Two weeks ahead of publication, Alex Aster’s series opener Lightlark, which earned her a six-figure deal in 2021, has already drawn attention with more than 20 million views under the hashtag #Lightlark on TikTok, and has a film deal.

After publishing two middle grade books, Curse of the Night Witch and Curse of the Forgotten City, Aster is making her YA debut with this fantasy novel. Lightlark follows the journey of Isla Crown, the ruler of Wilding, one of six cursed realms fighting to break curses placed over their lands before it is too late. The only way to do so is competing in the Centennial, a competition taking place on an island that only appears once every 100 years, where rulers of each realm come to unravel the prophecy’s riddles to bring peace to their lands, while putting their lives at risk. Isla arrives at the Centennial with her blades and her wits as her only weapons to save her realm, but romance with other rulers may prove to be a distraction.

Aster first clued readers into the concept for this book last year on TikTok, where she has amassed over 900,000 followers. She dropped a teaser explaining the book’s premise and asked if people would be interested in reading it. The response was “overwhelmingly supportive.”

“It’s difficult to think about “What if no one wants [to read] it.” Then to have those thousands of comments being so supportive and positive—it really made me keep going,” Aster said.

Aster’s teaser currently sits at 2.8 million views. Her idea was embraced by the TikTok community she has long been involved in, which she describes as “the friends I never had growing up.”

The road to Lightlark’s publication had several obstacles, Aster said, including separating with her first agent and facing several rejections from publishers, who claimed that the market was “too saturated.”

“It was definitely tumultuous right before this [TikTok success] happened for Lightlark,” Aster told PW. “It was like the lowest point of my career, where I thought, ‘I have no agent. My previous book came out during the pandemic. My sales record isn’t great. No one’s going to want to publish me.’ And then that video changed everything.”

Support from TikTok was motivating for Aster in the face of traditional publishing obstacles, a reminder that the community she was building was her audience. “I wrote this for me,” Aster said. “[And] I wrote this for readers like me who enjoy all these elements. I truly believed there was an audience for it, even if publishing didn’t really see it.”

Ahead of its release, Lightlark has already become a #1 Amazon bestseller in the Teen & Young Adult Fantasy & Supernatural Mysteries & Thrillers category. The Hollywood Reporter announced last month that Universal had bought the rights to the book in a preempt, in partnership with Temple Hill, with Aster taking a role as an executive producer.

“I’m just so lucky,” Aster said, “not only for Universal’s commitment to it, and their love for the book, but also, the producers are known for such great movies like Twilight and Maze Runner. It’s really a dream come true.”

The producers Aster is referring to is Wyck Godfrey, producer of several book-to-film adaptations including Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight franchise, Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and more. Lexi Barta and Jacqueline Garell will oversee the project on behalf of Universal, and Godfrey and Annika Patton will oversee for Temple Hill.

With all the buzz surrounding the novel’s approaching publication, Aster is still focused on ensuring audiences get the reading experience they signed up for. “Everyone’s been on this journey with me, and everyone’s support has helped me get to this place,” she said. “The least I can do is write a good book for them to enjoy.”