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Stephanie Meyer reflects on bright Twilight as DVD looms

Article from: The Sunday Mail (Qld)

Gillian Cumming

April 19, 2009 12:00am

"I WAS observing this perfect circle of a meadow with a boy and a girl having a conversation. She was unremarkable, but he was glistening in the sun. He was beautiful. And he was a vampire.

"He was telling her how much he wanted to kill her and yet how much he loved her."

So recounts Stephenie Meyer, the Mormon mother-of-three living on the edge of the Arizona desert, of her June 2003 dream that stirred her imagination to ask: what happened next?

It's a question for which the 42 million readers of Meyer's four-novel Twilight saga and viewers of the box-office hit Twilight film will always be grateful, because later that day the young mother wrote down the dream – and kept writing.

"The dream is pretty well chronicled in Chapter 13 (of Twilight)," Meyer says. "I can still see it. It was a very unusual dream and I've never had any like it before or since.

"I woke up from it thinking, 'What would they have said next?' I wrote it down. And it was really that process of writing it down where I was hooked. I wrote the first 10 pages, most of it with my youngest on my lap watching (TV show) Blues Clues over my shoulder."

Watch a trailer for Twilight

So, how did a former receptionist with a property company end up with four vampire novels in print in more than 37 countries worldwide – being hailed as "the new JK Rowling"?

Meyer, now 35, took three months to write the first book, Twilight. Somehow she managed to keep the fact that she was writing a 130,000-word novel from her accountant husband, Christian (known as Pancho).

"I didn't tell him what I was doing," Meyer says. "So he was mystified. And a little irritated that I was hogging the computer all the time. I had as hard a time telling him I was writing a story about vampires as Edward did telling Bella he was one," she laughs.

After finishing the manuscript, Meyer's sister persuaded her to approach a literary agent. Letters were sent to 15. Five of those didn't bother to reply, while she received nine rejections. The last eventually led to a three-book deal and film rights.

Twilight was published in 2005. Teenagers fell in love with the vampire romance and quickly spread the word. Sequels New Moon and Eclipse followed a year apart and immediately became No.1 bestsellers.

A fourth novel, Breaking Dawn, was published last year and the Catherine Hardwicke-directed film opened in Australian cinemas in time for Christmas. The DVD of the movie is released on April 22.

Seeing her characters brought to life on the big screen for the first time – Robert Pattinson playing Edward Cullen and Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan – was a surreal experience for Meyer.

"But really, that happened too when I had a chance to visit the film set," she says.

"That was when that really hit me. I was sitting there at dinner the first night. Everyone came in costume, because they'd just done a photo shoot. I was like, 'Wait a minute, these are imaginary people and here they are' – very weird."

After Twilight: the new crop of dark delights for young adult readers

It's hard to pinpoint how or why this bubbly mother of three boys became immersed in the dead zone. A self-confessed "scaredy-cat", Meyer has never watched horror movies and can't understand why people like to be scared.

"For me, a vampire was just an embodiment of that person who's in a bad place and who's told, 'You can't be anything more than what you are'.

"And then the vampire says, 'I'm not going to be what I am, I'm going to be what I want to be'. I love that. My life has been pretty easy, but you see people who overcome enormous odds. And this was a fantasy metaphor for that kind of person."

Meyer's life has been very different from that of her leading lady, Bella.

"That was part of the appeal of writing her," she says. "When I was 17, I was pretty sheltered. My parents had been together forever. I had a tonne of brothers and sisters, this really supportive family life. I got to be a child for a really long time.

"And here is this girl, Bella, who never got to be a child, who's always had to pick up the slack and be the adult. I enjoyed writing from a completely different life experience."

Meyer married Pancho, whom she met at age four, when both were 21. She attended a Mormon College, doesn't drink alcohol or smoke, and has never seen an R-rated film. Her love of books and reading was fuelled as a child when her father read nightly to his brood, sometimes stopping and putting the book away mid-scene, heightening the sense of excitement derived from books for the young Meyer. She became the kind of reader who likes to revisit their favourites.

"If I like a book, I want to go back and experience it again," she says.

"The first book I ever read was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I probably read it 10 times that first year. I read Little Women over and over again. Gone with the Wind several times. I still read Pride and Prejudice on a yearly basis. And I love Orson Scott Card. I've read all of his stuff at least twice. Anne of Green Gables hundreds of times – the entire series.

"I love to live in a fantasy world, so it makes sense I write books now."

Her own Twilight saga might boil with desire, but there's definitely no sex. As one critic has described it they contain "the erotics of abstinence".

Meyer's heroine, Bella, is a timid newcomer to high school in the logging town of Forks. Bella falls in love with Edward, who has been a 17-year-old since he died in 1918 and is part of a rare vampire clan that for ethical reasons does not drink human blood. Bella later meets Jacob, setting up a classic love triangle.

Combining her conservative social values with a bloodthirsty literary genre, Meyer has Bella grappling with the heartbreak of a vampire romance. Does Bella become a vampire to be with her true love Edward forever? Can Edward control his lust for Bella's neck?

Meyer had little expectation that anyone would be interested in her vivid imaginings.

"I expected no one to ever read it except for me," she says. "And then my sister got involved and tore the secret out of me – that I was writing something. She was the one who said I had to try to publish it and just kept kicking my butt until I did. Of course, I thought it was going to be rejected. When an agent picked it up, I expected no publisher would touch it. And when my publisher wanted three more books, I expected they'd all be flops. As you can probably tell, I'm kind of a pessimist. And because I'm a pessimist, every single step of this has taken me by surprise.

"I still can't believe I'm sitting here doing this. I can't believe that my book has actually been made into a movie that I love.

"I mean, what are the odds? It's crazy."

Meyer has thought a lot about what it is about her Twilight series that resonates so strongly with readers.

"Maybe it's because I put so much belief into it. When I wrote it, I believed it. And I think that comes through."

 

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