Soap industry veteran and New York Times bestselling author Alina Adams recently spoke to TVSource Magazine about her past with soap operas, thoughts on the future of the industry and her current writing endeavors.
As a child Adams moved from the Soviet Union to California, where she grew a love for soap operas that would shape the rest of her life. After college, Adams went on to write for the E! talk show Pure Soap, then on to ABC Daytime where she had the chance to work in Corinth on Loving and New York City on The City. Later, Adams was picked up by Proctor & Gamble where she worked nine years in their creative department, spearheading P&G’s soaps’ online aspects. She was also employed as a researcher for the Daytime Emmy Awards from 1996 to 2006. More recently, Adams work with Prospect Park’s reboots of One Live to Live and All My Children.
In 2011, Adams published enhanced e-book Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Dramas Greatest Moments, which took a look back at some of daytime’s most memorable moments. The book is a true fan experience, including actor interviews, insider information and 45 of the most significant scenes in soap history as picked by the fans.
Ever the innovator, she is currently writing her next book live via the internet. Fans have been tuning in to watch her write, edit and re-write since last year when she began. With bestselling soap opera tie-ins, mysteries, non-fiction and a soap opera greatest hits anthology under her belt, there’s no doubt that her latest project will be one to talk about too.
It was a true pleasure to be able to talk to not only an influential writer in the industry but also someone who loves soaps just as much as the rest of us!
TVSource Magazine: In addition to your work on soaps, you’re also a New York Times Bestselling Author of romance, mystery, non-fiction and also soap opera tie-in books. Would you say that soap operas inspired you to start writing?
Alina: Absolutely. I was one of those horrible children who started watching soaps at 10 years old. In 1980, it was Luke and Laura so how can you miss that? I would watch it with my aunt. As far as anything I’ve worked in, soaps is the thing I’ve been involved in the longest if you count the fact that I started watching when I was 10.
TVSource Magazine: Wow. So what would you say your favorite soap opera was back then? Was it General Hospital?
Alina: Back then? Yes! There are always the gateway drugs! At some point I’ve been a fan and a regular watcher of all of them, even many that are no longer with us. But I started with General Hospital. That was my gateway drug.
TVSource Magazine: What was it that got you hooked on GH? The action-adventure of the era?
Alina: I think so. Since then I’ve actually thought back about it and seen some of the clips that I watched when I was 10 and 11 and… they’re still so amazing! I mean, the Ice Princess storyline! It just does not get better than a large frozen diamond! Two summers ago, I had the thrill of describing the Ice Princess storyline to Corbin Bleu. During the time I was working on the All My Children and One Life to Live reboots. I’d heard him saying, “And there was one soap opera where they tried to freeze the world!” And I said, “Wait, let me tell ya, little boy!”
TVSource Magazine: And then [the Ice Princess story] came back! What, two years ago now on General Hospital?
Alina: Yes, yes! I had the thrill of telling it to him and showing him clips like, “Now you’re going to watch this. This is John Colicos of Battlestar Galactica.” It’s like I said: eclectic interests. But… um, what was your question?
TVSource Magazine: You answered it! Soap operas definitely influenced you to write!
Alina: What I was going to say was! When I watched the [clips] now that I’m 45 years old – which I’m not too embarrassed to say – I felt it was a bit simplistic and juvenile. But to hook someone in…
TVSource Magazine: Millions of people!
Alina: It was brilliant! What Gloria Monty did with Luke and Laura on the run and then the Ice Princess – yes, it was simplistic and no, it was not Shakespeare – but it was exactly what it needed to be to hook people. Not only kids and young people but also people who’d never watched a soap before. She kind of held your hand and walked you into soaps. So it was actually brilliant.
TVSource Magazine: On top of that, since we now know that soaps got you really into writing. You’re currently writing your next book live on the internet. How is that going?
Alina: It’s actually going really well. And when you talk about soap operas – yes, I’m calling it a romance novel because things need to be slotted into boxes. And they need to be a genre. It’s really a soap opera because every day I write another installment. And I got that from working for Proctor & Gamble. One of the things I did for them was when Another World came to Hulu, I pitched them a project that ended up becoming Another World Today where we did a continuation of Another World. We were using the clips from Hulu. The idea was officially sanctioned since it came out of P&G and it was a text-based continuation, but all the flashbacks were video clips to drive people to Hulu! And that was done with two episodes a week. And at the end of each episode, fans could vote where they wanted each story to go. So for about three years, I did weekly interactive soap operas. So what I’m doing with the live writing experiment is really just a continuation of that. Because not only am I writing my book live but readers can just give input right there on the comment section. It’s really just a direct connection to what I did at P&G with Another World Today.
TVSource Magazine: How has the reaction to your live writing experiment been?
Alina: You know… I think people don’t know what to make of it? (laughs)
TVSource Magazine: Because it’s new?
Alina: Definitely new! I’m always trying to do stuff that they say you should never do. Like there are some cardinal rules to writing. First of which is: Never show anyone anything less than your perfect, polished work. So, we’re not doing that! Right now, I was looking at the date and I started this project almost a year ago. And I’m not done, close to done but not done. I’m about 7/8 done. And this is just the first draft! Then I’m gonna go back and I’m gonna edit! Then edit again! But the real purpose was just to show people how. You know, you see a book and it’s just there, you have no idea how it got there. I really wanted to show step by step how a book goes from first draft to publication.
Like I always say, what’s the point of criticizing a book after it’s been published? There’s nothing you can do about it. You might as well criticize me now if you want me to make some changes! That’s for the readers! But for writers, you can learn from your mistakes or you can learn from my mistakes, it’s a lot less painful. And I’m going to make a lot of mistakes. I once deleted about two weeks of work because I thought I’d just gone off in the wrong direction. If it’s boring for me to write, then I’m sure it’s boring for you to read.
Today I was actually doing [the live writing] and there was this one sentence which I re-wrote about five different times. And if I showed to you the five sentences, you’d see they all say about the same thing, just moving around the noun or the verb!
TVSource Magazine: That’s very candid of you to do.
Alina: Writing naked! (laughs)
TVSource Magazine: Do you ever get nervous when you’re doing the live writing?
Alina: I have never in my life had writer’s block. I’m a believer that writer’s block is only when you don’t have a deadline. I always say just write the first word, then the second word, then the third, then the next sentence, that’ll keep you going. The one time I ever froze writing was when I was in the middle of writing a sex scene and I could see people watching. Suddenly I just froze! It was just a little too much. I was like, “I’ll be back tomorrow! I have to think about this!” That was the only time in my life I ever had writer’s block.
TVSource Magazine: Do you have any kind of set schedule for the live writing or is it just when inspiration hits?
Alina: No, I don’t. I wish I did but I also have a life. I have three kids and I have paid writing work. So if an assignment comes in – especially sometimes when I get an e-mail at 9am asking if I can turn this piece around by noon then that’s what I’m doing instead. That’s just the way the world works. I wish I did – actually, I don’t know if it’d be better. If I did then people would know when to tune in but then people who couldn’t tune in at that time might miss it.
TVSource Magazine: And what if they miss something spontaneous and exciting too?
Alina: Right! So no, I haven’t decided on which is better yet.
TVSource Magazine: In your past blogs, you said that everything you learned about writing was learned from soap operas. You mentioned before that you moved over from the former Soviet Union to the US, would you say that soaps helped you with that transition too?
Alina: You know what? Let’s just say it probably wasn’t the way typical Americans behave but I sure thought it was. (laughs)
TVSource Magazine: Was America like what you imagined?
Alina: “This is what Americans were like!” There were two things. One: I know you were a real American when you had a big staircase in your house like on The Brady Bunch.
TVSource Magazine: Or like a big spiral staircase?
Alina: Well, the one on Dynasty was very nice too. But that one, I sort of got the sense that not everyone had one! But The Brady Bunch one I felt was more achievable. So you could slide down the bannister!
TVSource Magazine: And also fit the whole family! (laughs)
Alina: Yes! If you can’t slide down the bannister, then you’re not a real American. So there was that and the other thing, apparently real Americans always had intrigue and drama, and looks that telegraphed what they were thinking. So I keep waiting to stumble into that America. Still waiting for it.