This article, entitled Twilight-based fan fiction promised the same literary success as 50 Shades of Grey, originally appeared in The Independent on Friday 25 July, 2014:
When Lancashire schoolteacher Sophie Jackson was given a Twilight book by her pupils she initially refused to read it.
But hooked by the vampire tale, Ms Jackson was inspired her to compose her own fan fiction, which has resulted in the first-time writer being hailed as the next literary sensation.
The English teacher from Chorley has just agreed a series of international publishing deals for A Pound of Flesh, the latest blockbuster to emerge from stories posted on fan fiction websites.
A “tale of loyalty, love and redemption”, incorporating some steamy sex scenes, the New York-set stories, originally published on fanfiction.net, have been read 4 million times and reviewed 22,000 times, winning a host of web fiction awards. Fans have produced their own YouTube tribute videos.
Simon & Schuster won an auction for the A Pound of Flesh trilogy in the US, while Headline will publish the first novel in the UK in Summer 2015. The Lorella Belli Literary Agency has negotiated further deals for Italy, Spain and France with the Scandinavian rights also being snapped up.
Following the path blazed by E.L. James’ 50 record-breaking 50 Shades of Grey, A Pound of Flesh creates a new story, updated in regular instalments during Ms Jackson’s school downtime, using the popular Twilight characters as a starting point.
Set in a Brooklyn prison, Ms Jackson’s story begins with Twilight’s ‘Isabella Swan’ starting a new job as a tutor in a Brooklyn prison, to repay a debt to her father. ‘Edward Cullen’, with his own pound of flesh to claim, is the dangerous, yet mysterious Punk Ass inmate student in her class.
What follows is “the ultimate forbidden love story with an irresistible bad boy hero and a feisty, complex heroine, drawn together by a secret which connects them in ways they cannot foresee”, according to Kate Byrne of Headline Publishing. The characters have been renamed for the novel version, to avoid rights problems.
Ms Jackson, 32, who teaches at a Preston high school, told The Independent: “I never imagined in a million years that this would end up as a published novel. Writing was just a creative itch I had to scratch.”
She has her students to thank. “They kept saying ‘Miss, you have to read Twilight.’ I said I hadn’t got time for that. Then a copy landed on my desk. Of course I devoured it and it made me want to read more about the characters.
“I found fan fiction and I thought ‘write what you know’. I knew these characters inside out and I thought I could match the best examples of fan fiction. The instant feedback you get from writing fan fiction was invaluable in developing the story.”
The teacher wanted to ensure that her stories had literary merit. “I wanted them to challenge on an intellectual level. I did my research on New York, although I’ve only been three times. I want my female characters to be strong and independent not wishy-washy. I’m very independent so although Kat isn’t autobiographical, there is some of me in the stories.”
Ms Jackson is now hard at work editing her 517,000 web words down for the first novel. Discussions over film rights are ongoing. But she isn’t ready to quit the day job just yet. “I intend to carry on teaching. I don’t think the pupils who gave me the Twilight book have read the stories yet.”
Publishers demanded a 50 Shades of Grey-style trilogy to extend the life of her characters. Ms Byrne said: “The whole Headline Eternal team were blown away by Sophie’s innate storytelling ability, her remarkably authentic American voice and the intensity of emotion, passion and true love she brings so vividly to life.”