How Anna Todd's After Racked Up 1 Billion Reads

03/09/2015 06:13 pm ET | Updated May 09, 2015

by Loren Kleinman

Anna Todd is a first-time writer spending her days in the Austin area with her husband, with whom she beat half the statistics by getting married one month after graduating high school. Between her husband's three deployments to Iraq, she worked odd jobs from a makeup counter to the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] processing center.

Anna was always an avid reader and boy band and romance lover, so now that she's found a way to combine the three, she's enjoying living a real-life dream come true.

Loren Kleinman (LK): You racked up 1 billion reads online on Wattpad of your book, After. Can you talk about how you managed to captivate this many people?

Anna Todd (AT): I think one of the reasons After had so many hits was because it was a very, very dramatic story written serially. It's almost like watching TV; every episode (chapter) leaves you wanting more. I updated frequently and engaged with my readers on a daily basis.

LK: What made you share your writing online first? Can you remember any feedback from readers once the After series picked up some momentum?

AT: I loved reading on Wattpad first. I was a silent reader for about four months before I ever posted my first chapter of After. I remember a lot of positive and encouraging feedback, mostly the readers wanting more.

LK: Where did you get the idea for the After series?

AT: After was inspired by many things. Some things I have done, people I know, and a lot of books/movies that I love!

LK: How can women relate Tessa, After's main female lead?

AT: I think every woman -- like Tessa -- have been in a place where they want to take on the world and be independent yet aren't quite ready. I also think women can relate to Tessa's nurturing side. She tries to care of everyone in her life and often puts them first.

LK: Is it important to you to have a strong female lead in your books? Why?

AT: Yes. I feel that there are all types of "strong" women and Tessa is definitely one of them. While she's no Katniss, she stands up for what she believes in and who she loves.

after everLK: Your publisher released After Ever Happy last month. Is this the end to the After series?

AT: Yes and no. [winks]

LK: Do you consider the After series indie? Why or why not?

AT: I do in a way. To me it's more of a hybrid. I have the publisher behind me but I did all of the writing and promotion of the online version myself. I had already built and audience before I had a publishing deal.

LK: What's your definition of a literary bad boy? Who's your favorite literary bad boy in the After series? Why?

AT: My definition of a literary bad boy? [laughs] Hardin [the lead male character in After] for sure, but I think it's all about the guy who is pissed at the world but loves like no other. Since the beginning of romance novels bad boys have been the "thing". We all want to change the bad boy and be the one thing he cares about. Hardin is my favorite bad boy in After, he's my favorite character all around because he has so much good in him; he just couldn't see it the way Tessa did.

LK: You're a boy band lover, right? What's your boy band guilty pleasure?

AT: Yes! I don't know what gave you the hint! [laughs] I grew up on boy bands, Backstreet Boys were my favorite but I secretly loved NSYNC too, I just couldn't tell anyone!

LK: What was it like working for the IRS?

AT: It wasn't the most fun job that I have had but it wasn't too bad.

LK: Do you consider yourself a hopeless romantic?

AT: Definitely! I am a huge romantic, but angsty heartbreaking romance is my favorite.

LK: How would your friends describe you in 10 words or less?

AT: Silly and kind, weird and 100 percent fan girl.

LK: Where do you get your inspiration?

AT: From my readers for sure. They are incredible and so encouraging.

LK: If I give you a time machine, what time period and in what place would you travel to?

AT: Hmmm, I would go back to the 1920's in America. I love the style and simplicity of that era.

LK: If you could visit any place from a popular movie, book, or TV show, where would you visit?

AT: Hogwarts for sure!

LK: What's your current guilty pleasure?

AT: I'm currently re-watching every Twilight movie while reading "Forbidden" by Tabitha Suzuma. An odd but satisfying mix.