Debbie Macomber (pronounced MAY-cumber) is a very happy author. Not only does she have multiple popular series of books, with installments that have hit the Number One slot on the New York Times Fiction list, but her CEDAR COVE novels are now a television series, airing Saturday nights on Hallmark Channel, which previously adapted Macomber’s MRS. CHRISTMAS as a telefilm. The first episode premiered to 3.8 million viewers, a splendid number for basic cable.
Andie MacDowell stars in CEDAR COVE as Judge Olivia Lockhart, who has relocated to the small Northwestern coastal town of Cedar Cove. Dylan Neal plays Olivia’s love Jack Griffith, Teryl Rothery (of STARGATE SG-1) portrays Olivia’s best friend Grace Sherman, and Bruce Boxleitner and Barbara Niven essay, respectively, Bob and Peggy Beldon, who are the new owners of the local B&B.
Macomber says she’s delighted with how the adaptation is turning out and the input she has as one of CEDAR COVE’s executive producers. At a press event for the Television Critics Association, Macomber talks about her COVE experience.
ASSIGNMENT X: When did you start writing?
MACOMBER: This is actually my thirty-first year as a published author. I started off with a rented typewriter on the kitchen table that we moved at mealtime. I can actually remember my youngest son being on my hip crying. He was three and I was bouncing him while I tried to get down a sentence before I lost the thought.
AX: Is CEDAR COVE based on a particular novel?
MACOMBER: It’s based on a series. The pilot was shot using Book One. All of the series are addresses, and you can tell what number it is by the house number. [Cedar Cove] is actually my home town of Port Orchard in Washington State.
AX: How many different book series do you have?
MACOMBER: I have a number of series. I did six books set in Texas, six books set in Alaska, four books in North Dakota. I’m traveling all over doing this research and I thought, “Hey, why not do my home town?” [laughs]
AX: Had any of your other books been adapted?
MACOMBER: For movies? Before Hallmark? I had a Showtime movie [THIS MATTER OF MARRIAGE] about ten or fifteen years ago.
AX: Did you ever think a TV series would be made out of any of your books, and if you did, which one did you think it would be?
MACOMBER: Probably not CEDAR COVE. I’m really kind of surprised. I thought if anything would capture attention, it would be the Alaska series or even the Texas series. I am absolutely so excited and to have Andie and Dylan, wow.
AX: Are Andie MacDowell and Dylan Neal the way you envisioned Olivia and Jack?
MACOMBER: Absolutely. They are marvelous. I was on the set and watched them and it’s like [Hallmark Channel executives] Dan [Wigutow] and Caroline [Moore] picked those characters out of my mind and brought them to life. They did a fabulous job.
AX: Olivia is a judge. How intense are the cases she presides over?
MACOMBER: Well, I write about reality and slice of life kinds of scenes. So anything that happens in real life, if it’s relevant and provocative, I think would fit into CEDAR COVE. She’s a family court judge, so she would not be presiding over [a] murder [trial].
AX: Can you talk about the core of CEDAR COVE?
MACOMBER: Because I was born in a small town, raised in a small town, and my husband was, too, we chose to raise our family in a small town. So it’s about community, it’s about being friends. Something that I discovered with all my visits to New York and to L.A. have been that big towns are just a series of neighborhoods. And one thing people long for, no matter where they live, is to be part of something, to have a connection. And that’s what they feel with my books, is a connection.
AX: How much input do you have into the series?
MACOMBER: They [Hallmark] made me an executive producer, so that I’m able to have that kind of input that’s necessary, to make sure that all the details are [correct], because the readers know, and if there’s something wrong, they’ll let you know. So I’m there to make sure they get everything right. Hallmark has been so communicative and so wonderful. They brought me to the set with the very first movie [MRS. CHRISTMAS] and I met Doris Roberts and it’s just been a wonderful experience.
AX: Is anything from the TV CEDAR COVE giving you any ideas for the next books in the series?
MACOMBER: Well, actually, the problem I have with CEDAR COVE after fifteen books is there are so many characters. So I needed a vehicle so that the characters would come and go [laughs]. My readers were outraged [at the possibility of Macomber ending the series], “Please don’t leave Cedar Cove!” So I set this bed and breakfast [for the new series of novels THE INN AT ROSE HARBOR] inside of Cedar Cove. So it’s going to be ongoing, so you’ll get updates on the characters.
AX: What kind of dialogue do you have with your readers?
MACOMBER: A lot of dialogue. I read every single piece of mail that ever comes into my office and I have for years. The readers have actually changed the course of my career about four times. CEDAR COVE is a good example. After all those other series I wrote, they didn’t want to leave. Every day, I’d get mail saying, “What happened to So-and-So in Texas or Alaska or North Dakota?” So I just decided to make an ongoing series.
AX: Could the characters from the different novel series visit each other?
MACOMBER: [laughs] Well, yes, I guess they could.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the process of having a book turned into a television series?
MACOMBER: That the process itself has just been amazing. I am so surprised at how well-cast – that’s one fear I think a writer has, that they’re going to put somebody into a role that it’s not the person you feel in your heart as a writer. And I’m just so amazed at how well they did – really, really good job.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with CEDAR COVE creator Debbie Macomber