An Interview With Debbie Macomber

Posted on: 15 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Author Debbie Macomber tells 50connect about finding inspiration for her books and becoming a successful writer.

More than 100 million copies of Debbie Macomber's books are in print worldwide and her novels have been translated into 23 languages.

Her romance and women's fiction covers small-town life, home and family, women who knit, enduring friendship and even stories of humorous angels with earthly missions.  Twenty Wishes is the latest of her heartwarming books.

She and her husband, Wayne, live in Washington State and winter in Florida.

You left school after high school and are dyslexic, but you were determined to be a writer.  Where did the determination come from - was it a childhood ambition to be a writer? 

Yes, it was definitely a childhood ambition. I started my first novel at the age of 10 - never published, needless to say! I was a bestseller - at least in my neighbourhood - at 12, when my brother and two of my cousins copied my diary and sold it to their friends.

I never lost my dream of becoming a published writer. I began to seriously pursue it when my cousin, David, to whom I was very close, died. I realised then that I could no longer push my dreams into an unspecified future.

Like many authors, you had to endure rejections before your first book was published.  How long did it take before your first book was published, and what made you persevere?

Five years and four fully completed books - that’s how long it took. What made me persevere was, above all, the strength of my dream. That, and stubbornness, which made me unwilling to give up.

You are a prolific writer with over 150 novels to your name, and over 60 million copies of your books in print, worldwide.  How do you keep thinking of new ideas and situations for your novels?  How have your novels developed or altered over the last twenty years?

Coming up with new ideas is the easy part - ideas and story premises are everywhere. The more difficult task is selecting the ones I’m going to develop. I use four criteria in deciding what ideas to choose. I have to be able to create a story that’s:

  • Relevant - has meaning for my readers
  • Provocative - provokes both thought and feeling
  • Creative - allows me to grow as a writer, and:
  • Honest - characterisation, and therefore plot, is based on real and believable actions and motivations.

My novels have evolved and changed over the years because as I’ve matured, so have my interests. They’ve changed and broadened, and as a result, my stories have, too.

You receive around 3000 letters from fans every month and respond personally to each one - that’s a phenomenal postbag!

That number has now gone up - I’m receiving 3000 a week, on average, many of them guest-book entries on my website. My staff respond to readers’ questions. As well, everyone who writes or emails gets an annual newsletter, calendar stickers, bookmarks, monthly updates and the opportunity to enter my contests.

On 6th September 2007 you made Harlequin Enterprises history, by having your novel 74 Seaside Avenue, appear at the #1 position for paperback fiction on the New York Times, USAToday and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.  Is that the highlight of your career to date?  It is certainly an accolade! But if it isn’t the highlight - what is?

This was definitely a very special event! But I’ve had a number of smaller successes and highlights along the way, and I’ve celebrated each one. Like the very first time a book of mine, Promise, Texas, made the New York Times list back in 1999. The time I won a RITA award for The Christmas Basket. And many more.

But the one thing that remains more important than any other is the responses and reactions of my readers.

Who are your favourite authors, or which writers - past and present - do you admire?

Too many to mention them all! The Bible, of course, because I read it every day. I like some business books. I’ve always loved Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. Recently I enjoyed E.L. Doctorow’s The March.

I return to the classics - especially works by Americans Willa Cather and Edna Ferber, and the great British novelists, particularly Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens. I also enjoy the Regency romances of Mary Balogh. I still like series romance and read them when I have time.

Where did you get the idea for your latest title, Twenty Wishes?

From a reader! Or at least the idea for the wish list came from her.

In Twenty Wishes the recently widowed heroine meets with friends to each begin a list of 20 wishes - things they always wanted to do, but never did.  Could you please tell us what would be on your wish list?

Some of the wishes on my list include:

  • Taking a cake decorating course - which I’ve now done
  • Running “Grandma Camp” - which I did with my granddaughters, during the last week of summer vacation
  • Opening my own yarn store - which will happen later this year
  • Having one of my stories turned into a feature film - still waiting, and:
  • Going back to England and Ireland for another visit!

Twenty Wishes by Debbie MacomberRead the review written by one of our bookworms: Twenty Wishes Reviewed. You can buy Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber from all good bookshops priced £6.99. Alternatively you can purchase it from Amazon for £4.89.

Interview by Rachael Hannan

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