Today marks the tenth anniversary of my joining the Harry Potter fanfiction world. On 10 February 2009, I made an account at the old HPFF and loaded chapter 1 of my first fanfic story into the queue. I remember it quite well – I went through a few user names (mostly from Tolkien) before I found one that hadn’t been claimed yet, and while I had the chapter all organised, with a name and everything, I realised quite early on in the posting process that I didn’t have a title for the story it came from. Now, those of you who have known me for a while may know that I don’t have a very high opinion of my ability to name stories, so the one I came up with was very off-the-cuff and not my best ever effort.
How to tame a Marauder.
I wrote the story because I’d been reading Marauder era fics and couldn’t find one that fit my (admittedly strict) criteria. I wanted one that fit canon. I wanted one that had my interpretation of the canon characters, and – for example – didn’t portray Lily as either a goody-two-shoes or a screaming harpy, but rather a nuanced character with more than one dimension. Equally, there had to be more to Sirius than being an extroverted man-whore, right? I wanted one that didn’t give OCs old fashioned names in a nod to canon, but then conveniently shortened them to ones that were modern and trendy. I wanted one that was actually set in the 1970s and not imposing 1990s or 2000s values, lexicon and behaviours on people from that era. (Lily calling people “dude” or people wandering around with mobile phones were far more common in fanfic than I would like.) I wanted one with an OC to match with Sirius who wasn’t a blonde bombshell, the most popular girl in school, or Lily’s best friend (or a combination of the three). Or, alternatively, a Slytherin. I didn’t want Frank and Alice Longbottom to be in the same year as the Marauders because I was quietly convinced they were some years older (fully qualified Aurors with some experience when James and Lily were 21, plus having a child, meant either they were superhuman or the timelines didn’t add up). I didn’t like the tendency to include ALL names from the Order of the Phoenix, particularly in that year, just because they were the only names we had. (Marlene McKinnon and Dorcas Meadowes, I’m looking at you.) I didn’t like the stories that put Mary Macdonald as Lily’s best friend, because she wouldn’t refer to Mary by her full name when talking to Snape if they were that close. And I figured James would have too much pride to ask Lily out every second day, especially if she kept saying no.
See? Told you I was picky.
Now, I’m sure stories that meet all these criteria exist in their thousands, but I wasn’t patient enough to look on all the various sites for one and, quite frankly, while there were some great fics out there, they weren’t what I wanted to read. So, I figured I’d write it instead.
HTM was never supposed to be the success it was. I just posted a story that I wanted to read, and then discovered that a bunch of other people seemed to want to read it too. These days it’s just seen as one of those older stories that some people still rave about, but when I was posting it it was, unexpectedly, huge. I realise that makes me sound a bit conceited but it was averaging I think about 10K hits per month, and one chapter was so popular there were 90 reviews up before 12 hours had passed. Someone who didn’t like the way I ended it threatened to kill me if I ever went to their town. (Fortunately said town was on another continent from me, but still, it bothered me a bit.) The whole thing was a tad overwhelming, and to an introvert like me, somewhat challenging.
Of course, once I’d written that story, there was pressure, both internal and external, to write others. And fanfic can be pretty addictive once you get started, you know. Having to go through the queue at HPFF (and only one chapter at a time) meant I created an alter ego author page and posted other stories on that. I quite liked the freedom of doing that, because I had a bit of a name as HTM’s author and wanted to see how my other stories stacked up without that branding behind them. Luckily the response was pretty positive so I thought maybe I had this fanfic malarkey figured out.
Then, an unexpected pregnancy and a subsequent lack of spare time (babies are hard work, y’all) meant I withdrew from the HPFF community. There were some things going on behind the scenes at that point that I wasn’t comfortable with and it started to feel toxic, so I just quietly faded away. The extra time it gave me was fantastic, but I did miss it a bit – not the toxicity that had begun to pervade the site, but the friendships. I still checked in every now and then and tried to keep on top of reviews (people still seemed to like HTM), but it had disappeared from my life to a fair extent.
Fast forward a few years, and I was randomly looking at my Twitter account (which had remained active) when I saw that Holly and some others had started up a new site. All the fun and none of the bullying, they said, though perhaps not in those words. I may not have realised that the HPFF forums had disappeared at that point, but I did see the merit in setting up new ones. Plus, Holly and I had always got along (even if I didn’t know her real name back then) so that was reason enough to swing by and sign up.
I’m still not as active as I would like to be, but I’m getting there. I’m not posting as often as I would like to, but again I’m getting there. And, I am actively trying to get back into the swing of things. My current WIP, which covers Neville’s seventh year, is about 70% written, but not quite finished enough for me to be confident on scene order (I write in scenes and then place them in the overall narrative, rather than in a linear way), but I’m doing my best. And, I have every intention of catching up on the last, um, probably two years of review responses.
So yeah. I’m standing up to recognise my tenth fanfiction birthday, and to acknowledge HTM as my starting point. I just hope there are many more novels to come.