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Oakdale Confidential:
An As The World Turns Novel

Thursday, April 27, 2006


If you’re here because of The New York Times’ sidebar in this Sunday’s Book Review – Welcome! Nice of you to stop by!

As you’ll see from previous blog entries, we’re not nearly as “exasperated” here as the Paper of Record would like you to believe.

Rather, we’re having a bit of fun with “Oakdale Confidential’s” surprise trip up the best-seller list, as well as gabbing about tie-in writing, ghost-writing, “As the World Turns,” and soap-operas in general.

If this is your first visit, here are some posts you might like:

Reel Vs. Real Vs. Print
Truth and “Truthiness”
The Problem With Black People

I’ll be back from Los Angeles Monday, with my Behind the Scenes coverage of the 33rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards!


Just got word that "Oakdale Confidential" will be the #3 title on the New York Times Hardback Fiction List for the second week in a row (for a total of three weeks on the list overall)!!

This is the best any soap opera tie-in title has ever done ("The Killing Club" peaked at #11, "Robin's Diary" was #5 and "Hidden Passions" #4) and so beyond anyone's expectations that all I can say is thank you, thank you, and thank you again to the awesome ATWT fans.

You've proven than not only are you the most loyal, you're also the most literate!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Last Saturday was the ATWT Fan Club Luncheon in New York City. Over 550 fans came to hang out for a couple of hours with their favorite stars. B&N also had a table there to sell copies of “Oakdale Confidential.”

I don’t know exactly how many they sold (though they did seem to go through several cases), but I do know that it did this humble little ghost-writer’s heart good to see so many folks walking around clutching their copies and handing them to the actors to autograph. (For photos from a book signing Terri Colombino (Katie) and Helen Wagner (Nancy) did a few weeks ago, click here and here.)

And then, this Friday, is the Daytime Emmy Awards. Trent Dawson (Henry) is up for Best Supporting Actor, ATWT is up for Best Show and Best Writing. (For a complete list of ATWT and other show nominees, click here).

Copies of “Oakdale Confidential” will be in the presenters’ goodie-bags and we are still exploring other ways to promote this title during the broadcast.

Because writing the book is finite. Eventually, some editor will come and pry it out of your hands, heedless of your screams, “Wait! Wait! Just one more pass! I think I can make it better!”

Marketing the book, though, is eternal…

See ya’ at the Emmys!

Monday, April 24, 2006


I realize this blogger probably doesn't believe he is complimenting me or ATWT:

I'll tell you what it is: The most brilliant sales pitch in the history of publishing.... Talk about a built-in audience. I assume millions of people watch the show. And they all know that they will never really understand the storyline unless they get the book. Because the book is not "about" the soap opera. It's a character "on" the soap opera. It's a star. One you can buy and bring into your house. And maybe there will be a few thousand non-fans who buy the book and read it. Well, what show do you think they are going to start watching? God, it's a perfect storm. AWESOME.

But I'm taking it as a compliment, nonetheless. Because the above was exactly the pitch I made to Simon & Schuster and ATWT when I first proposed this project.

It's nice to be understood...

Friday, April 21, 2006


On the April 20th episode of “As The World Turns,” Lisa (Eileen Fulton) was furious with Nancy (Helen Wagner) about how the latter portrayed Lisa as a teenage wannabe unable to dress or act her own age in the pages of “Oakdale Confidential.” (Lisa is in her 70s and the soap opera genre’s original Bad Girl. Before there was Erica Kane, there was Lisa Miller).

(Actually, Nancy is only pretending to have written the book as a cover for the real author, Katie… but that’s daytime drama intrigue for you).

Most interesting for me was the fact that, if Lisa was upset (on-air) with how she was described in “Oakdale Confidential,” I can only imagine how Eileen Fulton feels in real life about it… since they do look quite a bit alike. ;)

See, that’s another thing about writing a tie-in novel. With an original work, all character descriptions come straight from the author’s imagination. Sure, you can borrow a hairline from you uncle, your old boyfriend’s sense of style, and your best-friend’s quirk of chewing her cuticles to the bone. But, in the end, there isn’t an actual person there to feel offended.

Not so with a tie-in. And believe me, I worried about that.

I worried about it when I had teen Maddie lamenting her lack of cleavage. What would Alexandra Chando, who plays Maddie, think about that?

How would actress Maura West feel about me describing Carly as sometimes possessing an angry expression harsh enough to scare away children and small animals?

And how would Mark Collier, who plays Mike, enjoy Katie (actually me) comparing, in print, his physical attributes to that of her former husband, Simon (played by Paul Leyden), when the attributes in question also belonged to the men themselves?

I expect I’ll be finding out shortly. All the actors have my phone number....

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Forgive the "Schoolhouse Rock" reference, but, on April 30, 2006 "Oakdale Confidential" will be the #3 (three, THREE!!!) Hardcover Fiction Book on the "New York Times Bestseller List!!!!"

People keep telling me to breathe. I keep forgetting.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


In addition to ghost-writing "Oakdale Confidential" as a tie-in to "As The World Turns," I am also blogging as Katie, the on-the-show writer, on Amazon.

As far as I know, while there are character blogs on other shows ("How I Met Your Mother," "General Hospital" and, of course, the wonderful Lee Goldberg as Natalie on "Monk"), ATWT is the only show to try this particular marketing strategy on Amazon. The idea is to put Oakdale's story in front of a potentially new audience, as well as to give regular viewers a little extra ATWT in their day (you can read the blog whether you've bought the book or not, and even sign up to receive it in "plog" form).

And when I'm not being Katie, I am blogging as Luke, a sixteen year old boy agonizing over how to come out to his parents, the show's supercouple, Holden and Lily Snyder.

The two voices are distinct, very different from each other, and neither one is at all like my "natural" one. However, unlike writing a non-tie-in novel where every voice needs to be conjured up from scratch, this task is made easier (and harder) by the fact that I can literally "hear" the actors who play these characters in my head as I write their innermost thoughts.

And I must be doing okay, because Terri Colombino, who plays Katie, told me recently, "My mother read the book, and she said: It sounds so much like you. Did you write it?"

No better compliment for a ghost-writer, I suppose... ;)

Monday, April 17, 2006


A question was raised in a response below that I thought I would answer in a new post:

Ben Harris was introduced to the show as a famous in 1996.... There was no way he could have been in high school only five years prior to that. Furthermore, Ben was a contemporary of Mike's older brother, Mark, not Mike himself. There are a number of such errors in the book relating to Henry, Margo, Carly and others, and I don't see how they fall into the whole "Katie wrote a novel" plot being played out on the show. Perhaps you can elaborate on the writing and decision making processes involved in writing the book.

I would be happy to.

When we first sat down with the ATWT writers/producers and the Pocket publishers to iron out the book that would become "Oakdale Confidential," we quickly agreed on several points:

1) Oakdale's characters simply have too much past history for it all to be compressed into a novel. As a result, it was decided that any past events which were not relevant to the plot at hand wouldn't be included. For instance, many people have asked where J.J., Jack's adopted son, is in the story. The fact is, it would have been too complicated to explain how Jack was presumed dead, got amnesia, met a woman with a child, married her, got attached to her son, got his memory back, reunited with Carly and, when that woman died, adopted J.J. It had nothing to do with the story being told in "Oakdale Confidential," and so was left out. The same thing with Ben's friendship with the Kasnoff family. Mike's brother, Mark, was no longer on the canvas, so it was more linear -- especially for non-ATWT viewers -- to make him Mike's childhood friend.

2) Character ages on soaps are fluid. Katie was born on the air in 1989 (and for a while was played by the real-life daughter of the woman playing her mother). And yet was a teenager by 1998, played by Terri (then Conn) Colombino. If characters could get older quickly, they could age more slowly. It wasn't an issue either ATWT or Pocket had a problem with.

3) Some of the "mistakes" in the book are deliberate -- for instance, existence of Katie's bunnies, Snickers I and Snickers II, even though the latter is dead. This book was Katie's idealized world, life not how it was, but how she would like it to be. She based it on truth, then dressed it up to convince herself that it was, in fact, fiction. We're going to learn more about Katie's reasons for writing "Oakdale Confidential" as time goes on (even she doesn't realize all of them yet). So stay tuned!

Thursday, April 13, 2006


As of today, "Oakdale Confidential," in the week before promotion for the book began on As The World Turns, has made The New York Times extended best-seller list at #26. There is hope that it will be even higher for the week it started being part of the on-air story (April 10 onward).

Yesterday, for a time, it was the #2 best-selling book on BN.com and the #5 on Amazon.com - their #1 mystery novel for the day.

All of this speaks to two things:

1) Thank you to all the ATWT fans who chose to support the show in this fashion during its 50th Anniversary year. Your loyalty and devotion to Oakdale is incredibly appreciated.

And 2) Reports of the soap opera's demise are highly exaggerated.

Unfortunately, every few months, someone likes to write about how daytime television, soap operas in particular, just ain't what they used to be. With more and more women working outside the home and competition from the Internet, ratings have been steadily declining.

Well, those people are right. Daytime ain't what it used to be. But it's still something pretty damn great.

If there is anything that "Oakdale Confidential's" success, as well as that of "The Killing Club," and "Hidden Passions" has proven, it's that the daytime audience is loyal, intelligent, plentiful and THEY BUY STUFF.

Ultimately, that's the key. Television, after all, is not in the business of providing programming. Television is in the business of providing audiences to sponsors, with audiences being the product, not the customer. The true customer is the company that pays for the commercials that keep the shows on the air.

And those companies need regular proof that what daytime audiences see on their screen, they'll buy.

Exhibit A: "Oakdale Confidential."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


On Page 8 of "Oakdale Confidential," you will find the following passage:

"(Jack) stood between Gregory's inert body and the crowd, effectively blocking everyone, except for Ben Harris, who was the first doctor to reach Gregory. Ben felt for a pulse along Gregory's wrist. Then, his fingers moved to the base of Gregory's neck. In retrospect, that was Katie's first clue that maybe there was more than mere public drunkenness going on here. Drunk people, she suspected, still had detectable pulses. Ben lifted Gregory's eyelids for a peek at his pupils. Katie suspected that wasn't a very reassuring sign, either."

Dr. Ben Harris goes on to declare the detestable victim dead, thus kicking off our (hopefully) exciting tale of "Who Dunnit?"

Ben doesn't resurface again until a few chapters later at which point, because the scene is less frantic than the whirlwind opening, I finally get around to mentioning that the good doctor is Black and, even then, I initially did it strictly through dialogue.

My editor wasn't very happy with this. She thought that we should know earlier, and that it should be part of Ben's initial description. (As a tie-in writer, I didn't even have the lazy author's option of just making him non-Black, since Ben's race isn't strictly a part of the story. However, the actor who plays Ben on "As The World Turns" happens to be Black and, as you may have surmised, taking liberties with a character's ethnicity in a tie-in is a bit of a no-no). We eventually compromised in that it became a part of the narrative, but still didn't pop up in the prologue.

Because, as far as I was concerned, in a scene where the town millionaire arrives at a soiree honoring his family and tumbles out of the limousine dead in front of hundreds of people, there was simply no time to pause for a lengthy description of anyone, Black or White.

And if the description wasn't lengthy, it would, IMHO, feel forced, ala:

"(Jack) stood between Gregory's inert body and the crowd, effectively blocking everyone, except for the African-American Ben Harris, who was the first doctor to reach Gregory."

Or "Ben felt for a pulse along Gregory's wrist. Then, his coffee-colored fingers moved to the base of Gregory's neck."

Neither approach shrieks of subtlety.

But my struggle to insert Ben's ethnicity in a non-anvil-dropping-on-your-head manner led me to the following query: Are all fictional characters initially presumed Caucasian?

After all, at no point in the story do I ever describe anyone as White. (Yes, I realize the three leading ladies' photos are on the cover of "Oakdale Confidential," so the answer is obvious in this case, but I am working for a more universal point here).

So I turn this question over to you, the reader. When you pick up a novel, assuming the situation and setting doesn't obviously pinpoint the lead's ethnicity, do you presume everyone is automatically white, until proven otherwise?

Monday, April 10, 2006


In addition to being a ghostwriter, with “Oakdale Confidential,” I am also a tie-in writer, since the book is officially sanctioned and inspired by the soap opera, As The World Turns.

The issue I want to talk about today is one unique to tie-in writers, and that is the matter of more or less having your hands tied when it comes to naming your characters. (I realize that people who write historicals and ethnic novels are also hindered a bit by circumstances, as there were few heroines named Brittany in 15th Century China, but those aren’t the kind of limitations I’m talking about here).

Since, with tie-ins, you aren’t working with a clean slate, the leads are most often already named for you. In “Oakdale Confidential,” the three main heroines are named Katie, Carly, and Maddie.

Nothing wrong with those names in and of themselves except…

In books that I write under my own name (or actually, one of my many pen names), I try very, very hard not to have several names that end in the same sound (Kay-Tee, Car-Lee, Ma-Dee). It’s confusing for the reader to figure out who is who.

I also, for the same reason, try not to start two names with the same letter. Or the same sound. Like, say, Carly and Katie.

And then there was the issue of the dead guy’s name. Since he was my creation, I got to pick his name. So I called him Gregory Martin. It was a good, solid, all-American name. Who could take issue with a name like Gregory Martin?

As The World Turns could. Rival soap, All My Children, has a Martin family. No go. Think of something else.

For the next draft, I called the victim Gregory Madden.

And a week later, All My Children introduced an evil doctor named… Greg Madden. (I swear, maybe I’m paranoid, but someone from that show is out to get me).

So he became Gregory Marron. But, by that point, I’m sure my editor at Pocket thought I was some kind of schizophrenic.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


“I might fall from a tall building/I might roll a brand new car/'Cause I'm the unknown stuntman that made Redford such a star.”

From 1981-1986, Lee Majors “sang” the above theme song for The Fall Guy, a TV series chronicling the adventures of “the unknown stuntman.”

I know how that guy felt. I’m no stuntman. But I am Anonymous. I’m a ghost-writer, and my latest project is “Oakdale Confidential” from Pocket Books, a novel written to celebrate As The World Turns 50th Anniversary.

Starting April 7, 2006, at 2PM on CBS, the characters of fictional Oakdale USA are going to be all up in arms, wondering who wrote this scandalous, sexy, anonymous novel. The story will play out on air for weeks, and eventually lead to many complications in the lives of Oakdale’s favorite couples. I know who really wrote “Oakdale Confidential.” But it’s doubtful I’ll ever get the chance to jump up and down yelling, “Me, me, me, it was me, send the kudos this way!”

I don’t mind. I knew what I was getting into and I’m proud of my work as well as the show it’s associated with. But a nameless, faceless writer needs some forum in which to blow off the steam of keeping their identity a secret. So welcome to Ghost-Writer-Blog, the blog where we’ll explore issues unique to ghost-writing, as well as dish about book publishing, television production, tie-in writing, and life in general… all from the safety of our contract-mandated anonymity!

Hope you’ll come and visit again soon!