With a year of running the My First Fanfiction podcast under her belt, Elle is only about halfway through reading the first fanfiction she ever wrote to her listeners with the help of some friends and family. I think we can all relate a bit to Elle and her fanfiction "Forgotten Memories" because if your first written fanfiction didn't include some highly ridiculous and crazily cringey plot points and writing, you're lying to yourself.
FANFICED spoke to Elle about her fanfiction habits and past, the creation of her podcast and recording cringey episodes with family members.
When did you start reading fanfiction?
Back in 2005! I'm pretty sure my first fic was a Harry/Hermione story I found on Fanfiction.net. FF.net kept me going for years until I finally decided to write my own story. Then I moved over to Quizilla, where I got my fill of Insert-Band-Boy-Here/Me/Nameless-OC fics. What are your main fandoms?
I feel like I've cycled through dozens of major fandoms since I started reading/writing fic. The fandom I was by far the most invested in was "Glee." I went the whole nine yards—group chats, roleplaying on Tumblr, reading and writing fic like crazy. The "Harry Potter" fandom will always have a special place in my heart though, since it was my first ever experience with fandom as a concept (plus the fan art in the HP fandom is WILD). I don't think I'd identify as being a part of any fandoms right now, but I definitely keep tabs on the remaining members of the "Glee" fandom.
Are you a pairing shipper or a GEN reader?
Oh, definitely a pairing shipper/reader. I was very passionate about Klaine back in the "Glee" Glory Days, and I swear I've read at least a third of all the fics written about them. I was very shamelessly into self-insert boyband fics when I was a teenager. I would just scour Quizilla for hours for new fics about whoever was my latest celebrity crush of the month. I was all about the romance, less so about the world building ,but I still love a good AU.
How often do you read fics?
I actually recently got back into reading fics! All of my usual podcasts had gone on hiatus, and I was disappointed in the last couple of books I'd taken out from the library, so I decided to reread a couple of my old favorite fics. I've gotten into the habit of reading right before I go to bed—which is a super dangerous game, and usually leaves me falling asleep two hours after I said I would actually go to bed. I'm a pretty fast reader, so depending on the fic and how often I decide to read before bed I can go through a fic or two a week. What does fanfiction mean to you? I love this question! Fanfiction has meant a lot of different things to me over the years. When I first discovered it, it was a fun new way to read and explore my favorite worlds. I loved that even when it felt like my favorite things had come to an end I could keep things going by reading fic. Even if a show was on hiatus, or a I had to wait years for another book to be released, I had hundreds of other stories I could read in the meantime to keep my interest alive. Plus, half the time, the fics I was reading were miles away better than what was canon (especially during those last two seasons of "Glee," fanfiction was the only thing keeping me going). Then I realized I could write fic, I could stop spending hours looking for whatever very specific thing I wanted to read about and just create it myself. This was the first step in a long, long journey with creative writing. I wrote fics throughout my teenage years, eventually started writing original stuff in high school, and went on to major in creative writing in college. Now, I barely write and spend my weekends talking about the first fic I ever wrote. It's weirdly full circle. But in short, the TLDR is: fanfiction gave me the confidence to write whatever I want, regardless of how silly or outlandish it might seem. And I'm very grateful for it.
How would you summarize the fanfiction you are reading for My First Fanfiction?
The story we're reading is called "Forgotten Memories" (~~~Forgotten Memories~~~ specifically), which I wrote when I was 13. To really boil it down, it's a cliche, overly dramatic self-insert boy band fanfiction, staring myself and Bill Kaulitz of Tokio Hotel. "Elle" is an 18-year-old girl from New Jersey who meets Bill after she gets lost on a class trip to Germany. Naturally, it's love at first sight and we go through 84 chapters of their truly whacky adventures. We're nearly at the halfway point of the story and thus far Bill and Elle have been through three near-death experiences, a kidnapping, a stalker, and several break ups.
What made you start My First Fanfiction?
My First Fanfiction was actually the product of writers block! I hadn't really written anything since I graduated from college in 2017. I was a Creative Writing major and burnt myself out after cramming all of my writing workshops into my final two semesters of school. I really wanted to do something creative, but I was completely drained of ideas. I started rereading my old fanfiction, something I sometimes did with friends throughout college, to see if it would give me the confidence and spark I needed to start writing again. This was the first time I really sat down and tried to reread "Forgotten Memories" from the beginning. It was so laughably over the top that I got to thinking about doing something with it, finding a way to use it as the centerpiece of a creative project. I'm a huge fan of "My Dad Wrote a Porno," so really, all the credit for thinking to make this into a podcast goes to them. I asked my roommate at the time if she'd be up for reading my terrible first fanfiction for a possible podcast, she said yes, and now here we are!
What does the recording process look like?
I like to keep my weekly guests as in the dark about the chapter we're reading as possible, so they actually don't get to see or read anything until we're sitting down to record! I usually put together a Google Doc with the content of the chapter, along with a recap of the previous chapter and any relevant context that we might need to understand what's going on. The fic is written in first-person, so I'll read all of the narration/any dialogue that the character of Elle has, and guests typically read all of the dialogue spoken by characters other than Elle. I do my best to just skim the chapter while putting the Doc together, just for the sake of figuring out when Elle or another character is speaking, so all of our reactions to the content of the chapter are completely fresh when we're recording. There are a lot of typos in the story, but I don't edit anything when putting together the Google Doc, so a lot of what gets cut out of the final recording is us trying to figure out what exactly a sentence is trying to say.
You have guests on the podcast a lot, how do you convince them to come on? Is it ever awkward recording the reading of your old fanfiction with members of your family?
I've admittedly bribed one or two of my guests into coming onto the show with the promise of dinner or drinks, but I'm very lucky that most of my guests were happy to come onto the show when I asked them! Most of my guests thus far knew about my background with fanfiction, and were mostly curious to see just how outlandish this story I was always hinting about was. The most awkward moment by far was having to read a scene where Bill and Elle were getting hot and heavy with my mom. Thankfully, it didn't turn into anything more than them making out, but having to hear my mom say "You're so hot baby" in a faux-German accent is something I would rather not have to do again. We also very nearly had a sex scene in the chapter I read with my partner's mom and brother. I guess these characters love to make out whenever I bring a parent on the show. I would actually say the most awkward, or hardest, aspect of the show for the guest is feeling comfortable making jokes and poking fun at me. I'm never offended when people say the story is terribly written—because it is! That's why we're here! It's okay to make fun of this story, I know it's not a representation of my writing as an adult, I'm not going to take anything personally.
The podcast entails you reading the first fanfiction you wrote, have you written any since then?
Oh god, yes. So many. When I was putting together ideas for the podcast I tried to find all of the fics I wrote specifically about Bill Kaulitz and I found around a dozen (one even takes place in space). After my crush on Bill started to fade, I wrote all types of fics—"Harry Potter," "Glee," "Kingdom Hearts," "Naruto," "Twilight," Fall Out Boy, One Direction, etc. I actually wrote a fic this year though! It was a Klaine "Glee" fic, and it's technically not done just yet, but I'm pretty proud of it. I wrote almost 60,000 words for that story in under three weeks. It was the easiest time I've had on a writing project in years, and was honestly super fun to put together. It was also pretty nostalgic, remembering how I'd spend all of my time writing fics when I was younger.
What do you think the craziest plot point in the fanfiction has been so far?
This is really tough—it feels like every chapter's plot twist is crazier than the last. I'd say it's a tie between Elle's biological parents dying in a car accident days after she discovered she was adopted, and finding out Elle was going to be a mom after she got drunk at a convention at her high school and signed up to be a foster parent at 16. Are you planning on doing a full 84 episodes to finish all the chapters?
We are! 84 chapters/episodes seems daunting, but the chapters are all pretty short, some are less than a page long. Even after we're finished with "Forgotten Memories" we still have the dozens of other Tokio Hotel fanfictions that I wrote during the same period in 2009–2010, so we have plenty of content to keep us going for as long as we want.