From fanfic to bestseller

Photo: Anna at her book signing in Scheltema, Amsterdam.

It all started with a One Direction fanfiction on Wattpad. Now Anna Todd (26) is an author who has more than one billion reads and has obtained a movie deal. With her After series many fans have fallen in love with main characters Tessa and Hardin. During Anna’s world wide tour she brought a surprise visit to Amsterdam with her husband to sign books and answer some questions.

Do you think your book has started a new area for fanfiction writers in which fanfiction based books will actually get a fair chance to be published?
“Well I think E.L. James started it. I think mine is for an audience that is a little bit younger. So for younger people on Wattpad I think it has shown that you can publish a book without experience and without a literature degree. You can just love books and write them online and publish them. I definitely think E.L. James was the one who really started it, because Fifty Shades of Grey was a Twilight fanfiction. Then Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings wrote Twilight fanfiction and Alice Clayton wrote Twilight fanfiction. Gabriel’s Inferno is even a book by a man who wrote Twilight fanfiction. So I think E.L. James really started it, but maybe for the younger crowd I think After at least fueled it some and influenced some people to start writing.“

And how do you feel about people comparing your book to Fifty Shades of Grey?
“I love Fifty Shades, so it’s good for me. Maybe she doesn’t like it, but I love it. I think you could tell by reading After that I love Fifty Shades. I choose Seattle a bit because of Fifty Shades. I also choose it because Twilight’s in Washington and everything just suits in Seattle. Like everything cool is always happening in Washington for some reason. So I went for Seattle, I just loved the idea of it. But I think the fanfiction thing is obviously similar, since I love Fifty Shades.”

Doesn’t that comparison set high expectations for your book?
“Well it has been a little bit of a problem, because sometimes older women that read After expect it to have BDSM or something, but it doesn’t. They’re like ‘this isn’t really like Fifty Shades of Grey at all.’ But they always like it, so it’s okay, I don’t mind.” 

Do you still write your books on your phone?
“Yeah. A little more on the laptop, because of typos and because there are so many, but I still like to write on my phone and then go back and read it again on my laptop.”

What are you working on right now?
Before will be published in the US, but we’re announcing it next week or something, or maybe a little after, I’m working on that. I have three other books, but I can’t say exactly what they are. But in the US they won’t come out till next year. And I have a Seventeen advice column, which is really cool! It doesn’t really have to do anything with After. I’m also more involved in the movie stuff, everything was kind of in contract stages so nothing was happening. And now it’s starting to pick up, so I’m getting involved in that.”

What is it like to write for Seventeen?
“I like it. It’s cool. They’re really good to me. Cosmo is really good too, but Cosmo didn’t really fit the things I like. I love Cosmo, but Seventeen is more for teenagers. I’m 26, but like not really. [Anna laughs] So Seventeen is my favorite, I guess. So when they asked me for the column I was like ‘Yeah? Of course! Duh.’”

And in which stage is the movie right now?
“I’m not allowed to say, but it’s further than finding the screenwriter, which we just announced. I always know things for a long time before I can say anything, I’ve known about the screenwriter for a while. But I couldn’t say anything. I started kind of hinting to it in interviews; I thought since I was in other countries no one would notice. And my publicist was like ‘zip it’. But there will be more movie stuff pretty soon.”

Do you have some dream cast?
“Yes, I really want Daniel Sharman for Hardin. He’s on Teen Wolf. I really want him and I’ve been very vocal to them about wanting him. I really like him. Now the readers are starting to tweet about it too, and tweet his name, which is helping too. And I want Indiana Evans for Tessa. I used her for the casting on the Wattpad story, so once the book was getting published there were all kinds of articles about After popping up when you Google her name. Her management has seen that, so we’ve been in contact.”

Did One Direction ever hear about your book?
“They heard about the book before it was published. Obviously I would’ve never published it if they said they didn’t want me to. I know what they think about it, it’s good for me, but it’s the only thing I want to keep to myself. Because I am still a fan. And I love the reaction, but it wouldn’t be as cool for me if I went to tweet about it and stuff. Sometimes it’s frustrating when people online will say ‘Harry is going to be mad about this’ or something, then I want to tell them the truth. But it’s cooler to know what it is myself then care about what other people think.”

What are your hopes and plans for the future?
“To just keep writing books. It’s pretty cool right now, so if it just stays kind of like this I’m already happy. It’s so much more than I ever really thought would happen, so from here on I don’t really care, because it’s pretty cool right now.”

After, After We Collided, After We Fell and After Ever Happy are now available in English. The first two books have been translated into Dutch, After We Fell will come out in The Netherlands July 16.

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