As part of this week’s series on fandom, Vulture will profile a number of passionate, influential fans.
NAME: Kimmy West, co-founder of Mockingjay.net, the largest online Hunger Games community.
ORIGIN STORY: Kimmy, a 20-year-old actress, originally entered the fan fray at 15 with a successful Twilight news site called His Golden Eyes. But after picking up The Hunger Games, she decided to get on the ground floor with a new series. “I just thought it was so different; it is character-driven and has a strong female lead, plus a ton of action and a touch of romance,” she recalls. “It was my favorite book when I read it, and I just thought that it was the series that was the most likely to catch on in the world, like Twilight and Harry Potter.” A few months later, at a celebrity baseball fund-raiser featuring the Twilight cast, Kimmy conspired with two other Twi-hards to launch a Hunger Games fan site. Mockingjay.net went live in 2009, months before sequel Catching Fire was published. (At the time, they didn’t know that Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins would entitle her third installment Mockingjay — a fortuitous coincidence.) In addition to discussing the books (and a lot of second-guessing about characters’ fates), the website carefully tracked news of the inevitable film franchise. “There were a few book fan sites, but ours was one of the first ones that was really serious about following movie news and making a ‘book-to-movie’ community,” says Kimmy, who gained an immediate readership by cross-promoting her Hunger Games website with her Twilight website. Soon, Mockingjay.net was getting more traffic than her original website, which she’d been running for four years — and that was before the first film hit theaters. “We just hit 40,000 fans on Facebook,” she tells us, “so that’s pretty insane.”
FIRST CONTACT: “When I started my Hunger Games site, I searched madly to find a contact at Lionsgate,” Kimmy admits. “I knew it was possible, because I’d worked with Summit Entertainment for The Twilight Saga.” Eager to embrace the fan community, Lionsgate has invited Kimmy to “all the cool little things,” including an early studio screening of the first trailer and a meet and greet with the cast at the L.A. premiere. As for making contact with Suzanne Collins, Kimmy hasn’t gotten past her agent — but she respects that the author shies away from publicity. “She’s a very private person and doesn’t really talk to press often,” she notes. “It’s understandable; I’m sure it would get extremely overwhelming very quickly.” Kimmy is still holding out hope of catching the author at one of her rare public appearances.
INTER-FAN WARFARE: There’s not too much drama between Hunger Games fan communities, but Kimmy says the official websites are a whole different matter. “The people who comment on the official pages are, for some reason, more nasty most of the time,” she observes, “and the people who comment on our site are generally pretty nice.” As for that well-publicized kerfuffle over casting an African-American actress as Rue, it was a nonissue at Mockingjay.net. “It says in the books that Rue has dark brown skin,” Kimmy points out. “I guess the people who like our [site] read more carefully.”
ÜBER-FAN DUTIES: An actress working in Los Angeles (but not yet paying the bills with acting gigs), Kimmy earns income from her two fan websites and works on them for a minimum of four to five hours a day. She also runs an online discussion called ‘By The Book, which offers in-depth discussions of the series. “Right now, we’re going through Catching Fire and discussing each chapter and deciding which scenes will make it into the movie,” she says.
LONG-TERM PLAN: Inspired by her Twilight and Hunger Games experiences, Kimmy has launched a website called Page to Premiere, dedicated to following whatever new book-to-movie franchises emerge. She has already absorbed her Twilight site into Page to Premiere and plans to ultimately do the same with Mockingjay.net. “I got to go to the set of The Mortal Instruments in Toronto, and Summit has optioned a bunch of new books that people are really excited about, like Divergent and The Night Circus,” she gushes. “So I’m thinking that there’s really no end in sight for people being excited about book-to-movie things.” This way, Kimmy theorizes, she won’t get burned out on just one thing. “What I found after running a Twilight site for five years — constant Twilight, every day, all day long — is that it’s much nicer for me to run a site where I have a lot of different things that I get to write about,” she says. “It seems like the perfect thing, really.”