A Utah junior high school counselor and California neuroscientist have inked a two-book deal with a Simon & Schuster imprint for a co-authored book of fan fiction. The deal is heralded as further proof in the publishing industry that the genre, first popularized by the mega best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey, is here to say.
Christina Hobbs, of Utah, and Lauren Billings, of California, writing together under the moniker Christina Lauren, wrote Beautiful Bastard after meeting in online "fanfiction" sites in 2009.
Similar to E.L. James' erotic literary sensation Fifty Shades, Bastard uses Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series of vampire romance narratives to recast Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in a different setting using a different tone of dialogue.
Where Fifty Shades recasts the romantic duo in a plot-line of sadomasochist adventures in sex, Bastard imagines Edward as an intransigent boss named Bennett Ryan, with Bella as a newly minted MBA graduate named Chloe Mills. Despite a contentious working relationship, the two cannot resist each other sexually.
Hobbs and Billings met thanks, in part, to the renown of Hobbs' earlier online novel The Office. Hobbs decided to take her work offline in 2009. Not long afterward, she teamed up with Billings to rework the story as Beautiful Bastard, a sort of hat-tip to the book's character, the irresistible but demanding boss Ryan.
The duo's deal with Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint is considered significant because The Office predates Fifty Shades as Twilight-inspired fanfiction.
"Beautiful Bastard is the first project to make the leap from fanfic directly to traditional publishing without an intermediary step," according to a Nov. 8 Hollywood Reporter article on the deal, rumored to carry a sizable advance.
Hobbs and Billings declined an interview regarding the deal on the advice of their publicist at the Waxmn Leavell Literary Agency, who recommended a story be published closer to Beautiful Bastard's scheduled Feb. 12 publication date.
The Office was the first title that sparked Anne Jamison's interest in the genre. Jamison is a professor of English at the University of Utah who has published scholarly papers on fan fiction. After tracking down a print-out of the book, she contacted Hobbs to meet for coffee. She's since maintained a working relationship with the author, helping her and Billings run Beautiful Bastard through plagiarism software to ensure the book wouldn't be a mere retread of The Office.
What's interesting about the appeal of these books, according to Jamison, is that the sex is the plot. "It's used to reveal character and advance their relationship. It's all integrated. That's one thing 'fan fiction' does differently from mainstream erotic romance."
Hobbs provided a short bio for herself and her co-author by email, but didn't respond to additional queries. "Separated by the pesky state of Nevada, these co-author besties speak several times a day, agree that Ruby Pumps is the best nail polish color ever, and would, if given the choice, spend all day staring at the ocean from the San Clemente pier."
Jamison described Hobbs as a caring person with no similarities to the fiction she writes. "But like her heroine, she's very smart," Jamison said. "She's the kind of person who says 'Oh, my Gosh!' instead of 'Oh, my God!'"
Jamison declined to give further details about Hobbs. "I hold a lot of fandom secrets in the world of fan fiction, and I will never tell what they are," she said.