When the first book of the Twilight series was released in October 2005, no one could have guessed the phenomenon it would become. Four years later, 70 million copies have been sold worldwide. The books have spent 143 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, and the first movie in TheTwilight Saga grossed $380 million at the box office.
The story, a love triangle between a vampire, a human and a werewolf, has ignited an international frenzy, and the woman behind it all is 35-year-old author Stephenie Meyer.
Once a stay-at-home mom, Stephenie says the idea for Twilight came to her in a dream. "It was two people in kind of a little circular meadow with really bright sunlight, and one of them was a beautiful, sparkly boy and one was just a girl who was human and normal, and they were having this conversation. The boy was a vampire, which is so bizarre that I'd be dreaming about vampires, and he was trying to explain to her how much he cared about her and yet at the same time how much he wanted to kill her," Stephenie says. "It really captured my imagination." That dream became Chapter 13 of Twilight.
Before the night of the dream, Stephenie says she had lost herself a little in the work of motherhood. "I was really burned out. I really had gotten into that zombie mom way of doing things where I wasn't Stephenie anymore," she says. "[Writing Twilight] was a release. That was the dam bursting. I'd been bottling up who I was for so long, I needed an expression."
Though she'd been married for 15 years, Stephenie says she didn't tell her husband at first about her new passion. "My husband though I'd gone crazy. I'd barely spoken to him because I had all these things going on in my head, and I wasn't telling him about this weird vampire obsession because I knew he'd freak out and think I'd lost my mind," she says.
At first, Stephenie was documenting her dream only to make sure she would remember it, she says. "The dream was just something I was so interested in, and it was so different from what my everyday was at the time," she says. "I just wanted to remember it so badly. That's why I started writing it down—not because I thought this would be a great story for a novel."
Though Stephenie had been an avid reader all her life, she says she was never a writer before Twilight. "It seems kind of presumptuous to me [to think] anyone else would want to read the things that are in my head," she says. "I didn't think of it [as a book]. I did the dream. And then I wanted to see what would happen with them. It was just me spending time with this fantasy world, and then when it was finished it was like, 'This is long enough to be a book!'"
Before Twilight, Stephenie says she read every type of book except for horror. "That was the genre I just knew I was too chicken for," she says. "I read a little bit of everything. ... When I was 8, I was reading Gone with the Wind and Pride and Prejudice and all that, not knowing it wasn't my reading level."
Now that Twilight is a huge success, it's hard to imagine any literary agent rejecting it. But Stephenie says she'd submitted it to plenty of people before she was signed. "I got nine rejections, five no answers and then one 'I'd like to read more,'" she says.
Stephenie says it was her sister who really pushed her to keep submitting it to more agents. "She was the only one in the world who knew what I was doing," she says.
These days, the Twilight series is more than just a literary hit. The first two movies have also created a stir and catapulted three young stars into the limelight. British actor Robert Pattinson, who plays the lead vampire Edward Cullen, is now an international heartthrob. "I knew that the problem was going to be Edward, because he's the perfect vampire," Stephenie says. "How do you cast that from your pool of human actors?"
When producers found Robert, Stephenie says it was a perfect fit. "He's got something about him. He doesn't look like everybody else. There's something unusual," she says. "There are moments where he looks exactly like he did in my head."
Stephenie says casting Bella, the book's protagonist, was a bit easier. "There's plenty of people who look like the girl next door," she says. "We were really lucky [to cast] Kristen Stewart, who is a phenomenal actress. I didn't know if we were going to get that caliber."
Though Twi-hards, as fans are called, know most everything about the series, Stephenie says there is one secret she's never revealed before. "There was a different ending to New Moon originally," she says. "It was a much quieter book. It was very much all in Bella's head."
Stephenie says fans have her mother to thank for New Moon's current dramatic ending. "My mom's like: 'You know, Stephenie, maybe a little more action at the end would be a good idea. Maybe you need that,'" Stephenie says. "And she was right, as usual."
Her mother's suggestion prompted Stephenie to introduce the Volturi, an all-powerful coven of vampires living in Italy, sooner than she'd planned. "That's kind of my favorite part now, and it's there because my mom told me it would be better that way."