The teenage author of a vampire fantasy novel who is a vegetarian with a morbid fear of blood has become the latest internet sensation to land a global publishing deal.
Abigail Gibbs, 18, has signed a six-figure publishing deal with HarperCollins for The Dark Heroine: Dinner With a Vampire, which, like Fifty Shades of Grey, was first published as a riff on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.
British-born Gibbs first posted her story online at age 15, under the pseudonym Canse12. It tells the tale of Violet Lee, who witnesses a mass murder at Trafalgar Square in London and is kidnapped into the world of old vampire royalty, where she is drawn to Kaspar, the heir of the Vamerpic Throne.
The first 20 chapters of Dinner with a Vampire: Did I Mention I was a Vegetarian? attracted 17 million reads before Gibbs was discovered by a literary agent who advised her to hold off publishing the story's ending.
With an existing fan base waiting to see what happens next and the potential for word-of-mouth social media recommendations, HarperCollins's publishing director, Shona Martyn, expects the vampire thriller to find an immediate audience.
"I think this book has got traction – Abigail's storytelling is pacey and vivid; her characters and plot are sexier than Edward and Bella."
But with a violent rape scene, Martyn says: "This is a romantic vampire thriller for the Twilight readers who have grown up. I have a 17-year-old daughter and I see it as fine for girls of this age who are capable of processing that kind of drama."
While sales of vampire fiction have been waning, HarperCollins is hoping Dinner with a Vampire will reignite interest in the genre. Common to Dinner with a Vampire, Twilight as well as Fifty Shades of Grey is a love story "about confronting the other", says Martyn.
"Christian Grey is the other in Fifty Shades of Grey and in the the Twilight series, Bella is torn between a vampire and a werewolf. This won't just be read by the readers of Twilight but a broader range of fiction readers."
Publishers have been splashing significant advances around for commercial women's fiction. In June, an Adelaide author, Hannah Kent, 27, was reportedly paid $350,000 for Burial Rights, a historical novel based on Agnes Magnusdottir, a servant convicted of murder and beheaded in Iceland in 1830.
Martin says this new generation of authors owes much to the influence of J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series encouraged reading of "big fat books" and stoked an appetite for dark fantasy. Gibbs is reported to have read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 18 times.