In February, storytelling site Wattpad announced that they had rounded up some of their most popular authors to put out a new book, and the topic has everyone talking. Imagines: Celebrity Encounters Starring You is a book of short stories set in second person, putting the reader in a variety of scenarios where they can meet their favorite celebrities. Not only does this concept have fangirls everywhere excited, but it has also brought up some interesting questions about the future of fan fiction. We had the opportunity to speak with three of the authors featured in this collection about their stories, some of the controversy and who will most enjoy reading Imagines.
What is an Imagine?
Kevin Fanning – An Imagine is a type of fanfic written in the 2nd person, in which “You” — meaning the reader — are a character in the story. The reader essentially becomes a kind of sidekick in the story to whatever celebrity is being written about. The narratives are wildly disparate – there’s often romance or sex of course, but there’s also really quotidian stuff like going to the mall, or watching Netflix, and then there’s slightly stranger stuff like being adopted, or being forced to marry a celebrity.
Imagines are basically a very easy on-ramp into creative writing. They’re natural extensions of the kinds of daydreams we all have about the celebrities and fictional characters we love. It’s so thrilling, watching Channing Tatum dance—what it would be like if he wanted to dance with YOU? Who among us HASN’T imagined that.
Who will you be writing about? Why did you choose them?
Kevin Fanning – My story is about Kim Kardashian. I’ve written two books about Kim and she is still one of the most engaging and interesting celebrities to me. It was kind of a foregone conclusion that I was going to write about her, the challenge was in choosing which story idea would be right for this book.
E. Latimer – I wrote about Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. Short answer, because I’m a HUGE Supernatural fangirl.
Rebecca Sky – I wrote my piece on Rebel Wilson. When I was first approached to pitch something for this project, I knew I wanted to write about someone I look up to, someone who is fun, passionate, a good example to women everywhere, and a little dorky like me. She was the obvious choice.
What about fan fiction appeals to you?
Rebecca Sky – You know, this is actually the first traditional fanfiction, I ever wrote. I say traditional because I have written some stories featuring historical figures, and there’s valid argument that that’s fanfic. But what drew me to this project, and what I like about fanfiction in general, is it’s an avenue to express a connection to someone/something, to show appreciation, and to connect with likeminded individuals. One of the things I’m most looking forward to when the Imagines book launches is finding other Rebel Wilson fans I can geek out with.
Kevin Fanning – I’ve been writing fanfic – specifically RPF, or Real Person Fiction – for years, even before I really knew what fanfic was. Obviously we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture, but there’s also this sense that the public personas of our celebrities are not always the “real” them, just the way there are always differences between the selves we display online and who we are IRL. I am always fascinated by the tension between those selves, the public and the private, and the things we project upon those personas. The ways that we as individuals relate to the arcs of the stories of the lives of celebrities is an endless source of creative inspiration to me.
E. Latimer – Sometimes you love something SO much that you can’t get enough, and fanfic is a way to get more. It’s a way to explore the world, as well as put your own spin on things. I also love that fanfic is the reason many people start writing in the first place, often branching out into their own original worlds and ideas later on.
How do you handle the pressure of accurately representing a real life figure while also balancing the fantasy elements of the story?
E. Latimer – Well, there was a lot of “research” that went into it. And by that I mean watching Youtube videos of interviews/outtakes/bloopers, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Having also been to a con, I had the pleasure of seeing both actors in “real life” and watching their panels.After that, it’s figuring out how to put their actual mannerisms into a scene where they happen to be kicking some REAL vampire ass.
Kevin Fanning – Having written two books about Kim in which she is a powerful sorceress who uses emoji-based spells, it’s honestly second nature at this point. I am very inspired by Kim but I don’t at all feel like I actually know her, or know what she’s like in real life. My stories don’t have to be picture-perfect representations of Kim, and make no claims to be. They just have to be imbued with enough details and enough of a sense of her energy and personality to make it feel like it could be her. In this story, which puts Kim into a slightly dystopian near-future backdrop, there are a few Kardashian Easter eggs, so that even in this imaginary setting fans of Kim will be like: Yup, that’s her.
Kevin, how do you think Kim Kardashian would feel/respond to reading the story you’ve written about her for this book?
Kevin Fanning – My hope is that she would love it! It’s a story about believing in yourself, and appreciating your own self worth, and refusing to take No for an answer when someone tells you can’t or shouldn’t do something. It is very explicitly inspired by Kim, and how she manages her life and her businesses, and it’s written from a place of sincere appreciation and admiration.
How about Rebel Wilson?
Rebecca Sky – You know, I hope she likes it. I made an effort to be intentional about what I wrote, aligning my vision with what I perceived to be important to Rebel, both personally and professionally. Things like confidence, humor, pushing outside societal boxes. I even showcased some of Rebel’s new ventures, like her clothing line for Torrid.
Where do Imagines draw the line in terms of what parts of a celebrities life or imagined scenarios are off limits?
Kevin Fanning – Celebrities are people whose careers depend on their being able to capture our attention and imagination. I see Imagines as a natural extension of that contract between celebs and fans, their creativity inspiring the creativity inside us. I think if you start to get into their families and loved ones who aren’t really celebrities in their own right, that’s when it goes a bit too far. There are always going to be people writing creepy things or with malicious intent, unfortunately, but the stories in this book are written by real fans, and come from a place of love. Compare that to celebrity magazines and blogs, who make up outrageous and untrue and offensive stories about celebrities all the time, in the interest of selling ad space. Not a good look, in my opinion.
Rebecca Sky – I can’t speak for the other authors, but I can speak for myself. For instance, I wouldn’t feel comfortable publishing a romance fanfiction, but others in the anthology did. For me it was important to be respectful, to make it a fun, exciting read, and to showcase how awesome Rebel Wilson is.
Since I announced my participation in this project, people have approached me challenging the ethics of publishing fanfiction. To be honest it excites me that this conversation is starting around a project I’m a part of. Have you ever seen those videos of celebrities reading mean tweets? It’s seriously heartbreaking to hear some of the things people say to them. And the public aren’t the only ones tearing them down. Parody and criticism are protected by free speech, and through gossips magazines and review sites there seems to be the encouragement of critiquing or exposing public figures. Ironically, some of the articles on those sites/magazines could be considered fan fictions. I look at the Imagines anthology as a way to counteract that negativity and showcase positive interactions with celebrity.
Will the Imagines in this book mostly be enjoyable for mega-fans of the celebrities featured, or can you read individual stories without knowing much about the celebrity and still enjoy yourself?
E. Latimer – I like to think you’d be able to read my story and still enjoy the “ordinary girl turns hunter” vibe. And the other stories are still great for fans of humor, romance and intrigue, regardless of how well you know the celebrities.
Rebecca Sky – I wrote my piece so that anyone, fan or not, can read it, and hopefully leave it being a fan of Rebel’s. I haven’t read all the stories in the anthology yet. There’s 33 authors! But I have read a few, and they were easily relatable, even if you aren’t a part of that fandom. From what I have read there’s something for everyone.
Imagines: Celebrity Encounters Starring You is out April 2016.