Debbie Macomber on Writing Romance: “I’ve never felt alone”

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Warm and uplifting, yet undeniably real; comforting and familiar, yet surprisingly fresh; relatable and entertaining, yet comically self-deprecating; generous and humble, yet unabashedly successful: If Debbie Macomber herself seems like a living, breathing extension of the heartwarming romance and feel-good women’s fiction titles that have become her trademark, it’s no accident. And in an era where bestsellers lists sometimes seem dominated by an appetite for secret psychopaths, dystopian worlds and scandalous sex, it’s also refreshing. Because Macomber’s more than 200 million books in print worldwide are page-turning proof that happy endings still sell—big. And, looking back on her start as a stay-at-home mom with no degree, that they’re just as possible off the page as they are in your favorite corner of the bookstore.

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To her fans, her name is synonymous with the comforts of home: love (she got her start in the ’80s with Silhouette and Harlequin category romance—and is still married to her teenage sweetheart), family (the mother of four is a devoted grandmother), faith (a devout Christian, she serves on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet), food (her series have spurred cookbooks and even a cafe near her Port Orchard, Wash., home), friends (they’re the lifeblood of her women’s fiction), hobbies (she runs charitable knitting initiatives for World Vision and owns A Good Yarn Shop), even holidays (annual themed novels by the celebrated “official storyteller of Christmas” are regularly adapted into Hallmark Channel movies). Her popular Cedar Cove books, inspired by her hometown, ran for 14 bestselling titles and three seasons of the Hallmark Channel original series of the same name. That she has her headquarters in a quaint Victorian where she writes in the turret seems perfectly fitting.

Averaging three or four books a year, Macomber treated readers in 2016 to A Girl’s Guide to Moving On, about a woman and her daughter-in-law divorcing unfaithful husbands, Sweet Tomorrows, the conclusion of her eight-book Rose Harbor series set in a bed-and-breakfast, and most recently Twelve Days of Christmas, in which a woman’s Scrooge-like neighbor has a change of heart. If Not for You, her latest women’s fiction title, is forthcoming in March.

With over 150 published books to her name, at the root of it all is an unwavering commitment to the good in the world, the power of a dream, and the people turning the pages.

The January 2017 Writer’s Digest features our full-length interview with Macomber discussing what she’s learned from readers through her long career, how her own story can inspire writers everywhere, and much more. In these outtakes we didn’t have space to print, she discusses guessing at trends, building a writing community, and balancing work and family.

What new challenges arise for an author who has written as many books as you have? Your fans undoubtedly want more of the same, but I'd imagine delivering a story that's fresh as well as one that seems tried-and-true enough to satisfy isn't always an easy balance.

I think it’s really important to always be looking ahead. If you look for trends and see trends in publishing, it’s too late. By the time you have your book published, that bird has flown over. So the thing is to keep your eye and your focus on the future. And the way to do that is to look at different things in society—the writer has to keep their focus on the writing and their vision on the world.

One of the best ways to figure out trends—I do it in two different ways, and this is so silly and so simple: 1) What is happening in England? Our roots are English. So many of our TV show have come from England. Chick lit came from England! 2) Look at catalogues. …

The real challenge [in terms of balance] is life balance. We get so caught up in our work that we love and we’re passionate about, that it’s hard to remember that we are part of a family that needs us, that expects time with us. I remember one time I finished a book and looked up and said, “Does anybody need any clothes washed?” [Laughs.] And yes, they did.

You’ve talked a lot about your relationship with readers—do you feel it’s important for a writer to have relationships with fellow writers, as well?

Definitely. It’s fundamental. And I’ll tell you, romance writers have a network that the CIA envies. It’s important to be linked in to know what’s going on in the business. And author friendships—Linda Miller and I plot together all the time—I love it, I love to plot, that’s my favorite thing in the whole world to do, and they bless me in other ways. So that friendship link is vital.

It’s such an odd path, in a way, it’s nice to have bonds with others who understand the nuances of being a writer.

Isn’t that the truth? I remember years ago when I was still writing at home, and interviewer asked me, “Being that you’re alone all day, how do you deal with that loneliness?” And the question shocked me, because I’ve never felt alone—those characters are right there with me!

And, I really was blessed having written with little kids, and I want to share that with you, Jessica, since you have such little ones.

I was going to say, I’m never alone!

[Laughs.] But you learn to write at times when there are distractions. I was constantly up and down, and I know people that have to put headphones on so they cannot be disturbed in any way by the outside world when they write, and you know, I had four little ones running around when I started, and I learned to write with distractions. It’s nothing to me to get up, answer the phone, do an interview and then go write back to the story.

If you didn’t know how to do it, you’d be in trouble.

Exactly. So you are blessed with that, whether you know it or not!

To read our full interview with the warm and inspiring Macomber, check out the January 2017 Writer’s Digest now.

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