It's launch day! I'm so excited that my debut book, Her Son's Hero, is finally on shelves. As I look back over the years I slaved and wrote and pitched, I remember fondly how I started my writer's journey: in the world of fan fiction.
For the uninitiated, fan fiction is any story written based on existing work that is outside of the official canon, whether it's a book, TV show, movie, radio play, video game—you name it, there's probably a fanfic of it. Subgenres of fanfic include anything from slash—erotic pairings so called after the most famous pairing of Star Trek's Spock/Kirk—to more lighthearted stories to crack fic—random often humorous stories that place the characters in ridiculous situations. Fanficers take the characters and worlds they love and tell their own stories.
In 2005, I was watching a fabulous Nicklelodeon show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. I had an idea for story that needed telling, and I desperately wanted to write it down. Not that I believed it could go anywhere or do anything. But I was compelled. I had to write that story. So I did.
I wasn't sure what to do with it after that. I was so proud that I'd actually completed a story beginning to end—up to that point, I'd only completed one short story, and had a random handful of other stories started. I wanted someone to see my work. So I Googled the show to see what I could find about it.
The explosion of search results was like an epiphany. I had no idea how rich the world of internet fandom was, and the show was only in its first season, about 10 episodes in.
I found www.fanfiction.net and posted my story there. When the first dozen or so reviews came in, I was gleeful, and started writing more. When the reviews reached 100, I was ecstatic. When the reviews kept pouring in, to the point I was getting 50 or more reviews a day, I knew I was onto something that would change my life.
I spent every spare minute writing after that. I plotted while using the treadmill, wrote on an old Palm Pilot with a fold-up keyboard on my commutes and during lunch hours, spent whole days without seeing the outside of my room as I pounded out story after story, eager to feed the fandom.
It was a borderline obsession for a while. My family was concerned that only shut-ins and social outcasts wrote fan fiction. My behavior didn't exactly put them at ease, either: I eschewed many social gatherings in favor of writing. I talked about it constantly. It had become my life, and that fervent need to produce had me completing novel-length stories in record time.
True, those early works weren't my best, but I got better quickly. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was learning the basics of story structure, characterization, dialogue, world-building, plot and conflict.
What I learned from fanfic wasn't confined to just writing skills; promoting my work and learning internet etiquette was a huge part of working with the fandom. I was on Live Journal forums, took part in internet chats, and reviewed other people's work. I taught myself how to use all kinds of design programs so I could contribute to the art side of the fandom by making avatars and icons, animated gifs and fan videos. More than all that, I learned how to relate with fans, to be part of the community.
In short, I was learning how to be an author.
When the show was winding down its third and final season, I knew I would soon be turning away from the world of fanfic and taking the next step: original fiction.
It was a lot harder. I had to create my own characters and world. I had to put them in situations that were not contrived. I was daunted by how much harder I had to work, and nearly gave up several times, especially after those first rejections.
But I did it. And I have fan fiction to thank for it.
So here's my official thank you to the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom and the fan fiction community that supported me throughout the years. I hope you all enjoy Her Son's Hero...especially the Acknowledgments page.
Vicki Essex is a big fan of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender. Her Son's Hero is her first book.