It's been a pretty exciting year for Stephenie Meyer. Her fourth novel, Breaking Dawn, was published; a movie of her first book, Twilight, was completed and is nearing release; and with all three children now in school full days, she has more time than ever to pursue her career.
After a prickly situation with the first attempt to make Twilight into a movie, Meyer found her proper suitor in the relatively new Summit Entertainment. They agreed to her terms and pretty soon the movie was off and running.
Twilight mania has hit a fever pitch in 2008 and Meyer's popularity has skyrocketed. All told, she's handling the newfound attention quite well. She is happy with the movie and appeared in good spirits when sitting for a press conference to discuss it.
Q: What do you read?
Meyer: I read a lot of books, and some of them that I love are really popular and then there are others that I just think, "Why isn't everybody in the world reading this book? It's so amazing!" So one book takes off. Why? I don't know why it ever happens.
I know why I respond to Twilight. I wrote it for me. It's exactly what I wanted to read. As far as other people [responding to it], it's kind of bizarre, actually.
Q: Did you write it with the idea of a preteen audience?
Meyer: No. I had a very specific audience and it was a 29-year-old mother of three. No one was ever supposed to read this except for me. And if I'd had any idea that anyone besides me would ever see this, I would have never been able to finish it.
Q: How much input did you have in the script?
Meyer: It was a really pleasant exchange from the beginning. They were really interested in my ideas. I didn't want to get in the way and make it worse, so I let them come to me and they did. They let me have input on it and I think they took 90 percent of what I said and incorporated it right into the script.
Q: You were approached to do a movie before it was actually published. Did that change the way you wrote the next books?
Meyer: No. What's funny about that is, when I was writing Twilight just for myself and not thinking about publishing it, at the same time I was casting it in my head. When I read books, I see them very visually. I cast every book I read, pretty much. Who could do this? Who could say this? It was the same thing when I was writing it. It was more of a movie anyway with the first one, and so the others were the same experience.
Q: What was your experience like with Catherine Hardwicke?
Meyer: Catherine's fantastic. The first time we started talking to each other, I was surprised because I knew this was a person whose focus was going to shape this film. We were on the same page from the very beginning. Things that I was worried about, she was already on top of.
I'd be like, "Hey Catherine, about the wardrobe. I'm a little worried that this is going to go all chokers and leather." And she was like, "Oh, no. I've already talked to the wardrobe person and we're thinking ice." And it was exactly what I wanted. She was great because she got it the way I got it.
Q: Did you meet much with the cast?
Meyer: A little bit. With Rob [Pattinson], we sat down and talked about Edward's character before the filming started. It wasn't an argument, but we actually disagreed on the character. The funny part about it is, here we are arguing about a fictional character. And yet in the performance, he did what he wanted and it was still exactly what I wanted. That was really cool.
Q: Seeing the film, what was the moment where you felt the most dislocated from the film in your head?
Meyer: You know, it was a funny experience and it's hard to pull out one moment. The whole was just so overwhelming. I think it was probably the first scene, because it took me a minute. I was so braced for it, because what if it was really horrid? I had my little notepad because it was a rough cut and I was going to give them my notes of what I wanted. So after a couple of minutes, you start getting into it and Kristen [Stewart]'s voice becomes Bella's voice. After a few minutes, I completely forgot why I was there. So many of the scenes were like déjà vu to see them.
When the producer came and asked for my notes, I asked for a minute. I was so overwhelmed I had to just sit and think. It was so much to take in. So many scenes were the way I had envisioned them. It was partially creepy and partially wonderful.
Q: What was the moment where you said, "I'm going to sit down and do this?"
Meyer: : I don't think many authors have as specific an answer to that question as I do. It all started June 2, 2003. (Laughs) I know the exact date because I had all these things on my calendar that I had to do that day.
I had this really great dream. It was odd because it was coherent, although it was a really complicated conversation. And I don't ever dream about vampires, so that was also very odd. I woke up and I was just wrapped up in this idea of what was going to happen next. Was he going to kill her or were they going to be together? It was 50-50 at that point. So I wrote it down because there were a lot of nuances to the conversation that I didn't want to forget. I forget everything. Once I got started, within that day, I was completely hooked on writing.
Q: How did you get it published?
Meyer: Sheer luck or fate or what have you. I had the easiest publishing experience in the entire world. I sent out 15 query letters to agents. I got five no-replies, nine rejections, and one "I want to see it." A month later I had an agent. Another month later, I had a three-book deal. It does not happen that way, so if you expect that going in, get ready for heartbreak.
Q: Have you had any other dreams that have fueled future projects?
Meyer: You don't get a dream like that twice. And I do feel like I was supposed to be writing and this dream was my kick in the pants to get going. Once I discovered how wonderful writing was for me, I was ready to go with it.
Q: Would you ever consider writing a screenplay?
Meyer: I don't think I could do that unless Hollywood is ready for a 14-hour experience. I tried once to write a short story and it was a horrible thing. I just don't think in short. I have to explore every tiny little detail of things. I really admire people who come in and streamline it and get all the information across. They do it so simply, but that's not my talent.
Q: As the fanbase for this series became established and grew, did that change how you approached the later books?
Meyer: As far as changing things, I couldn't. I actually had the first three books and a rough draft of the fourth one written before Twilight ever came out. So the story was there.
The fan expectation did add a little bit of pressure, but I already knew the story. When I'm writing, I tune that out. But when I'm editing, I get online and I see one blog that says "If A and B don't happen, I'm burning this book" and then on another page, "If A and B do happen, this is going to be the worst book ever." So, you know, there's no way you can please everybody.
I read an interview with George Lucas where he said that everybody has already written their sequel to Indiana Jones and if they don't see that sequel, they are going to be upset. So I really found myself in that position, and I was braced going in.
The thing about the fourth book is it was so much more in every aspect. It was bigger than I ever would have dared to imagine. It was better in a lot of ways and it was worse in a ton of ways. It was a lot of overwhelming stuff that I couldn't really take in.
Q: How often did you go to the set?
Meyer: I think I went about four times in Portland.
Q: What was your take on the filmmaking process?
Meyer: That was one of the coolest things about agreeing to do this. I had two book tours this year and all kinds of crazy stuff going on. The movie was just fun. I found it fascinating.
Q: What is the status of Midnight Sun?
Meyer: Midnight Sun is not on my schedule right now. As far as my writing process, like I said before, I can't think about what other people want while I'm writing. It's paralyzing to do that. I have to be very alone with a story. I just can't feel that way about it now. I think that this is going to die down. It's gonna go away and that will be the time where I sneak back in and give it a try again.
Q: There is a moment in the film where Bella is going through explanations for Edward's abilities and says she's thinking "radioactive spiders and Kryptonite." Did you think it would be tough to shift away from superheroes and into supernatural?
Meyer: You know, I never worried about that for a second. I was into and I am much more drawn to superheroes than I am to vampires. I think there's a closer connection between my vampires and superheroes than traditional vampires.
Q: Has your writing process changed since that first time after the dream?
Meyer: It has gone through some evolutions as I've experimented with different ways to do things. With Twilight I didn't know what was going to happen when I wrote it. It just was writing to find out the answer. With the others, I had to start outlining and be more careful. And I'm experimenting with a couple of other things on the side, so I haven't really consolidated what I do.
The biggest change is, when I started writing I had three kids under school age at home all day. All my kids are at school all day now, so that really has been the biggest change in my writing style.