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.''