FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — It will be a celebration of success, friendship and life when family and friends gather Saturday night to watch the premiere of the TV movie “For Better or For Worse” at 9 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel cable television network.
The movie is based on the Christian fiction book of the same name by late author Diann Hunt of Woodburn, east of Fort Wayne. She was 58 when she died Nov. 29 after several years of trying to beat cancer.
“She was so excited, especially because she and her daughter, Amber, always watched Hallmark movies together,” said Colleen Coble of Wabash, one of three Christian author friends who are organizing the event.
The friends always said they all would attend the Hollywood premiere of the first of any of their books made into a movie. Hallmark doesn’t plan a premiere party, so the friends organized their own event, complete with red carpet, for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Hunt’s church, Grace Point Church of the Nazarene on Mayhew Road.
The evening will begin with refreshments in the gym, followed by friends sharing some “Diann moments.”
“She was a hilarious, fun, fun person,” Coble told The News-Sentinel.
They then will watch the movie on the two big screens in the church sanctuary.
Before she died, Hunt asked her author friends to hold a party the evening the movie aired so her family wouldn’t have to watch it alone, said Denise Hunter of Fort Wayne, one of the friends. That’s how Hunt was — always worrying about others rather than herself, Hunter and Coble said.
“For Better or For Worse” was published in January 2008. A film producer contacted Hunt in spring 2013 to inquire about movie rights to the book, and production started soon afterward.
The plot centers on a middle-aged woman who is settling into single life following the death of her husband. She now runs the family wedding planning business, which coordinates the town’s most memorable weddings.
Then a charming but irritating divorce attorney opens up shop right next to her business. The competitors soon have to work together, however, when her son announces plans to marry the attorney’s daughter.
Along the way, the wedding planner must decide if she wants to open herself to a second chance at love.
Actress and author Lisa Whelchel stars as Wendy, the wedding planner. She is assisted by Roseanne, played by Kim Fields, who co-starred with Whelchel on the 1979-1988 NBC TV sitcom “The Facts of Life.”
Antonio Cupo plays divorce attorney Marco.
“All of her books really were about seizing the joy of every moment,” Coble said of Hunt. “That was the way she lived.”
Most of Hunt’s approximately 25 books were romantic comedies and involved characters in their 40s and early 50s, Hunter said.
“She had a heart for women in that season of life,” she added.
All of Hunt’s books are Christian in theme.
“She loved God, and she let that show through in her books,” Hunter said.
A former court reporter, Hunt started writing about 15 years ago, Coble said. She had been writing full time for a decade or more by the time she died.
Coble and Hunt, who had the same book editor, met at a Taylor University-Fort Wayne event more than a dozen years ago. About two weeks later, Coble noticed Hunt in line ahead of her at a book signing in Muncie. They talked and bonded instantly.
Coble already was good friends with Hunter and Christian writer Kristin Billerbeck of California. Coble invited Hunt into their group in February 2001. They all clicked.
“There sometimes is friendship that is magic,” Coble said. “She will never be gone from us.”
They met regularly to brainstorm book ideas. They critiqued each other’s work. They also traveled together to writers’ conferences, which Hunter and Coble described as business during the day and slumber party at night.
Hunt kept on writing after being diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer, in fall 2007, Coble and Hunter said. Hunt did well during treatment but learned in 2010 she had ovarian cancer. She beat it once, but it returned in February 2013.
Last August, doctors told her they couldn’t do any more to help her, Coble said. Hunt died the day after Thanksgiving.
Hunt remained an encourager until the end, they said.
While undergoing chemotherapy at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Illinois, she would encourage the other patients, Hunter said.
Writing seemed like “an outlet she could escape to and a place she could encourage readers,” Coble said.
“There at the end, she would always worry about others and if they would be OK,” Coble added.
So while there may be some tears and somber faces at the premiere party Saturday, there will be joy.
That’s the way Hunt would have written it.