February 12, 2014
Fired Vampire Diaries writer takes to Kindle Worlds for revenge
by Nick Davies
When Amazon announced last year that it was launching Kindle Worlds, a vehicle for the website to publish and make money from fan fiction, we here at Moby Lives mocked the venture and its cynical motives. But one disgruntled author has managed to turn the system to suit her needs and stick it to the company that fired her from the popular YA series she created.
L.J. Smith is the original author of The Vampire Diaries, a popular supernatural series that spawned a TV series by the same name. Aja Romano writes for the Daily Dot that after being fired from writing the books by Alloy Entertainment, she started using Kindle Worlds to continue publishing the series in an unofficial capacity, as she envisioned it. “I never imagined that while I wanted and was eager to write these books the carpet could be yanked out beneath me,” Smith said in an interview for Bookalicious in 2011. “I did agree that someday, after I’d written my fill of Vampire Diaries, if vampires were still in fashion, a ghostwriter could continue the series. But of course I assumed I’d be able write the endgame.”
But, as Romano lays out, a contract with a big company like Alloy means that they own the intellectual property, and they typically seek out “young, inexperienced writers who get seduced by the lure of working with a powerful entertainment arm, and don’t realize what it means not to own the property you’re working on.” And when Alloy decided they wanted the Vampire Diaries books to be more like the TV show, they cut the author loose in favor of a ghostwriter who, per Smith, barely knows the books and the world she’s built in them.
With Kindle Worlds offering opportunities to work for-hire creating fan fiction, though, Smith seized on the opportunity to continue writing the books she loved. While the service has restrictions on what can be published — writers have to adhere to guidelines set by the rights holders, and they won’t run any smut — Smith has found them easy enough to comply with. As Romano puts it, “you won’t find any of the more racy or edgy kinds of fanfiction on Kindle Worlds’ color-within-the-lines model of fic writing: but then Smith created the lines to begin with.”
Since taking to Amazon to publish her work, Smith has put out two new titles in an arc she calls Evensong: Paradise Lost and War of the Roses (with one more chapter of that trilogy planned before she offers up her series conclusion). Labeled as “fanfic based on the Vampire Diaries book series—also by L. J. Smith,” the books are currently sitting pretty at #1 and #2 on the Kindle Worlds teen and young adult lists; so it seems that for now, the author is having the last laugh.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.