Starting Out with Fan-Fiction
Goblin Fires is a project that completely altered my perspective on "fan fiction". Before I realized the inspiration in this, I didn't understand fan fiction at all, and I certainly didn't appreciate it for what it could be for writers.
I suppose, then, at its heart Goblin Fires began as a sort of fan fiction. In November of 2012 I went to a book signing and met Jim Butcher, one of my favorite authors. He was also the first full-time author to give me a shot of real encouragement like a slug of strong liquor. That in itself was wildly exciting, and I left that meeting ready to write. I didn't get my real inspiration, though, until two days later, when I finished Jim's new book, Cold Days.
Anyone in the Dresden fandom will understand the instant inspiration I had for Goblin Fires. I put down Cold Days and my head was full of faeries and Knights and forbidden, sensual desire. The idea for a fae Guardian passionately devoted and helplessly smitten with his Lady simply took over my mind.
Quickly, though, my story wanted to be its own entity, and the characters wanted to be their own people. My Knight was a woman; my princess was a goblin. My fae world wanted to be its own distinct entity, with four courts, one for all the seasons, instead of the classic two. It all stemmed from the inspiration I drew from Butcher's work, but it started to take on its own shape very quickly.
Goblin Fires was incredibly fun to write, and I got immersed in folklore and fairy tales for days. I never really planned for it to be published in the end. My friends were excited for it, so I was writing it for them. My best friend occasionally asked me to video-chat her with a screen-share so she could read as I wrote. That's where the real bulk of my inspiration came from: my people, wanting to read it. Asking what happened next, feeling excited when a character came up whom I'd written specifically for them.
So those are the inspirations behind this book. The genuine encouragement of someone I admired, a terrific story that lit a fire in my brain, and the knowledge that my story was exciting others. I've always said the reason I wanted to be a writer was to share wonderful stories with others, and to know I had created something others would enjoy. Goblin Fires surprised me when it turned into exactly that kind of book.The world of fae mythology is so rich and has so many layers, by the time I finished Book One I already had ideas for three sequels—one for each remaining Fae Court.
Some of the biggest best-selling authors have spoken about starting off with fan-fiction; even Stephen King talks about his first childhood writing exercises involving characters he read about and wanted to take on adventures of his own imagining. E.L. James famously struck gold with the 50 Shades franchise, a story which originated as Twilight fan-fiction, and Naomi Novik, author of The Temeraire series, loves to chat about fan-fiction and the ways it inspired her to write.
Once upon a time, I really disliked the practice of writing fan-fiction, and the idea of readers appropriating well-established stories for their own use. The fact is, writing fan-fiction is an early exercise I think most writers go through. It's a testament to the power of inspiration, and creativity which begets creativity. Fan-fiction can form the keystone for some especially wonderful authors and creators. So I celebrate the art of fan-fiction now: what it has been for me, and what it has been for other wonderful writers, and new writers starting to stretch their wings.