Guest: Louisa Edwards on Fan Fiction

If there’s a single type of fiction even more denigrated than romance, it’s fan fiction. Fan fiction, in case you aren’t familiar with the term, involves stories starring popular fictional characters and/or settings and situations, written by fans of the original work. (Check out this Wikipedia entry for a more elaborate explanation.) Seems the history of fan fiction (aka “fanfic” or just “fic”) dates back to Homer—clearly, the urge to play in a world created by someone else is nothing new.

Whether or not fanfic as it exists today falls under fair use, authorial response to the phenomenon varies widely. Some authors are famously against it; Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton both spring to mind. Others, such as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, have been publicly pleased by the swell of Harry Potter and Twilight stories published online.

Personally, as both a reader and a writer, I’m all for it.

When I was twelve, I used to smuggle romance novels into my room and read them after bedtime, sitting on my shoes in my closet. (Yes, I was literally a closeted romance reader.) Similarly, when I first started reading fanfic, I felt it was somehow shameful, something to hide. But just as I learned over time to be proud of my love of romance, these days I’m coming out about my predilection for fan fiction, as well.

As with any genre of writing, there’s some awful, unreadable dreck out there—and there’s also truly gorgeous, transcendent stuff that has made me laugh, cry, and bookmark the page to reread over and over. Going beyond the pleasure to be found (for free!) in many of these stories, I can say from personal experience that fanfic can actually be an effective marketing for the original work. I became obsessed with my current favorite band and television show after first discovering them through the world of fanfic, also known as fandom.

I know several successful published authors who began their writing careers in fandom. According to them, it’s a great place to hone your craft—less stressful, since there’s no money riding on it, and no reputation at stake, either, as most fanfic is published under an online handle or pseudonym.

I understand authors who feel protective of their characters, and those who feel that they alone have the right to put words in those characters’ mouths. But if someone were inspired enough by the world of my books to want to become part of it by writing a new story exploring that world, I’d be applauding from the sidelines.

The idea of my characters being so alive to a reader that she’s compelled to get into their heads and play with them gives me a thrill. When a reader recently e-mailed me that after reading On the Steamy Side, all she wanted to do was write her own version of the ongoing secondary romance in my series, my only response was, “I can’t wait to read it.” Who knows? Maybe I’ll discover something new about Frankie and Jess after seeing them through someone else’s eyes.

What about you? Do you read fanfic? Write it? If you’re a published author, how do you feel about the prospect of someone else writing a story using your characters? I’m curious about what this community’s take on the subject is—in fact, I’m so curious that a signature Recipe for Love apron and spatula set (along with an autographed copy of On the Steamy Side) awaits the author of the most insightful comment!

Louisa will pick the winning comment on Saturday (April 17) evening. Please be sure to leave your email address in your comment so that Louisa can contact you if you are chosen as the winner.