For more on Stephenie Meyer and her work, visit Reading Until Dawn.
Stephenie Meyer made waves in the world of Mormon culture when she mentioned in the Amazon.com interview for her young adult vampire novel Twilight that the Book of Mormon is the book “with the most significant impact on [her] life.” A Mormon writing a vampire novel? Clearly, Stephenie needed to be featured on AMV. Luckily, she graciously accepted the request.
A BYU grad, Meyer lives in Arizona with her husband and three sons. She is working on two sequels to Twilight as well as other projects.
More on Meyer, including a bio, can be found on her Web site www.stepheniemeyer.com.
The idea for Twilight came to you in a dream. Would you be willing to re-relate the genesis of the novel for AMV’s readers?
I know the exact date of my dream — it was June 2, 2003 — because it was the first day of swim lessons and the first day of my much-delayed post-baby diet and I had a hundred more things to do besides. I woke up that morning with a dream fresh in my head. The dream was vivid, strong, colorful… It was a conversation between a boy and a girl which took place in a beautiful, sunny meadow in the middle of a dark forest. The boy and the girl were in love with each other, and they were discussing the problems involved with that love, seeing that she was human and he was a vampire. The boy was more beautiful than the meadow, and his skin sparkled like diamonds in the sun. He was so gentle and polite, and yet the potential for violence was very strong, inherent to the scene. I delayed getting out of bed for a while, just thinking through the dream and imagining what might happen next. Finally, I had to get up, but the dream stayed in my head all through my morning obligations. As soon as I had a free moment, I sat down at the computer and started writing it out so I wouldn’t forget it. I wrote ten pages that day — what eventually would be Chapter 13 — and that night I started into my imaginings of where the story would have gone if I hadn’t woken up. I wrote every single day for the rest of that summer, and finished the book near the end of August.
You have made no secret of your status as a believing member of the LDS Church (your bio on your author’s site, your Amazon.com interview, etc.). How have people — Mormon and non-Mormon alike — reacted to your Mormon-ness?
Some Mormons, especially those who know me, are surprised by my choice of topics. “Vampires?” they say, with a critical lilt to their voices. Then they add self-righteously, “I don’t read those kinds of books.” (Not all Mormons say that, some are really enthusiastic). I hasten to explain to them that it’s not like that. Unconsciously, I put a lot of my basic beliefs into the story. Free agency is a big theme, as is sacrifice. One very kind fan wrote to me and said, “instead of gore and horror there was lyrical beauty.” (Okay, so she was probably too kind). Even after I explain all that, I still have LDS friends (and extended family) who look at me funny.
Most of the non-Mormons I’ve dealt with are from New York, and have very little idea what a “Mormon” is. This works to my advantage sometimes — they do things for me, out of respect for my religion, that they might not do for someone else. For example, I’ve told them that I don’t work on Sundays, and they’ve gone out of their way to arrange events so that I can be home every Sunday. When my editor wanted premarital sex in my story, I explained that I won’t write that, and she let it go. Of course, what they do know about Mormons is always the infamous stuff. Someone I work with in New York once asked me — in complete seriousness — how many wives my husband was allowed to have.
I’m a fan of young adult fiction. I still enjoy works like Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark series, and Hakon of Rogan’s Saga that I first read at twelve and thirteen. Did you know from the beginning that Twilight would be a young adult novel? What authors or works in the genre are your favorites?
In the beginning, I didn’t even know that Twilight was going to be a novel. I had no expectations or direction. I was just writing because it felt wonderful and because I wanted to see where the story was going. Soon, I was also writing because I’d fallen in love with my characters and I felt like I was neglecting them when I wasn’t writing. I didn’t think of publishing until the moment that I wrote what I knew was going to be the very last line. Even then, I didn’t think YA. After all, I’d written the story just for myself (and my big sister, who was the only one allowed to know what I was doing), and I was 29. It wasn’t until I started researching agents that I considered submitting the story to some who represented YA (because it was set in high school). I had it submitted as both adult and YA; it was a YA agent who first showed interest.
My favorite YA authors are L.M. Montgomery (I still read the Anne of Green Gables series through every other year or so), C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott… It’s kind of hard to remember who is YA and who isn’t — I read adult books before I went back for YA, so some books — like Romeo and Juliet and Gone with the Wind — I think of as YA because I read them before I was ten.
When I first e-mailed you about an AMV interview, I expressed concerns that you’d be busy with national publicity, but you mentioned that you were more worried about planning for Enrichment Night and coming up with Halloween costumes for your children. This brings up a question that often comes up among LDS writers. What is your writing process like? How do you find time to write?
Because I’m so new at this, my writing process is still evolving. I’m lucky Twilight wasn’t a muddled catastrophe, because I had no outline or idea of where the plot would go while I was writing the last half (I wrote from the middle through to the end, and then went back and wrote the beginning until the two pieces matched up). To be honest, I feel like I was guided through that process. Now I have to be more organized. When I was writing sequels to Twilight, I had detailed outlines that I used as I wrote out of sequence. I liked to write the best scenes first (kind of like eating the ice cream before the broccoli). I called them the “money” scenes. These scenes would suggest others, and before I knew it, I would have four hundred pages worth of material. All I would have to do was go back in and write the transitions and the descriptions and the exposition that I’d skipped. I find it very motivating to work that way — I never get bogged down by a difficult part in the beginning, and then when I’m stringing it together, I’m so close to finishing that even the boring parts are exciting. Right now I’m working on an adult sci-fi, and writing chronologically for the first time. It’s very challenging, but I have a lot of people reading along this time, and it helps them not get lost.
I mostly write at night, from eight — when my kids go to bed — till whenever I’m close to passing out from exhaustion. I edit sometimes during the day, but the words never really flow the same when I’m being constantly interrupted. There are some trade offs. I used to follow a few television programs, but I can’t watch TV at all now — it drives me crazy to sit in front of the box and waste time. I used to read three or four books a week, but I can’t read while I’m writing. I used to scrapbook and do all kinds of crafty things, but I’ve found that there is only so much creativity in my body — it’s all flowing through one outlet right now, and there’s nothing left over for my old hobbies. I figure I’ll get burned out someday, and then I’ll go back to my former habits for a while.
You are working on the sequels to Twilight. Have you considered writing specifically for the Mormon market? What other genres or modes of writing interest you?
As I mentioned, I’m working on adult science fiction now (when I’m not editing). When I have ideas for other books, I usually write up an outline or a synopsis and put it in a back-burner file until I need it. I have pieces of an adult murder mystery, an adult chick lit, and a YA time travel novel in there. I also have a YA Mormon comedy/romance that I’ve written four chapters of (it’s called The Bad Girl). I know exactly where it’s going, so it’s only a matter of time before I finish it. It’s just not its turn right now. So, I’m pretty much interested in everything. I think that happens when you read a little bit of everything.
What professors and/or experiences at BYU influenced your writing?
I shied away from creative writing classes throughout my entire college career. I had to take one class for my degree, so I took poetry because I knew I could fake my way through. I was terrified of creative writing — I didn’t think the stories I told myself would be interesting to anyone else, and I didn’t know if I could produce on command.
The professor who had the most influence on me was Steven Walker, mostly because he was just insanely brilliant. The way his mind worked was fascinating, and it helped me look at the literature we studied in so many new ways. It’s really the books I read that influenced my writing more than anything else.
Do you read works by other Mormon writers? What are some of your favorites and why?
I don’t really pay attention to who is Mormon and who isn’t. I know Orson Scott Card is Mormon, but I didn’t know that until after I was already in love with his Ender’s Game series. OSC is one of my top three favorite authors (right up there with Jane Austen and Shakespeare), but that has nothing to do with anything besides his magnificent writing. As for other Mormon writers…well, I read a lot of Jack Weyland’s books when I was in high school (and I practiced the polka with his son Jed while I was at BYU)… I can’t think of anyone else off hand.
Twilight‘s film option has been already been picked up. I wish you well in the often long and torturous process of taking a story from the page to the screen. But let’s do the fun part: who could you see playing the roles of Bella and Edward (and feel free to include any actresses and actors who have been teenagers in the past decade or so — even if they are or will soon be too old to take the part)? Any directors who you think would be able to handle the material well?
I’m a very visual person — when I read a book, I usually cast it in my head as I go. So, long before I knew I was writing a novel, I was already casting my characters. My favorite actor for Edward is Henry Cavill (a little known British actor who played Albert, the teenage son in the most recent version of The Count of Monte Cristo). I feel really passionately about him getting the role, and, should I ever get a chance to talk to anyone about any aspect of the movie, his name will be the first words off my tongue. Of course, he’ll soon be too old for seventeen-year-old Edward, so that only applies if MTV Films gets to work on it in the near future. Bella I’m not so picky about. She should be an “every girl” — and so there are lots of people I think could do a good job. Emily Browning (of Lemony Snickets fame) is my first choice at the moment, but that changes often. My big worry with Bella is that they’ll pick some horrible “it” girl actress/musician, and then I will have to kill myself.
I don’t really have a preference on directors. Sure, I’d take Steven Spielberg or Ron Howard if I could get them…
NOTE: Stephenie will be doing a book signing at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14, at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Ariz.