Anna Todd was a voracious reader who didn’t even know self-publishing existed when she started to write her own fan fiction. A lifelong lover of books, Todd discovered an online community of other readers and budding writers through Wattpad. She passed incredible milestones on the platform with her The Afterseries—which follows the love story between ambitious Tessa and bad boy Brit Hardin—and she quickly got a deal with Gallery Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, that helped her top the New York Times bestseller list. Todd spoke with us about her success and upcoming plans to take on both Hollywood and self-publishing with her latest self-released novel, The Brightest Stars.
When did you first decide to pursue writing full time?
I decided when Wattpad came to me and asked if I wanted to go to New York City and meet with publishers that wanted to publish my work. Even then, I didn’t realize that I would actually be able to make a living off of my hobby.
As a writer, what did you find appealing about fan fiction in the beginning?
I just love fan fiction and the fanfic communities. For me, fanfic allows me to live in a world I already love just a little longer. The fan fiction community is one of the most supportive and creative groups of people I’ve ever met.
Can you tell me a little more about the Wattpad platform that you first used?
I was a reader on Wattpad for a few months before I decided to write on the platform….I did it to entertain myself, and then it grew and grew. I posted a chapter a day most of the days, and readers organically found the story. Wattpad is a free reading and writing platform, so I was doing this strictly for fun, with zero expectation to be published or even read.
After originally working with Simon & Schuster, what’s it been like to self-publish The Brightest Stars?
It’s been so much fun. I still sold to all of my international publishers and then self-published in the United States. Most of my readers are international, so nothing changed for them, and in the U.S. I got to choose my own cover, market myself, and experiment. I can’t wait to do it again.
Do you still plan to use self-publishing in the future?
Yes, for sure. I love hybrid publishing and I’ve been extremely untraditional my entire career, why stop now?
What inspired the love story at the heart of your After series?
It’s a very classic love story at the heart. It’s the naïve, sheltered girl and the tormented-by-his-past bad boy that fall in love even though they shouldn’t. I love telling stories of redemption and angst. It’s what I love as a reader too. I just modernize it and tell the story that flows through my head while typing away.
What can you tell us about the movie adaptation of After?
I can say that I saw the director’s cut yesterday and the movie is beautiful. It was so interesting to be a producer on the film and be on set every day; I learned a lot and really got to be hands-on with the movie and cast.
What’s next? Do you plan to keep expanding the Afterworld or move into new genres?
For now, I’m working on the second book in my new series. It follows the first, The Brightest Stars,that was released in September, and I’m really excited to see where the story goes. I keep surprising myself with what the characters are doing, so it’s been great. I’m also working on the script for the second After movie, and the second book is even longer than the first, so we have our work cut out for us!
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.