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Originally published Monday, July 15, 2013 at 5:05 AM

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Hallmark takes a trip to ‘Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove’

Port Orchard author Debbie Macomber has sold millions of books and topped The New York Times best-seller list four times. Now her Cedar Cove series is being adapted for TV.

Special to The Seattle Times


‘Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove’

8 p.m. Saturdays on Hallmark Channel.

Tonight in Prime Time

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Port Orchard’s Debbie Macomber, author of dozens of novels with 170 million copies of her books in print, dreams big. A few years ago she wrote down what she calls her list of five outrageous goals:

1. Own all or part of the Seattle Seahawks (she’s had season tickets since the team’s second season).

2. Have one of her novels adapted into an Oscar-nominated feature film.

3. See a Broadway musical based on one of her books.

4. Give $10 million in one year to further God’s kingdom — without dying first.

5. See a TV series produced based on her books.

Her list will be down to four unaccomplished outrageous goals after Hallmark Channel premieres its first original, scripted series, “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove,” premiering Saturday, July 20.

Macomber began writing as a stay-at-home mom in the mid-1980s and since then she built a publishing empire with dozens of novels, anthologies and book series to her credit. Four of her novels have reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list, most recently “Starting Now” in April.

Hallmark Channel previously adapted several of her books as cable movies, which led to “Cedar Cove.” The TV drama is based on Macomber’s Cedar Cove book series, which began in 2001 with the publication of “16 Lighthouse Road.”

“Whenever you do a series, the hardest thing is for the author to remember where she puts everything [geographically],” Macomber said. “I based it on Port Orchard where I live because I know where the library is. I’m not confused where the marina is in relation to the library, so it just worked out perfect.”

The TV series takes the location, characters and plots from Macomber’s books and re-imagines them for television. Andie MacDowell stars as Judge Olivia Lockhart, who, in Saturday’s two-hour pilot, considers leaving Cedar Cove for a federal judgeship. But a newcomer to Cedar Cove catches her eye: Jack Griffith (Dylan Neal, “Hyperion Bay”) is the new editor of the town newspaper, and he takes a professional and personal interest in Lockhart.

“People were following these characters for 10 books since the early 2000s, and we knew this was something we could look at as a series,” said Michelle Vicary, Hallmark Channel executive vice president of programming. “The appeal was the strong female protagonist with Judge Olivia Lockhart who was front and center.”

Saturday’s premiere reveals Olivia’s backstory; future episodes introduce Olivia’s best friend, Grace (Teryl Rothery).

Macomber has seen the pilot and calls it a “brilliant” adaptation, but fans of the books should expect some deviations.

“One of the things the books do well is tell internal stories,” Vicary said. “Our challenge was: How do you develop relatable stories between characters who say and do rather than think and feel?”

Macomber, who is consulting on the TV show but not writing scripts, points to another story change: In the books Grace’s husband is tormented by his time in the military during the Vietnam War; he ends up committing suicide.

“That was too heavy for Hallmark, so right in the beginning they have her divorced,” Macomber said. “They are making changes to fit with their format, and I’m fine with that.”

Macomber has visited the set in Vancouver, B.C., three times and is scheduled to return in August to film a cameo for an upcoming episode. Her son, Ted Macomber, is in a scene in the pilot during Cedar Cove’s annual Seagull Calling Contest, inspired by an actual festival in Port Orchard.

Vicary said “economics took us to Vancouver” but Macomber said she tried to get production of the series filmed in Washington.

“We did get tax incentives [for filmmakers] back but the problem is we don’t have the infrastructure Canada does,” she said.

Macomber decided to end the Cedar Cove series in 2011 by spinning it off into a new series, Rose Harbor Inn. The latest book, “Rose Harbor in Bloom,” goes on sale Aug. 13.

“Something I didn’t take into consideration when I did an ongoing series is how many characters are involved and with every book you add characters,” Macomber said. By setting the new series at a Cedar Cove inn, new characters arrive at the inn but they leave by the end of each book. “Everybody who was reading the Cedar Cove books can keep up with the characters in the Rose Harbor Inn series.”

Rob Owen: or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV

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