"A Stirring from Salem," a recently released sequel to "A Secret in Salem," is the second book in a trilogy of DAYS OF OUR LIVES-inspired novels. Former DAYS OF OUR LIVES head writer Sheri Anderson authored the books and recently spoke with WE LOVE SOAPS TV about the inspiration behind the new stories. Working in every aspect of writing including scripts, editing, and long story, two-time Emmy-winner Anderson was responsible for over 3,000 hours of television, creating some of the most memorable and groundbreaking storylines on daytime television and helming or co-writing for popular series such as GENERAL HOSPITAL, SANTA BARBARA and FALCON CREST, among others. In this new multi-part interview, find out more about writer many fans consider one of the best the genre has seen.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We Love Soaps has been focusing on a lot indie soaps the past few years including hosting the Indie Soap Awards. I wanted to ask you about [the first known web soap] THE SPOT [which debuted in 1995]. I know you were involved with that show in some way.
Sheri Anderson: I did not create that. I came in when Scott Zakarin left [in 1996] and was just kind of there for a while but it was interesting how they were telling story. There was no broadband back then so download times were just ridiculous. It went up every night at midnight. It was by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of stuff. All the staffers were writing things independently. It was crazy back then.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That show was so ahead of its time.
Sheri Anderson: It really was. That was the problem. I got over there because I was hired through Sony to write an online soap for DAYS OF OUR LIVES. I didn't know it was DAYS OF OUR LIVES when they hired me but we called it DAYS OF ONLINE. It was the pre-cursor. In those days it was animation and all that because you couldn't afford actors. It was great fun to write. Unfortunately it never got on the air because with broadband back then it would take you hours to download something.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I would have liked it if ABC had considered a scripted series to replace [recently canceled] ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE like one of the indie soaps, versus yet another show about food. We already have a Food Network.
Sheri Anderson: They do so much research. There has to be something telling them that this is going to work. Although it's easy to say that and you look at Oprah who goes off to OWN which everyone assumes will be "wow," and they're having nothing but trouble.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: They said their research showed fans wanted informative, relatable, authentic programming. But that's what soaps could be.
Sheri Anderson: I hate to say we used to be that. I spanned a long period, starting in 1976, as an assistant on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Currently I have clients in soaps, and a lot of friends in the genre, so I follow it pretty closely. Things have changed so dramatically. We were informative whether we trying to be or not. We were told to not preach, our job was entertainment. But Luke and Laura was really about date rape, acquaintance rape, and we explored that for the first time when I was at GENERAL HOSPITAL. It wasn't just a sensational moment but something that had a sociological impact on the world. Suddenly we were doing therapy sessions and the ramifications of that. And Kimberly and her child abuse on DAYS. Or alcoholism stories. People still write me and say, "Thank you. That meant to so much me. I was going through the same thing."
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It seems like a lot of that has gone away. In the late 1980s there were multiple AIDS storylines happening at the same time, but over 20 years later it seems like shows are afraid to tell these stories in the same way.
Sheri Anderson: The first [DAYS] book that I did, "A Secret in Salem," was all about a Bernie Madoff scandal, and how that impacted people, both with the economy and with their family, and all the ramifications of that.
In the new book, "A Stirring From Salem," I'd say 90% of it takes place in South Africa. I have been there a few times to do some projects, so I have a lot of research and I have friends there. I thought it was really important to deal with the AIDS epidemic down there. And rhino poaching, believe it or not, is one of the biggest problems in Africa and has such an amazing impact. That's a big part of the story because they are very strong social issues. For me, that's always been the essence of what I wrote, things that had some type of topical or sociological impact wrapped in entertainment. I kind of felt the desire to do that in all the books.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You were at DAYS, GH, back to DAYS, GUIDING LIGHT, ANOTHER WORLD, FALCON CREST, SANTA BARBARA, back to GH, back to DAYS again. I can't believe you kept all those characters straight! You were writing when DAYS when John Black was revealed to be Roman.
Sheri Anderson: Yes, that was my story. It was Roman Brady. That was the story, "The Purse, The Power, and The Pawn."
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I was a huge Roman and Marlena fan and loved Wayne Northrup, but you wrote that story so beautifully I was totally invested and bought John (Drake Hogestyn) as Roman. But a few years after that Wayne came back as Roman, then later "Chris Kosichek" (Josh Taylor) was Roman, then Wayne came back again as Alex, and it became a big mess.
Sheri Anderson: In these novels they gave me carte blanche but we had always talked about how important John and Marlena were. The story was picking up with John paralyzed. When he left the show he wasn't the strong hero we all knew John Black was. It was picking up John and Marlena and returning him to his hero status and them as the super couple that they were. And following them in their love story and adventure. That was my starting point. These books all follow John and Marlena. Shawn and Belle are also in it. I never wrote for them but I like those characters and they fit the canvas becacuse they were sailing around the world.
The second book is also John and Marlena. But just as much or more of Patch and Kayla in South Africa in a clinic run by Bill Horton that he named after his parents. He wanted to honor them, and it's going back to honor the tradition of the soaps and the tradition of the family.
Purchase "A Stirring From Salem":
EDITOR'S NOTE: In Part 2, Anderson share more insights into the DAYS OF OUR LIVES novels, and how daytime changed over the years during the soap writing career.
Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps and is currently an associate producer on THE BAY and executive producer on the upcoming indie short May Mercy Lie.