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claudia tan
claudia tan
Photo by Claudia Tan
Culture > Entertainment

How Claudia Tan Kickstarted A Writing Career On Wattpad At Age 16

Romance has always been a comfort genre for Gen Z — it can help us navigate adolescence, especially when we’re still learning the meaning of love and its place in our lives. For Claudia Tan, writing romance became an escape from her teenage years, and eventually grew into a collection of work that was read online by millions of people, all while she kept it hidden from loved ones. 

“It definitely felt like I was living a little bit of a double life because I told my closest friends [but] I didn’t tell my family at all,” Tan tells Her Campus in an exclusive interview. “It eventually did come out that I was writing. …. I think it was a struggle to [balance] my academics and update regularly, but I really loved it. I just tried to find as much time as I could to do it. I definitely became a bit of an introvert.” 

Tan didn’t have a “normal” high school experience; she was also working on a novel series that would become a mega-hit. “When I was 16, I definitely had aspirations to become a writer. I just didn’t know how to get there. At the same time, I was reading a lot of fan fiction. I just thought, ‘What if I do something like that?’ but I didn’t want to borrow characters from another universe. I wanted to do my original take on it,” she shares. 

Tan eventually discovered the online story publishing site Wattpad, where she was able to write her own work of fiction: Perfect Illusion, the first published novel in her Perfect book series. Since it was first published online in 2014, the series has received over 170 million reads and won the Wattys People’s Choice Award in 2015 and 2016. A film adaption of Perfect Addiction, the standalone second book in the series, will be released on digital and VOD (Video on Demand) in the U.S. on April 14, starring notable actors such as Ross Butler and Kiana Madeira.

Perfect Addiction follows Sienna Lane, an experienced MMA trainer, as she deals with the betrayal of her boyfriend, Jax, who cheats on her with her younger sister. She decides to exact revenge by training his arch-rival and her eventual roommate, Kayden, to compete for the number one MMA champion spot against Jax. Eventually, romance blossoms between Sienna and Kayden, leaving viewers to wonder whether the two will be able to overcome their obstacles in order to be together. When asked where she found inspiration for the novel series, Tan says, “I think at that time arranged marriages or arranged engagements were [a popular trope in storytelling]. I wanted to do that, but I [wanted to] do my own spin on it. I decided not to read anything from that trope and I just went for it.” 

Having your published work visually reimagined as a film is a dream come true for Tan, who fully embraces the excitement that accompanies it.  “I think a movie is so different [from a] book version. Just watching it in real life [and] to see the scenes play out, it’s really exciting and really incredible to see. Especially when you see these actors embody the characters in such a different but interesting way that still retains the elements of what I wrote in the book.” She adds that, while the film adaptation differs slightly from the book portrayal, those changes highlight elements that she couldn’t translate in the same way when writing, such as the fighting scenes. “To see them employ specific MMA techniques [in] these fighting scenes is so cool to see. I’m really proud to see that portrayed quite accurately to the sport as well.”

scene from perfect addiction (2023)
Constantin Films / Wattpad Studios / JB Pictures / DECAL

In addition to writing novels, Tan is a talented and accomplished singer who frequently shares covers, vocal productions, and hypothetical verses on popular songs on her TikTok and other social platforms. She illustrates stories of love and heartbreak in her songs, similar to her writing style, using bright, bubbly pop instrumentals. According to her Spotify bio, she is “that girl who writes songs about men who aren’t worth her time.” 

Tan finds inspiration for her sound and songwriting in unexpected places. “I just feel music chords or feel these certain instruments and then I go from there. It’s so different [from] writing a book, [which is a] more linear process.” Her experience writing novels has aided her creativity in music, but she regards the two as distinct entities in her craft. “I have to activate different parts of my brain when I’m working on either.”

Her musical talent has not gone unnoticed, as her single “Your Gentleman” received widespread attention after BTS member Jungkook played it during a Weverse live. “I found out when people started commenting on the [song’s] lyric video or were posting on my socials saying, ‘Jungkook listened to your song on his Weverse.’  My initial reaction was, ‘What’s a Weverse?’” she recalls. ‘I did some research on Twitter and then I found out that it was the first song that he played on his live. The fact that he had it on his playlist already was mindblowing to me. … I was like, how did he find it?”

Tan enjoys fashion in addition to music and writing novels. She previously co-founded Revive, an ethical clothing brand where she and a friend upcycled clothing into various unique and creative pieces. Tan says her favorite spring 2023 fashion trends are “muted colors and not a lot of flashy colors. Now a lot of people are into the nudes. Parachute pants I really love as well.”

The Perfect Series will grab readers with its complex and intricate characters and storyline almost instantly. From start to finish, the Perfect series is a journey.  Tan is open to revisiting the plot and characters one day, although she adds, “I think I would take a break from the series from now. I wouldn’t mind coming back to it if I have a story to tell that’s in that universe, but I don’t want to force it at the same time.”

Siobhan Robinson is a member of the Her Campus national writing program. She works on the entertainment and culture team, covering the most recent pop culture events, trends, and entertainment releases. Previously, she worked as an Entertainment and Culture intern during the Spring 2023 semester, where she was supervised in writing breaking news verticals, live coverage of events such as the Grammys and Met Gala, and interviewing emerging Gen Z talent for Her Campus's "Next Questions" segment. She is currently a fourth-year communication studies student at San Jose State University. She is also a member of the SJSU chapter of Her Campus, where she presently serves as Editor-In-Chief, supervising a staff of writers, senior editors, and copy editors and assessing their articles for the site. She previously worked as a senior editor for the chapter and assisted in editing the work of a team of 4-5 writers. In her free time, Siobhan enjoys scrapbooking, hanging out with her friends, going to concerts, and, of course, writing for fun! She's a die-hard fangirl who will tell you everything she knows about her favorite boybands even if you don't ask.