Monday, August 05, 2013

Beth Ciotta: Small Town Soap

Let’s talk small town soap.  Not the fragrant kind but the juicy kind.  As in soap opera.

There was a time when soaps ruled daytime TV.  As a teen I was hooked on One Life to Live and General Hospital.  If I raced home from school I could watch both. I was euphoric when the half hour episodes stretched to one hour. Two hours of back to back addictive drama!

Daytime serials: My drug of choice before I discovered coffee.

I was not alone in my addiction. Millions of viewers watched multiple soaps daily and many still do to this day—albeit in evolved episodic formats.  In the 1990s primetime soaps emerged and we got our fix via shows such as Dallas, Dynasty, and Knots Landing.  One thing daytime and primetime soaps have in common is that there’s usually one central family with assorted friends and lovers.  The obligatory troublemaker and a nefarious villain or two.  We become emotionally invested in the recurring characters and an ongoing story arc.  We tune in week after week to see what’s going to happen next. Who’s sleeping with who? How’s so-and-so coping with such-and-such illness? Are X and Y ever going to get together?

This trend evolved yet again. Complex continuity seeped into primetime drama. The soap opera format can be found in shows such as Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and Private Practice. Then there were/are the small town serials such as Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, and True Blood.  Again, the common thread, the thing that hooks us and keeps us coming back for more are the recurring characters we know and love and the complicated, entwined story threads. We just have to know how things are going to play out!

Which leads me to the popularity of literary continuity series—especially in the romance genre. Susan Mallery’s  Fools Gold, Robyn Carr’s Virgin River, Debbie Macomber’s Ceder Cove… to name a few.

In 2012, I launched a small town contemporary series called “The Cupcake Lovers.”  Each novel features a new hero and heroine, but every story takes place in the same small town—Sugar Creek, Vermont.  Every story revolves around some element of the local charity and social club—The Cupcake Lovers. The characters you meet and love (or hate) in book one—FOOL FOR LOVE—continue on into book two—THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE—and book three—ANYTHING BUT LOVE—and so on. There are multiple storylines that twist and turn and evolve throughout the series.  So many complicated relationships.  So many secrets and revelations! At one point I said to my editor, “I feel like I’m writing a soap opera.” Probably because, sans the melodrama, I pretty much am. I have to say, once again I’m addicted. And so are readers. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to receive notes such as…

“Can’t wait for Luke’s story!”                 
“Please tell me Adam’s going to find love!”
“Daisy Monroe’s is a hoot. Wish I had a grandma like that!”

Each Cupcake Novel sets up the next story. Each story follows the lives of recurring characters. Resolutions to old problems and revelations leading to new twists. I’m writing these tales and half the time even I don’t know what lies ahead. Anticipation and curiosity fuel, what is for me, a delicious joyride!

What about you? Were you or are you a fan of daytime or primetime soaps? Are you addicted to any particular book series? What appeals to you most with the “soap” or “serial” format?

For a chance to win a signed copy of FOOL FOR LOVE, the first book in the Cupcake Lovers, answer one or all of the above questions… and good luck!   

Storytelling comes naturally to award-winning author Beth Ciotta. Dubbed "fun and sexy" by Publisher's Weekly, Beth specializes in writing Romantic Comedy with a Twist of Suspense and is published in contemporary, historical, steampunk, and paranormal romantic fiction.  A retired professional performer, Beth now pours her artistic passion into her writing. To learn more about her colorful life, visit her website at

***Beth's winner is Lisa W.  Please email with your mailing address!***


Mary Preston said...

I was never one for the day time soaps. Wrong time of day most likely. I used to watch DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and NORTHERN EXPOSURE.

Beth Price said...

For a while I was absolutely in love with The Bold & the Beautiful. Particularly the character of 'Carly'. Her husband was in accident and lost his memory. She thought he was dead but he was living in another town not far away and starting a relationship with someone else. After that little bit, though, I lost interest. I love the Virgin River books by Robyn Carr. The reason that I love a series of books is because I attached to the characters and want to continue to be a part of their lives. I just love the continuity of the family and friends involved in the very first story. I tend to read them quickly, though, like a kid with candy...I just have to have it all at once! I have not started reading the Cupcake Lovers series yet but am planning on it shortly :)

Rita said...

I watched Days of Our Lives for many years but lost interested when the storylines got a little silly. I did watch Knots Landing and Melrose Place, I like both shows.

Kelli Jo said...

Oh, my, yes, I was addicted to day-time soap operas! As The World Turns and Guiding Light were my drugs of choice. Of course, I watched as Luke and Laura FINALLY got married! And I didn't even watch that show! And of course there were the primetime shows - Dallas, Knots Landing - couldn't get enough of that family. But I had to quit when a entire season had been a dream!

Am I addicted to any book series - of course, I am! I LURVE the Cupcake Lovers! I love Jennifer Bernard's Bachelor Firemen. I crave Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters!! I love (or prefer) serial books - I hate leaving old friends - I love that in serials, I get to go back and visit those old friends!

petite said...

My soaps were in the evening. Dynasty was my ultimate favorite. Wonderful actors and great storyline.

traveler said...

Dallas was my addiction since the episodes were captivating. Loved everyone on this soap.

Beth Ciotta said...

These are great! Thank you for sharing everyone. I just knew I couldn't be the only soap lover out there. :)

Pat Cochran said...

Mercy! This is taking me back almost into
the medieval "Days" of my life! (Sorry, I
couldn't resist it! LOL) I began listening
to radio soaps with my Mother as a small
child and continued for many years. We got
our first TV in 1954, but I was off to
higher learning, work, occasional TV soaps
and reading. I came back full time to TV
soaps in 1961 when my first child was born.
My faves over the years were The Doctors,
Ryan's Hope, Another World,and especially
Days Of Our Lives. We also watched Dark
Shadows which my children loved! Most kids
watched cartoons when they got in from
school, mine watched Barnabas! Since the
demise of most of my faves, I only watch
the CBS and NBC daytime dramas at this time.

Martha Lawson said...

Like you, I was a big fan of GH and OLTL! Also, Dark Shadows!! I watched the daytime soaps for years. I also watched Dallas, Dynasty and Knots Landing. Your books sound really good. Thanks for the chance.

Connie said...

Oh yes! I was lucky enough to stay home for a few years with my sons when they were little. I always planned my day around my "afternoon treat." Days of Our Lives was my daily addiction. So that I wouldn’t feel guilty, I always managed to fold laundry or iron, etc. during that time period. I remember when Laura was (supposedly) murdered on a Friday afternoon. I gripped about it all weekend! How could they kill off my favorite character? What are they going to do now? I’m going to send a note to the writers - and on and on. On Monday, we found that it was her twin sister that was killed! What? They nearly gave me a heart attack! Yes, I was really wrapped up in that show and remember it fondly.

Maureen said...

I watched soap operas back when I was in high school and college. Once I started working a day job that ended but I did watch the night time ones like Dallas and Dynasty. Recently I started watching Revenge which is pretty much like a soap opera.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

Di said...

I watched a really old soap with my grandfather when I was a kid - "As the World Turns" but haven't watched much daytime soaps since then, but I used to watch Dallas at night. More recently I do more reading - I love a series like Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove and Sherryl Wood's series.
sallans d at yahoo dot com

Lory Lee said...

Don't really watch soap operas, at first. But my parents (yes my father is included) influenced me big time. I'm stuck at home nowadays so I can't help but watch the shows they are both fan of. For instance, there's this local and small town soap about a nanny who fell in love with her boss. It's really cute and it becomes our bonding time. :)

Nice covers by the way! <3

Lisa W said...

I never really got hooked on soaps but I did watch them occasionally, I just never had the time to follow them on a regular basis. I am hooked on book series though. I have an inquisitive mind and I enjoy finding out what happens with the secondary characters in books. I would rather read a book series than the same number of books that are not connected. The only problem with reading a series is eventually I have to wait for the next book to be released. It's like watching a TV series and the season finally says "To Be Continued' and you have to wait several months or longer to find out what happens next. I scream "Nooo!!!" every time.

lag123 said...

I was addicted to All My Children for many years.

lag110 at mchsi dot com

Eli Yanti said...

I'm addicted with the drake chronicle series by Alyxandra Harvey, really a great series :)

Jo's Daughter said...

I have seen a few episodes of the Bold and the Beautiful & the Days of our lives. I knew a lady who watched them on a daily basis. When I would pop round for a cup of tea she would excuse herself and watch the show. I could have left or changed the time of our visit but I didn't. It wasn't my thing but I didn't mind it too much.