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Margot Harrison: On Community in Fan Fiction

Award-winning journalist and author Margot Harrison discusses writing about her own experiences in her new YA thriller, We Made It All Up.

Margot Harrison is an award-winning journalist living in Vermont. She is also the author of The Glare and The Killer in Me. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Margot Harrison: On Community in Fan Fiction

Margot Harrison

In this post, Margot discusses writing about her own experiences in her new YA thriller, We Made It All Up, what fan fiction communities offer to writers and readers, and more!

Name: Margot Harrison
Literary agent: Jessica Sinsheimer, Context Literary Agency
Book title: We Made It All Up
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: July 12, 2022
Genre/category: YA thriller
Previous titles: The Killer in Me, The Glare
Elevator pitch for the book: Two lonely girls bond by writing fan fiction about their school’s golden boy, but fantasy becomes disturbingly real when he turns up dead and they’re the suspects.

Margot Harrison: On Community in Fan Fiction

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What prompted you to write this book?

I’ve wanted for years to write a story that would delve into the culture of fan fiction and what motivates different people to write it. I feel like it’s too often mocked and dismissed as an inferior form of storytelling, when in fact it gives essential nourishment and community to so many writers and readers.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

The idea dates back at least a decade. Originally, it was a literary novel about grown women writing fan fiction about a TV show. Next, it became a thriller about teens who bond online over fan fiction and kidnap the star of their favorite TV show. Then I realized that I loved the setting of my fictional TV show—a tiny Montana town—and actually wanted to set the story there!

So the book became a YA thriller about girls who write secret “fan fiction” about real people they know. I also loved how inherently risky that form of inspiration is, because what if the subjects of the story find out?

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Publishing this book was a dream. It’s the first book that I have not had to do fairly extensive edits on during the publishing process, and I give credit for that to my critique partners, Dayna Lorentz and Rachel Carter. We workshopped this book for more than a year, and they pushed me so hard to find the core of the story.

Margot Harrison: On Community in Fan Fiction

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I don’t think I’ve ever put as much of myself into a character as I did into Celeste, the protagonist of this book. At first it felt difficult and awkward, especially when my CPs pushed me to explain Celeste’s motivations. For instance, they asked, “If she’s so shy, why does she love the theater and being onstage?” I found myself explaining aspects of myself to which I had never given much thought.

When you write your own past feelings and experiences, there’s a lot of risk involved. Criticism feels personal. Ultimately, though, I’m glad I took that risk of revisiting my own adolescence.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Sometimes, when people are very shy or reserved or withdrawn, other people disparage them as being “standoffish” or having “no personality.” I hope this book will remind readers that people who seem closed off are often protecting themselves and that they can have rich inner lives. One of the great powers of fiction is that it can open up a secretive person’s inner life to the reader, while helping us all to empathize a little more with one another.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Make your own path! Some people take a check-list approach to writing: “I have to get an MFA” or “I have to take this particular workshop and follow all the instructor’s rules.” Those are great plans for many writers, and it can be reassuring to have a list of concrete steps. But everyone’s path is individual.

I don’t have an MFA. I’ve never taken a writing workshop as an adult. I just read constantly and learn from it. Do what works for you!

Fearless Writing William Kenower

If you love to write and have a story you want to tell, the only thing that can stand between you and the success you’re seeking isn’t craft, or a good agent, or enough Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but fear. Fear that you aren’t good enough, or fear the market is too crowded, or fear no one wants to hear from you. Fortunately, you can’t write while being in the flow and be afraid simultaneously. The question is whether you will write fearlessly.

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