From the early days of their stardom, the English-Irish pop boy band One Direction, formed in 2010, has been no stranger to the fan fiction culture growing around them. Formerly composed of Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik, in the span of 5 years the Simon Cowell-crafted group conquered the world and in the midst of it broke record after record, toured in stadiums, and awoken the fangirl phenomena that was long lost in the 2000s.
Fueled by this adoration, One Direction fans were quick to translate it on a new platform: Wattpad. Wattpad is a website that allows for both amateur and established writers to publish their work and share it with a niche community. Above the romantic and coming of age sections, fanfiction has always been a top charter and has seen thousands upon thousands of One Direction related fan fiction, most amassing more than 1 million reads each at the platform’s prime. However, one author has recently captured the attention of more than 60 million readers with her two books: Malignant and Duplicity, both casting Harry Styles as a fictional character. Self-proclaimed “sucker for dark Harry with character development”, she goes by the name of Julez and has mastered that precited arc that many have a soft spot for. Indeed, despite not being the first person on the platform to have been inspired by the now 27 year old solo singer, she is definitely one of the latest to have revolutionized the world of fanfiction.
It is with a great pinch of fan girl nostalgia and reminiscence of my hours of scrolling upon digital pages, picturing myself to be canonically married to Harry Styles that I had the pleasure to conduct an Interview with Julez.
Affinity: Hi Julez! How are you feeling? This is your first interview, right?
Julez: Hi! Yes, this is the first time I’ve done anything like this. Thank you so much for approaching me with this opportunity, it’s a huge honor to be apart of such an amazing magazine!
Affinity: You started your writing career on Wattpad with the book “Malignant”, have you had any experience in the field prior to this?
J: No, actually. I don’t have any writing experience prior to my first story, although I think I started planning that book around 6 years ago.
Affinity: What drew you to write and be inspired about Harry Styles specifically?
J: I’ve been a huge fan of One Direction since 2011-2012. When they branched off into solos I followed Harry’s career the most. When I began writing, I was young and doing it to merely pass time on a camping trip. I created a simple plotline with a few chapters in a notebook and started posting it on Wattpad many months later with no writing experience whatsoever. I fell out of it quite early on into the book but reverted back once in a while. Zero people were reading it at the time so the whole process was very casual and unplanned to me. Eventually, I came back to it legitimately because I found myself using it as an outlet for my problems rather than just fun. Writing in general, became a therapeutic way to cope with anxiety. I’ve always been a socially anxious person who didn’t express myself unless I was in a comfortable place surrounded by friends. I had this obsessive fear of public attention and humiliation. So because of all that, it stopped me from doing a lot of things through most of my teen years to now. Later down the road for college, I moved away from where I lived all my life. From that point, I was alone and more anxious than ever in my new surroundings. Instead of meeting new people and trying to enjoy the new experience, I ended up isolating myself for very unhealthy periods of time. As silly as it may sound, the only thing that made my new surroundings feel familiar was keeping up with Harry’s music because it was something I’ve done all my life and reminded me of living at home. He’s an incredible person who always been special to me like so many others, so I started writing again and I haven’t stopped since.
Affinity: Delving more into that question, do you have a favorite song by Harry Styles or One Direction?
J: Oh gosh, that’s way too hard. One Direction is a close call between “Clouds”, “What a Feeling”, and “Right Now”. For Harry, it’s gotta be a choice between “To Be So Lonely”, “Fine Line”, or “Only Angel”.
Affinity: Malignant was pretty successful on its own but Duplicity has truly taken the platform by storm, did you expect it to become this big or have the success it currently has?
J: Absolutely not, it’s still a lot to wrap my head around. The best part about it is just seeing people online who have come together through a common interest in Duplicity. My favorite thing I read is when someone tells me they met their best friend because of my stories.
Affinity: On social media, duplicity has seen emerge a fandom of its own, what was your first reaction when readers started to create video edits, draw the characters and even go as far as to tattoo themselves inside jokes within the book?
J: I was absolutely astounded and honored. My jaw drops nearly every day. Everyone is so talented and knowing they are taking the time out of their hectic days to apply their unmatchable talent towards something I created is so rewarding. I get so emotional when I see things like that. A lot of people are students like myself so I understand everyone is very busy but they still take the time to create such amazing things to share.
Affinity: Circling back to the subject of students, I believe you told me you were a college student, is it hard balancing your work and school life? What does your writing schedule usually look like?
J: It can be challenging at times. I try to make sure it’s a balance because writing is something that brings me pleasure and is in no way a chore. I don’t have a distinct schedule because my days and weeks are all over the place.
Affinity: Do you have a special routine for it, say listen to a specific artist while writing or have special writing rituals?
J: It really depends on the type of chapter or how I’m feeling that day but I usually play a special playlist for when I’m writing Duplicity—It entails a lot of SZA, Arctic Monkeys, The Neighbourhood, Frank Ocean, Cage The Elephant, etc. The best time to listen to music and write for me is super late at night with some low lights and even candles if I’m feeling fun.
Affinity: Do you have any fun facts/stories that happened to you during your writing process?
J: I literally use to write anywhere. I once had a long commute to class every day where I’d be sitting on trains and busses for a couple of hours, so many situations I would use that time to write, on my phone too! Now, I write on my laptop because I’m more stationery due to the pandemic and I guess kinda more professional with my techniques. Before that, I was spending most of my writing on trains, in waiting rooms, you name it. Especially if inspiration struck. Kinda strange, but I was very secretive about it and no one ever caught me.
Affinity: Do any of your friends/family members know about your books?
J: A very few amounts people have known over time but it’s a very reserved thing. There are certain qualities in the characters that are very personal to me and it’s hard to share that with everyone in my real life. That’s where my choice of being so anonymous fuels from. I feel very vulnerable when sharing certain aspects of my stories with the people that know me the most. Even with how popular it’s gotten, I prefer to keep parts of myself anonymous.
Affinity: As you may probably be aware, there’s also another Wattpad author, Anna Todd whose work initially started with Harry Styles fan fiction and later on scored book and movie deals, have you ever pictured your work represented outside of its current realm? Also… who would you cast?
J: I don’t think I’m anywhere near that type of success nor deserve it so it’s difficult to envision something like that happening when I feel there are so many other stories that deserve just as much light and attention. But for fun on social media, I see people talking about who they would cast in a Duplicity movie and I love it, I leave character casting out in the open for everyone’s imagination. I once briefly touched upon how Lorenzo Zurzolo would play the perfect Duplicity Harry in a production. It’s fun to imagine a world where this story became something bigger like production or a published novel, and I’d be lying if I said I never dreamed about how sick it would be. Duplicity grew way faster than anything I’ve ever done so I’ve begun my search for the next steps and such! I’d be over the moon if certain opportunities came my way but I’m also just so happy and lucky at where everything is at right now.
Affinity: Something that I deeply appreciated whilst reading duplicity is that the main character, Aven Brooks hasn’t been molded in the traditional -fan fiction way per se, the usual unconfident and shy around guys trope. Were the character developments planned way ahead?
J: Aven’s character development was crafted from the beginning because I wanted her to feel real to me and the readers. In Malignant, Amelia’s character went through a lot but I never really went too in-depth about any inner struggle she could’ve endured within the harsh atmosphere she was thrown into, it was mainly just focused on Harry. In order to make Aven feel realistic to me, I had to project a lot of my emotions into her to fuel that development that a lot of people may relate to. Her feelings and development are very personal to me and I find that it has even brought people together and open up with each other which is never a bad thing.
Affinity: Do you have a personal Harry/Amelia and Harry/Aven scene?
J: For Harry and Amelia, there’s a scene in the last book Devotion where he sees a hallucination of her in his backyard. Due to missing her so much, he thinks she’s real and runs out to her but the embodiment of her being disappears right before he got to touch her. He begins talking to the sky and asking for her guidance on what to do, It’s a sad scene but it’s really special to me because the character was in such a vulnerable state. So far for Harry and Aven, I often feel very attached to the Nashville field chapter. It’s such a soft part and different from the rest. The aesthetic of Aven in a sundress and Harry carving his nickname for her in a tree near an old train track just really painted a picture for me so I enjoyed that part a lot. My stories tend to be dark and mature-themed, so when there’s such a gentle chapter I appreciate it a lot.
Affinity: It is very common for authors to have trouble and a lot of uncertainties writing mature content, have you had any difficulty approaching the whole process?
J: Yes definitely, it’s something I’ve gotten more comfortable with over time and it’s just all apart of the developments in characters.
Affinity: Which character of yours has been your favorite to write, and is there any that you identify with on a personal level?
J: Niall’s character in Duplicity is one of my favorites to write, he’s the comic relief which I find is very needed in a story that can be so dark and serious at times. But Aven is someone that’s very important to me. We’re crazy different, but on a personal level, I can relate sometimes as do many people.
Affinity: Going more into the previous question, have you ever integrated a personal experience of yours into your fan-fictions?
J: No actually, that’s kinda the reason I started writing. I shelter myself a lot in my day-to-day life. I don’t take many risks in life and with people. The experiences in my stories are the opposite of that. Although I can sometimes be quite reserved in some aspects of my real life, I have a big imagination and live through certain excitements in the books (the fun and carefree chapters, not the dark plots).
Affinity: Do you enjoy other types of writing, besides fan-fiction?
J: I don’t do any of it currently but the world of writing has opened me up to other forms of it. All I know is I’m a sucker for thrillers and descriptive writing, I’m exploring more every day!
Affinity: Do you have any other favorite fiction or book that is not written by you?
J: I really do wish I read more, I’ve only read about ten books I’m my life and that’s so embarrassing for me. I honestly haven’t read fanfiction for years because I know for a fact that I’ll get addicted if I start and then I won’t schedule myself time to write my own stuff. But I do know writers on Wattpad are some of the most talented people, like really talented. One of my favorite books to date is The Hunger Games. I read it a long time ago but I remember it being such an exciting and creative story I couldn’t put down.
Affinity: Do you have any advice for someone who’s an aspiring Wattpad author?
J: Don’t worry if you’ve never written before or don’t have the best writing skills, I definitely don’t. It’s something you’ll learn along the way, I still am. You have the total creative freedom to craft your story in any way you want, so be passionate about it. If your story doesn’t get the attention you wanted, don’t stop until it’s completed. Take your time, don’t rush it.
And check out the songs that inspire her in the process of writing Duplicity: Spotify
And you can me on: Twitter
Credits for the featured image and the poem all belong to Julez.