Meyer writes facing the kitchen, with music headphones on to tune out the joyful antics of her sons, who range in age from 6 to 11. She used to have family photos on her website, but she and Pancho have decided to remove the boys from the public eye. Occasionally she'll receive a fan letter at her home, which is unlisted, and those always go straight to the trash. And she's started getting random calls on her cell phone from fans, who stutter and giggle when their unsuspecting hero picks up. ''Numbers are easy to change,'' says Meyer with a shrug. ''Moving is harder. They'll have to drag me out of this place on a plank. Before I move, I'm going to put up a fence and get shepherds. And then I'll have a button and get to say 'Release the hounds!''' It's no wonder that Meyer is unwilling to let a few overzealous fans drive her from her Western refuge. Her parents live in the neighborhood, as does one of her brothers. Best of all, her house has a spiral staircase up to the roof, where Meyer can find relief from the blogosphere under a blanket of shimmering stars.
The message boards are bursting with dismay, the fans having gotten their first peek at Breaking Dawn's cover. Of course they don't yet know that Meyer herself helped design the image featuring a chessboard with a white queen piece and a hovering red pawn or how it relates to the story. ''They just hate it,'' sighs Meyer, over cheeseburgers and shakes at a nearby In-N-Out. ''After a while they'll like it, I think,'' she says, comparing the furor to the howls of outrage when Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward in the Twilight movie. ''They freaked out and they all said nasty things and now all the taglines on their posts say 'When God made Robert Pattinson, He was just showing off.''' Harder to shake, though, has been the negative response to online postings of Dawn's first chapter. ''There were a lot of people,'' says Meyer, laughing and throwing her hands up in the air, ''who said, 'This isn't the real first chapter, the writing is so bad!'''
Despite wincing over the occasional Amazon.com one-star review (''bookaholic,'' for instance, declares that Twilight ''sucks like a vampire on your neck''), Meyer can't help but pore over the message boards. She loves her fans and wants to know how they're responding to her work. ''Sometimes the feedback is helpful,'' she says. ''I want to be a better writer...I read these other authors and I think, 'Now, that's a good writer. I'm never going to reach that level.' But I'm going to be a good storyteller,'' she says, sitting up a little straighter in her seat. ''And what a thing to be!''
NEXT PAGE: ''The young girl peered eagerly into the author's eyes. 'Are we going to feel complete at the end of Breaking Dawn?' she whispered pleadingly.''