When it comes to preserving the rich history of daytime dramas, New York Times Best Selling author Alina Adams wrote the book on it! The woman behind such soap tie-in novels as Oakdale Confidential, The Man From Oakdale and Jonathan's Story, not to mention soapy social media projects like Another World Today and Mindy Lewis' Twitter account, has put together an interactive eBook experience entitled Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Moments.
For her latest sudsy labour of love, Adams solicited essays from fans, soap experts (such as Yours Soaptastically!), actors, writers and producers, who all have one thing in common — a love for all things soap. I caught up with Adams to talk about the project, as well as how soaps can better utilize technological advances to reach a larger audience during these trying times for the industry.
Daytime Confidential: What made you decide to edit a book like Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Moments?
Alina Adams: Soaps did not have their best year in 2011. Not only were As The World Turns and Guiding Light gone, but ABC announced the cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live. These developments prompted a lot of speculation on where soaps went wrong. I approached the issue from a different angle. I asked the question: What did soaps do RIGHT? Instead of focusing on the negative, let's focus on the positive. Let's explore what made soaps so compelling that people were willing to devote five hours a week of their lives, or more, to sitting glued to the set, and let's celebrate that. And then, let's not just tell people about scenes that still resonate five, 10, 20, 30 years later — let's show them.
2011 may not have been a great year for soaps, but it was an amazing year for technology and innovation. I started by using social media like Facebook, Twitter, my blog, http://www.SoapOpera451.com and my website, http://www.AlinaAdamsMedia.com to reach out to soap fans and ask them about their favorite moment. This book was literally crowd-sourced and came together via the wisdom of crowds. Once I had their nominations, I took the most popular ones and went to the actors, writers and producers responsible for creating these amazing moments to ask how they came together and to get their behind-the-scenes stories. I have everything from Eden Riegel talking about Bianca coming out on All My Children, to Hillary B. Smith recalling Bo and Nora's interfaith, interracial, Little Richard sock-hop of a wedding on One Life to Live, to Victoria Rowell looking back on The Young and the Restless' Dru/Neil/Malcolm triangle, to Eileen Davidson laughing about playing five different characters on Days of Our Lives, to As the World Turns'Susan Dansby spilling the beans about directing Carly and Jack's first kiss... then writing their Emmy-winning break-up years later, plus so, so much more.
Because Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Momentsis an enhanced e-book, fans can not only read the exclusive interviews, but they can then immediately click on links to the contributors' personal websites to find out what they're doing now and even contact them directly. Finally, they can click a link and actually watch the scenes being discussed, where available.
It isn't necessary to have a Kindle or any kind of reading device in order to experience Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Moments. All you need is the free Kindle app (which you can get from Amazon) and you can get the book on your desk-top computer, your lap-top, your phone, your iPad, your tablet, basically anything with an Internet connection (i.e. if you can read this interview, you can read the book). The book is available exclusively through Amazon at: http://tinyurl.com/SoapMomentsEBook.
Daytime Confidential: You interviewed countless soap opera lovers (including me) for the tome. Were you touched by the various memories people shared of their fave "stories?
AA: I was blown away by the stories people shared with me. I heard from a woman who got the courage to change her own life after she watched Olivia and Natalia on Guiding Light; from someone inspired to get a face-life by Y&R's Kay; from people who admitted they couldn't cry about their own cancer, but finally managed to when they watched the story on a soap. In addition, it was so interesting to hear people's stories of how they got hooked on daytime dramas, and which couple was the first to steal their hearts, and why. People shared funny stories, familiar stories, ones that were heartwarming, and heartbreaking, too.
In the end, what came through the most was that, even though I interviewed a cross-sections of daytime fans, professionals and experts, they, we, all have one thing in common: We passionately love the genre and want to see it receive all the acclaim it so richly deserves.
DC: What do you think it is about the soap opera as a genre that has allowed it to captivate audiences for over seven decades, moving from radio to TV and now the Internet?
AA: Everybody wants to know "What Happens Next?" It's human and it's universal. Yes, Rhett walking out on Scarlett is a heck of an ending—so is Jack walking out on Erica—but, we want to know "What Happens Next?" Everyone who has ever fallen in love with a character has closed the last page of a book wishing the story didn't have to end. Soaps fulfilled that wish. Romance novels are about "Happily Ever After." Soaps are about what happens the next day. It's also about family. Every supercouple has parents and siblings and friends who are affected by the relationship, which spins them off into stories of their own. On soaps we can watch people grown up in real time— Well, more or less cough, SORAS, cough—but, when Luke talks to Lucky about his childhood on General Hospital, we don't need to hire other actors to recreate the flashback. We can see little Lucky with his mom and dad in their cozy Canadian diner. And, like the subtitle of Soap Opera 451says, in homage to Ray Bradbury'sFahrenheit 451, "We remember..."
Soap character memories are our memories. Because we lived their lives, one day at a time, right along with them.
DC: You've written several novels that were soap opera tie-ins and continued the stories of popular Procter and Gamble sudser Another World with the blog Another World Today. Is there any chance the fictional towns of Bay City, Oakdale and Springfield may one day be revisited in book form?
AA: When the shows first went off the air, I submitted a formal proposal to continue ATWT and GL in enhanced e-book form, using the format I developed on Another WorldToday.com of mixing text and video to tell the story of what happened next in Bay City. The project was approved to go ahead, then scuttled at the last minute, which was personally devastating to me because, as I keep saying over and over again, I need to know what happens next! Maybe now that the shows have been released for DVD and streaming by http://www.SoapClassics.com that project could be revived? I strongly suspect there would be a market for it.
DC: In January, there will only be four soap operas in production in broadcast television. What do you think General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful need to do, not only to survive, but possibly once again thrive?
AA: Got a character you want to keep on the canvas but the actor is leaving? Keep them alive through a personal blog or e-mails sent right to fans that could also tease their return story and allow fans to write back, interact and even become a part of the story.
New technology makes getting input from the fans easier and quicker than ever. Another World Todayended every episode with a poll so that fans could actually drive story the way they wanted. Wwell, majority rules... Some science fiction shows have set up fan chats that appear on the screen right as the show is going on. You could even have characters interacting with the posters as the action is happening!
It wouldn't be a matter of changing the shows, which, as I pointed out in Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Moments, have a great deal of things going for them still, but a matter of expanding how the stories we've loved for 70 years are presented and distributed, and thus how they're received and embraced by the next generation.