By Camille Anne M. Arcilla

ONLINE storytelling community Wattpad has grown in popularity not only in the Philippines but also in the international setting. Younimage4g adult novelist Anna Todd can attest to that.

Ms. Todd went from being a Wattpad sensation — after posting fan fiction on English-Irish pop boy band One Direction — to authoring the best-selling book series After.

“I found out about Wattpad when I was reading a lot of fan fiction on Instagram. You could just imagine how hard it was to read fan fiction on Instagram. Then I found one of the Instagram stories uploaded on Wattpad, then got curious so I installed the app,” she told BusinessWorld in an interview on Aug. 25 at the Long Bar in Raffles Makati.

“Thank God. I fell in love with it. I couldn’t believe that it’s this world full of all these stories people are writing just because they love it.”

The After series follows the story of Tessa Young, an optimistic freshman at Washington State University, who falls in love with the dark, troubled Hardin. It revolves around the couple’s love story before and after they meet.

image3The series is already on its fifth installment, Before, which follows the first books After, After We Collided, After We Fell, and After Ever Happy.

It took her a year and two months to finish all five books and she is currently working on two more — focusing on one of After’s characters, Landon — and another book which is a modern re-telling of Little Women.

But before coming out with the five After books, Ms. Todd began writing her own fan fiction on Wattpad in April 2013. She said her love for fan fiction — revolving around such established book series as Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games — made her “live in those alternate universes” for a longer time.

“I pretty much love the idea of fan fiction. I love the idea of taking something that you really love and then changing it or making it more. Because when the books are over, they’re just over. That’s just it. So when you read fan fiction, you can still live in that world for as long as you want and it never ends,” the 27-year-old writer said.

The author — who was in Manila for National Bookstore and Raffles’ Philippine Readers and Writers Festival which ran from Aug. 26 to 28 — said she wanted to meet her Filipino readers, especially those who are hooked on Wattpad like her.

image5“I just wanted to thank my readers, I guess. They’ve been so active and they love Wattpad so much, and they’ve been really cool,” she said.

Unlike many authors who do not support the idea of fan fiction, Ms. Todd encourages her readers to write something based on her own stories.

“I love to see how they change in the things they love and the things they want to do. Like some of them wrote about Tessa and Hardin’s daughter, like when she was in high school, it was really cool,” she said.

She added that people as young as 16 have gotten publishing deals because of Wattpad.

“I think it’s the best thing out there for young writers. Publishers are now starting to understand that. In the typical publishing house, they’re not going to publish a 16-year-old or eight-year-old, or even a 19-year-old, but thanks to Wattpad, they realized that maybe the people should decide,” she said.

Ms. Todd said that having Wattpad as an avenue for writers and readers alike changes the idea of what a writer is.

image2“When I got my first book published I thought I wasn’t writer yet, but later on realized that I am. I sit down and write my story — I am a writer,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how much college you had, or if you’re trained in workshops, or any of these things. Wattpad represents everything in reading and writing. And I know in the future, going to the bookstores you will see those same writers [in Wattpad] on bookshelves.”

Her advice to young writers and readers: “Keep on writing on Wattpad because it’s becoming such a thing for publishers. Like in the United States, there are so many people getting publishing deals from writing on Wattpad. Any idea what a writer is supposed to be, just ignore that. It’s not true.”