Book Review

The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson

After I finished reading The Seat Filler I had two important questions: 1. WTF did I just read and 2. Is Adam Driver ok?

The Seat Filler turned out to be a self-insert RPF (real people fiction) about actor Adam Driver and it had the most ridiculous conflict ever. It had moments where it was genuinely cute, but I couldn’t get over the squickiness of the RPF angle or the fact that the conflict could easily have been resolved a thousand other ways.

Let me set the scene for you. It’s like 3 a.m. and we have a bunch of thunderstorms rolling in and my cat, Chips, who was a bottle baby I raised after he was found in a thunderstorm separated from his mama, is not having a good night. With typical bottle-baby codependency, he has to sleep draped across my neck or half on my face. So I’m not going to be sleeping. I open up The Seat Filler because I love celebrity romance and I’m excited for this one.

Also if you were all like,

Click for GIF

Werner Herzog says I would like to see the baby

Here’s Chips:

Chips is snuggled up on my chest while I hold his paw and read

So anyway, the book starts off just fine. Juliet Nolan is working as a seat filler at an awards show. Seat fillers are volunteers who get dressed up and if a guest is late or needs to use the bathroom or something, temporarily take their seat so when the camera pans over the audience it’s full.

She’s sitting next to movie star Noah Douglas, an actor she’s had a huge crush on for years, but he comes across like a pompous jerk and she pretends to not know who he is or even be remotely impressed by him.

There’s some genuine rom-com silliness when Noah’s date shows up and Juliet can’t get out of the aisle before they’re live again and winds up sitting squished down by his feet.

“The number one rule is I either have to be in a seat or backstage when the lights come on, and obviously I can’t do either one of those things right now. So I’m …here. Until the next commercial break.”

“Which makes you …what? Schrödinger’s seat filler?”

When Juliet finally gets backstage she tells her friend Shelby (also working as a seat filler) that she met Noah Douglas and says:

“And I think I might have completely freaked him out. Like a sewer clown with a red balloon.”

That got a genuine LOL out of me, which isn’t easy when you’re being smothered by a tabby with anxiety.

So initially, I’m enjoying the book. Shelby makes Juliet give Noah her business card for her mobile dog grooming service because networking and later she gets a call because he has a dog grooming emergency.

I’m reading along and you know how sometimes you get the general idea of an actor that may have been used as inspiration for a book? Sometimes it’s not based on an actual actor but the type of character they tend to play. So a lovable himbo might be Chris Hemsworth- or Channing Tatum-esque.

That’s not the case here. As I’m reading we find out Noah starred in a trilogy of movies and that his character was a bad guy but love redeemed him at the end, but the character died and some fans were upset. That, plus his physical description, made me think, “I’m getting Adam Driver feels here.”

Then…then…then as we got a little further along and Juliet and Noah became friends it was like I was reading parts of Driver’s bio in the book.

Noah joined the Marines but couldn’t deploy because of an injury.

Noah runs a foundation for injured veterans.

The series he starred in could be named Smar Swars except in the book it’s fantasy instead of sci-fi, though his character is essentially the same.

He has all the same physical characteristics as Adam Driver.

I’m all,

Click for me

Schmidt from New Girl says I don't like I don't like it I don't like it

Adam Driver is an actual person and while I know RPF exists on the interwebs, it’s always felt intrusive and gross to me.

And if you think I’m overreaching, the acknowledgments not only thank Adam Driver himself, but also Julliard, HIS PARENTS  and the US Marine Corp for making him the man he is.


So right then was clearly the right time to stop reading. Maybe it was the cat pushing on my carotid artery or the fact that I clearly make bad choices for my mental health, but I kept going.

Noah is clearly into Juliet but she can’t be in a relationship because…I shit you not, she has a phobia of kissing. Her first kiss was a seven minutes in heaven sitch and her braces cut up his lips or something and then the other kids caught her practicing on a pillow of a character Noah played as a child actor, so due to that collective embarrassment, she has a panic attack whenever she’s about to kiss someone.

And Noah, being the upstanding dude that he is, is like “OMG I have this script for a rom com about a woman who has a kissing phobia” and he suggests a plan where he gets to do research for his movie by teaching her how to kiss without passing out from anxiety.

Click for me

Conan stares in disbelief

Okay, so Juliet has this phobia that’s prevented from being in a relationship and she never…IDK went to therapy? She has literally resigned herself to spending forever alone because she thinks no one would want to be with a woman who can’t kiss on the mouth. And the phobia is limited to mouth-kissing. Hasn’t it occurred to her that you can actually be intimate with someone without kissing on the mouth? Assuming she chooses not to go therapy and figure this out, which seems pretty reasonable to me, that still doesn’t mean she can’t be in a relationship. The conflict here is so weird.

It’s also weird that Noah feels prepared somehow to help her work through full-blown panic attacks while they practice kissing. Why does he think he’s qualified or capable of that type of care? I have no idea.

So they do a bunch of practice kissing and start having feelings for each other, but they never make it to the exit ramp for Bonetown. So this book has no sex in it which maybe makes in a teeny bit less squicky? Maybe?

Then Noah and Juliet are in a full-fledged relationship but the crisis moment comes when he meets Juliet’s mom. She shows him Juliet’s scrapbook about him because he was her childhood crush and he storms away because he thought she didn’t know he was an actor and can’t trust her now.

Yet another very flimsy, over the top conflict.

Click for me

Kristen Ritter rolls her eyes

Obviously there’s a HEA, which is followed by that super weird acknowledgements thanking Adam Driver himself (who the author met IRL) and everyone involved in his life, while omitting his wife and kid. LOL but also…no. Just no. Like I said, Adam Driver is an actual person. And consent is a real thing. The explicit lack of it coupled with the objectification made this experience feel very exploitative.

Which brings me back to my original two questions. WTF did I just read? I don’t know but I think I’m still in the “processing my feelings” phase of coping. Is Adam Driver ok? I’m hoping he doesn’t know this book exists, but has someone working for him who filed the no contact order.

And that’s it. I’m going to shotgun a coldbrew to make up for a night of no sleep and find a palate cleanser to read. Parts of this book were cute and funny, but I just couldn’t deal with the RPF aspect or how flimsy the conflicts were.

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The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson

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  1. shemmelle says:

    Okay so I love Royal Romances. Despite how…problematic I can intellectually understand the institution to be……in a book swoon! in fanfic swoon! This is to say that I forgive Royal Romances an awful lot (not understanding how titles work not withstanding as that trumps my swoon for a cinderella romance)…

    The Royal Date by Sariah Wilson is the only one I think I have DNFed and I returned as ….it just…had serious issues. Of the “I’m not like other girls” which were glaring red flags moments into the book and I could not do it.

    So I am not entirely surprised at this and would be equally making that Chrissy Teigan Face during this book based around the clear RPF part….despite the general set up Seat Filler meets hot actor being completely my cup of tea. (Has someone written one that isn’t clearly about a specific actor?)

    Why on earth would she not just thank “Cadam Pliver” for inspiring her or something…and file some more serial numbers off.

  2. Luce says:

    Wow. Real People Fiction. Creepy AF.
    I didn’t know that stuff got printed. How is that allowed? At least it should make the stalker claims easy to prove.
    What kind of publisher would want to print it?
    I see in this case it’s published by Amazon. They might hope to up the sales of Adam Driver movies?

  3. FashionablyEvil says:

    Well, the book sounds super weird, but at least I got a cute cat picture out of it.

  4. Vivi12 says:

    I too found the meet cute pretty cute, and the conflict pretty flimsy. I totally missed the Adam Driver everything! I know nothing about him and must have missed the dedication… I had to DNF Starstruck when the heroine went to her women’s studies class and there was a discussion of how feminism requires women to be sexually active and ruins romance. It too might be based on a real actor, but I don’t know…

    Is anyone else having trouble seeing pictures included in articles on a Kindle? The ads always show up, sometimes taking up half the screen, but the picture for example in cover snark, or the hidden GIFs above don’t show up or open.

  5. Escapeologist says:

    Elyse’s gifs excellent as always, and the kitty picture made my day

  6. Todd says:

    SBTB – come for the romances, stay for the cat pictures.

  7. Jodi says:

    RPF gives me hives, and this sounds like total anti-Jodi catnip. Thanks for the warning!

  8. Fi says:

    This sounds very concerning! That bit about missing his wife and child made me think of the community of somewhat obsessive Adam Driver fans that have harassed his wife (write up on the HobbyDrama subreddit)

  9. Michael I says:


    There seems to be an ongoing issue with the site where some pictures don’t show up on some browsers.

    (I tend to have the problem with Firefox and also with another Mozilla-lineage browser.)

  10. SB Sarah says:

    Yeah, browser security for images is SUCH a pain when one changes and another doesn’t, but I’m working on finding a solution. I’m sorry about that!

  11. CarolynM says:

    What’s the difference between RPF and fan fic?

  12. Melanie says:

    They met at an awards show and he thought she didn’t know he was an actor? I realize there are many other jobs in the entertainment industry, but what did he think she thought he did for a living?

  13. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @CarolynM: others will correct me if I’m wrong, but fan-fic is generally focused on developing stories based on pre-existing characters from fiction—whether books, movies, comics, tv shows, etc. For example, 50 SHADES OF GRAY was developed from TWILIGHT fan-fic and Rachel Reid’s GAME CHANGER was developed from her Captain America/Bucky Barnes fan-fic. I recently read a story that had been developed from BLACK HAWK DOWN fan-fic, so inspiration is everywhere. I’m sure there are cases where fan-fic is based on real people, but generally heavily fictionalized. RPF puts a real person into a piece of fiction. I guess it all depends on how it’s handled, but knowing how private Driver is, THE SEAT FILLER seems really invasive.

  14. Elyse says:

    @Melanie she just pretended not to know because he was being a jerk

  15. Caro says:

    @CarolynM Fan fic is about the characters in a tv show/film, as in “Kylo Ren and Rey find themselves unexpectedly on a deserted moon. They must work together to survive.” There are also the fics where you put the characters in “real world” situations. “Rey is an art student and Kylo Ren a PolySci major. They meet at the local coffee shop and sparks fly.”

    RPF is “real person fic” and would be “Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley secretly meet in a coffee shop where no one knows them to plot their escape from their partners.”

  16. EC Spurlock says:

    HOW did this get published without a lawsuit?

  17. Xay says:

    Somehow this was the second Adam Driver fanfic turned romance novel that I read in the last couple of weeks. This one was the better of the two, but that isn’t saying much. I wish I had seen this review first.

  18. Sophie says:

    This just reminds me of how violently uncomfortable during certain sections of LWT with John Oliver (if you know, you know). I think I’ll be steering far, far away from this author.

  19. Darlynne says:

    @Vivi12: I had the same problem in Firefox, still do actually, but a very helpful and knowledgeable SB–why can’t I remember names?–showed the way to temporarily display the pictures/disable the security.

    Click on the padlock icon in the search bar to see site/connection protections for SBTB. You should see that “certain images have been blocked” and you have the choice to disable that protection for now. Ignore the warnings for doing so and you’ll see the images/gifs when the screen refreshes. At least you should. This is my entire TED Talk. Good luck.

  20. Shemmelle says:

    @discodollydeb wait rachel reids what?!? Is that still up somewhere?!?

    @xay wow who knew adam driver inspired books was a subgenre!

    I thought about this more and i think its the monetisation and veil of respectability deception that get me plus the lack of historical distance

    I’m okay with beau brummel and prince regent showing up in regency romance as there is historical distance plus well its clear whats happening. This is the authors version of these characters.

    I dont particularly like RPF fanfiction but its clearly marked too. Like adam drivers wife isnt going to walk blind into an adam/daisy runaway together fanfic. It says what it is doing on the tin. Plus no one is making money and its for other fans (usually! You get the odd person handing their RPF to the actors to sign at conventions but on the whole it doesnt break the fourth wall unless the actor goes looking etc) its a you do you situation & easily avoided.

    This? Makes money and could actually be picked up by people who know adam and then it would dawn on them and maybe squick them out as its so so clear! Or people like me or elyse who wouldn’t pick up rpf in these circumstances!

    Basically if you can’t file your serial numbers off enough that no one but you knows the inspiration then create a profile on archive of our own or wattpad and post there!

  21. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Shemmelle: I don’t know if Reid’s original Captain America/Bucky Barnes fan-fic can still be found somewhere on the interwebs. People who read Reid’s original fan-fic and later read her GAME CHANGER (which, I believe, was her first published book) said there was a lot of similarity. I have a vague memory of someone commenting on a WAYR post that as they read GAME CHANGER they were like, “Wait—I’ve read this before,” and realizing it was the CA/BB fan-fic that they’d read.

  22. Shemmelle says:

    @discodollydeb i’ll have to have a look! I think thats a good example of a good serial number filing! I have read a LOT of capt america/bucky barnes and not once did i think of that during Game changes.

    Now i can see how Scott is very much a capt America archetype & noe of course i’m fancasting chris evans but unless someone tells you nope dont see it (& even then it was clearly a very alternative universe fanfic!)

    Same with 50 shades of grey. You dont read and think of vampires although once you know you can see the cast of characters matches up with twilight (there ie a jacob character etc) and again general story types etc

  23. batgirl says:

    Wilson may be hoping for the success of AFTER by Anna Todd, which was famously a close rewrite of a One Direction self-insert RPF, which got a suspiciously high number of clicks on WattPad before being picked up by a publisher and by Netflix.
    Surprised that nobody mentioned AFTER (unless I missed it). Expect to see more of these with the serial numbers filed off to greater or lesser extent.

    I like fanfic, and I think reworking one’s fanfic into an independent story that is worth reading without pre-existing fan attachment is a cool thing. RPF is a much grayer project – both AFTER and this one seem to want to keep the coy nods and winks about who the heroine is really smooching/banging.

  24. Deborah says:

    @Sophie – my mind immediately flipped to that uncomfortable John Oliver bit as well!

  25. LisaM says:

    I just saw this on the new book’s shelf at my library, and I wanted to attach a link to this review to it!

  26. chacha1 says:

    RPF is one thing when the RP are long dead, or when a living RP (e.g. an actual living head of state or movie star) is named as part of scene-setting in a novel about fictional characters. I wouldn’t really want a RP interacting with fictional characters unless I know the RP has genuinely signed off on it with author, publisher, et al., in which case I’d hope there would be a statement from either the RP or the publisher to that effect.

    To make a living person a main character in a novel, doing things that the actual RP might seriously object to, seems beyond squicky. And why? It’s so hard to imagine a completely fictional movie star? Hundreds of writers manage it!

    This wouldn’t have been a book for me anyway. But at least I got a darling cat picture with the review.

  27. Deborah says:

    @chacha1 It’s so hard to imagine a completely fictional movie star?

    Celebrity/gossip culture makes me uncomfortable, so I don’t read a lot of romances featuring film stars, but of the few I have, the celebrity protagonists definitely all had traces of real people DNA. Even if only (as Elyse described it in her review) “not based on an actual actor but the type of character they tend to play.” I suspect it’s a pretty common means of delivering verisimilitude the reader will recognize. But the trick is to use just enough detail to suggest a similarity, not to appropriate someone’s biography. Yikes.

  28. Shemmelle says:

    @deborah also even IRL there are heaps of actorly tropes that the media or the actors themsleves play up – the method actor the Ingénue the playboy etc that you’d have to work pretty hard to make it clearly about one actor (like including a bunch of super specific details like here)

    Like if i wrote an actor who was pretty wholesome, known for dating around but not in a playboy way just a shucks not found the right girl kind of way who wore sweaters and loved his dog…. Like yeah thats the chris evans template and might be who i’m imagining when i write but unless i add in his gay brother who is also an actor growing up in masschutuss (sorry not american and i canlt spell) With his dad being a dentist and he plays a character called Major USA you can probably find other actors who might be similar to that or you can accept that you’d probably cast chris evans in this role if the book was made a folm not that it *is* him

  29. Glauke says:

    For good measure, also RPF: This House – a fantastic play about UK’s hung parliament in the 1970s. I don’t think anyone signed off on being part of that. Official Secrets (now on Netflix! It has Matt Smith!) about a whistleblower inside GCHQ. The Fifth Estate, that I know Julian Assange isn’t happy about. Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen – another play. Most ripped-from-the-headlines cases of Law and Order can be seen as thinly-veiled RPF.

    There’s a lot of fiction being written about people’s public personae. And I think that’s fine? But this book has enough flaws to not make me want to skip it – so as a review this is succesfully informing my choices 🙂

  30. Kris Bock says:

    I tried to read the mystery starring Joe Biden, with Obama as his sidekick, but it made me too uncomfortable. I would have been fine with it if it had been a former VP and a president, but the author used their names and everything.

    In other news, Star Wars is totally a fantasy rather than sci-fi, and thank you for the cute cat picture.

  31. Sara McG says:

    It’s objectively gross to publish self-insert real person fic, but if you ARE going to do it – with Adam Driver as your subject – it seems like the whole point would be to have him pick you up and do naughty things. Are people legit fantasizing about him for the personality he displays in interviews? (And not that he’s large and intense?)

  32. Lisa F says:

    Oh God, Elyse, this had me rolling. There is a way for authors to transpose their crushes into fictionand this um. Seems particularly thin.

  33. One of the Ms. M's says:

    Some still weird, but more respectable RPF/self-insert novels:

    –The Peter Wimsey books featuring Harriet Vane. Super weird to write an irresistible hero and then write yourself as his love interest.

    –The Mirror Crack’d (From Side to Side). I can only hope Gene Tierney never read the book or watched the movie, but I’m sure someone told her.

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