Stephenie Meyer is the most famous writer you’ve never heard of. But not for long. Meyer’s growing popularity is like a flashing billboard on our pop culture landscape.
The 34-year-old creator of the “Twilight ”teen vampire series is so sizzling hot, it’s not a stretch to suggest she’s heir apparent to J.K. Rowling, who gave the world Harry Potter.The self-assured Meyer doesn’t seem rattled by the comparison.“There will never be another J.K. Rowling. That’s a lot of pressure on me, isn’t it?” says Meyer, curled up on a leather sofa in her comfortable and airy adobe-style home in this sun-scorched desert community north of Phoenix.
“I’m just happy being Stephenie Meyer. That’s cool enough for me.”Meyer may be cool and composed, but her ravenous fans are in a frenzy. They’ve devoured the first three “Twilight ”saga novels and are ready to pounce when “Breaking Dawn”, the fourth and final book, went on sale Aug. 2 at 12:01 a.m. amid midnight-party madness befitting the final Harry Potter book. And they’re already overheated about “Twilight” the movie, which doesn’t hit theaters until Dec. 12.What’s all the fuss about?It starts with an otherworldly love triangle: human teenager Bella Swan, her hunky vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, the irascible werewolf who also loves her.
Fans are waiting to find out who Bella chooses, and if her choice means that she, too, will become a vampire.The numbers tell the story:After three years, nearly 8 million copies of Meyer’s first three books are in print in the U.S.; “Twilight”, the first in the series, was published in 2005.The first printing of “Breaking Dawn” is 3.2 million, the highest yet for a Meyer book.Meyer has dominated USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list this summer. “Twilight” was No. 1 last week; the second and third books, “New Moon” (2006) and “Eclipse ”(2007), wereNos. 2 and 4. Her first adult novel, “The Host”, a story of aliens published in May with 930,000 in print, was No. 15.Further proof that Rowling may be handing her magic wand off to Meyer: Last summer, Meyer ended Rowling’s reign at No. 1 when “Eclipse” knocked “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” off the top spot on USA TODAY’s list.Meyer’s road to literary fame is taking on the legendary quality that surrounds Rowling’s rise.
Rowling says the idea for Harry Potter simply “fell into (her) head” while she was on a train in England. Meyer says her inspiration came from a dream about a vampire she had five years ago.The stay-at-home mom was so moved by the dream she began writing “Twilight ”that day. She submitted the manuscript to literary agencies whose addresses she found online. “Twilight ”was plucked from one agency’s slush pile, submitted to publishers and bought by Little, Brown, which paid $750,000 for three books.Meyer still has a way to go to achieve Rowling’s stratospheric heights: 28 million copies of Rowling’s seven Potter books are in print in the U.S. So far, the money, the news media attention and the rock star reception from her fans haven’t gone to her head.“I think that after 30 years of being the most normal person in the whole world, it’s really hard to become ungrounded,” says Meyer. “When I’m not out on tour or doing photo shoots, I tend to just forget about it all.”And home is where she prefers to be, says the Mormon mother of three young sons.“The nice thing is that 95 percent of the time, I’m just Mom, and we’re just doing the normal thing, and I’m here, and it’s good.”The biggest change is that Pancho, her husband of 13 years, quit his job as an auditor to care for Gabe, 11, Seth, 8, and Eli, 6, when Meyer is on the road.Her Mormon faith, she says, is of intense interest to the news media, but to her, it’s just who she is.“It seems funny that it’s still a story,” Meyer says, “because you didn’t hear people saying, ’Jon Stewart, Jewish writer,’ when his book came out. I guess being a Mormon is just odd enough that people think it’s still a real story.
Obviously, to me, it seems super normal. It’s just my religion.”Right now, fans are more focused on her new book. Unlike the final Potter book, copies haven’t leaked out.Details are scarce, but Meyer, who says she finds it hard to keep secrets, has released a few.The most startling: Her editors asked her to tone down the violence in “Breaking Dawn”, which she did, and discussed putting an age warning on the book, which she says she supported, although it didn’t happen.“I was for an age limit of 15 or 16 and a warning,” says Meyer. “I think the content is just a little harder to handle, a little bit more grown-up for really young kids. I have 9-year-old readers, and I think it’s too old for them. Some of it’s violence, and some of it’s just mature themes.”Not that the first three books — told from Bella’s point of view - have been particularly bloodthirsty. Forget Dracula or Anne Rice’s metrosexual creatures of the night. Meyer’s good vampires, like Edward, satisfy their blood lust by hunting wild animals. No human blood for them.
She’s thinking about two sequels to “The Host” and is working on a ghost story.“I’m just going to try and stay home and write five books next year,” Meyer says. “It may not happen, but that’s my goal. And I’m not going to let anyone see them. It’s just going to be about sitting home and writing.”
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