Molly Night has found early success with her fan fiction on Wattpad. Yes, her novel is Twilight-inspired—but with a savvy twist. Dark and Dangerous Love is an ode to the internationally beloved boy band One Direction and has proved a hit with the group’s millions of fans. Night’s novel currently has more than 100 million reads on Wattpad and has been crowned the site’s #1 title in the fan fiction, teen fiction, paranormal, fantasy, and vampire categories several times. It also won a People’s Choice Wattys Award in 2015.
The book’s success comes despite two unusual factors. Though Night’s first language is Mandarin, the Britain-based author wrote the book in English, when she was just 15 years old. Second, she’s never done any publicity for her novel. Its success was driven solely by word of mouth among other Wattpad users—many of whom are fellow Directioners.
Fan fics are produced at astonishing rates, and the One Direction canon is no exception. There’s something for everyone in the category—including romantic crossovers based on The Sopranos, Pride and Prejudice, James Bond, Pinocchio, Frozen, and Sailor Moon. Night’s title is fan fic about Zayn Malik—One Direction’s bad-boy member (also known as the “mysterious one”), who quit the group to go solo in 2015 and has since released a hit album. “Can’t help but love those pretty brown eyes,” Night jokes about her subject. Malik, as any Directioner knows, felt constrained by the group’s “oneness” and has now grown a beard and dyed his hair (both of which were forbidden while he was part of the group) and is dating (at press time) the model Gigi Hadid. But that doesn’t stop his legions of fans from imagining him in any number of romantic scenarios involving everything from vampires to puppets. Much of the work is both violent and steamy, and Dark and Dangerous Love accordingly comes with an 18+ rating. The dystopian novel follows protagonist Evelyn Blackburn’s quest to free herself from the influence of Malik, an evil (yet sexy) vampire, in the year 2438.
Night’s work currently resides at both Wattpad and Radish, a South Korea–based startup that seeks to monetize serial fiction via its iOS app. Radish users can either pay up front for access to a new chapter or wait a week and read it for free. In return for giving Radish exclusivity for the duration of the story (plus 90 days), writers receive 12.6¢ net per chapter purchase. Night has joined other popular Wattpad authors on the platform, including Louisse Carreon and Rita S. Kovach. The Radish model is attractive, Night says, because no one is obligated to pay for her work as the content is eventually free for everyone. “I want [readers] to be able to enjoy free content, and, if they want, pay a minuscule amount to read chapters early,” she says. When she was younger, she wasn’t able to afford all the books she wanted, so keeping her work free or affordable for others is important to her. She says, though, that the extra money from readers who choose to buy her work early has certainly helped her as a full-time student with considerable debt.
Online success hasn’t deterred Night from considering traditional publishing options. In 2015 she sent out a number queries hoping to secure an agent, but received just seven replies and nothing panned out. “I mostly did it to see if it was possible to venture beyond Wattpad in the coming years or whether should I just be thankful for the miracle [that] so many people have read my stuff on Wattpad,” she says. Night also considered self-publishing the work on a more established indie-publishing platform, but she has some reservations about asking readers to pay a set amount for her work. “I don’t believe it’s fair to charge readers [for] what has not been edited thoroughly,” she says. “I want my readers to buy versions of my stories that are written to the best of my abilities.” She’s now put the idea on the back burner until she finishes her economics degree.
So what does Malik think about this literary tribute? Night isn’t sure. “I’ve sent quite a few tweets to the members, as has any fangirl, but I never received a reply from them, I’m afraid,” she says. “Still, there’s something warming about the possibility of an interaction.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Taran Matharu as an author on the Radish platform.