7 Renowned Authors Who Got Their Start in Fanfiction

Some of the biggest names currently in the book world got their start in writing fanfiction. Read on to discover a few of them.

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Book covers for "After" by Anna Todd, "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton, and "Cinder" by Marissa Meyer.

Fanfiction is a well-known fan activity with several sites dedicated to fanfic writers sharing their work and building a community with other fanfic writers. Given the nature of fanfiction — borrowing settings and characters already written by other people — not all authors see eye-to-eye on fanfiction as a way to develop one’s writing.

Some notable examples of authors against fanfiction are Anne Rice and George R.R. Martin, the authors of Interview with The Vampire and the Game of Thrones universe, respectively. It can be intimidating to know the creators of media with such large fanbases discourage one of the most popular ways fans express their love. 

But what about the authors who don’t discourage it? The authors who not only see the value of writing fanfiction but have written it themselves? Here are just a few examples of authors who understand the fandom lifestyle and have some fanfiction under their belt.

Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood established herself as a romance author for women in STEM with her debut, The Love Hypothesis, which first made its rounds on BookTok before becoming a staple of rom-com displays in bookstores across the world. But did you know the two leads, Olive and Adam, used to be Rey and Kylo Ren?

Ali Hazelwood holding a copy of her book, "The Love Hypothesis."

That’s right. Before The Love Hypothesis was a steamy romance about scientists in a fake relationship, it was actually a Star Wars fanfiction. In its first iteration, the story was published in 2018 as a Rey x Kylo Ren love story called Head Over Feet.

Although all Star Wars references were scrubbed out and the names were changed, the book cover still holds a clue to the story’s origins. If you look closely, you can see that Olive and Adam bear striking resemblances to Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver (the latter of whom is Adam, the character’s namesake).

Cassandra Clare

Before she was writing about the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders, Cassandra Clare dabbled with other kinds of fantasy. In the early 2000s, Clare wrote fanfiction for the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fandoms. 

Many fans of Clare suspected that her bestselling series The Mortal Instruments started out as Harry Potter fanfiction, which is not uncommon. As a way to get around pesky copyright laws, many authors take their old fanfiction and “file the serial numbers off,” which means taking a published fanfiction and changing details until its original fandom is unrecognizable.

Clare put these suspicions to rest on her Tumblr when she answered an ask from a reader. Clare fully admits to writing fanfiction but claims she never repurposed any of it:

I don’t even know how you’d get a book series about demons and angels and demon-fighters and seraph blades and alternate dimensions and Downworlder politics out of a fanfic based completely in the canon of Harry Potter (circa book four) that contained none of those things.

Anna Todd

The After series is one of the most popular and well-known examples of the repurposed fanfiction phenomenon. Originally posted on Wattpad, After was a One Direction fanfiction that focused on Harry Styles.

Anna Todd surrounded by stacks of books.

While on Wattpad, posted by Todd under the username Imaginator1D, After gained over two billion reads, becoming one of the platform’s most-read series.

The first three books in the After series were published on Wattpad before being removed when Todd got her book deal. The book deal would lead to a movie series based on the After books being released by Paramount Pictures from 2019 to 2023.

E.L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey is arguably the After for suburban moms. A steamy, kinky workplace romance that had movie theaters flooded on Valentine’s Day, E.L. James’s work is a bestselling trilogy.

It may be shocking for you to learn that this book phenomenon was based on a previous phenomenon. The world of Fifty Shades was originally a Twilight fanfiction, starring Bella as Anastasia and Edward as Christian Grey. (Perhaps this reveal isn’t too shocking when you consider how doom and gloom Edward and Christian are.)

James used to write under the username Snowqueen Icedragon, which is the name she used when she uploaded Master of the Universe on various fanfiction websites. But due to the explicit nature of her story, James eventually took down the fanfiction and uploaded it to her own site, FiftyShades.com.

Stephanie Meyer has spoken about James’s past in the Twilight fandom, saying simply:

That’s really not my genre, not my thing… Good on her — she’s doing well. That’s great!

Meg Cabot

Before she gave us the iconic Mia Thermopolis as the star of the The Princess Diaries series, Meg Cabot was stretching her writing muscles in the Star Wars fandom. 

Meg Cabot smiling and looking forward.

In a post for The Guardian discussing her feelings on fanfiction, Cabot mentioned that she wrote Star Wars fanfiction when she was younger. But unlike the fic writers of now, Cabot hand-wrote her fanfiction, not publishing any of them online. 

Cabot got to live out every fan’s dream when she got the opportunity to officially write for the Star Wars brand. Cabot contributed the short story Beru Whitesun Lars to From A Certain Point of View, an anthology book to celebrate Star Wars’s 40th anniversary. Cabot’s entrance into the official canon of her fandom may not be a typical ending for fanfiction writers, but it does give hope to many who want their fanfiction to someday lead elsewhere.

Marissa Meyer

What are fairytale retellings if not a form of fanfiction? By that logic, it should be no surprise that Marissa Meyer wrote fanfiction in her early years. 

Marissa Meyer smiling and looking forward

Known for her stories that put dark, magical, or sci-fi-y twists on tales like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood in The Lunar Chronicles series, Meyer credits writing fanfiction to a community of other readers and writers. In a blog post, Meyer explains that a friend got her into anime and fanfiction when she was fourteen, and Meyer would spend years combining these two interests.

In that same blog post, Meyer says she’d written over forty fics for the Sailor Moon fandom. Those fics are still available for viewing on Fanfiction.net if people look up Meyer’s penname Alicia Blade.

S.E. Hinton

The close friendships that are center stage in the classic novel The Outsiders have inspired thousands of fanfictions over the years, some even from the author herself.

S.E Hinton posing with her horses.

In an interview with Vulture, Hinton admitted to writing three stories for The Outsiders. Despite being the writer of the original novel, Hinton still saw her stories with those characters as fanfiction, which may be because she drastically changed the circumstances she wrote surrounding the characters.

For The Outsiders fanfiction, I will say that I set the characters in a different time period. And I mean really different. This story would have been historical even when The Outsiders came out. The boys face their first Christmas after the end of the novel, and the death of Ponyboy and Darry’s parents. I was amazed at how incredibly easy it was to get back on the page.

Outside of participating in her own fandom, Hinton has also written fanfiction for Supernatural. Hinton was a huge fan of the show while it aired and even visited the set a handful of times. It’s unclear if she posted her Supernatural fics anywhere, but an old Tweet reveals she did share one of them in a writing group and has shown them to Supernatural’s creator, Eric Kripke.

It’s comforting to know that there are authors who got their start in writing in fandoms. It’s a comforting thought for the millions of people who spend hours writing and reading fiction about their favorite shows, movies, and books. Sure, not all fic writers are guaranteed to publish books, get movie deals, or become official writers for the very fandom that got them into writing. But some do — why can’t the next one be you?

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