Gregory Kirschling
July 05, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Unless you’re a 12-year-old girl, you might be surprised to learn that the world’s most popular vampire novelist since Anne Rice is actually a 33-year-old Mormon mother of three who doesn’t watch R-rated movies or read horror novels. ”I just know I’m too much of a wuss for Stephen King’s books,” admits Stephenie Meyer, sweet-voiced author of Eclipse, the third book in her hugely successful ”vampire love saga” for young adults. ”I’m waaay too chicken to read horror.”

And Meyer’s vampire novels, in turn, are not strictly scarefests. She pitched the first one, 2005’s Twilight, to publishers as a ”suspense romance horror comedy.” Its genesis sounds almost supernatural: On June 2, 2003, Meyer had a dream about a human girl meeting a vampire in the woods. The next morning the English-major grad from Brigham Young University got up, started writing for the first time in her life, and just three months later finished a 500-page book about a regular girl named Bella and her gorgeous vampire boyfriend, Edward. Readers immediately bit — so far Twilight and its sequel, 2006’s New Moon, have sold a hefty 1.3 million copies combined, and throngs of readers (some of them in costume) have chanted her name during personal appearances.

We rang up Meyer at her home in Arizona to talk vampires, her good-girl upbringing, and what’s up next. We also threw a few questions at her from a 12-year-old superfan of hers named Lily.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your success is huge, and it’s come really fast. How do you explain it?
STEPHENIE MEYER: I didn’t realize the books would appeal to people so broadly. I think some of it’s because Bella is an everygirl. She’s not a hero, and she doesn’t know the difference between Prada and whatever else is out there. She doesn’t always have to be cool, or wear the coolest clothes ever. She’s normal. And there aren’t a lot of girls in literature that are normal. Another thing is that Bella’s a good girl, which is just sort of how I imagine teenagers, because that’s how my teenage years were.

Was that because of your religion?
Oh yeah. I grew up in a community where it was not the exception to be a good girl. It was sort of expected. And all of my friends were good girls too, and my boyfriends were good boys. Everybody was pretty nice. And that affects how I write my characters. There aren’t very many bad guys in my novels. Even the bad guys usually have a pretty good reason for the way they are, and some of them come around in the end. I don’t see the world as full of negatives.

If you pitched the first book to publishers as a ”suspense romance horror comedy,” which of those do you think your books are most?
I think that it’s romance more than anything else, but it’s just not that romance-y. It’s hard to nail down, but romance tends to be my favorite part of any book or movie, because that’s really the strongest emotion. Orson Scott Card is my favorite: The romances are a small part of his books, but they bring his people to life.

He’s your favorite writer?
He’s sort of my favorite writer who’s alive. My favorite-favorite is probably Jane Austen.

Have you read Bram Stoker’s Dracula?
No, but it’s on the list. I should’ve read that one a long time ago, but right now I can’t read any vampire novels. I tried, after I wrote Twilight, to read The Historian, because it was the big thing that summer. But I can’t read other people’s vampires. If it’s too close [to my writing], I get upset; if it’s too far away, I get upset. It just makes me very neurotic.

Is it true you’ve never seen a vampire movie?
I’ve seen little pieces of Interview with a Vampire when it was on TV, but I kind of always go YUCK! I don’t watch R-rated movies, so that really cuts down on a lot of the horror. And I think I’ve seen a couple of pieces of The Lost Boys, which my husband liked, and he wanted me to watch it once, but I was like, It’s creepy!

But you’re a big fan of alternative music, right?
I’m addicted to satellite radio. We just got a new car and we haven’t had the satellite radio put in yet, and it’s driving me insane.

NEXT PAGE: ”I went through six years of always having a little baby in my arms, and so my other hand was pretty much shaped in the form of a book to hold it open.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you listen to when you’re writing?
STEPHENIE MEYER: [For a while], it was almost exclusively Linkin Park. Linkin Park is fantastic for action scenes, because it just has that beat that drives the momentum of the writing. [Writing] New Moon, I listened to a lot more Muse all the time. Muse is my favorite band, and they’re really good for writing because they’ve got an angsty kind of emotion. The new book [Eclipse] was perky; I listened to OK Go and Gomez.

You’re so prolific, yet you’re raising three kids too. What’s your day to day like?
It’s kind of weird. Everything’s been shifting. The boys are getting older now, and they’re a lot more self sufficient, and they don’t always want to hang out with mom. So that frees up some writing time, and for the first time this fall, I’ll have all three of my kids in all-day school. So that’s just going to be an amazing amount of time, I can barely compute it.

Given how fast you write, they better get the presses ready.
[Laughs] Sometimes it also makes me nervous. [My fans] count on me to be a fast writer, with a once-a-year release schedule, which, you know, isn’t entirely fair. I mean, how long did they give J.K. Rowling? [Laughs] She gets a good couple of years between her books, and [Eragon author] Christopher Paolini gets two or three, too. But I know fans want [the new books], and you wanna give them what they want.

Your next book, set for next spring, is The Host, which you’ve described as possibly the first love triangle that involves only two bodies. It’s also being billed as your first adult book.
It is, but it’s not really any different. I didn’t write Twilight thinking, ”Oh, I will appeal to 16 year olds with this.” I don’t believe that you need to write down to teenagers. When I was a teenager, all I read was adult novels. My favorite books back then were Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind, and I was reading big books from the time when I was little, and I don’t think you can sell the kids short and say, ”Well, we’re going to have to dumb it down for them.” They really don’t need that.

We’ve got some questions from a 12-year-old superfan of yours named Lily. First thing she asks is, ”If Twilight was your first book, what’d you do before that?”
Before that I was a mom. I did scrapbooking! I never finished any of that, though. And I read. I just read all the time. In fact, my husband my used to tease me. I went through six years of always having a little baby in my arms, and so my other hand was pretty much shaped in the form of a book to hold it open. I probably read five or six novels a week.

Next Lily asks, ”Are you writing anymore, because if you aren’t I am very mad!”
I am. I have a file of novel ideas just waiting for me. Right now I’m working on book four in the Twilight series, and after that I may work on a sequel to The Host. But then I also have this other novel that’s probably a [young adult] story about mermaids, which was always a favorite thing of mine growing up. And I’ve got mysteries and adventures and all kinds of things in my files. Someday, hopefully, I’ll get to write them all.

Lily wonders, ”Did you, like, put a drug in your books that makes them addictive and impossible to put down, or is that just called really good writing?”
[Laughs] I don’t know. That’s one of the things that’s always surprised me, when people say, ”I couldn’t put your books down,” or ”I finished one and picked it up again immediately and reread it.” That’s the hugest compliment in the world. It’s exciting that people feel that way.

It’s nice of you to answer a few questions from a 12-year-old fan.
Oh no, you know what? I’ve developed this humongous love for 12-year-old girls! They have the best questions, and they’re so into the stories. You really can’t write for a better audience. I say to all other authors: If you’re not writing for teenage girls, you’re missing out on a lot of love.

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