These days you’re hard-pressed to walk into a bookstore and not find some eerily familiar characters staring at you from the shelves. With a bit of reworking and renaming, some of our favorite characters are being repackaged with new stories that are redefining the publishing world. Fanfiction, long the cultish underbelly of the Internet, is having its heyday as countless writers in disparate fandoms hone their craft on the web. There they gain unfathomable amounts of fans the likes of which new authors could only dream about. For publishers, fanfiction provides a well of untapped potential, millions of stories deep to mine from—the books are complete, the fanbase exists, and with some clever editing they too could tap into the fortune from E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
The latest fan concoction for once doesn’t herald from the “Twilight” fanbase, but rather from the masses of One Direction fangirls. Anna Todd, a 25 year old 1D’er penned her fanfiction “After” series in a rush of fangirl feels for Harry Styles last spring. Todd’s success tapped into the hearts and minds of millions of readers who wanted to insert themselves into their favorite boy band’s lives.
The story follows Tessa, a freshman at Washington State University and her tumultuous and steamy affair with playboy Hardin Scott. The plot is your typical insecure, naive good girl meets the darkly possessive, super hot bad boy with a raging libido and a secret heart of gold. Tessa is a virgin with boyfriend back home, Hardin is moody and distant, but the sex is constant and the angst hurts so good. In the midst of a bloody-lipped sex scene, Tessa sums up her relationship with Hardin:
“I love this damaged self-loathing asshole so much that I’m afraid it will crush me.”
Written on the Wattpad app on her phone and eliciting over one billion reads online, it’s no wonder Gallery books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster snapped up Todd’s story, with a six-figure book series deal and a movie in the works with Paramount. For the publishing world, it’s a brilliant ploy: The 1D fans are nothing but ferociously loyal and have proven to be a very marketable audience. While the “After” series certainly taps into a more mature demographic, it’s primed to hit the millions of fans that have grown up with the band and are ready for something outside their squeaky bubble gum exteriors.
The names of the character may have been changed, Harry to Hardin, but the publishers are making no secret of the books’ real people fanfiction origins. The cover of all four books “After,” “After We Collided,” “After We Fell,” “After Ever Happy,” all boast Todd’s 1D penname on Wattpad, “Imaginator1D” and its online popularity. While some may feel uncomfortable reading about the imaginary sex life of their favorite pop stars, for others, this is printed validation of all their fantasies, and the publishers are banking on it paying big. Even the hordes of detractors who argue that this “punk” representation of their beloved Harry Styles is besmirching his name and reputation, are still vocally talking about it and helping it get attention. As for the 1D lads themselves, they’ve made no comment about the book.
For author Todd, it’s altogether a different kind of fantasy come true. Wife to her high school sweetheart, Todd’s husband has had three deployments to Iraq and she’s had many odd jobs from an IRS agent to makeup counters. She wrote the series in an all too relatable way for many of us, on her phone, in between appointments and work, whenever she got the chance. The success seems unlikely, few would think our love of a favorite celebrity would lead to Internet superstardom and riches, but that’s the heart of every published steamy fanfiction. An unlikely writer finds a niche and without having to worry about the typical rigidity of traditional literature, their erotic stories turn wish fulfillment into a lucrative phenomena. For Todd, and her horde of “After family” fans who can’t get enough of “Hessa” and helped her choose plot devices while she wrote it on social media, it’s a dream come true.
Fans of the band and whirlwind romances will love the “After” series and won’t want to miss each new installment as it’s released every month through Februrary. The series can be purchased at Barnes & Noble or by e-reader, and to get readers started, we’re giving away a free copy of the first book. Comment below for your chance to win by December 29th, 2014.
Literally, Darling participated in this sponsored campaign on behalf of One2One Network. All opinions stated are our own.
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