If you've ever been mocked for being a super fan, you really only need two words to defend yourself from your haters: Anna Todd. An avid Directioner from Texas, Todd parlayed her love of One Direction into not only a six-figure book deal, but also an upcoming film via Paramount. "Not bad" seems an understatement.
Todd obviously didn't score many a writer's dream via staring at photos of Harry Styles and Co., however -- although that was admittedly part of it. No, her success sprung from a serialized story called "After" that she penned almost obsessively on Wattpad, an online writer community -- one that cast Harry as your average hard-to-resist bad boy, and a girl named Tessa as the one who tries (and fails) to resist him. A smash-hit success, the story scored Todd a three-book deal this past summer, the first installment of which drops Tuesday (October 21) -- a.k.a. today. News of the film came just a few days ago.
We spoke with Todd in honor of her book birthday to get the rundown on how "After" took off, who she hopes will play Harry in the movie and whether One Direction has ever said anything about her extreme fan status.
MTV: So how did you start writing "After"?
Anna Todd: I was reading on WattPad for about five months before I started writing and the stories I was reading, both of them, weren’t updating so I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I was just like, 'You know, maybe I can write something and kind of entertain myself.'
So one day I just posted the first chapter -- like I wrote it and immediately posted it -- I didn’t let it sit there. No one was reading it at first, but once I started posting a little more then it just started spreading.
MTV: So how did you decide to use One Direction as your muses? The characters are based on the guys, right?
Todd: Oh, well I love One Direction. I was reading a lot of 1D fan-fic on Wattpad and so I was just like, 'Oh, well, this just makes sense for me to use them.' [I just used] their looks, obviously -- the personalities and stuff are totally fictional.
MTV: I was going to say... Hardin -- which is Harry's name in the book version of the story -- is so mean. I don't know Harry personally, but...
Todd: Yes, well, he's just Harry in terms of looks -- not his personality. Totally not personality.
MTV: I hope not!
Todd: No, I don’t think so. I’m 99.99% sure no.
MTV: So what was it like when this story blew up online? Like a billion people have read it... Literally.
Todd: I started seeing role play accounts. And since I’m a fan girl just in life in general, I know that once there’s role play accounts -- people pretending to be the characters on social media -- that’s when people are really, really into it. And so once I started seeing Tess and Harry tweeting each other I was like, 'Wow, this is a thing -- this is huge.' And then it got to the point where it was like Harry’s car had an Instagram, Tessa’s yoga pants had an Instagram. Even without the numbers, that’s when I knew that people were really, really attached to it.
MTV: Why did your fan-fic blow up, though? What makes it different from other 1D fan-fiction?
Todd: I don’t know compared to the other stories, but I know the frequent updating makes a big difference -- and I was updating almost daily the entire time. There were times where I wasn’t doing it daily, but the majority of the story came really, really fast, so it was very frequent. I just kind of dedicated every waking moment to writing it.
Once I got into it, it just kind of took over, so I think it was just the constant updating and the fact that something always has to happen in every chapter. Like, even the sort of slow chapters, there’s always something because you have to get them to come click on the next chapter.
MTV: Did you write while your husband was in Iraq? I know he was deployed there three times.
Todd: No, he was at home during that time. He was starting to think I had a phone addiction or something. Like he didn’t know I was writing and I didn’t tell him for a long time and so he was just like -- he saw me on my phone all the time and then he would make little jokes about it. Because people would send me edits you know?
And Harry -- I already had pictures of One Direction on my phone, anyway, but then they became this thing where there were literally 1,000 of them. Whenever I did tell him, he was like, 'OK that makes sense. It was kind of weird every time I saw your phone and there was a picture of Harry or Zayn.'
MTV: Has he read the book?
Todd: He’s read parts of it. I sort of tricked him and had him read something and then was like, 'Oh, what do you think about it?' He was like, 'It’s really good,' and then when I told him I wrote it he was like, 'What?'
He was really, really proud of me. He was just surprised that I had written an entire book and a half before I even told him.
MTV: So Tessa -- she's a writer, too. Is she based on you?
Todd: Sort of. I never really realized it at first -- until my readers started pointing it out to me and I was like, 'Oh, OK, now I can kind of see it more.' But I think everyone that writes, there’s a little bit of themselves in at least one of their characters. I think there’s more of me in Tessa than any of the other characters, but I would say we’re still different in our own way.
MTV: And the book -- did you freak out when you got the book deal?
Todd: It was really surreal. It’s funny because I still have the piece of paper... I had met with the publisher then, [but] we were just kind of waiting and I didn’t really know what was going on. Then Ashley from Wattpad was telling me [about the deal on the phone] and I was writing everything down -- because I just write everything down -- and my pen slid across the paper when she told me. It was just so surreal. It still is. I just saw my book in a store on Saturday and it was the weirdest thing. I don’t know if it’s ever actually going to sink in.
MTV: And the movie! That has to be surreal. Who do you want to be in the movie?
Todd: Indiana Evans is who I cast on Wattpad as Tessa and so I have no idea what I’ll do if she’s not Tessa. And then Hardin... Harry Styles is Harry Styles, so I don’t see him being in the movie, but I love Douglas Booth. He’s really, really good for Hardin.
MTV: And the soundtrack?
Todd: The Fray. One Direction, definitely, and then The Fray is sort of 'The Band of After.' Also Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Bon Iver, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons...
MTV: Have One Direction ever said anything to you about the book?
Todd: No, I don’t know how they could miss it! But they haven’t said anything.
MTV: Last question. Since you wrote a romance, what's your best love advice?
Todd: Well, I got married at 18, so I’m not advising anyone to do that! But I think just... never date anyone who doesn’t accept you and don’t change for them. They aren’t going to change for you.