Here is an exclusive interview with the bestselling author of After series, Anna Todd. Anna visited Bucharest, Romania in october 2018 and we talked about the After movie that is going to be released in cinemas this weekend.
Hi Anna, nice to meet you! Because you’re an author I have to ask you.. You prefer read the book and then see the movie or vice-versa?
Anna Todd: Definitely the book first. Because I've always been a reader my whole life. So I rather read the book and then see the movie.
What was the inspiration for the After book besides the One Direction thing that everyone knows? Is there a specific book? Or a specific movie?
Anna: Yes there are a lot of different ones, honestly. For the book was mostly like Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Hemingway… When you read the After series you can see that the characters talk a lot about literature, so there a lot or parallels between those stories and mine. I was also inspired by the movies like 10 Things I Hate about You, She’s All that… because of the ending. Is kind of the same. Like it’s a deal kind of… the girls been tricked it in that situation. Also I got inspiration from Vampire Diaries… The character Hardin is not the typical romance hero. In my books he is more harsh than most…
I’m glad you mention 10 Things I Hate About You… I think is one of the greatest comedies of the ’90. They also made a sequel, but it didn’t have anything in common with the first one…
Anna: Yes… I hate when they do that! They do that with the Cruel Intentions… I loved that movie. Cruel Intentions is like After 2, you will see. But they do this with the second Cruel Intentions – and I was like “What was this??”. Like… I did not want that!
But you think that this first movie – After could be the beginning of a franchise? Or is just a standalone movie?
Anna: The After movie is the adaptation of the first book. And even some of material from the first book we save it for… hopefully After 2. Because the first book is soooo long. It was impossible to fit it all.
You were involved in the production of the movie - you also worked at the screenplay?
Anna: Yeah, I got really lucky because we sold it to a smaller studio first, so I had a lot of control… I was at every casting, I chose the cast… I’m also a producer on the movie, I was on set every single day. So I was very involved. So I know exactly every scene.
So the Movie is a lot like you imagined to be…
Anna: Yes. Honestly it was a lot like this. I got to help choose some of the locations… if the bedroom didn’t look right or something in the room didn’t seem right we will move it. So I had a lot of control (laughing). We were really lucky.
Yes, you were! Not a lot of authors can do that…
Anna: Yes. Most of them can’t. So I got really lucky.
So when they choose the actors, you have some control?
Anna: Yes. Basically everyone that I want got the roles. But not just because of me, because we were all grup voting. But with Hero, specially… Hith him basically was “I will quit if you don’t hire him like… Now”. Because I knew it’s him. We met so many… and he wasn’t my favourite in the beginning, until I met him in person. And then I just knew… and everyone agreed with me. And then on the set they all said “Thank you”. Because he is perfect for this role. He is a Fiennes. Ralph Fiennes and Joseph Fiennes are his uncles. So he came from this business, he knows how to work hard and he is not like “lazy” or “millennial”… is really great!
How was with the director of the movie?
Anna: I got to meet a couple different choices. And she and I hit if off, and It was great. So I had some meetings with her before we started pre-production, and I worked a lot with the script… Some parts of the script I actually wrote myself. So it was a really collaborate effort. A lot of times when the studios will buy adaptations they say “We want to keep closes to the book”… but they don’t. With mine, they didn’t have a choice, because I was always there (laughing).
The director read the book first?
Anna: Yes, she did. And also a big part of the cast, they read the whole series. So it was really good to have this people who really want to make it closes is possible. Of course, there are some things that we need it to change because of timing, but it was really good.
In the movie some things differ from the books...
Anna: Yes it’s a different medium. And I tried to tell my readers.. it’s never gonna be exactly the same, and for me it doesn’t bother me if the people say “the book is better”… because I made the book! (laughing). So I’m like… thank you!
How was the experience in Romania?
Anna: Amazing. Everyone was so nice, and the readers…. Last night were so many people… We didn’t know there will be so many people. Some people came because they told me online, but it was amazing.
You didn’t get tired of this fan meetings?
Anna: No. At the signings actually is great. I don’t know if it’s because the people have some much energy, but every time, even if during the day… no matter where I am I’ll be tired… and then immediately when I meet them I’m fine. Because they are really excited to see me and I feel it will be kind of unfair to be indifferent. Because they waited in this crowded book store for me. They paid for my books with their money that they earned.
You go also to the conventions? You go to Comic Con? You have a TV Show that you prefer?
Anna: I went to Vampire Diaries Convention, because it’s my favourite series ever. Also The Originals, I like Supernatural also. I was at the New York Comic Con, so I’m a fan girl! (laughing).
I know what you say! I’m also fan of the conventions – I was many times at London Film & Comic Con, and my dream it’s to go to San Diego Comic Con – because it’s the biggest convention in the world.
Anna: Yes! I was there twice with my publisher. And I was like… please schedule me for this, and for that!… Because I wanted to go to many panels. And they were like “You are here to work” and me… “Yeah, yeah, yeah… but I want to see this and that…”. So It was like work and pleasure. Mostly pleasure (laughing).
I think it’s interesting because this conventions gives you the chance to meet your idols.
Anna: Yes. It’s really cool. And also to be in a place where everyone loves the same stuff. At the Comic Con they had a Game of Thrones costume party. And it’s incredible, because there are 1000 people all dressed in characters from Game of Thrones. And it’s so cool! It’s the coolest thing to see all this people happy and they are with other people that loved the same stuff. It’s a special experience.
You are a collector? Do you collect something? You have a passion?
Anna: My favourite author is Cassandra Clare. I have tattoos from her books, I collect different editions of her books from every country that I go to. So I always buy this one… is called Clockwork Princess. It’s my favourite one, and I always buy it from every country. And then sometimes readers will bring it, because they know I collect it… So I have like 10 copies in Russian (laughing). So in my house I have a lot of bookshelves, obviously. And one of this bookshelves is full with Cassandra Claire books. And every time that she comes with a new edition… I buy it. In one of the editions they just change the spine, and I bought them all again. So this is what I collect.
So you will need also the Romanian edition.
Anna: Yes, I will look for it.
How important is for you the opinion of the fans in the future evolution of the stories that you will write?
Anna: Mostly is their emotions that I take in consideration. When they tell me on Wattpad “I can’t believe this happened” or “I want this to happen”. I don’t really listen of their specific plot things. Because in my mind, whatever I write, that’s the story. But I like to push things, to play with them emotions, I’m like like a puppet master with my characters.
What it’s your opinion on social media? In your case that helped you a lot, but it seems that the technology nowadays is trying to separate us from the emotions… everyone has a telephone and is addicted to it.
Anna: I have a mixed of opinion about that. I think one because my whole career started this way. If It'd never been read online, It would never have been published. But I do connect with so many people from around the world… I talk with girls from Romania, Japan, Australia, US, Hungary… all this places that I never had contact with them before. So in that way, I love it. On my Facebook are 15.000 people, and there from around the world, and they are all friends now, they Skype each other, they talk about their problems, and they feel they have friends, even if in their life are shy.
But I see also the other side -- we can not talk with people anymore… and for young people is so much pressure on social media… Because on Instagram and Facebook everyone’s lives look so perfect. So basically I love the connection that you can have with people from all over the world, but I also hate the way that threats young people.
If you were in my place, what question would you asked yourself?
Anna: No one really asked me what is the first thing that I think in the whole book. Because for me I have a very speciffic start. And it’s never the first page. It’s always this one scene that is always like in my head and then I build the beginning and the end of this one thing. Everyone is asking where is starts the book, no one asks how does the book become a book. Like in the scene from The Brightest Star… the guy has a problem with his leg. And is starts building the story from there. I asked myself why is he in this situation, what got him to be this way, or that way… and so one...
It’s like a screenplay of a movie. Because when they shoot a film they don’t film in the order of the sequences.
Anna: Yes, exactly. Is like a puzzle. I never write in order, it’s weird. Sometime I have to fill it all the blanks between sequences. I never now where the story ends, when I start writing. Even with this story (The Brightest Star). I now the story in the second one, because I’m almost finished with it. But with the third one… i have no idea. With the second one I got them so far apart, I have no clue how I will keep them together. It’s fun to write that way, because it feels like… exciting and anything could happen.
What can you tell me about the Together1Heart organization that you support?
Anna: I have this friend, the actress AnnaLynne McCord – she is the president of this foundation. What they do… they save girls – mostly in Cambodia, from sex slavery. They have saved over 150 girls in the last four years. And some cases are unbelievable! It’s crazy that people are doing this! It’s crazy that people lived this way, and people want to hurt their children, and use their body for money. But are doing all over the world, not only in Cambodia. But AnnaLynne is doing some much with this organization, she spends Christmas with this girls, she goes to Cambodia for times a year. So this organization literally saved so many girls.
Can you tell me a few words about this new novel, The Brightest Star?
Anna: The guy in this book is an ex-military and he has a lot of trauma from there, and she is a therapist. And they live in Georgia. This book deals with a lot of political things and racism. The main character is a black men and the girl is white, which in romance is really hard to find, honestly. There are always both white. In the U.S. at least. Or is a book written by a black author – and then are both black. My husband is black, and even before I was married, I never really dated people of my own race. So I remember as a reader “Why can’t I find stories about white women and black men?”. And if there is one is extremely erotic, or very stereotypical. I just wanna to be able to pick up a love story and it didn’t matther what race is was. And so with this one story I kind of did that. You don’t know that he is black until many pages in the book. I don’t put any people on my covers, no matter what the country. So you don’t know what they look like.
In the end, you have a message for your fans in Romania?
Anna: Thank you for your support and I’m happy to be here, and go see After in cinemas from April 19. And I hope you love it.
And for someone who did’t read the book and want to see the movie?
If you like family dramas – because it’s not just romance, even if you don’t like romance – there is a lot about the family in it. So if you like family dramas, and you like to be entertained, go see After!
Thank you very much!
Anna: Thank you!
Interview by Emanuel Lăzărescu. Many thanks to Teodora Ivan from Trei Publishing House.