Sister Meyer banked her $750,000 advance, hunkered down to her word-processor and cranked out an international frenzy. Well over a million copies of Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse have been sold, and Sister Meyer has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for a year, commanding the number one spot for a solid month. Her monsters ? are vampires and werewolves, and her success is beyond monstrous.
Sister Meyer threw a prom at ASU, sponsored by ASU ?s Literature Department and Tempe ?s Changing Hands Bookstore, to promote Eclipse, the third book in the series. One look at her prom picture ? will show you why she is a universal icon of throbbing romance. Stephenie took the stage with a thick braid as a headband and dark chocolate curls down her back. Her face is like her character Rosalie ?s; so beautiful it almost hurts to look at it. Her gown is a glowing cardinal red, beaded and sequined, with a sweeping draped skirt. The prom sold out within minutes, so she scheduled a second one, which was also packed.
Like her best-selling predecessor JK Rowling, Meyer was a serious scholar; a National Merit Scholar in fact (a distinction she shares with Hillary Clinton).
It ?s impossible to mask intellectual brilliance, no matter how light ? the subject; and her talent shimmers through her tale.
Meyer has been interviewed extensively, and the transcripts are posted on her site. But I have three urgent questions that haven ?t been addressed, regardless of her global popularity and the wealth of info on the web:
A) How did it feel to casually drop a $75,000 tithing check into the Bishop ?s hand on your way out of Sacrament Meeting?
B) Do you think your thorough knowledge of literature informed your writing?
You dreamed a vivid dream one night (June 2, 2003, to be precise), and created a small town full of characters that are more real than our own friends or family, six months after you climbed out of bed on June 3. That ?s a head-shaker, until you factor in the quality of the gray matter cradled in your pillow.
My friend Laurel, who also majored in literature at BYU, says writers sift through many millions of words, in their remarkable minds, selecting only the one magical, perfect word for every position in every sentence. She says nothing is there by accident. Excellent writing is a labor of exquisite, devout, even tedious focus.
Ernest Hemingway said he rewrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times, getting the words right. ? And yet, I think Joyce Carol Oates says her books pretty much write themselves; and your interviews make it sound as if you were more an Oates than a Hemingway in the creation of Twilight. Yet you excuse yourself from the more social component of your PR responsibilities due to the time crunch of editing New Dawn; which suggests you are applying your Hemingway filter to your Oates genius.
So, back to Question B, about writing a series of best-sellers that sparks a global obsession with your characters:
Was it your native intelligence, something external, your education, perhaps some combination or maybe even none of the above ? that brought forth the Twilight series?
C) Could you give us your perspective on characterization, which I believe is the driving force of Twilight ?s insane popularity?
I crave reliable information about technique.
How did you make Edward so real? How did you make me stay up nights worrying about Bella and agonizing over what she should do? How did you make me cry for Jacob, the gentlest of noble savages? I am not a dewy-eyed high school girl. I am a sixty-year old grandmother who has mercifully forgotten the mad lava-flow of adolescent romance. I was almost as stunned as poor Edward, the first time he found himself downwind of Bella ?s intoxicating scent. The first time he called her sweetheart ? in Twilight, I nearly swooned off the couch. Suddenly I am having weird, vivid dreams about my ancient flames. How do you do that?
Seriously, Stephenie, I want to know what they taught you about characterization at BYU. If you were the professor now, what do you think your course outline would look like? I ?d sign up in (ahem) a heartbeat.
You have pricked a universal vein with your cheesy ? (as you call it) metaphor. Robert Frost said An idea is a feat of association, and the height of it is a good metaphor. ?
I can ?t speak for all your readers, but I love Edward because he is a compelling metaphor for everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. ? You make him physically superhuman. He can outrun the wild animals he hunts, with no weapons other than his own indestructible body. He can effortlessly snap a tree trunk or grind a chunk of wood, carelessly yanked out of his desk, into powder with his fingertips. He can read minds, other than Bella ?s. (What a nice touch! He has the same problem as any husband or boyfriend, with the one girl he longs to please. He can ?t hear so much as a sigh when he tries to listen to Bella ?s mind.) He is a musical genius. (Thanks for that, Stephenie! The ultimate turn-on. How could Bathsheba have resisted David, once he pulled out that harp!)
But the biggest and most enduring turn-on of all is his character. I include his intellect, here. The glory of any god worth his salt is intelligence. He has two advanced degrees in medicine, although he plays the role of a high school junior to help his family, ? (actually his coven) avoid suspicion. He is by far the brightest person Bella could hang out with this side of the veil. And he uses his superior powers to master his impulses. You couldn ?t have published a more powerful sermon on chastity or discipleship. I read this exchange with a paroxysm of pure rapture:
Bella: Do you desire my body or my blood? ?
Edward: Both. ?
You captured the exquisite tension of all premarital puppy-love in two short lines of dialog.
We soon learn that Edward can be trusted to protect Bella, even from his own ravenous desire.
In Eclipse, poor Bella, who apparently was never an investigator in a Young Women lesson on chastity, can no longer contain her desire for Edward. She starts yanking her clothes off.
Cold iron fetters locked around my wrists, and pulled my hands above my head, which was suddenly on a pillow. His lips were at my ear again. Bella, ? he murmured, his voice warm and velvet, would you please stop trying to take your clothes off? ? (P. 450)
Edward ?s hands are always ice cold, because the poor creature has no blood of his own. He has an array of issues, one of which is the fact that he can never relinquish control when he is with Bella, for all the obvious reasons. But his short version is that he wants to be good. He is a vampire, a situation he didn't create, and he was not always a member of the vegetarian ? coven (those who do not kill or otherwise bite humans). But he believes he can and must choose the right ? from now on. He wants to do right by Bella, no matter what, even in spite of herself.
It was a very long time ago that I was a giddy teenager, in love with love. But I have pre-ordered my copy of New Dawn, and I have my own elaborate theories about the next chapter in Bella ?s life.
I think it is Meyer ?s Dare to do right, Dare to be true ? metaphor that has rocked the teen world and (pardon the expression) sucked in their moms and grandmas. Readers my age might remember The Monster Mash, and the next line, It caught on in a flash. ? That would be an understatement for Stephenie Meyer ?s phenomenal Twilight series.