Hidden lives: secrets of a notable fanfic writer revealed

Caption: Artwork depicting two popular anime characters, Kuga and Shizuru, from the Japanese animated series Mai-Otome and Mai-Hime. Since the 90s, anime’s fan base in America has grown exponentially.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve become increasingly interested in the sides of others’ lives that I might not get to see. I find the idea that every human being is living a life equally as complex as mine fascinating, and I love the moments when I learn something truly surprising about someone I think I know well. Recently, I experienced this phenomenon when I found out that one of my friends is actually a popular author of fanfiction.

This past Thursday, I caught up with my friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) to talk about her everyday life over some much-needed lavender tea. As we waited for the scalding temperatures of our drinks to cool, she gave me the low-down on her day from start to finish.

“Well, to start off, my alarm went off at eight. Then I snoozed until 8:40, sat up, looked at my roommate, and we mutually groaned and got out of bed,” she informed me. I remembered having run into them both in the bathroom that morning, looking dejected as they put themselves together for the day.

We laughed, I took a tentative sip of my tea and scorched my tongue slightly, and she continued her tale: “I hobbled to the Deece and made some raisin toast, which I tragically burned. It’s an improvement over my usual breakfast: a bowl of yogurt and exactly five pieces of honeydew. I’d always end up leaving half of one.” I nodded, having witnessed this phenomenon over more than one hurried breakfast with her.

Continuing on, she told me about her classes that day, which went somewhat better than her breakfast had. Her two classes passed without any major incidents or embarrassing verbal missteps. Then she studied for an upcoming test, which she made sure to tell me she had been neglecting all week.

As the tea cooled, the conversation turned to the real topic at hand: her secret other life. I already knew the gist: She publishes the occasional fanfic for various anime fandoms, and she has something of a following. I had talked to her about her fic on a few occasions, but I wanted to know more details. “So, how did you get started writing fanfiction?” I asked, eager for her response.

“Well…” she began, “The summer before seventh grade, my older sister got a job, and I got really bored. This is kinda pathetic, but I would just sit in her bedroom and wait for her to come back. Then, one day, I looked up at a poster on her wall, and I really read it for the first time. I took it in. It said, ‘If there’s a book you want to read, and it hasn’t been written yet, write it.’ And I had pretty much exhausted watching all of my favorite shows over and over, so I thought, ‘Why not? I’ll write some fanfic.’”

She paused to laugh. After recovering slightly, she drank some tea, then continued: “So I started writing some of my random ideas. But I didn’t have any idea how to plan a release schedule or anything, so I had five fics started and updating sporadically. It was because I just started posting whenever I had an idea. And I guess people started to follow my stuff and it got pretty popular. People still flame me on occasion for not finishing my fics from 2013.”

I took this as a sign that her following might be larger than I originally thought; to really attract the trolls, the work has to be at least fairly popular. Curious, I inquired how many followers she’s accumulated over the years. “I don’t have an exact number or anything offhand, but last time I checked, it’s around 35,000 followers and maybe like 100,000 views across everything I’ve written.”

Even though I knew she had been writing fic for years, this still caught me off guard. The idea that so many people have read, and mostly appreciated, something my friend has created struck me.

I then asked her if her process has changed since the beginning, or if she still follows the same steps from coming up with the idea to posting the finished product. “Well, I just kind of write when I feel the need to. Sometimes something happens in my daily life, and I think ‘Oh, this would be a fun situation to see Yuri and Viktor in,’ and that becomes my next fic.”

Delving deeper, she added, “Or, I can use fic some- times to sort of play out a scenario that would never work in real life.” I certainly related; using storytelling as a way to process real-life events is one of my go-to strategies as well.

What began as a way to fill the void left by her sister’s absence spiraled into online fame as well as providing a creative outlet. Even if it may be unconventional, I still see that as a productive use of time. As a closing question, I asked why she doesn’t tell too many people here at Vassar about her online fame. “Well, I like to have friends,” she replied simply. I nearly choked on my tea.

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