Do you like fan fic? Are you still recovering from the ending of the Harry Potter or Twilight series? Do you like to read fun, sometimes wacky stories? Me, too. I don’t spend nearly as much time on WattPad or Archive of Our Own as devoted readers, but I’ve found fun parallels in novel-land.
If you don’t know what fan fiction (fan fic) is, the simplest definition is this: works of fiction written by fans of a commercial work. The fan fic is not written for profit and is written as an act of love. Popular franchises that have generated a lot of fan fic include Harry Potter, Twilight, Marvel/DC comics, numerous bands (bandom!) and Supernatural. Supernatural has even featured their fandom on episodes of the show!
If you are a romance reader, fan fic can offer you short (or sometimes longer) interludes with ‘ships you miss and ‘ships that never existed in canon. For fan fic readers, romance can offer new, long form stories that hit the same buttons as your favorite couple stories. There are several reasons why romance and fan fic readers overlap. One reason is that both work with tropes, often inverting them or pushing them to some pretty wacky and fun places. Another reason is the ‘ships. (Relationships.) Wish Harry and Hermione had hooked up? Harry and Draco? Harry and Ron? Or maybe you’re Team Jacob? Fan fic is here for you.
When I started writing this post I was nearly paralyzed with self-doubt. Fan fic is incredibly personal. Agreeing on source material you like is one thing, but then agreeing on what aspects or ‘ships should be pulled out and given their own longer stories? That’s a different beast entirely. So take these recommendations for what they are – favorites of mine as a fan fic and romance reader.
First, let’s acknowledge a few of the “started as fan-fic” novels:
Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Series, which started as Twilight fan fic. I read the first in original format, but these quickly took on a life of their own and are worth checking out for the excellent sexual tension and fun, sassy heroines.
Also from a Twilight fan fic is E.L. James’ Fifty Shade of Grey. You’ve probably already read this series if you were going to, right? Edward’s/Christian’s obsession with our shy Bella/Ana comes to life in a sexed-up version of the source material.
Anna Todd’s After Series, based on Bad Boy Harry Styles of One Direction. You know, before he cut his hair.
There are more of these! Traditional publishers are finding new voices in self-pub and fan fiction channels with some frequency these days, giving readers a vote in a way we’ve never had before..
On to the recs!
If you like…
...Shows like Teen Wolf, True Blood, The Walking Dead, etc.
Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles. It’s post-apocalyptic with a Tarot theme and despite a slow start to book one, the rest have been non-stop romance and violence and cannibals and zombies (oh my!).
True Blood: Main character is in a love triangle with Death and with a Cajun bad boy. Enough sexy French dialogue to make me think of True Blood (if Rene didn’t turn out to be a serial killer).
The Walking Dead: “Bag-men” are a neat twist on zombies and the main characters are frequently rifling through empty houses looking for Spam, which will make your Walking Dead shotguns fire.
Teen Wolf: The characters are teens, but they are forced into adult roles by the Flash, an apocalyptic event. They deal with the campy but horrifying realities of this new world in ways that remind me of the characters in Teen Wolf. Also I cast the lead in this book as Derek from Teen Wolf because REASONS.
These are technically YA but definitely for the older YA crowd. Each of the Arcana (characters from the cards) have really fascinating powers and the series has been optioned for TV. Worth checking out if you like Tarot, secrets, past lives, or the IAD series. A new story in the series drops in August, so now’s the time to catch up.
Fangirl and Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. Rowell wrote Fangirl about a college-age girl who writes fan fic and the book is peppered with little bits from the story the heroine is writing. Carry On is that story, in full novel form.
Fangirl is a PG13 story that deals with the freshman experience in a new way. The main character feels like a real person, rather than a stereotype. She has a twin sister and, though they attend the same school, they have a very different set of priorities for their first year. Our heroine uses her writing as both an escape and a sort of therapy, as she helps her characters work through their own problems, while handling her own with varying degrees of success. I hugged this book when I finished.
The character in Fangirl is writing about a series that is essentially Harry Potter, complete with the school of magic and the Harry Poter and the Word Word format. You’ll see a few characters that you can slide into HP roles, but a few that don’t fit as easily. Magic works in a slightly different way and one of the heroes in Carry On happens to be a vampire. If Harry and Draco were forced to share a bedroom at Hogwarts, you’d get Carry On. If you ever shipped Draco and Harry, this book is for you.
I’m assuming you’ve played Dragon Age and explored ALL of the romance options. If you haven’t, please stop reading this and go do so. I’ll wait. You get to kill things with magic and/or swords and grow a romance with one (or more) badass characters.
Level Up by Cathy Yardley is a sweet, spicy, feminist game developer romance. It’s really good and probably still free. My husband read it on my recommendation and passed it on to several friends. The heroine and her friends are geeks who happen to be big into a (made-up) show that’s similar to Supernatural. They design a game based on the show to save a bookstore. If you are a geek at all, you’ll dig it.
I don’t remember fan fiction being there for me during my Backstreet Boys obsession. (Also Incubus and Our Lady Peace.) It was probably out there, but instead I satisfied my infatuation with posters and Rolling Stone. Aren’t we blessed to live in an age when you can do a quick search for “Liam and Zayn slash” and 254,000 results pop up on Google?
In all seriousness, you can get your rock star fix in many places these days, so I’m just going to give a quick shout-out to Olivia Cunning’s excellent Sinners on Tour series. Backstage Pass just got a re-release, so you can pick it up in paperback if you don’t love ebooks. Each of the boys in the band has a different kink, so just like any good boy band, there’s sure to be a boy for you.
One last recommendation: Mr. & Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon. Sexy spy men. If you ever wished Angie was a guy in that movie with Brad Pitt… This is for you.
Learn more about or order a copy of the books mentioned in this post: