Monday, April 5, 2010

Guest Blogger, Libby Malin

Please join me in welcoming author Libby Malin as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

“My Own Personal Soap Opera” is Libby’s latest release and it hits the stores this week.  Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: “Is life stranger than fiction, or vice versa?

Frankie McNally has found the perfect solution for life’s perplexing problems: as head writer for the daytime soap Lust for Life, she works them out on the air!

Meanwhile, Frankie’s being courted simultaneously by the dashing older man sent in to save the show’s sagging ratings and by the soap’s totally hot leading man. And just when Frankie thinks the plot couldn’t get more complicated, a jewel thief starts copying the show’s storyline-a development that could send the show’s ratings soaring, if it doesn’t get Frankie arrested first...

In her signature blending of the hilarious with the poignant, Libby Malin’s latest light-hearted novel combines the best of life and of fiction into an entertaining and incredibly satisfying read.”

Thanks to Libby and Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have two copies of “My Own Personal Soap Opera” to give away to visitors commenting on Libby’s post between today and 8 p.m. on Monday, April 12. Be sure to include your e-mail address if it’s not in your profile. With her hectic schedule right now, Libby will try to drop in and answer any questions you might have. However, if time doesn’t allow her to, I’ll be glad to forward them to her for you.

At one time or another the majority of all of us (men included) have watched a soap opera or two. Libby joins us today to share her thoughts on “if she actually wrote for a soap opera.”

Days of Our Lives and the now-defunct Another World were my all-time favorite soap operas. I dabbled a little in watching The Young and the Restless, but its time slot interferes with Days, so… I never became a die hard Y&R fan.

If I were soap writer (like the protagonist in my new novel My Own Personal Soap Opera), it would be for Days. They have a great cast of characters, including two super villains (Victor and Stefano!) and some twisted family trees. They have a good mix of young and old, with one character now playing a matriarchal figure who had a good number of romantic stories of her own “back in the day.”

In the 90s, Days’ head writer was James Reilly, a phenomenal talent whose wild story ideas kept audiences riveted. Reilly took watchers on zany journeys with beloved characters. Imagine this: a pure-hearted heroine starts doing the most malicious deeds. Reilly crafted such a story for the deeply-loved character Marlena Evans. It was brilliant story-telling and, from this writer’s perspective, a nearly-impossible accomplishment—taking a character who viewers feel they know better than their own family and making her do things completely foreign to her personality. 

Often, when a writer manipulates a character that way, the audience stops watching (remember Bobby Ewing’s “dream” on Dallas?). But Reilly pulled it off, eventually introducing the idea that Marlena was actually possessed by the devil during her evil-doing spree through the Midwest town of Salem (appropriate name, eh?).

Reilly, sad to say, is gone now, having passed away at the relatively young age of 60. But what a talent!

If I were a soap writer, I’d want to emulate his “out of the box” thinking, taking characters in different directions. Right now on Days, for example, a heroine has returned to the show. She was another pure-hearted soul, a doctor to boot, but I’d love to take her down a darker path, making her a villainess now embittered by the loss of her hero to another woman, the love of his life. Mmm. . . . that would be juicy to write! So many possibilities!

But the writers of Days are probably constrained in some ways by the actor’s contract—how long she’ll be on the show—and other factors, maybe even fans of the returning actress, who don’t want to see their idol becoming something they can’t believe in.

Those multi-faceted challenges must make a soap writer’s job interesting. I tried to incorporate some of them into my novel, My Own Personal Soap Opera, by having head writer Frankie McNally deal with crisis after crisis—including a leading man who breaks his leg on Dancing with the Stars right before shooting of a torrid love scene begins. I did a lot of research before writing my book and was grateful to the very patient head writer of As the World Turns, Jean Passanante, who answered my many questions.

Frankie’s personal life sometimes resembles a soap opera, with one cliffhanger moment after another. She has to figure out how to save her show, deal with a real thief imitating one on the soap, and choose between two men who are after her heart.

I love Frankie’s character—she’s sweet but sassy, vulnerable yet strong (or wishing she were stronger than she is). By the story’s end, she’s made a few important discoveries about who she is and where she wants to be in life.

Oh, and if you were a fan of Another World, you’ll notice she’s named after a beloved character on that show—Frankie Frame!

If you’d like a peek at the book, the opening chapter is up on my website –

What are your favorite soaps (if you watch them) and your favorite soap characters and stories?

Libby, thanks so much for stopping by today. I’ll admit I was hooked on ABC’s big three (All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital) for awhile. But they all started adding so many young actors and dropping the older ones, I felt like they didn’t care about the older viewers. Besides now I’m too busy in blogdom.

For a little background on Libby, she is published in women’s fiction, including Fire Me, and is an Edgar nominated YA mystery writer. She’s worked in public relations, as an education reform advocate, and was a member of the Vermont Commission on Women. She lives with her husband and three children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For more information about her and her writing, be sure to check out her website


  1. Mason-again a great interview.

    Libby, OH YEAH, when I get a chance I watch the Young and the Restless and still watch Days. I use to watch Another World too. Your book sounds great.

  2. This sounds like a lot of fun! Although I don't watch them, I've always been fascinated by the idea of soap operas. :) Thanks!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Another ANOTHER WORLD fan! Yay! I loved Rachel and Mac on that show. And Sven -- my German-born grandmother used to call him "schneaky Schven."

  4. That is a clever idea for a book!

  5. I've never watched a soap opera, but this book sounds like a lot of fun! Awesome :)

  6. I used to watch soaps with my grandma when I was a little kid--but the habit is long gone, since we don't keep a TV. (they're hard to potty train!)

    I love light-hearted novels and this sounds fun.

  7. Hi everyone and thanks for dropping by. It's a another crazy Monday for me.

    Jemi, silly question but do they have soap operas in Canada?

    Libby, thank you so much for guest blogging today. Your book has been fun. I agree Days would be an interesting soap to work on. Stefano does just keep coming back again and again.

  8. I LUUUUUURVE Stefano on Days. LOL! And the writers seem to be trying to "humanize" him and Victor, which I like -- instead of making them completely evil-hearted villains. In fact, the writing on Days has been really good lately, with snappy dialogue and clever wordplays.

  9. I don't watch daytime Soap Opera's, but used to love mini-series in the 80's. This sounds like a fun read.

  10. Sorry to be so late to the party. Blogger and I have not played together well today. This was a great interview. Sounds like a fun book.

  11. I enjoyed this interesting interview. Soaps were extremely popular but I rarely watched them although everyone else did avidly. Thanks for this glimpse.

  12. I have been a fan of historical romantic novels for years and still am. I am also a huge fan of Days of Our Lives since the first show. I love every aspect of the show from the good to the bad. Days like the novels took me away and made me dream of that could be me. LOL Good luck with your continued writing career and thanks for letting us get to know you better.

    Anna - bethan_oki

  13. i love the title of your book Libby...can't wait to read it.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.