Rainbow Rowell loves fanfiction as much as you do

The night Rainbow Rowell discovered fanfiction, she was in distress, standing in the lobby of the movie theater following the final Harry Potter movie installment. Until this moment, she knew, “It’s okay, it’s okay, there’ll be more.” But now, there was no more Harry Potter. It was really and finally, over.

Further, she had made an important realization. “It dawned on me…” Rowell said during her San Diego Comic-Con panel, “I turned to my husband and said, ‘I think Harry is in love with Draco.’” He responded, “Yeah, you and the internet.” 

In the car on the way home from the theater, Rowell googled, “best Harry Draco fanfiction”, found her first fic, and never looked back. “Angels started singing,” she says of the moment.

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Two years later, Rowell published Fangirl, a YA novel about Cath, a young fanfiction writer struggling through her first year of college. In many ways, Rowell is a voice for fandom and fangirl culture. The similarities between her work and fanfiction are easy to spot — Rowell’s books (including Eleanor & Park, Attachments, and Landline) are relationship-heavy, focusing on the rich inner lives of her protagonists, their yearning, doubting, and loving. In short, her work is heavy on the feels. It’s no wonder she loves fanfiction, and fangirls love her.

Her upcoming book, Carry On (out October 6), is a spin-off of Fangirl, telling the love story between the fictional fantasy characters Simon and Baz, who Cath writes fanfiction about in Fangirl. Think of it as fictional fanfiction. A meta-take on fandom culture that humanizes fangirls in the popular eye in a way few other creators are currently doing. 

But despite being a longtime fan of science fiction and fantasy, Carry On will be Rowell's first genre work. Nervous at first about venturing into unknown territory, she says, "I spent hours researching dragons on the internet," before realizing, "wait a minute, I can do this, you just make things up"


One thing Rowell is an expert in, is the addictive, comforting qualities of fanfiction. “I fall into fandom when I’m having a hard time,” Rowell says at Comic-Con, finding it alleviating “to read the same people fall in love over and over again.” While she began reading Drarry fic (a relationship which Simon/Baz resembles closely), Rowell also cites a particular Johnlock fic she reads for comfort in difficult times. “I’ve read it many, many, many times,” she says.

Rowell says she wrote fanfiction when she was young, although she didn’t call it that at the time, instead she considered her self-insert stories that “weird stuff I didn’t want my mom to find.” Her early fandoms include Star Wars, where she was a very serious early fan of the movie series, even attending the inaugural Star Wars Celebration

Fanfiction, to Rowell, has alway been a way to extend the experience of a story. As she says, “I love this thing, how could I love it more?” Sometimes that’s about fixing problems that don’t work in the original, or finding ways to relate to it more. Or maybe it’s, “how could this ending be better?” And other times, it’s just about love.

“Sometimes a detective needs a doctor,” she says with a smile.

Don’t be so sure, Rainbow.