Stephenie Meyer Talks 'Twilight's' 10th Anniversary, 'Life and Death'

The author on how gender swapping Bella and Edward helped her fall in love with the story again, why she didn't publish 'Midnight Sun' and the blurb she wished she used on the back cover.
Todd Williamson/Invision/AP
The author on how gender swapping Bella and Edward helped her fall in love with the story again, why she didn't publish 'Midnight Sun' and the blurb she wished she used on the back cover.

Twilight celebrates its tenth anniversary this month. The story of teenage Bella and her love affair with the century-old vampire Edward has become so embedded in popular culture — the books have sold more than 100 million copies and the movies have grossed over $3.3 billion worldwide — that it's hard to believe it hasn’t reached its own teenage years.

For the anniversary, author Stephenie Meyer re-worked the story by swapping the genders of the characters — Bella is now Beau, Edward is Edythe. Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, which comes attached to the original novel, immediately jumped to the top of the bestseller list, debuting at No. 5 on the USA Today list.

Meyer rolled in to Los Angeles last week for an appearance at the Last Bookstore downtown (where she drew a huge crowd that stretched around the block). Before meeting her fans, the author talked with THR about how writing the new book helped her fall in love with her characters all over again, why she was glad the movie made her less famous, what she thinks of fan fiction and the blurb she wishes she put on the back of Life and Death.

THR: There’s been a huge amount of coverage of the tenth anniversary and the new edition. What surprised you most about the past week?

Meyer: What’s been kind of surprising is the people that have been there from the beginning, people who I saw ten years ago at signings and they’re coming back. The worst part is a lot of them were 14 and now they’re graduating from college. I’m so old (gasps)! That’s the message I’m coming away with from this tour: I’m so old. (Laughs.)

So when did you start doing variations [on Twilight]? Have you done others?

Life and Death is the first other variation — that’s a weird sentence. With Midnight Sun [an unreleased early alternate version that told the story from Edward's perspective], that was something I did while I was writing. I was sort of wrapping my mind around where Edward was in certain scenes and I really enjoyed it. Then the leak happened, which was not a big deal in retrospect, but at the time it made me so paranoid. It was like, "Did this come off my computer? How did this happen?" It was a really rough, early draft. And everyone gets to say, "Oh what a horrible writer she is." That was hard

Did you ever find out how this happened?

I think I know. I was in a writing group before Twilight was published, and there was an early copy that was handed out that someone must have made a photocopy of and then handed out. I think that’s what it is, but I’m not 100 percent sure.

When did you start planning this?

I think it was March. I knew the publisher wanted something for tenth anniversary. I didn’t want to just write a letter and say, "Thanks." I talked to my sister, and my mom and a couple of friends, and kind of came around back to this idea. I’d always said "If Bella had been a boy, which would have been the exact same story, this isn’t about, you know, her being a weak female, it’s about her being a human being." I was talking to Josh Horowitz when I was at New York Comic Con. He told me that Kristen Stewart did an interview a while back and gave a great quote, "People wouldn’t be asking these questions if I were a boy who’d done all the same choices. You’d be talking about what a brave thing it was for him to give it all up for love." And I thought that was so interesting — I wish I’d known about it, I would’ve put it on the back of the book.

Twilight has spawned a huge amount of fan fiction. People love it so much, they want to live in it. Do you read any of it?

In very early days, I didn’t know what fan fiction was and so when they told me, I was fascinated. If the internet had existed when I was a teenager, back in the B.C. era, I probably would’ve written fan fiction. I thought it was brilliant. What a great way to get to live in your stories. But I can’t read other people rewriting my characters. It freaks me out.

It can also a great way to learn to be a writer.

I’ve always told people, "If you’re going to do it, realize that you’re practicing, and then find your own story and move on. Because I think that’s a clearer way to have your own characters."

You were talking about being in a writing group, now it’s virtual.

Yeah, not just the fan fiction, but just some of the fan sites. The friendships that have spawned. I think one of the coolest things about Twilight — I don’t know why it works this way — but for some reason people make lifelong friends through this experience, which I think is amazing.

Has your relationship or sense of ownership with the characters changed with the movies, fan fiction, etc.?

I think the movies did change that a lot, because there’s this totally different version that has become, I think, what most people see when they read the books. So it did take away some of the ownership. It also did take some of the pressure off, because it was transferred. When I was just writing, I felt like there was a lot of scrutiny, and then I got to disappear behind the movie, which was fantastic. It made my life 100 percent better.

So the movies were good for you in that way — for some authors it makes them more famous, but for you, I don’t want to say it made you less famous — 

It made the books more famous, but it made me less important to the story. I think most writers — I think they’re like me — we like to sit in rooms by ourselves a lot. We don’t want to be looked at.

And did anything about going back and doing the gender swap surprise you?

We’ve talked about how the movies, and the general large ownership of the story changed my relationship to the story. It made it hard for me to write in that world, and that’s why I couldn’t do Midnight Sun, because the characters had gotten away from me. This totally brought me back. I was back in that world where it was just me and the story. Because these characters are completely new — they’re the same people, but they look different, they sound different, the story is slightly different — it just made it mine again. It was kind of amazing. It was a really great feeling. 

Are you writing? Do you have anything new coming out?
I have one hopefully coming out next year if the edit process doesn’t kill me, which is a possibility. (Laughs.) It's not YA. It's an adult thriller, set sort of in the real world in the same way that, like, any spy movie is set in the real world.