Books and Wands
|The Chronicles of a Harry Potter Fan:
|"Lightning Over New York City" photography by Christopher Imperato.
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Under the Influence
When sitting down to read The Chronicles of a Harry Potter Fan, I honestly didn’t know what to
expect. I’ve known the author, Tom Sailer, for a few years now and experienced some of the
things about which he was writing. I wondered what else would be inside the pages.
This was much more of an autobiography than I expected. Tom took the opportunity to talk
about more than just his experiences within the Potter fan community. He also speaks about his
personal experience growing up as well as his interactions with Harry Potter.
As with many of our age, in our fandom, almost everything relates back to Potter eventually.
Tom’s use of Potter as the unifying thread of his experience is a clever tie, but also is a truth for
all Potter fans. I had never really thought about it before, or did only to joke that everything is
Potter, but…Everything really is Potter! And it’s not just me being a nerdy fan!
It was interesting to see someone setting down their growth and journey as a person and
relating it to which movie was being premiered at the time. We really did grow up Potter. And
while this is just one fan’s account, it does speak to certain truths about a wider fan experience.
Little did all of us know, we weren’t alone.
When we were depressed or frustrated or alienated by non-nerds, we weren’t alone. There were
millions of other Potter fans going through the same thing. The unfortunate thing for us
originals who grew up with the books, when the movies were just starting to come out, is that
we pre-date social media. Many fans now may not be able to relate to the nonbeliever horde,
but at least they have twitter to find other liked minded fans.
Tom had to work through personal issues on his own. His help, his inspiration, was Harry
Potter. And that strikes me because, again, I think it’s true for a lot of us. When in doubt, there
were life lessons, moral truths that Potter taught us. Whether Rowling meant to or not, her
words have become a source of guidance and encouragement.
From this one creative endeavor, so many fans were driven to do more, to be more, to be
creative themselves and produce & try things they would never have attempted without Harry,
Ron & Hermione leading the way. From this little group of outcasts, came a worldwide family
Tom also speaks to a common characteristic I’ve noticed in Potter fans. Many of us tend to be
go-getter’s. We’re not content to sit back and daydream. Many of us are driven; many of us are
brave enough to start our own endeavors. Many of us are smart and ready to work hard and
play as a team. We are in effect students of Hogwarts. And in my experience that means
Tom is an example of this. Tom set goals for himself and had the perseverance to pursue them.
Despite setbacks and frustrations, he continued to follow a path to his dreams. He is
surprisingly frank when talking about his attempts and failures, if even a little hard on himself.
Tom did a lot of work in the fandom. From working on behalf of Emma Watson Empire, one of
the largest Emma fansites in the world at the time, to starting his own website, his activity was
valuable. It taught him life lessons and skills as well as benefitted other websites & fans.
His website, the Knightbus.org, is where I first met him. He started this site as a directory of
Harry Potter fansites. It’s actually an ingenious idea. At the height of its popularity, there were
hundreds of fansites popping up every day each providing a unique perspective.
Unfortunately, over time, a few monopoly sized sites have run many of the smaller sites out.
Tom does talk about the frustration of trying to be taken seriously in this cyber world.
Everyone is an expert and no one believes you are who you say you are. He had to try many
times to get responses from people, including other website owners. Many Potter fans are still
kids, and even though they went to the trouble of starting fansites, they weren’t the most reliable
or responsible. It gave the whole of us a bad rep.
He eventually succeeded, even if he didn’t meet all his goals in the fandom. He made actual,
real contact with Emma Watson’s dad! Her father agreed to forward a birthday gift, he and his
friends and the DA members, including Books and Wands, made for her.
The DA, or the International Network of Harry Potter Sites, was created by Tom when he wanted to
have a greater reach within the community. Inspired by the frustrations he felt from a lack of
professionalism among fansites and being ignored by certain larger sites, Tom took action. He
saw a problem and he tried to fix it.
United together to help each other promote Harry Potter, the actors’ careers and each other, the
concept was great. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long. Our union was short but sweet.
We did put together a birthday present, Tom did make contact with Emma’s dad (who was
remarkably nice), later Tom interviewed the girl who did the voice over work for the German
speaking versions (Gaby Pietermann), and put together another gift for Emma…that we helped
It was like an Emma retrospective, we got to review and write of our experiences watching
movies 1 and 2 (other people helped with the other movies). And if you ask me, even though I
have no proof, I do believe she saw it & read it.
As with anything, real life comes in to play. Tom speaks about something we don’t experience
in America, mandatory military service. He had to go for a preliminary test for placement, he
speaks about his school exams – again totally different than they are in the US. I found this very
He also got to ride in the cockpit of a plane to Egypt to overcome a fear of flying. He’s also
taken advantage of traveling to neighboring countries. Another feature of being in Europe that
doesn’t quite translate to the US where you can drive all day and night and still be in the same
state. I’m more than a little jealous. ;)
Something very special about reading this book was learning how much inspiration came from
one book. And however much it inspired me, the whole team at B&W, it also inspired others in
similar and outstanding ways. It was fascinating to learn more about what drew this particular
fan to the thing that I love and the journey he had with it – including learning more about the
parts that we show up in!
Books and Wands Official Verdict:
Very cool. Very fun. If you’re a Potter fan, you will find something you connect to in this story.
|Check out our exclusive interview with Tom Sailer here!
|You can get your copy at Amazon or more information at Tom's website.
You can also hear Tom reading an excerpt here.