Eileen Davidson’s ‘Death in Daytime’

Eileen Davidson. Photo by Dana Fineman

Sometimes, it’s just not enough to look gorgeously 20 years younger than your real age, to be married to a handsome, world-ranked tennis pro who now hosts one of the most popular reality shows on television, to be mother to three lively, healthy children and to enjoy a daytime television career that spans three decades, garnering you a couple of Emmy nominations.

You need to write a book as well.

Eileen Davidson, star of daytime soap operas “Days of Our Lives,” “The Young and the Restless,” “Santa Barbara” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” has done just that, penning her first murder mystery novel, titled “Death in Daytime.”

“I always loved writing and I always loved mystery novels,” Davidson said in an interview with The Malibu Times. “Then, things happen in your life that can plant a seed. I was fired from “Y & R” (her character has since been written back into the story) and the idea just came to me.”

The “idea” turned out to spoof not only a popular literary genre, but to poke fun at the overarching reality of daytime soaps. Written in first person, the just released “Death in Daytime” features Alexis Peterson, a soap opera actress of a certain age who finds herself the prime suspect when the show’s head writer turns up dead-murdered by having her head bashed in with her own Emmy award.

Tortured metaphor or not, Alexis’ subsequent investigation to clear her name skewers everything in Los Angeles-pop culture, petty rivalry on the set to surgical enhancement to ubiquitous Hollywood life coaches.

“Well, no, I’ve never actually known a head writer to be killed with her own Emmy,” Davidson said. “But there is so much in this industry that is hilarious. Reality is much funnier than what goes on in front of the camera.”

Born and raised in Southern California, Davidson began her career as a model and commercial actress. She created the role of Ashley Abbott for “Y & R” in 1982, spent the better part of the ’90s working in primetime television and on other soap operas before returning to “Y & R” for another eight years. In a dizzying flip of roles and shows over the past year, she moved to “Y & R’s” sister soap, “The Bold and the Beautiful” before returning to “Y & R” this fall.

In between that demanding schedule, Davidson found time to carpool three active children and to launch her own fashion line, Femmeology, which she founded with her niece Devon Martt.

The idea to write a book crystallized after her husband, actor-turned-tennis pro-turned TV host Vince Van Patten, discussed co-authoring a book on poker with writer Robert J. Randisi.

“Bob had been a fan of mine and he suggested we write something together,” Davidson said. “The timing was right, so we put together a proposal to (publishing house) Penguin and got a two-book deal.”

Proposals, of course, are not a book and Davidson found herself faced with the panic of a first-time author.

“I got writer’s block all the time,” Davidson remembered. “Bob would send me an idea and I would just freak out. I’d have to get everyone out of the house. But I’m learning to trust the process even though I always think I’ll never have another idea again.”

Embracing a discipline of writing every day, Davidson and Randisi produced her first book in about six months and she has already completed the sequel to “Death in Daytime.”

“It’s set about one year later, with the same characters,” Davidson said. “It’s called ‘Dial Emmy for Murder.’ The soap opera world offers a lot of material.”

Davidson has long been a fan of novelized mystery series, like those of Sue Grafton, and claims that women have a natural affinity for forensics.

“We have innate abilities to figure out the truth of something,” she said. “I love the ‘Cold Case’ shows.”

Kay Alden has been head writer on both “Y & R” and “The Bold and Beautiful” and calls Davidson “a great actress and a great friend.” She said that she was surprised at Davidson’s move into writing, but said the first-time author nailed the characterization of a soap opera set.

“It was a pretty accurate portrayal in the book of what soaps are like,” Alden admitted. “There is a hierarchy to a show’s production. It’s very political; particularly with a show and characters that have gone on for years.”

While Alden laughed at the depiction of cattiness within the ranks, she said she keeps her own Emmy awards “safe from the hands of any actor.”

Davidson is busy this fall with both soaps and a promotional tour for her husband’s popular show, “World Poker Tour.” She attributes her ability to juggle such schedules to an accommodating niece and helpmate, Annamarie Davidson, and a rabid proficiency at list making.

“I’ve learned so much in this process, terrifying as it is,” Davidson said. “I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, but I’ve already got an idea for a third book.”

“Death in Daytime” can be found at major bookstores and through Amazon.com