Anna Todd's life sounds like an actual fan fiction right now - which is ironic, considering that the 25-year-old One Direction fan from Texas has just landed a six-figure publishing deal for writing a fan fic.
Yep, Anna is also known as @Imaginator1dx - and she's the author of hugely popular 1D fan fiction 'After', which has amassed over 800 million reads on Wattpad.
Now her story - which sees sheltered and innocent Tessa have her whole life turned upside down by a bad-boy version of Harry Styles - will be published in November of this year.
Not only that, but the rights to the movie version of the book have also been snapped up, *and* she's just launched a range of 'After' inspired jewellery.
We caught up with Anna for a chat about all of the above, as well as all things 1D fandom, fan fiction, and how she's dealing with the craziness that is her life right now.
Read the exclusive interview below:
Hi Anna - it's so great to talk to you! First things first, we have to say a MASSIVE congratulations. How are you feeling?
Thank you! Oh my gosh I’m kind of floating on a cloud right now - I don’t think it’s hit me yet.
So tell us how this publishing deal came about, how did you go to writing fan fic on Wattpad to signing a deal to become a published author?
Well I'd been thinking of self-publishing already, because so many people were asking me 'How can I get a copy?'. Then when Wattpad approached me - which was good, because I had no idea what I was doing. When they originally emailed me I didn't believe it was actually them and so I didn't reply. It was only when they got in contact a second time that I was like, 'oh my gosh this is real'. In terms of getting the deal, Wattpad did everthing, they were so great - I didn't really have to do much. It's a dream come true.
What made you want to write a One Direction fan fic in the first place? How did all this start?
I read a lot of books and i’m a One Direction fan - in case anyone hasn’t noticed [laughs]. It really started when I was on instagram one day, and I saw these little mini stories people were writing about Harry Styles, which was crazy to me. Then one of the girls I had followed on instagram put her story on Wattpad. I had no idea what that was, but I followed the link and it was this whole world of 1D fan fiction. I started reading all kinds of it, and then decided that I wanted to give it a go myself. I didn't think anything would come of it though - it was just for fun!
How did you decide what storyline you wanted your fan fic to have?
It sort of took ooff on its own, to be honest. I knew that I wanted it to be a punk story, because the 1D punk edits at the time were huge, so I wanted to do a story version of that. But I didn’t really have a plan, it just sort of wrote itself. It was for fun, so I didn't really plan anything, I just sat down and wrote.
Why did you decide to have Harry as the central character, is he your favourite?
Well I love all of them, but I do have a soft spot for Harry. Harry and Liam are my babes, even though I love all five! I think Harry was the one that stood out for this story, though.
When did you actually realize 'shiz a LOT of people are reading my story'? Were you suprised by its popularity?
Yes I was so surprised - every day I’m still surprised. I remember the day I hit a million reads, it was huge. I was driving to San Antionio and we stopped at a gas station, so I checked my phone and saw that I had a million - it was the craziest feeling in the world. I just sat at that gas station for like 45 minutes, just trying to take it all in. I think when I started noticing the 'After' edits people were making on instagram, too - that’s when I knew that my story was going to be much bigger than I had ever imagined. The readers totally created all of this, I just wrote it.
Was there more pressure when you were writing new chapters as the popularity grew?
Pressure? Not really - not until I got the deal and was like, 'oh my gosh the outside world is paying attention'. In terms of my readers, I feel like they are an extension of me, so I don't worry about them, but when outsiders started paying attention, that’s what made it scary. I try not to let anything change what i’m doing though, because Harry and Tessa sort of write themselves.
How nice is it to get positive feedback, to read all the nice comments and tweets that people send you?
It’s just crazy, in the best way. Every day it's so overwhelmingly great. There’s no way I could read them all, but I try to spend at leas 2 hours a day on twitter interacting with readers. I feel so bad that I can’t reply to everyone, because I owe them everything.
How do you deal with negative comments?
Well in the beginning it was harder, now I just ignore it. I learnt the hard way that they want me to tweet them back, so I just ignore it now. I have so many positive readers and people who support me, that a little group of negative people don’t affect me anymore. Everyone has an opinion, nobody is going to like everything I do. I just focus on being happy and loving it.
Why do you think fan fiction is becoming such a massive genre - not just in terms of One Direction, but The Vampire Diaries, Twilight and so on?
I think people want more. I want more of everything! If i’m reading Twilight I want more, I want an alternate universe. Fifty shades changed my entire life too, and I had the same feeling. When you're watching 1d youtube videos and going to their concerts and tweeting them, there's always a desire for more - and there’s nothing like sitting down and spending time with them in the form of fan fiction.
What is it about Tessa that readers love so much, do you think?
I think it's because they can be her. She’s not the thinnest girl - well I think she’s gorgeous - but she’s not a supermodel, she has flaws, and I think a lot of people are used to reading books where the woman is perfect and the man is the one who has issues. Tessa is just as flawed as Harry and I think they love that.
The movie rights to the book have also been bought, how strange is it to think of your story on the big screen?
It’s totally crazy. Sometimes I try to sit and really think about it and grasp it - but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s crazy.
In an ideal world, what actress would you like to play Tessa?
Indiana Evans for sure. She is THE Tessa, so I would love to have her.
Finally, what's the best part about being in the One Direction fandom?
Everyone is so supportive and funny, and it's just amazing to be a part of something where everyone has the same interest. We all love them, and it’s just great to share that together. I can tweet about Harry’s hair that day, and everyone is totally on the same page as me. The 1D fandom - regardless of little arguments - as a whole, it’s the best fandom to be a part of, I love it.
Thanks so much Anna, and good luck with everything!
AGH, we're excited. What do you think about everything Anna had to say? Are you excited about the idea of 'After' being published?