TEEN BOOKS AUTHOR CONNECTS WITH ADULTS, TOO
By Claire Martin Denver Post
Stephenie Meyer — a teetotaling stay-at-home, Mormon mother of three young sons — is the new icon of hip among avid readers intimately familiar with the Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books.
Her fans devour the books in Meyer's "Twilight'' series — U.S. sales climbed to more than 5.3 million this year — about a searing but chaste romance between a devastatingly moral vampire named Edward and a mortal girl, Bella, the object of his tautly reined appetites. A movie version of the first "Twilight'' book arrives in theaters next winter.
"The Host,'' published 12 weeks ago, is her first for adults, and it has proven to be as much a success as her "Twilight'' books. The book has occupied the No."‰ 2 and 3 spots on recent New York Times bestseller lists.
"The Host'' departs from the earlier series in subject. Instead of vampires, it features a disconcertingly appealing alien who takes possession of a stubborn human, giving new meaning to the phrase "being of two minds.'' But spiritually, "The Host'' is right in step with the "Twilight'' books.
There's enough torrid frisson in "The Host'' to start major fires. The characters barely touch, "but there's more sex in that one paragraph than in all the snogging in Harry Potter,'' as Time magazine's Lew Grossman put it in his recent profile of Meyer.
Yet there's nothing that last century's National Legion of Decency could reasonably censure. It's a book that Meyer's mother and children could read without blushing.
"I think of the books as very romantic,'' says the impeccably groomed Meyer, who takes her new celebrity standing more or less in stride and still feels guilty about being unable to personally answer her stacks of fan mail with the "three-page handwritten letter they all deserve."
Meyer's special gift is infusing an electricity in holding hands or kissing, similar to film director Alfred Hitchcock's talent for implying horror far more exquisite than what the camera showed.
So, though the text simmers in "Twilight'' and its sequels, "New Moon'' and "Eclipse,'' high school students Edward and Bella remain as G-rated as the Bobbsey Twins, with perhaps a superior ability to resist temptation. (Edward belongs to a coven of vampires that foreswear human blood, sustaining themselves on wild animals.)
As she was editing "The Host,'' Meyer says, she read the text aloud to her eldest son, age 12, as she did with the first "Twilight'' books. She refrained from reading him more than the first three chapters of "Breaking Dawn,'' the latest "Twilight'' book released earlier this month.
"I don't read more than that to him, because I don't trust him not to sell me out to some cute 12-year-old,'' Meyer says.
She was quite serious about that, and with good reason. Readers were frantic to know what's next.
Unlike the "Twilight" books, "The Host'' is aimed at adult readers, and it is a little darker and grittier. But adolescents are reaching past grown-ups to get copies of "The Host.''
The "Twilight" series began, famously, with a dream that awoke Meyer on June 2, 2003. It was so compelling that she immediately logged on to her husband's PC and began to type.
"What compelled me to write it down was that I have a really bad memory,'' Meyer says, "and it was a story I didn't want to lose.
"It was always a story. I was not thinking, when I wrote, 'This is a dream.' I did not think of it as a book. The important part of the dream was the conversation.''
It took just three months for Meyer to finish the initial "Twilight'' book. The others followed as quickly. Agreeing with the publisher about a book cover, she observed, often takes more time than writing the book itself.
The idea for "The Host'' took a more conventional route but arrived as wholly formed. She has outlines for two "Host" sequels and is eager to get back to that story line.
"The Host,'' Meyer says, "was an idea I had on a long road trip. I was halfway into the story, and not really sure about it when I came up with an alien in someone's body, and both the alien and that human being in love with the same man.
"I tend to see everything like a movie in my head.''
By Stephenie Meyer
624 pp., $25.99
Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4)
By Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown Young Readers,
768 pp., $22.99
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