Author Anna Todd Discusses "After" Becoming A Book And Now A Huge Movie
"If you feel like you have to tell a story, tell it!"
1. First story you ever remember writing?
The first thing coming to my head is this Halloween story for school. It was supposed to be a happy story, and then mine was like, not happy at all. I literally forgot that existed until right now. It was in 7th grade. I didn't write a ton before After to be honest.
2. What was your favorite childhood book?
3. What Hogwarts house are you in?
Well, every time I do a quiz or something, it says that I'm a Slytherin, but I feel like I'm a Gryffindor. So, I don't know. I went to the tour in London with a group of readers and I just cried the whole time.
4. What was the very first thing you remember being a huge fan of?
The first thing I can remember is the Backstreet Boys. I literally had them on a cake for my birthday.
5. Were you an avid reader on Wattpad?
Yeah, I was reading there long before I ever thought of writing. I found Wattpad because I was reading a story on Instagram actually. They're called "Imagines" and they are like little fanfictions that people used to write on Instagram before Wattpad was the place to go. In each caption, they would put a paragraph or two of a story.
This girl was writing this really amazing fanfiction and she was like, "I'm getting tired of putting it on Instagram, I'm going to put it on Wattpad." So, I migrated over there and I just kept reading. I still read on Wattpad, there's just endless content.
6. What was the first story you read on Wattpad?
It was a One Direction fanfiction, that's pretty much all I read on Wattpad still.
7. What made you start writing your own stories?
Honestly, I never dreamed of being a writer, it felt too unrealistic to even dream about. I started reading on Wattpad and kind of felt like I had read everything, which obviously I didn't, but I was just looking for something I couldn't find. And then I thought that I would just entertain myself and write something. So, I wrote a chapter and then just kept going and going.
"I never dreamed of being a writer, it felt too unrealistic to even dream about."
Eventually, Wattpad reached out to me and said they had interests from publishers and they wanted to talk to me. They had no idea who I was or how old I was or where I lived or anything. We got into a relationship and they helped me get published.
8. What was it like seeing your book in print for the first time?
I kept getting tagged in all these things where people were seeing the book in the wild. So, my husband and I went to pretty much every Barnes & Noble around me just to look at the book. Then, I would call bookstores in small towns just to see if the books were there too. It was really cool. I still go and touch the book or sign it secretly all the time.
9. So, people will just find a signed copy?
Yeah! Sometimes I'll put it on social media after I leave. Literally sometimes [a store employee] will be like, "You're not allowed to do that." And I'm like, "It's my book. That's me, I swear. My picture is right there."
10. Do you have a favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
Harry Potter, for sure. It's the best one ever. I love You on Netflix too. I loved the book and I love the show. But, Harry Potter is my childhood, so it's my favorite.
11. Is there one Harry Potter book that you feel is the best adaptation?
Half-Blood Prince, which is ironic because that's the one Hero [Fiennes Tiffin] is in, but I didn't know him obviously.
12. When did you make the association that Hero was in Harry Potter?
Well, I didn't even realized it right away. I saw his last name and knew he must be related to the Fiennes, and then whenever we got their one-sheet with their past experience I was like, "Oh my god, he was freakin' little Voldemort."
13. Do you remember the first time you met Hero and Josephine Langford?
Hero I met for the first time in the casting room. I had watched the auditions and we were down to three people and I knew within like 20 seconds that he was the one. Jenny Gage, the director, was next to me and we both just knew. I was like, "I'm not doing anything until you hire him." I didn't have to convince many people because everybody loved him, but I knew immediately.
Josephine was different. I met her through a Skype call. She was auditioning for Molly originally. Then, I met her in person and we went to a dinner [with producers] just to talk after she got the role. Jo and I just stayed all night and talked. They are both so perfect for the roles, I can't believe how lucky we got with both of them.
"[Hero and Jo] are both so perfect for the roles, I can't believe how lucky we got with both of them."
14. Do you have a personal favorite Hardin and Tessa moment?
In the film, my favorite one is when they're reading in the library. Just because it's so relaxed. I don't want to spoil it, but there's a part towards the end of the movie that I wrote that I'm really proud of. It's not romantic though, it's sad.
15. Do you have any favorite memories from the After set?
Selma [Blair] and Jo [Langford] are so alike and were so funny together and always laughing. And most of the time you would ask what was happening, and they would tell you, but it would just be an inside joke between them that you wouldn't get.
16. As a '90s kid, were you starstruck when Selma Blair signed on for the movie?
Yeah definitely! All the parents we have are literally legends, but Selma for sure was the one I was most excited about. I mean, she's Selma Blair! She was in like every iconic movie of my teenage years. Now it's strange to think of her as "Selma Blair." My friend and I were watching Legally Blonde like two weeks ago and now it's weird to see Selma in other things because I just see her as my friend. She's so cool.
17 . Do you have any advice for someone who's an aspiring author?
Every single path is so different, but I would definitely say that the idea of what a writer is or should be is not a thing anymore. Everyone is redefining publishing, writing, and storytelling in general. There's a million ways to tell stories now, and even if it's not being [traditionally] published, there's Wattpad, there's Archive of Our Own, there's all kinds of platforms.
So, just take the idea of what a writer is out of your head because if you feel like you should be writing, you should be writing. The internet gives you this way to be anonymous without any pressure. Don't be afraid and if you feel like you have to tell a story, tell it!
"Don't be afraid and if you feel like you have to tell a story, tell it!"
18. What's a book quote that will always inspire you?
Probably "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same" [from Wuthering Heights] because not only is it tied to After and holds such a special place for me, but it's also one of the most romantic and deep things you can say in a tiny sentence. Cassandra Clare also has a bunch [of quotes] from The Infernal Devices about books that I love. Those books are actually where I got the name Tessa from.
19. Do you have a book recommendation for people right now?
I'm currently reading The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and I love it so far.