Anna Todd started writing her first book, After, on her phone. Five years later, her stories are making millions of dollars around the world.
One afternoon in the summer of 2013, Anna Todd was in the checkout line at Target when, as most of us do, she pulled out her phone. Then she propped her elbows on her shopping cart and began to type.
Todd was 24 years old and living near Fort Hood, Texas, with her husband, a soldier she had married a month after graduating high school, and their newborn, who suffered daily seizures. While caring for her son and taking online community-college courses, she helped support the family by babysitting for a neighbor and working the beauty counter at Ulta. For fun, she read. Wuthering Heights, Twilight, The Things They Carried. Since the previous fall, she’d also indulged an addiction to One Direction fan fiction—stories featuring the boy band in imagined scenarios. After blazing through all that she could find online and then tiring of waiting for updates from erratic authors (many of them teens juggling writing and school), Todd decided to attempt her own series. She called it After and wrote on her smartphone whenever she could steal a moment—while shopping for groceries, waiting to get her teeth cleaned, riding in friends’ cars. She used a pseudonym (imaginator1D) and hid her alter ego from family and friends. “My husband just thought I had a phone addiction or something,” she has said.