Saturday, May 17, 2014

How the world sees us – or selling Australia to the world via Soap Operas (Soap Blog Hop)

My friend Monique McDonell joins the Soap Blog Hop to talk about the power of Aussie soaps, both in Australia and abroad.

In Australia we’ve been lucky enough to watch lots of soaps from around the world Days of Our Lives and the Bold and The Beautiful being enduring favourites from the US, Coronation Street from the UK and Shortland Street from NZ. 

Over the years we had our own soaps that came and went but nothing has stuck as well as two created in the 1980’s – Neighbours and Home and Away. US readers may not have had the pleasure but these soaps are so huge in Europe that you can take a bus tour in Melbourne of places featured in Neighbours and many a tourist pilgrimage to the set of Home and Away’s beachside location.

Here’s a little bit of history. Neighbours launched on Channel 7 in 1985 and is now Australia’s longest running TV show. It was cancelled by that network after 170 episodes and bought by another network picking up exactly where it left off. Realising their error Channel 7 came up with Home and Away to replace Neighbours and thus Australia got two long running rival soap operas.

Neighbours is set in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough, specifically in the cul de sac of Ramsay Street and centred originally around two families (as so many good soaps do) the Robinsons and the Ramsays. I was a teenager when this show launched and nobody, who didn’t want to experience social death at school the next day, missed an episode of Neighbours.

You may not have seen the show but it launched many iconic Australian actors’ careers. Guy Pierce was an original cast member (I had quite a crush on him back then) as was Kylie Minogue. Other alumni include Natalie Imbruglia and Russell Crowe. UK music producers Stock,Aiken and Waterman plucked many of their artists from the show’s cast.

It was a very suburban story – kids went to school, fell in love, met for coffee while their parents hosted barbeques and pool parties, had petty feuds and tried to keep troublesome teens on track. Sure it’s suburban Melbourne but it could have been any middle-class suburb in any city in the country if you were willing to admit that blonde supermodels moved into suburban cul de sacs and lived with distant relatives.

The Real Summer Bay

Meanwhile Home and Away was set in Summer Bay. The original premise was that a nice couple and their brood of foster children moved into town and took over running the local caravan park/tourist trailer park. It was an idyllic location where the sun always shone, everyone walked home along the beach and if you needed to kiss your boyfriend you headed for the sand dunes. 

Home and Away was an idyllic postcard for Australia full of hope and optimism and teen romance.
Like Neighbours before it Home and Away has launched many a career – let’s give a wave to Simon Baker, Chris Hemsworth, Melissa George, Isla fisher and Ryan Kwanten among many others – but it also was a daily postcard for the country. Beamed into homes across Europe it showed a different carefree way of life, a place to visit and maybe call home.

I live quite close to Palm Beach where Home and Away is set and I’m surrounded by many people, especially from the UK who have moved to Australia for a taste of that life, no doubt influenced more than a little by these iconic soaps. Showing, if nothing else, the power of a good story to change lives.

Please read below for more information about Monique's newest novel, A Fair Exchange!

Who hasn’t wondered about their first love? What happened? What went wrong? Where are they now? 
What if you got a second chance?
Amelia Armstrong is about to find out. What a shame her long-lost love, Matt,  has returned  (looking way too good and acting way too sweet) when her life is a shambles and she has finally decided once and for all to put herself and not whichever man is currently in her life, first.
How do you balance that desire to recapture that loving feeling with the need to finally be the best version of yourself? What if this really is the one, how do you choose when to stand your ground and when to cut your losses?  Amelia takes a journey from Sydney to New York and back again trying to find the answers while negotiating with pop-divas, ex-lovers, crazy teenagers, a well-meaning cousin and the tabloids.
A Fair Exchange is a story about being a grown up when, maybe, you’d much rather be sixteen again.


It was not as if he was the first one to mention it. In the past week everyone who had entered my apartment had commented on the shiny new Vespa parked in the middle of the otherwise empty living room. In fact, each and every one of them had imaginatively said “Amelia you have a red Vespa parked in your living room!”  And they all said it in a tone that implied I might not have noticed, as if it may have magically appeared there.
How could I not notice a vehicle parked in what was otherwise an empty room?
What amazed me was that the Vespa was what they chose to comment on.

Not that Nick had dumped me, after ten years, for a twenty-one year-old. Nor that he had moved out, taking basically all the furniture and leaving me with a great view over the beach and an enormous mortgage.

No one even commented about the fact that I, in turn, had quit the fabulous job that had always meant way too much to me.

No, they commented on the Vespa.

What I could not understand though was why it hadn’t bothered me until right then, when Matthew Blue commented. And when he did comment, why had I collapsed into this embarrassing sea of tears?

How had this happened? How had I become this sobbing pathetic figure of womanhood?  And more importantly how had I ended up thirty-six and alone?

Didn’t I used to have so much potential? Everyone had said so, hadn’t they?

“Amelia Armstrong is something special.”

I was one of those shiny young girls who took risks and dreamed big. I was one of the smart ones who knew what she wanted and went after it. I was one to watch.

If I hadn’t been that kind of a girl I would never have met Matthew all those years ago. A different girl would not have found herself, on the other side of the world, at sixteen, staring into his dark and dreamy eyes.

So where was that girl right now, I wanted to know? And how had a girl with so much potential gotten it so horribly wrong?

About the author – Monique McDonell

I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women's fiction including chick lit and romance. I live on Sydney's Northern Beaches with my husband and daughter, and despite my dog phobia, with a dog called Skip.

I have written all my life especially as a child when I loved to write short stories and poetry. At University I studied Creative Writing as part of my Communication degree. Afterwards I was busy working in public relations I didn't write for pleasure for quite a few years although I wrote many media releases, brochures and newsletters. (And I still do in my day-job!)

When I began to write again I noticed a trend - writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since. 
I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for eight years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia.
A Fair Exchange is the fifth novel I have released in the last two years.
To learn more about Monique McDonell and her upcoming books please visit her at


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