Sep 9 2011 2:00pm

Debbie Macomber: Sweet, Cozy, Comfortable—and Hot(-Selling!)

A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber“Make it hot” may be the watch-cry of 21st-century romance fiction, but one of the genre’s top-selling authors has become a #1 New York Times bestseller, a RITA winner, and a Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by writing over 150 kisses-only novels known as “sweet romances.“

More than 160 million of Debbie Macomber’s books in 23 languages are in print, and she’s adding to that figure daily. By December, she will have published three new novels, one new novella, a dozen reissues, a new cookbook, and a new co-authored children’s book in 2011 alone. Such an achievement is even more remarkable when one knows that in 1983 she was a dyslexic housewife and mother of four young children with a rented typewriter, five years worth of rejected manuscripts, and a stubborn refusal to give up on her dream of becoming a writer.

Starlight by Debbie MacomberMacomber’s first book, Starlight (Silhouette Special Edition #128) was published in 1984. Nearly three decades later, she has earned a regular spot on bestseller lists and persuaded many tens of thousands of readers that her novels offer them the stories they want. And what do they want? According to Macomber, readers like “stories that make sense of life and that reflect the realities of their lives—the importance of love, family, community. Of belonging.”

Although the first book Macomber sold, Heartsong (1984), was also the first book in Silhouette’s Inspiration line, and she has published non-fiction books that target an audience sharing her Christian faith, her novels generally are not Inspirationals. She believes her calling is to write secular novels that reflect her core values. She doesn’t include explicit sex scenes in her books because she believes it’s more romantic to leave something to the imagination. Her sales prove her conviction; she was one of 2010’s biggest sellers across genres with four of her mass market paperbacks selling more than half a million copies each.

Navy Wife by Debbie MacomberIn 1988, Harlequin began publishing Macomber’s first series, the Navy books, sarting with Navy Wife. Then came the Manning and Orchard Valley series. And in 2001, Macomber introduced a new series set in the fictional coastal town of Cedar Cove, Washington, based on Macomber’s own hometown of Port Orchard, Washington. 16 Lighthouse Road, the first book in the series and Macomber’s first hardcover, led Publishers Weekly to note the author’s “honest portrayals of ordinary women in small-town America” and conclude that the book “cements her position as an icon of the genre.” September 2009 saw the ninth book in the series, 92 Pacific Boulevard, reach #1 on the New York Times, USAToday and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.

Macomber further extended her audience in 2004 with The Shop on Blossom Street. Women’s fiction rather than romance, the novel focuses on a group of friends brought together by a knitting class offered by a Seattle knitting store. The first class project is to knit a baby blanket (Macomber includes the pattern in the book). The novel was intended to be a standalone book, but when the book’s knitting themes garnered the attention of devotees of the craft who then went on to read the author’s backlist, Harlequin saw the potential. A Good Yarn followed the next year, becoming a New York Times bestseller at more than 150,000 copies sold and fueling the sales of 840,000 copies of the paperback reprint of the first book. The eighth book in the series was published this year.

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie MacomberNo discussion of Debbie Macomber’s books would be complete without including her Christmas books. She has written more than twenty over the course of her career, with a new one, 1225 Christmas Tree Lane (Book 12 in the Cedar Cove series) scheduled for release on September 27. Entertainment Weekly labeled her six books about three mischievous angels “heartstring tugging schmaltz;” evidently the demand for holiday schmaltz is high. The same tag might be applied to Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle books, which became the Hallmark Channel’s most viewed movies of 2009 and 2010. This year Hallmark will air Trading Christmas, a new movie based on Macomber’s When Christmas Comes (2004).

In 2012, Ballantine will begin publishing three Macomber books a year, including a new series centered around a bed and breakfast in Port Orchard.  In her response to the Ballantine announcement, Macomber said, “I’m looking forward to a new stage in my 28-year publishing career, full of fresh ideas and exciting opportunities to bring my stories to the widest possible audience, and to deepen my long-term relationships with my loyal readers.” It sounds as if Debbie Macomber plans to keep sweet books hot.


Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Macomber's books are always so nice to cuddle up with, especially around the holidays. And I loved Hallmark's Mrs. Miracle movie last year. (Yay Jewel Staite!)
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
These are the kinds of books that make it okay for us all to read romance, because our older female relatives can get behind books that include cooking, knitting, etc. I got my mother-in-law hooked on Macomber, because I wouldn't dare suggest some of the usual stuff I read. And she likes it!
3. Janga
Redline, Faith Ford and Tom Cavanagh are playing the leads in Trading Christmas, Macomber's 2011 Christmas movie. I'm looking forward to it, although I confess thinking of Corky Sherwood as the mother of a college student makes me feel ancient.
4. Janga
Megan, Macomber is my go-to author when I gather books to contribute to the big yard sale my church youth group holds every year. But I belong in that "older female relatives" group, and I'd never pass my Elizabeth Hoyt, Toni Blake, etc. books on to my nieces, whose reading tastes run closer to Macomber than to Mullany.
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