Success of 'Twilight' a Mystery to Author


By the time it was over, Stephenie Meyer says she was "kind of a mess." In that regard, she may be just like the millions of moviegoers flocking to "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" this weekend and beyond.

Ms. Meyer, who wrote the four novels that inspired the five films, watched the finale with a small group of producers. She knew her brain was processing the movie along with nine-plus years of memories at the same time.

"The end credits are just really super emotional. So by the time you get done, you're just kind of a mess," Ms. Meyer said in a recent, brief phone interview from Los Angeles.

"Twilight" was born in her vivid June 2, 2003, dream, in which an average girl and a "fantastically beautiful, sparkly" vampire were having an intense conversation in a meadow about the inherent difficulties of their blossoming love. Bella and Edward became voices in her head -- "They simply wouldn't shut up" -- and then characters on the page and screen.

Months ago, however, word leaked about a secret twist she and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg cooked up.

"It's huge when you're watching it. It feels very surprising. One moment in particular, I'm really excited to see it with an audience because I just want to hear the response to that one particular moment.

"But as far as being a big difference in the movie, I feel like this part of the story is sort of there but off screen. Because we can only see things from Bella's perspective, we aren't seeing what other people are envisioning. I don't feel like it's super far off the page.

"It was something Melissa Rosenberg and I came up with when we were first trying to [figure] how are we going to do this? It feels organic to me but it does feel like a big surprise when you're watching it."

After the first four movies earned more than $2.5 billion -- that's "b" as in Bella -- worldwide, the fifth and final installment opens in theaters today. It closes the saga of characters so famous they're known simply as Bella, Edward and Jacob.

That would be Bella Swan, teenage transplant to Forks, Wash., where she fell in love with vampire Edward Cullen, eventually married him and immediately became pregnant with their daughter, much to the initial dismay of best friend and werewolf Jacob Black.

As the story resumes, Bella is now a newborn vampire who, with family and far-flung allies, must fiercely protect her daughter, Renesmee, mistaken for an immortal rather than a half-human, half-vampire.

Even now, 100 million copies of her books later, Ms. Meyer still isn't entirely sure why the series struck such a chord. "I've never understood and I still don't. I mean, it's still kind of a mystery to me. I know why I respond to it -- because I wrote the story basically for myself.

"It was an escape, it was a fantasy world that I got to have the joy of creating. And I love to read but creating is one step up from that. I know why I respond to it; it's amazing to me that so many people enjoy it as much as they do.

"I get into my little passions of books that I just adore and movies that I want to go see again and again and it's not always the same stuff that other people love. So, we each have just something we respond to, and I still have no idea exactly what it is that people are enjoying so much."

However, she does understand why some readers felt a special connection to the second book, "New Moon."

To safeguard Bella after a close call involving some spilled blood and his family, Edward breaks up with her. "New Moon" chronicles her crippling heartache, Jacob's growing attraction to her and his transformation into a member of the wolf pack, along with threats to the vampires, wolves and Bella in the Northwest and abroad.

"With the books, the one that surprised me initially, there's a small subset of people who really respond to 'New Moon' because of the issues with depression and loss and working through that. People who have been through something similar, although obviously in a realistic sense, really respond to someone just going through that pain and it has helped people.

"I think there's a catharsis to it. I had some depression when I was in high school, it wasn't super serious and I'm OK, but I do have a little bit of understanding -- it's something that runs in my family and it's a difficult thing," she acknowledged.

With the movies, however, fans swoon at the romance. Ms. Meyer said people were swept away by the proposal scene in "Eclipse," adding, "It was really sweet."

Not so sweet were the early breathless comparisons to another sensation.

"When 'Twilight' first started picking up, everyone was, 'This could be the next Harry Potter,' I always felt like that was the worst thing ever, because it was never going to be 'Harry Potter.' So, then for me, it was very intimidating.

"When other people say something is going to be the next 'Twilight,' I find that hugely flattering, that that's a goal to attain."

An English graduate of Brigham Young University, Ms. Meyer, her husband and their three boys live in Phoenix where they were able to go trick-or-treating before she headed to LA to promote the movie. Like vampires, Ms. Meyer does some of her best work after dark but a late-night writing routine is a luxury she cannot always afford.

"It's kind of a challenge because right now my kids get up really early for school. So it's all about trying to write during the daytime right now, which is just killing me."

Ms. Meyer had a cameo, as a wedding guest, in "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" and was on set daily for Parts 1 and 2 but she doesn't make a return appearance in the send-off. "They have to talk really fast to get me in front of a camera," she said with a warm laugh.

But she kept a key part of her off-camera life -- those chair backs from the director's chairs populating sets and sporting the names of top cast and crew. She also has some souvenirs from "The Host," a film adaptation of her 2008 adult novel set for theatrical release March 29.

Her website calls it "science fiction for people who don't like science fiction" and it stars Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger and William Hurt in a story about the survival of love and the human spirit in a time of war.

People have become hosts for unseen enemies; their minds have been taken over while their bodies remain intact. But one of the few remaining "wild" humans refuses to surrender her mind to the invading soul given the body. The pair become unwitting allies as they search for the man they both love.

She and a producing partner also made the yet to be released romantic comedy "Austenland," set in a Jane Austen-themed resort and starring Keri Russell, and plan a movie version of "Down a Dark Hall" based on Lois Duncan's 1974 young adult suspense novel.

Due to her hard work and success, she has afforded her family many luxuries. "I couldn't even pick a specific, they're all so completely spoiled. We've had a lot of fun, and it's been nice to be able to travel with the kids and get to see the world with them."

And no torturous red vampire contact lenses required.

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