A global teenage Gothic publishing phenomenon was born in 2005 with the issue of Twilight, the first in a saga of four books by American author Stephenie Meyer (1973–). Meyer was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to Stephen and Candy Morgan, and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, with brothers Seth, Jacob, and Paul and sisters Emily and Heidi. She was educated at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where she gained a BA in English in 1997. Meyer met her husband, Christian (whom she nicknames "Pancho"), during her childhood in Arizona and the couple married in 1994 when they were both twenty-one. The couple have three sons: Eli, Gabe, and Seth. Meyer is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is a self-confessed "straitlaced Mormon who doesn't drink alcohol or smoke" (Mills 2008).
Prior to Twilight, Meyer had never written so much as a short story and, before the birth of her first child, she even "considered going to law school because she felt she had no chance of becoming a writer" (Mills 2008). Meyer claims that the plot of Twilight came to her in a dream in June 2003 (Whitworth 2008). In Meyer's dream, her protagonists, Isabella (or Bella) Swann, an "ordinary" girl, and Edward Cullen, a "sparkly and beautiful" vampire, were standing in a meadow having a conversation (Whitworth 2008). Edward was torn between his attraction to Bella and a near uncontrollable urge to drink her blood, which "sings for [him]" in a way no other mortal's has ever done (Meyer 2007: 490). Meyer was intrigued by the characters and the premise of the incident and, keen to know what happened next, began to write. By August 2003, Meyer had completed the first draft of Twilight. The manuscript was rejected by nine literary agencies and ignored by a further five, but she eventually received a positive response from Jodi Reamer of Writers House. In November 2003, Meyer signed a $750 000 three-book deal with Little, Brown and Company.
In Twilight (2005), Bella, the new girl at Forks High School, falls passionately in love with the "devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful" Edward Cullen (Meyer 2006: 17), ostensibly an adopted son of the local doctor, Carlisle Cullen, but actually a vampire over a century old. The Cullens, a group of vampires posing as a family to integrate with the mortal population, are "vegetarians" (Meyer 2006: 164): they eschew human blood and hunt only animals. They are, however, regarded with suspicion by the Quileutes, who live on the nearby reservation at La Push. The tribe was once decimated by predatory vampires, known as "the cold ones" (Meyer 2006: 107). Bella learns about the animosity from the "very pretty" fifteen-year-old Quileute Jacob, the son of her father's friend, Billy Black (Meyer 2006: 103). According to tribal legend, Black's ancestors were "werewolves" – within the context of the Twilight saga, the sworn enemies of Cullen and his kind (Meyer 2006: 107). Jacob is not only romantically attracted to Bella (who regards him as her best friend) but also becomes a werewolf in New Moon (2006), adding further tension to the love triangle that underpins the series. Eclipse followed in 2007 and the saga concluded with Breaking Dawn in 2008. Although Bella is the saga's main narrator, part of Breaking Dawn is narrated from Jacob's point of view. Meyer had planned to release a further book, Midnight Sun, a focalizing of the events in Twilight from Edward's perspective, but the project was shelved after early draft copies were circulated unofficially on the internet. An extract from the manuscript can now be read on Stephenie Meyer's official website (www.stepheniemeyer.com). Meyer, whose writing style has been described as "galloping melodrama, with minimal flourish" (Mills 2008), published an Eclipse spin-off novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, which charts the dark side of becoming a "newborn" vampire, to tie in with the cinema release of Eclipse in 2010 (Meyer 2008: 303).
The initial, remarkable, success of Twilight was prompted largely through teenagers spreading the word to their friends on social networking websites. The books have since attracted an army of loyal and passionate fans known as "Twihards." This fan base includes many adults, particularly mothers who, keen to keep abreast of their children's interests, began to read the books themselves. These adult aficionados even have a dedicated online community, www.twilightmoms.com. Hailed by Time magazine as "the publishing phenomenon of the new century," the four books in Meyer's saga "have sold 85 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 37 languages including Vietnamese, Chinese and Croatian" (Relax News 2009). The popularity of the books has been enhanced by their adaptation and development as a successful cinema franchise by the film company Summit Entertainment.
The movie version of Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke with a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg (who went on to adapt all four books in the saga for the screen), was released in November 2008. The main protagonists were played by British actor Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) and American actors Kristen Stewart (Bella Swann) and Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black). The film proved to be an emphatic box-office success with total worldwide receipts of $392 616 625 (Box Office Mojo n.d.). The second film in the saga, New Moon, directed by Chris Weitz, appeared in November 2009. In preproduction, Weitz considered replacing Taylor Lautner with a bulkier actor in the role of Jacob Black to more accurately reflect the significant physical changes the character undergoes in the book. Instead, Lautner undertook a program of weight training and "gained 30 lbs" in order to retain the part (Huver 2009). The movie eclipsed its predecessor in box-office takings, becoming Summit Entertainment's highest-grossing film to date. The third and fourth films, Eclipse (directed by David Slade) and Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (directed by Bill Condon), continued the success of their forerunners, roughly equaling the takings of New Moon.
It was decided to film the longest book of the saga, Breaking Dawn, in two parts, the first of which was released in November 2011. Stephenie Meyer is acting as coproducer for both films, with Bill Condon as director. The more adult content of the book, including the consummation of Bella and Edward's marriage and a graphic birthing scene, made the book the most challenging to film. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has commented on her adaptation: "It has to be what the book is, which means more skin" (Will 2010). In spite of the subject matter, the first installment was released in the United Kingdom with a 12 rating (in line with the rest of the franchise). The film concludes with Bella's transformation into a vampire after the bloody birth of her daughter, Renesmee. Breaking Dawn, Part 2, which follows the Cullens' battle to protect Bella's child from the Volturi (the equivalent of vampire royalty), is scheduled to open in November 2012.
SEE ALSO: American Gothic; Film; Vampire Fiction; Werewolves.
- Box Office Mojo (n.d.) Twilight 2008. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=twilight08.htm, accessed August 1, 2010.
- Taylor Lautner growing (literally) with the Twilight franchise. People (June 1). www.people.com/people/article/0,20282491,00.html, accessed August 1, 2010. (2009)
- Twilight. London: Atom Books. (2006 )
- New Moon. London: Atom Books. (2007 )
- Eclipse. London: Atom Books. (2008 )
- News review interview: Stephenie Meyer. The Times (August 10). (2008)
- Relax News (2009) "Twilight" author, Stephenie Meyer is America's J. K. Rowling. The Independent (November 19). www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/twilight-authorstephenie-meyer-is-americarsquos-jk-rowling-1823480.html, accessed July 29, 2010.
- Harry who? Meet the new J. K. Rowling. The Times (May 13). (2008)
- Will (2010) Breaking Dawn to include "sex" and "more skin" says screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. www.breakingdawnmovie.org/breaking-dawn-to-include-sex-and-more-skin-says-screenwriter-melissa-rosenberg, accessed July 28, 2010.
- "As one dead": Romeo and Juliet in the Twilight zone. In & (eds.), Gothic Shakespeares. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 167-85. (2008)
- Sarah Churchwell on … The trouble with Twilight. Psychologies 58, 48. (2010)
- Breaking Dawn producer talks plans for birth scene. www.breakingdawnmovie.org/breaking-dawn-producer-talks-plans-for-birth-scene, accessed July 28, 2010. (2010)
- Breaking Dawn. London: Atom Books. (2008)
- The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. London: Atom Books. (2010)
- The official website of Stephenie Meyer. (n.d.) www.stepheniemeyer.com, accessed April 19, 2012.
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