With an incredible 150 million books in print worldwide in 14 varied series, 80-plus stand-alone novels and numerous anthologies, it's no exaggeration to say that Debbie Macomber is the reigning queen of women's fiction.
She holds a lifetime achievement award from the Romance Writers of America and appeared for the Bee Book Club in 2007.
One of her most popular series is set in Cedar Cove, a charming, drama-filled town modeled after Macomber's hometown of Port Orchard, Wash., where she lives in a Tudor-style house on Puget Sound. After 15 "Cedar Cove" books, Macomber left the town behind, and her readers let her know loud and clear how much they missed it.
In what she calls "a compromise" with them, she has debuted a new series, still set in Cedar Cove but with a new cast of characters.
In the preface to Book One of the series, "The Inn at Rose Harbor" (Ballantine, $26, 352 pages), Macomber writes, "My new series involves a wonderful bed-and-breakfast, the Rose Harbor Inn. The focus of the stories will revolve around (widowed innkeeper) Jo Marie Rose and the guests who come to stay there. But the characters (from the previous 'Cedar Cove' series) will make occasional appearances."
More good news for fans: The Hallmark Channel plans to air a two-hour "Cedar Cove" movie in 2013, starring Andie MacDowell, with the thought of creating a series.
Visit Macomber at www.debbiemacomber.com.
P.S. Her name is pronounced "MAY-cum-ber" "Like 'cucumber,' " she said.
You left your longtime publisher, Harlequin, for Ballantine. Is the new "Cedar Cove" series linked to that?
I had already decided to do a new series before I left Harlequin. It was because there were so many characters after 15 books set in Cedar Cove. All those characters were swirling around, to where the first 20 pages of the (later) books were character lists. What I needed were new characters who would come to a bed-and-breakfast for a week, tell their stories and then leave.
You debuted 30 years ago as a pure romance writer, but segued into writing about friendships between mature women, who are inspired to overcome life's hardships. Why the switch?
Age and the process of maturing. I'm not the only one who's aging, and I've always wanted to write stories that are relevant to my readers. Life becomes more complicated, and as you grow older you think about things other than romance. So it just became harder to write about a 25-year-old falling in love. Still, there's always romance in my books, but the stories are richer and deeper.
The tagline on your website and in your books' promotional materials is, "Wherever you are, Debbie takes you home." What does that mean?
When you read one of my stories, you'll fall right into a community of friends. That's comforting, like being home.
Your 10-title "Blossom Street" series, set in Seattle, centers on a yarn shop where women gather to knit and help each other with their problems.
Knitting is a big part of my life, and my career exploded when I combined the passions I have for knitting and writing. I think that, in all women, there is a desire to create, (which is why) so many of us are into knitting, crafts and scrapbooking.
Is knitting a form of meditation for you?
I download my day by knitting. It relaxes me, but it can also be a source of huge frustration. I'm one of those impatient people who has to be doing something all the time, so I always have my knitting with me. It makes me feel like I'm doing something productive.
You've said your hobbies are knitting and cooking. Any specialties in your home kitchen?
I make a fabulous seafood fettuccine, a recipe I got out of a newspaper years and years ago. Shrimp, clams, scallops whatever I have.
You wrote a Christmas cookbook that includes 100 recipes. Do you go all-out in the kitchen over the holidays?
Absolutely. We are a family that loves to eat, and it shows. I have a big house and nine grandkids. I built a fort for them it has a pirate theme and a big deck all the way around it. The only thing it doesn't have is a restroom, because I want them to come inside for that.
What is it about your stories that has so captured your fans' hearts?
I'm a storyteller that's God's gift to me and I always have ideas. Early in my career, I had to find a way to distinguish which stories to (pursue). So I came up with five (guiding) words.
First, the story has to be provocative. I don't want to hit my readers over the head with a message, but I want them to think. Like, if they were suddenly widowed, what would they do?
Next, it has to be relevant to their lives.
Then there is creativity. You have to start a story as close to the end as possible, yet still tell the full story. I came up with the "creative" word when I wrote "Between Friends," which has no descriptions or a word of dialogue. It's like a scrapbook, and even has pictures in it.
Two words are left.
"Realistic" is next. An example would be the hero and the heroine hating one another all the way through the book, and at the very end saying, "Oh, I really love you." That doesn't work.
The last word is "entertaining." I had a vision in my mind long before I ever published, in which I could see a reader walking down the aisle in a Walmart or a grocery store. They would go to the book section, and the minute they saw my name they would grab that book and put it right into their shopping cart. I held that vision in my mind, because I want my books to entertain.
You have an "angelic intervention" series in which well-intentioned angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy come to Earth around Christmastime to help people in need. What will the trio be up to this year?
The idea (for the upcoming "Angels at the Table") came in a letter from a reader. She said, "You need an angel named Will, because the psalm says, 'Surely goodness and mercy will follow me ...' " So I created an apprentice angel named Will. Shirley, Goodness and Mercy are training Will, so you can imagine the havoc they get into in New York City. I will give you a hint there are camels wandering the streets.
MACOMBER IN TOWN
Debbie Macomber will end her nine-city book tour with a signing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble, 1725 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 565-0644.