic dog or two. Cut and Run brings back Cyrus, a German shepherd that can answer the phone, fold towels, put his food bowl in the sink, buckle his seat belt, and help save the day. The canine character was inspired by a dog named Buckwheat who belonged to Michaels’s daughter Patty, who passed away in 2005. “When I developed Cyrus,” Michaels says, “it was me not wanting to let go of Patty or Buckwheat.” In real life and in her fiction, Michaels has profound faith in and love for dogs. One of her main charitable activities is outfitting police dogs with bulletproof vests: “If the dog’s partner gets a vest, shouldn’t the dog have one, too?” she says. “Well, now they do.” And Michaels wouldn’t dare write a book without an animal in it—she tried it once, she says, and it didn’t go well. And now “Cyrus gets more fan mail than I do.”
Kensington has big plans for Fern Michaels and the Sisterhood. In the lead-up to Cut and Run, Kensington is publishing a new edition of Weekend Warriors that includes a letter from Michaels, a q&a, and a fresh cover. And Kensington and Michaels will keep up their ambitious publishing schedule, which typically includes four full-length novels and one novella each year across a variety of the author’s popular series.
“Sometimes I think my brain is as big as the Sears and Roebuck catalogue,” Michaels says of her productivity. “Just page after page of ideas. I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing and enjoying every minute of it.” That means her millions of fans will have plenty of books to keep reading, no doubt enjoying every minute of it, too.
- Nearly 23 million Sisterhood books have been sold.
- All but one of the Sisterhood books have been New York Times bestsellers; 24 of them hit the top 10.
- Every Sisterhood book has been a USA Today bestseller.
- The Sisterhood books have spent a total of 120 weeks on the PW bestsellers list.
“My original intention,” Michaels says of the series, “was to write perhaps two, possibly three books about women who took matters into their own hands and righted some of the wrongs of the world. That changed real quick with the phenomenal amount of mail I got after the first book. I was blown away with the ideas, the compliments, the personal stories, and the graphic revenge ideas that made my hair stand on end. I had a file as thick as the Manhattan telephone directory to draw from— plus my own evil thoughts—in regard to revenge. ” Thirty books and millions of devoted fans later, she’s not even close to running out of ideas.